Mjölnir Concept

Mjölnir (ma.yorll.neer) : the legendary hammer and weapon of the God of Thunder, Thor. Forged by the Dwarven brothers Eitri and Brokkr as a result of an ill-fated wager with Loki.

“…Thor might smite as hard as he desired, whatsoever might be before him, and the hammer would not fail…”

Sign of the Hammer

Sign of the Hammer

I have recently been able to free up some resources which will allow me to begin work on a third concurrent project. Following the Nordic themes of my guitar projects, this next Les Paul style guitar will be in tribute to Mjölnir, hammer of Thor, the God of Thunder.
I will be taking advantage of some extremely attractive figured grain in the timbers used for this project, and so the finish will be very natural and wholly unadorned.

The fretboard will feature a solitary inlay spanning the 11th, 12th and 13th frets; the Sign of the Hammer, an added homage to one of my all-time favourite true-Metal bands, Manowar.
This will be crafted from engraved, white Mother of Pearl. The electronic configuration will be very minimal, highlighting the quality of materials used;

  • bridge & neck humbucker
  • single volume pot

Currently the intention is for a set of Bareknuckle ‘Miracle Man’ humbuckers, probably with just a coil-split option within the volume control.

Huginn Diary

Huginn Inlays

Using a reconstituted rock material to give a black marble effect, I found a profile image of a Raven in flight to use as a fretboard inlay centred on the 12th octave fret.

Chloe manipulated the image to create the silhouette effect I wanted and simplified it slightly so that it would make the cutting easier with the jewellers saw. ‘Reconstituted rock’ is basically just compacted dust, so it can be very delicate when cut thinly and has a tendency to delaminate. We printed out a few different sizes before choosing the one that fit the best, and then cut out strips from across the image to marry up with the existing frets. Ideally all inlay work should be attempted before the frets are installed, as it makes all the work so much easier.

The yellow poster paint allows a heavy contrast against the rosewood when scoring around the substrate to inlay, making the routing process much more clearly defined. The water-based paint is then easily sanded off of the woodwork, without leaving any trace.
As with all my builds now, included on the headstock is my rhunic monogram design, this time in figured mother-of-pearl.

Inlays now complete and ready to start applying the satin finish to the neck.

Huginn – On-board distortion pedal

Artec QDD – On-board Overdrive/Distortion Effects

QDD2Huginn’s control configuration will differ slightly from it’s twin Muninn, as it will feature on-board effects provided by Artec’s QDD2 device.

This offers five separate settings:

  • 1 : True bypass (off)
  • 2 : Clean boost
  • 3 : Blues Overdrive
  • 4 : Rock distortion
  • 5 : Heavy Metal

A great degree of versatility is added by this effects circuit, offering tone and overdrive/distortion options embedded within the guitar; eliminating the need of an external distortion pedal.

Powered by a single 9V battery housed within the control cavity will give over 3000 hours of use. An additional control position will be drilled for the QDD2 rotary selector accompanying the push-pull master volume control and coil-splitting functionality.

Huginn – Pickup Choice

P1010727         P1010728

For the Bridge I have chosen to utilise an EMG HZ4 just like Muninn. I found this pickup to give a very good ‘hot’ metal sound when driven hard.

As Huginn will have a brighter and more mellow finish with the gold hardware and ashen-grey finish, i wanted a little more warmth and tone in the neck position, whilst keeping the raw aggression of an over-wound humbucker. In this case I have opted for a custom Alan Entwistle ‘Darkstar’. This has an open-coil appearance by default, so i will be adding a plastic covering to give it more of an EMG vibe for symmetry.

Taming Huginn

This body (the twin of Muninn) has been cut out and ready for finishing for over twelve months now, since I began the Muninn build. Most of my time recently has been spent on a couple of personal projects, but I felt it was time to crack on with this project now.

As these two builds have drawn inspiration from two Ravens, a dark finish is a necessity. To set Huginn aside from its twin, I have decided to go with a lighter finish and gold hardware instead of all black.

