Dragonfly Deluxe Archtop Electric Guitar
The Dragonfly Deluxe design evolved from my standard electric guitar design that was extended to have more of an acoustic tone. I started with a standard body blank to form the back and sides. This was then routed mostly hollow to a back thickness of approximately 3/8” depending on the resonant quality of the wood. The denser the wood the thinner the back becomes. There is a significant neck block for the set neck to glue into which also surrounds the neck pickup. The rest of the body is hollow. The Sitka top is carved to a rather high arch for the smaller body size and graduated slightly thicker than a standard acoustic archtop to add strength and minimize feedback. Two parallel braces form the structural support for the string tension over the bridge.
The neck is a set neck with a full width tenon that extends into the neck pickup cavity. The necks are constructed using a two-way adjustable truss with 1/4" graphite tubes flanking the truss rod on either side. I find that the graphite adds some stability and stiffness to the neck while also minimizing dead spots on the fingerboard. The graphite does this due to its high velocity of sound as compared to wood and allows for the string vibrations to travel quickly and evenly through the neck. I apply the same acoustic principles to all of my instruments and employ a tap tuning approach to determine the final thickness of the top and back. I also do this to find the perfect match for the fingerboard and neck woods. The thicker ebony fingerboard promotes a sharper attack and adds to the sustaining qualities of the neck. The neck carve (which can be customized to suit) is comparable to a standard round profile archtop neck with the thickness to go along with it. This makes for a very comfortable and playable guitar neck that fills your hand when playing some of the more complex chard shapes.
To bring out the best from this guitar a bone saddle was inlaid into the bridge to give the guitar the brilliance of an electric guitar coupled with the smoothness pf the archtop voice. This bridge is pivotal to the guitar’s design and provides an amazing array of tones not possible with a wooden bridge. With this bridge feature the archtop concept can be realized within the framework of a traditional electric guitar. To compensate for the brighter, punchier bridge tone the tone control has a lower value capacitor to provide a greater treble cut. With the tone rolled back about 1/3 of the way you are right back in archtop territory and can then push the tone further into the darker, smoky regions.
The electronics for the Dragonfly Deluxe consist of a master volume, a master tone, a series parallel blend pot for each pickup, and a pickup selector switch. The blend pots are wired like a standard series/parallel switch but utilize a stacked potentiometer to allow a gradual change in the voicing of the pickup coils that range from a series coil configuration to parallel. The addition of the bridge pickup was necessary to keep in line with the design of a primarily electric instrument. The tonal variations offered in this pickup position allow for greater versatility and tonal range. I chose the Bartolini ZBS series pickups for their incredible clarity and high fidelity (ZBS-70 in the neck and ZBS-75 in the bridge). These pickups are potted in epoxy which reduces the distortion introduced by minute coil movements and produce a very clean and accurate representation of the guitar’s acoustic voice with all of the subtleties and nuances present.
The materials used for this guitar include Australian Lacewood for the back and sides, Honduran mahogany for the neck, ebony for the fingerboard, knobs, pickup rings, bridge, and tailpiece. . The head plate and tailpiece veneer is curly koa. Bone is used for the saddle and nut. The inlay of the dragonfly is done using mother of pearl and abalone Abalam (thin laminations of Paua shell epoxied together). The side dot markers on the top edge of the fingerboard are Paua shell surrounded by sterling silver. The logo is mother of pearl. The tuning keys are top quality Waverly open backed tuners with ebony buttons. The frets are small jumbo size that facilitates string bending and easy chord work. The strings are flat wound Thomastik-Enfeld JS-111’s with a .012” high E string added. Round wound strings can also be used for this guitar without modification. The finish is nitrocellulose lacquer and it is applied very thin and without grain filler for the least effect on the tone of the guitar.
With the full range of tone that this guitar has to offer it is suited for a variety of musical styles. The traditional archtop voice is very present and as usable as the voice from a larger jazz box. The clean tones are lush and beautiful and compliments sustained chord work found in many pop and rock styles. The bridge pickup adds a certain crystalline edge to the sound perfect for quick chord chops and fast lead runs. Played through a clean amplifier the guitar can function as a versatile rhythm instrument as well as stand on it’s own as a lead guitar. Played through a high gain overdrive unit and you have the makings of a fusion machine. Once the sweet spot is found the volume control can act as a feedback valve. A sustained chord or note can easily be coaxed into a very musical feedback blossom. The overall design is an instrument that can deliver a clear voice whether clean or overdriven, accompanied or solo.
Here are the pictures:
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