The birth of MY Merlin

Page 2

by Kez Hasanic

On my next visit to the workshop I found a guitar, partly built, it looked like a cross between a Strat and a Merlin! Frank blithely informed me that he had put it together just before I arrived and that it would serve as a prototype to test the tremolo's functioning before finally installing it into the Merlin. In the time it took me to guzzle a few beers Frank had a P-90, controls, wiring, tremolo and strings all set up and was tuning it and setting the intonation, the tremolo worked like a dream! I took it with me for the next week, using it at a rehearsal and a gig, it stayed in tune perfectly even after some vigorous trem work, at the first sign of any problem, sometimes after heavy string bending, a gentle, short pullback on the arm fixed it immediately. O.K. I was very impressed, it was smooth, tight and responsive, mmhhh, sounds like my ex-girlfriend! A graphtek nut and NON-locking Sperzel tuners were used as well. My experience with the tuning reliability of the prototype made me order non-locking Sperzels as I like their less bulky look on the back of the small Merlin headstock.

The success of the prototype led to Frank cutting the body-cavity on the Merlin and installing the tremolo system for a check on the fit and function.

Three springs were installed to balance the 9 to 46 gauge strings I was using at the time, the neck was inserted with tuners on the headstock.

Frank then proceeded to string the guitar, tune it and play! With an unglued neck and NO frets the Merlin sounded naturally resonant and bright. I already liked the idea of a long neck tenon but now I was totally sold on it as I watched Frank divebombing the trem and running amok up and down the fret(less)board with the neck rock solid all the way. I was able to suggest to Frank that the screws securing the saddles to the plate should be recessed, he agreed and so I was able to contribute something small to the tremolo design. As you may see, there was only one 'fly' in the ointment, or should I say 'shotgun pellet'. It had become apparent that the discolouration and indentation behind the bridge went quite deep and as Frank had the top ready to paint I had to make a decision on the finish. A trans-amber top would look great with all that flame, but the imperfection would also stand out and I was already getting annoyed with it. Well, I always liked the look of the original 1954 Les Paul Custom 'Black Beauty', black, gold hardware and creme binding, it's p-90 and Alnico pickups with gold screw/pole-pieces looked very similar to the P-94's I wanted to install, in the end I asked Frank to finish the Merlin's top a very dark trans-black, I would get my 'Black Beauty' but I still wanted to see a little flame!

Frank was also annoyed about something, he was not satisfied with the seam between the fretboard and neck, it looked pretty seamless to my eyes, but to him it just wasn't good enough. Would I like a fretboard made out of birdseye maple? The original looked pretty plain compared to the fancy grained piece Frank showed me, how could I refuse! So Frank completely replaced the fretboard, cut new markers and installed the frets, this pic shows the results.

In the front view we can see the neck has been glued in place and pickup holes routed, while on the back we see the newly opened control cavity and the layout of the body cavity. The first coat of sealer has been applied and the headstock has been sprayed black. At this stage it is starting to look like a real guitar. Later we mark the position for the pots and switch, I chose a narrow diamond pattern similar to that on Gibson's rare L5S.

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