Black_Grain_DyeThe body has gone through the same black-dyeing process as Muninn to highlight the heavy open grain of the Swamp Ash. This is then sanded back to 220 grit revealing a much darker figuring where the more open-pored grain retains the black dye. For Huginn though, this has been done on the face and bottom chamfer of the guitar only, the back and sides remain fully black. Huginn_final_sandedMy intention is to then finish the body with a trans-white Wudtone product. The full black of the back and sides should form a dark grey finish and the top will hopefully be a lighter ashen-grey with dark grain highlights (lowlights??).


Chamfered Edge

The bottom chamfer in this case will act as pin-stripe highlighting the natural timber as it will not be finished in the trans-white coating at all. This will leave the thin strip with a dark-grained amber-gold edge which will complement the gold hardware nicely.
This chamfering was designed originally to give the bottom profile of the Raven body a sharper defined, blade like edge. Taking inspiration from other guitar builders, I toyed with the idea of having a strong contrasting colour along this chamfer, like a red or navy blue, but did not want this aspect to be over-bearing. The natural finish will act like a window into the timbers character underneath.

The next step will be to inlay Raven silhouette design into the fretboard. This will be quite large and will be centered on the12th fret, maybe spanning across frets 10, 11, 13 and 14.

Body Mounting Humbuckers

Pickups traditionally need some form of bracket to mount them to the guitar; Pickup_Ringe.g. Stratocasters have pick-guards and Les Pauls have pickup rings. The mounting bolts pass through the pick-guard or ring, through an adjusting spring or silicone tube and finally screw into the pickups threaded side tabs.pickguard The height of the pickup is then adjusted by tightening or loosening the bolt on either side, while the spring or silicone tube applies the constant resistance required so that the pickup doesn’t flap around and moves up and down with the adjustment.

Mounting a pickup directly to the body is almost the inverse of this process.

The routing of the pickup area does not need to be as large. In fact it is desirable for the routing to be as tight as possible with the chosen pickup so that any gaps are minimal, limiting sight into the cavity. Failure to do this results in a finish similar to Eddie Van Halen’s Frankenstein guitar.




I found when researching the options for body mounting that there were very few solutions available. The general consensus seems to be changing the mounting bolts for wood screws that pass though the pickup tabs and directly into the guitar body. This obviously means that the threaded holes in the pickup need to be drilled out to allow a screw to pass though freely. Most solutions add a piece of foam between the back of the pickup and the guitar body, creating the resistance in place of the springs/silicone used with pickup rings. The length and diameter of the wood screw in this case would be very critical as it would need to be sized accurately for the required final height the pickup once complete. Adjustment of the pickup height by the customer would then be at risk of the screws possibly coming right through the back of the guitar if they were too long.

Screws of unknown length, girth and finish to mount a pickup didn’t appeal to me. Putting a bit of foam in one of my guitars with the hope that it remained spongy, also seemed destined to fail and an overall bodge, so I decided to do it my own way.

Humbucker_ConstructionPickup base-plates are readily available from guitar building sites such as AxesRus, which are used for building custom-wound pickups. They’re cheap, they have holes pre-drilled which can be used for mounting and the tabs are already exactly spaced and threaded to fit any standard 6-pole humbucker. It seemed very logical to just mount one of these plates upside down in the pickup cavity. The side tabs (then facing upwards) mirror the pickup to be fitted, and act as a bracket for mounting. This also allows for the supplied bolt and spring configuration for resistance. I couldn’t believe that nobody else had seemed to have tried this.

HumBase-PlateThe threaded holes in the side tabs of the chosen pickup still need to be drilled out to allow the bolts to pass through freely, but this is the only modification required (with possible exception to the mounting bolts).

NB: In a recent build the bolts were so long that they ‘bottomed out’ into the pickup cavity when I tried to lower the pickup. Simply snipping off around 4 mm of the bolt with some side-cutters and tidying up with a needle file quickly fixed this.

A clean, tidy mounting method and no worries of wood screw length/girth or shabby bits of foam.

The Ragnarok Concept

Following the completion of Huginn, as always my projects come in pairs to keep myself busy (like the Sith: ‘No more. No less’), so along with the Green Man I intend to base a guitar on a Nordic theme again: Ragnarok – the death of the Gods.

'The Great Day of His Wrath', John Martin 1853

‘The Great Day of His Wrath’, John Martin 1853

In Norse mythology, Raganarok (‘Fate of the Gods’) will be the final battle that occurs on the Vigrid Plain following three years of Winter. Ragnarok is prophesised and Odin will try in vain to avert it’s coming, but ultimately he will be devoured by the great wolf Fenrir. All the fallen warriors in Valhalla will rise once more and fight in the battle to end all battles.

