From the inception of our Company, it was our vision to offer one standard instrument (the venerable PalmGuitar® “Standard”) as a “stock item”, to be available from inventory for overnight shipment anywhere in the world. Though we had succeeded in creating something totally new, that our customers absolutely loved, we failed miserably at making them available for immediate delivery, causing our customers in some cases to wait more than a year to get one. Consequently, nearly every “Standard” has been custom “made to order”. So the idea of segmenting our product line into “Standard” and “Custom” had lost its meaning … basically, they’ve all been custom made. So with the introduction of the new v2.0 series, which has become the embodiment of the “Standard” concept, all v1.0 instruments will officially be custom, made to order instruments that must be quoted prior to ordering. Though custom v1.0’s have traditionally begun at around the US$1,600 mark, its petroleum-based polymer matrix could cause some price instability, but we should be able to manage that carefully at the time of quotation. As always, lead-times will vary based on time of order.
For a look at what’s been happening with PalmGuitar® v1.0 graphite instruments, we thought it might be helpful to review some of the array of “custom options” that we have made over the years. Some of them are easy to implement, while others have been “one-off” options that we may, or may not ever want to do again. So we’ll give you a list of the good, the bad, and the ugly, and try to explain what’s practical, and what’s not. As always, we LOVE new ideas and feedback from our customers, so if you have some ideas of your own, we’d love to hear them.
Some new standards for the original “Standard” – (US $1,600) One of the most visual design changes we made was the switch from the unique LSR locking tuners, which became difficult to obtain, to Sperzel locking tuners. Though the original Sperzel’s weighed only one gram more than the LSR’s, Sperzel recently began to produce some very clever open back tuners that actually weigh one gram less than the LSR’s … more about that later. More important to our customers, Sperzel tuners are very easy to operate and incredibly reliable.
The 2006 Owner’s Manual, which includes both guitar and bass specifications, includes details on the operation of the Sperzel guitar and bass tuners. The photos show both the front and rear shots of the Sperzel installation.
The photo on top also shows the “zero fret” design - the strings actually rest on a fret instead of a traditional nut … the brass string retainer behind the zero fret simply holds the strings in place so they don’t move from side to side. Zero frets have been used for years as a way to improve sustain and create an extremely precise string height at the first fret. Unfortunately, zero-frets were used on many cheap imports in the 50’s and 60’s, causing many players to misunderstand the real function of a zero fret. So while we have to specify zero-fret or no zero fret at the Moses Graphite factory when we order bodies, it is definitely an option we can make available on v1.0 instruments.
The three-way adjustable bridge by ABM of Germany remains one of the finest precision top-loading electric guitar bridges ever made. Each saddle is designed to be moved up & down, front & back, and side to side, giving the player the ultimate control on intonation and precision. Each saddle rides effortlessly in its own machined pocket completely separated from neighboring saddles.
Due to the unique sonic properties of the graphite PalmGuitar, versus wooden guitars, your favorite pickup in a wooden guitar may, or may not be right for a PalmGuitar. We recommend the Seymour Duncan® TB3 Stag-Mag Trembucker for most applications. For those of you who love to tinker, we can include an optional quick disconnect wiring block that lets you swap pickups with ease as long as you follow the Seymour Duncan color coding wiring system.
Together, these form the basis of what was once the original PalmGuitar® Standard configuration. From there, we developed a wider range of styles, features and configurations you might find interesting.
The PalmGuitar® 4-String Custom Bass – ($1,700)
The idea that we had created something completely outrageous really hit us when we saw this shot of bassist Peggy Foster (from the 70’s girls band “The Runaways”) playing her PalmGuitar Custom 4-string Bass. The idea that you can make a 26” long bass guitar, with a 20.239” scale, pitched to normal E=41.2 Hz / A = 55.0 Hz / D = 73.4 Hz / G = 98.0 Hz, is so outrageous, we’ve been told that we’re the only company that would even attempt such a radical concept. Some say it defies the laws of physics … not true … it relies on them.
