The Heir Guitar

In 2002 I bought a used left-handed Brian Moore Custom P-90 guitar at South Paw Guitars in Houston, Texas. I had never heard of the brand, but this was an entire day in a store in busy Bellaire, Houston, where I just sat happily playing rack upon rack of lefty guitars. Lefty players never usually get such an opportunity. Normally, in every guitar store in the world, there are no lefties or only a couple or so sitting unloved over by the cobwebbed rack next to the bathroom door. This guitar just played great and would soon become my go-to electric guitar. It was lightweight, looked fantastic, had a great sound, and played very easily—that’s pretty much what guitar players look for in an instrument. However, over the years it gradually lost its lustrous finish, apparently caused by exposure to moisture during the finishing process in the year 2000 when it was made.

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Under the fog there is a beautiful maple veneer just waiting to get out

Believing, as always, that with problem comes opportunity, I felt that this once-loved but now sidelined instrument could be the focus of an art project, customizing the axe while raising it from the ashes. My initial thought was to default to an original Celtic design theme, which was well within my comfort zone boundaries. That was before some of my daughter’s amazing artwork started appearing randomly around the house in her senior year at high school (2014 – 2015). Some of the designs were amazing: bold, confident, and instantly appealing. One haunting design in particular was the swirling stars—a series of imaginative shapes that looked like a cross between some deep-water invertebrate and a martial arts weapon. Using various methods, such as linoleum printing, she productively churned out various swirling stars that would be brought home during part of the creative process. If you were paying even the slightest bit of attention you would notice the migratory pattern of these conceptions arriving surreptitiously through the garage door, moving to the breeding grounds in the basement, then traveling together in small pods through the dining room, the kitchen, ultimately leaving the premises a few weeks later in the early morning, usually before sunrise.

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Crazy high school artwork invades your thought processes

These strange creatures caught my attention and one of the patterns was used for the cover of the Two World’s Apart CD “Glue.” Shortly afterwards the design inspiration for the Heir Guitar project became patently obvious.

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Swirling stars debuted on the multi-platinum Glue album

Many traditional electric guitars sport a sunburst finish, notably the early Fenders with their various shades of Sienna. Many folks believe that the origin of the hugely popular appearance was either to replicate earlier violins, to emulate graceful aging, or to conceal manufacturing flaws. In any event it remains a very popular staple of guitar finishing. While I eschewed that notion in decorating this particular instrument, I did end up giving it a nod by darkening the background honeycomb pattern just a bit toward the edges. My friend Larry from Wooden Wizard Guitars helped with the heavy lifting on the project, removing the electronics, stripping the old varnish from the guitar and applying the new finish, while paying extra attention to the ambient temperature in our unpredictable local winter-spring-summer climate.

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Waiting for inspiration

My daughter and I focused more on the fun part of the project, selecting the art materials, working on the overall design, and developing templates for scaling and design placement. Then we got out the paintbrushes and had some fun. Exclusively, we used alcohol-based inks so as not to interfere with the application of the polyurethane coatings.

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Who said men don’t like shopping? The art and design team gets some essential supplies from Utrecht. The initial decision was to use alcohol-based inks to minimize any bleeding in the wood finish process.

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First coat of ink, attempting to replicate the idea or notion of hand set stones such as you might find on a Scottish brooch.

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We made a conscious decision to freehand the design and painting. While computer aided techniques and other methods such as airbrushing give fabulous results, we felt that we would trade off perfection for authenticity, while having a lot of fun with our paintbrushes.

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We love the end result. The finishing process brings out the natural maple grain pattern and the overlaid ink honeycomb adds warmth. The guitar just asks to picked up and played, but I might just hang it on the wall and admire it for a while. 

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