'Tyr and Fenrir', John Bauer 1911

‘Tyr and Fenrir’, John Bauer 1911

My first 7 string build to date; at this moment in time I plan to do a little research into some on-board effects for the guitar also like high gain or tonal boosts to increase the array of possibilities native to the instrument. Coil splitting will be included with the single humbucker configuration and a fixed bridge setup.

White Grain Filler

White Grain Filler

The inevitability of this prophesised ‘end of days’ conjures images of a brewing storm on the horizon. I am using this influence for choosing the finish of the guitar. In this case I am thinking of a Blood red/Deep Purple sun-burst fading into black towards the outside edges of the body. As Ragnarok is prophesised to follow three years of winter, and include the world devouring Frost Giants as major contributors in the battle, I think it would be good acknowledge the cold in some way. I am thinking a white grain filler to emphasise the wood grain as an ice white highlight running through the design. Like fissures in the doom.

With regard to inlays; I have seen some brilliant examples of Nordic design in the British Museum a few months ago which will be a very good starter for inspiration.  The fretboard will be very wide, so there will be plenty of space for a decent design reaching up to the headstock.



Odin with Muninn & Huginn, Alan Lee

Odin with Muninn & Huginn, Alan Lee

For the headstock I think a ‘Valknut’ symbol would be apt. A Valknut is an interlocked motif of three triangles and represents slain warriors. They have been found on many Norse stone carvings with funery motifs, and represent a slain warrior or mark the wearer as willing to be sacrificed by Odin himself.

As this is a 7-stringer, I will need to give a little thought to the headstock design as I intend to use a balanced split of machine heads. So in other words not all in a row like Fender and some Ibanez, but split either side like Gibson and Gretch. This means it will have an asymmetry of 4×3 machine heads. So I plan to research some Nordic spearhead designs in tribute of Gungnir, Odin’s weapon.
A broken spear-tip would allow the off-set design I require, much like the ESP headstocks in the Ltd range.

This guitar needs to be awesome in every aspect. It must look and sound capable of committing deicide.

The Green Man Concept

SaracenoI have been thinking recently about the next project I would like to work on following completion of Huginn, and have wanted to own a guitar with a deep green finish ever since I saw a Blues Saraceno promo in one of my brother Lee’s guitar magazines, circa 1993.

This idea reignited during a day trip to York last summer. I popped into a coffee shop just around the corner from the Guy Fawkes Inn with the latest copy of Guitarist magazine. Pending a rendezvous with Chloe, I had an hour to kill and sat reading the articles with some forgotten bun. The main article was regarding the Latest Ibanez Jem model called UV70P (catchy). A predominantly black finished guitar, though it had green highlights of pickups, controls and inlays. This was no doubt a subtle tribute to Vai’s guitar during the early part of his career, GreenMeanieaffectionately known as the Green Meanie. This was actually a Charvel manufactured guitar, so Ibanez would not be able to build an official replica tribute of this without stepping on someone’s toes. Vai had used this during his stint with Alcatrazz (it was a sunburst finish then before the ‘Loch-ness Green’ application) and more famously with David Lee Roth where he had carved out the lower horn to allow higher access to the fret-board (visible in the image on the left). As all the Jem guitars were built on the specifications of the Green meanie, it is a pretty iconic model.

This gave me the impetus to start thinking about a Green Meanie tribute myself. However, I have spent the last couple of years working on the Raven projects, which are super Strat inspired, floating-point tremolo guitars; I want to focus on a couple of carved top Les Paul type projects. Focussing more on figured timbers and minimalisim, these will likely have a single hard-tail bridge, solitary bridge humbucker and maximum control selectivity with a minimum of actual control components (ideally just one control knob). The body finish will be a trans-sunburst satin finish ranging from a very dark, almost black, moss-green up to a deep emereld. It will need to be a well figured grain as it will be wholly on show with the limited hardware, so I will be considering Walnut, Swamp Ash and Indigbo for the timber.
I have wanted to use a neck timber called Wenge for some time now, so this would probably remain natural with a clear finish as it will be dark enough to merge with the darker areas of the body finish. No scalloping this time, just jumbo frets with some elaborate fret-board inlay designs.



