R1 Wood Bodied Resonator Guitar – [Project Review 1: Look & Feel]

LOOK… I’m not gonna spend much time on this one. For those following along you’ve seen many pics of this build. For those who are new to this blog, please browse the posts it’s been an interesting journey. What I will add is that what I was looking for from an appearnace standpoint on this project is to hit that kind of feeling you have when you walk into a guitar shop and you get that double take – hey, what’s that? First impression gets you to pick up a guitar. The look gets you first, then feel, then sound.

So what would get me on this one?… Proportions, finish, & the features you see.

  • Unique headstock with a tapered Gibson angled profile
  • Cutaway and how it has a contour with the neck
  • Bone/Brass/Wood – especially the bone tailpiece
  • Wood cone cover vs a generic metal cover & it’s got a unique cutout!
  • Physical adjustments on an acoustic instrument? – what are those knobs?

FEEL… So after you’ve spotted what looks like an interesting find you reach out, gently lift, pull it off the wall, and go find a corner to crawl into and play. ..

Starts with checking out the guitar running your eyes up and down neck, around the body, looking at the back, twisting it around in the light to get different perspectives, then… your ready to get more intimate with the instrument and you transition to tactile impressions. Sound familiar?

So how does it feel? Here are some +/- that I found. Yes this is my biased opinion!

+ (What I like)

  • Contoured Neck Relief really helps with access to the upper frets. It’s a reallyupper frets 2comfortable transition from neck to body, feels very natural.

 

  • Wider string spacing similar to my Seagull acoustic. Really like it for finger picking & slide. With a pick it seems to encourage a more aggressive stroke.
Guitar Width @ Nut Ave. String Spacing Width @ Bridge Ave. String Spacing
Hijinx R1 1 9/16” 5/16” 2 ¼” 7/16”
Seagull 1 ½” 5/16” 2 3/16” 7/16”
Archtop 1 7/16” 5/16” 2” 3/8”

 

  • I really like not having a bridge/string cover. Keeping it open allows you to use your picking hand for muting. To me I just feel more connected to the instrument.

bridge

  • This guitar fits my frame. It sits nice on my lap/body contour and neck reach are right where they should be. Initially I thought the neck would feel really short – It feels just right for this instrument. The cutaway makes a big difference. Without the cutaway I would want a longer neck: 14 fret-to-body vs 12-fret-to-body.

 

  • Action/String tension feels good. Finger “acrobats” hammer on, pull off, bending and straight up fretting. Open and bar chords work really well. Great balance of finger play and slide play performance. (Might be more of a functional input but I’m gonna spare you another review category and put it here). On this model I am using Ernie Ball Earthwood strings 11-15-22-30-42-52, and tuned to Standard E or Open G. These strings have been my go-to on acoustics for years so thought it would be a good start. Turns out… it’s a great start!

 

  • Finish is nice – soft/smooth feel. I’m a fan of hand rubbed satin finishes and a finish should be more than something you see. It should feel good too!

 

  • Sustain/Resonance you can feel, very connected. I gotta dig into the “why” behind this one because it’s got to be repeated in future builds. I had some intent on the design/construction choices that are paying off here.

 

  • neck thicknessNeck – wow. This one I have had mixed feelings on through the entire build. It’s a really important part of the playing experience. I have never like big chunky necks… Until now – this ones chunky but it actually feels really good. Profile is a pretty close match to 1930’s style contours. Necks round (mispelling & pun intended) I might (might) try to lean it up a bit to bring it into a closer decades typical “weight” on the neck contour. Keeping the contour shape but thinning it up a little. 

(-) (What I don’t like)

  • Thumb position at the nut/1st fret on underside of the neck. The neck to fretboard contour from the back is a little too square. Would like it more rounded – simply extending the profile from 1st fret to nut position would be just about right.

 

  • fretboard edge copyFretboard width in the upper register overhangs body at cutaway by 1/8” – this should be flush. Feels wrong – cause it is…

 

  • Can feel the edge between fretboard and neck. This is a peeve of mine, something I check on every guitar I pick up. Odd to me on this is that I intentionally & carefully shaped the fretboard/neck together to avoid this and don’t recall it being there until after the project was complete? Possible swelling/shrink differences between the two woods? It’s VERY slight and I don’t think most would even notice. But it bugs me.

????=+/- (Love It/Hate It)

I’m still sure where I am on this – it feels heavy & sturdy. Not awkward, but you know you picked something up. I can’t decide if that’s a positive or negative from a “feel” perspective. It’s different. Time will tell on this one. I know the next iteration of this design will be made a bit lighter. I tend to over-engineer things and I can see/feel it on this current design. I can back down on a few of the robust structural elements I included. That said I know I will need to be cognizant to not go too far the other way structurally as well as make sure there aren’t any negative impacts on tone (’cause I like it).

Speaking of tone – how does it sound?! That’s the next review – check back for an update and/or follow on twitter for the latest updates!

-Tripper

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