18 Mar 2016

Building the Mule-caster

I think the most exciting part for me as a builder was that moment of “I wonder if I could make that?” leaving the Kelly Joe Phelps show four years ago where he was playing his National.  I think about that almost daily as I’m reminded of other events leading up to doing what I’m doing now.

That initial struggle, figuring, plotting, planning…I think that’s my favorite part. It’s painful and frustrating and it creates obsession.  It’s entrepreneurship of an object that inspires. ‘If I can make this, what sounds will I hear that havn’t been heard? What songs will be written?” It’s one thing to be a part of something, to do good work within a system. Its a different thing to take an assemblage of failures and successes and experiences and apply that to a piece of wood and a piece of steel. It requires relentless forward progress, you just have to keep moving. Cutting and trashing and buying and thinking.

I feel that again with these Mule electrics.

Rawk’NRoll. I know that they have to be stainless, because it sounds great and is pretty well indestructible patina wise.  I’ve been practicing my TIG welding. The resonators are flanged and then soldered. That’s the way resonators have always been done.  I want to TIG weld these because the tight cutaways on the body shape would make it really hard to get a good fit after flanging. TIG welding is also awesome. Chris Hamilton at Hamilton Steel Guitars is an inspiring dude.  I want to grow up to be just like him.

I’m making an outside mold here.  The top and back will be aligned and welded together via rods inside to properly space them. This mold will, hopefully,  be used to clamp the slides around the top and back.Mule Resonator steel tele 4 Mule Resonator steel tele 3 Mule Resonator steel tele 2 Mule Resonator steel tele


12 Mar 2016

Charlie Parr Reviews his Mule

Charlie Parr on his Mule:

“So in 1927 National made a proto-type guitar that was a tri-cone fit into a single-cone body, it was some kind of test I think and they never made a production model out of it. My Mule is just that, a tri-cone set into a single-cone stainless steel body and the sound is somewhere right in between the two designs. I’d never part with my National, but this guitar doesn’t really sound anything like it, and I’ve found that I’m using the Mule a lot these days. Matt did a fantastic job all around on this guitar, the neck feels like I’ve played it for years, and it’s got a custom made P-90 that really sounds nice and not overly electric. I love the sound, and it’s versatile, changing from sharp to growl to mellow depending on where yr right hand is.”


10 Mar 2016

Spinning lathe acquired

Adventure. After three years of looking for a spinning lathe, an instagram acquaintance, Brian Alfonsi, found a sweet score. A spinning factory is going out of business and unloading their machinery. He’s going down to pick one up for himself, so why not pick up two? I’ll be gearing up and making a lot of scrap in the months to come while I learn to spin my own resonator cones. A spinning lathe is a bit different than your normal lathe with heavier duty bearings to take the axial load put on the machine.

There’s quite a bit of voodoo involved with spinning cones. If you see the extravagant things that real metal spinners spin, there would be no more voodoo. It’s just like anything. I’ll document the process with videos and such, so that anyone with enough wherewithal will get a good start.

On paper, it makes sense that a guy making resonator guitars would also make resonator cones, but we’ll see.


09 Mar 2016