Initially I wanted this to be in the same vein as the UV70P, i.e. predominantly black with green highlights, but recently I have decided on a theme for the build which would require an all green finish (albeit almost black in areas).

As always, I needed to choose a soul for thGreenMane project in keeping with my ethos, so taking note of the green theme and applying some Pagan/Tolkien influence I decided on the Green Man. This is typically a representation of a man’s face surrounded by foliage and sometimes spewing vegetation out from the mouth and/or eyes, and represents rebirth.



My intention is to personify the symbol, and design a large headstock inlay constituted from varying shades of malachite, maybe in an Art Deco style.

The Green Man face will retain all the distinguishing features of the symbol, but will likely be stylised to cater for the (my) limitations of marquetry application. I plan to consider other similar mythical beings into the design such as Treebeard, Spriggans and Will-o’-the-wisps for fret-board inlay ideas.

Keep an eye out for posts in the Inspiration section as the project unfolds.


Raven Projects : Muninn (1 of 2)

Spring 2012 – Spring 2014

muninn-frontModel Name: Muninn
Color: Anthracite
Body Material: Swamp Ash
Body Shape: MG/CR Raven
Body Finish: ‘Clear Wudtone’
Neck Material: Rock Maple
Neck Style: 3×3 Headstock, oiled finish
Neck Shape: Modern “C”
Scale Length: 24.75”
Fingerboard: Tear-drop/full scalloped maple
Fingerboard Radius: 10″
Number of Frets: 22
Fret Size: Jumbo
Full-body String Nut: Black graph-tec
Nut Width: 42 mm
Fingerboard Inlays: N/A
Side Inlays: Black dot
Neck Plate: N/A
Pickup Configuration: HB-HB
Bridge Pickup: EMG HZ4
Middle Pickup: N/A
Neck Pickup: EMG HZ4-A
Controls: Master volume, coil-splitting push-pull
Pickup Switching: 3-Position blade:

  • Bridge only
  • Bridge & neck
  • Neck only

Bridge: 6-Saddle, twin-pivot modern style floating tremolo
Hardware Finish: Black
Tuning Machines: Gibson ‘Tulip’ style
Pickguard: N/A
Control Knobs: Black speed-knob
Switch Tips: Black
Unique Features:

  • Custom abalone headstock inlay
  • Tear-drop’ scalloped fingerboard from frets 1 – 11
  • Fully scalloped fingerboard from frets 12 – 22
  • Coil-split function, changing humbuckers to single-coil
  • Machine-thread neck insert for neck-mounting
  • Fender locking strap buttons
  • Treble-bleed wiring modification

Originally planned as a single, unique design and build, I managed to get a good deal purchasing the timber and ended up with two Swamp Ash body blanks.With two potential builds, I decided to theme along the lines of Norse mythology primarily as I wanted to create a transparent black, natural finish that would enhance the figuring of the Swamp Ash grain, but also because it seemed cool. The inspiration for this colour effect was a Raven’s wing, so I decided to theme the builds as Odin’s Ravens, Muninn (memory) and Huginn (thought).The body design was the result of many long hours in consultation with Chloe, aiming for a contemporary mix of Les Paul and Super-Strat body styles whilst keeping our own unique twist. The right horn was finished with a bevelled edge for a sword-edge like emphasis and was cut deep to allow easy access to the high fret area.This guitar was designed to look and feel sharp and edgy, and so I felt it needed a very fast action. The scalloping process was arduous but worthwhile, and has resulted in a super-slick experience, excellent for both 80’s style shredding and hard SRV style blues-bends. Frets 1 – 11 have been scalloped to a tear-drop profile to allow easier bar-chord playing, while frets 12 – 22 have the more traditional full scallop made famous by artists such as Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai. High output passive pickups have been used to give an appropriate darkness to the sound, whilst keeping smooth tones in the Humbucker configuration. Pulling the Volume knob up into position splits the coils resulting in single-coil configuration, for a sharper more vintage sound.

” Huginn and Muninn Fly every day
over the mighty earth.
I fear for Huginn that he may not return,
yet more I fear for Muninn.”

– Odin, translated from Old Norse

Follow the design and build diary of Muninn…