Beside the Moses Graphite structure on which the instrument is based, the other bit of magic that makes this unique instrument possible is the custom pickup, specifically designed and manufactured exclusively for us by Villex Electronics. The first thing that the folks at Villex did was to analyze the range of frequencies and overtones the instrument produced acoustically. They then designed filters that comb out any offensive overtones, making for an extremely clean signal. Then, they added a passive midrange boost circuit coupled with an 11 position rotary pot, so you can literally boost the midrange portion of the signal to your liking. It’s not a tone control (in fact, there is NO tone control at all on our bass), but more like a tone shaping control. You have to hear it to believe it. It’s passive – no batteries required!
We specify ABM single string bridges on the 4-string bass for precision, adjustability, sonic coupling, and the overall physical aspect ratio that matches our tiny body. We also specify Sperzel locking bass tuners that are capable of accepting the full diameter 0.145” low E string. Like all other PalmGuitars, the bass can be ordered with the typical black on black color scheme, or can be ordered in any of the Moses Graphite finishes.
The World’s Smallest electric 12-string - (US $6,000)
This unique, highly customized instrument features nearly every option imaginable, from a lavish, abalone pearl vine-of-life fingerboard inlay to a piezoelectric bridge that provides both magnetic electric and passive acoustic signals from a single, stereo output. In order to accommodate 12 separate locking tuners, an extended graphite headstock was designed, and then translated into a resin transfer mold that would ultimately be used to recast the existing headstock into the elongated shape. Since the normal LSR mounting hardware would not fit in such tight quarters, each individual LSR locking tuner was cast into elongated headstock one by one. The elimination of the rear mounting hardware not only helped to compensate for the increased mass of the headstock itself and the extra six tuners, it also provided for a totally smooth back surface of the headstock which is aesthetically quite striking. The increased mass at the headstock was further offset by the use of a carbon fiber strap arm attachment that relocates the center of gravity of the instrument to a point that is very natural when holding it with a strap. Many of the playability issues we learned from this instrument were translated directly into the strap balancing arm that is now available on the brand new PalmGuitar® v2.1.
Beyond the cosmetic allure of this instrument, its tonal range is something straight from the ‘60’s. The ability to combine the fullness of a jumbo acoustic 12-string with the crystal clear jangle of an electric 12-string, in a package that only slightly longer than a standard violin, makes this one of the most unique guitars on the planet. The Seymour Duncan® TB-3 Stag Mag Trembucker is wired to the quick disconnect terminal block, so that if you want to switch pickups when all the strings are off being changed, it’s very easy to do.
The bridge is an ABM 6-string piezo-electric top loading bridge (with 6 separate piezo crystals). To mount the strings, a series of 12 stainless steel pins are embedded into the edge of the graphite body. The ball end of each string is oriented, slipped onto its stainless steel pin, placed over its bridge saddle, and into its locking tuner for tightening. The standard single-string brass bridge saddles (which rest on the piezo crystals) are replaced with hand made split brass saddles that are properly compensated for correct intonation for each octave string pair.
The 6-string Chameleon (US $3,000) – Utilizing Moses Graphite’s “Shift” technology, the exterior skin of this instrument contains a color shifting pigment that reflects the entire visible color spectra depending on how and what type of light is shining on it. With predominant red/green/blue hues, this stunning instrument can burst into brilliant orange through deep purple shades, and has often been called “Musical Jewelry” by those seeing it for the first. No amount of photography can capture the effect properly.
This model employs the lowest mass tuners we have found to date – the new Sperzel open back slotted tuners. The strings are pre-clipped to approximate size. The clipped end of the strings is pushed into a hole at the edge of the machine head slot, and the rest of the string is bent into the slot prior to tightening. This “slotted tuner” design has been around for years, but improved by Sperzel. On the back of the tuner, Sperzel employs chrome plated spur gears and have carved away much of the alloy housing to provide the same level of locking stability as their normal locking tuners, but at a savings of 2-3 grams per key over their normal locking tuners, and at least a gram lighter than the LSR tuners.
Even though this model employs the lowest mass tuners on the market, making a balance compensating arm really unnecessary, this instrument demonstrates the retractable balancing arm which can be deployed for playing, or stowed for aesthetics. The carbon fiber arm pivots around an internal mechanism with an anti-rotation stop at the correct playing position. A second anti-rotation stop takes over when returning the arm back to its stowed position, behind the back.
Though it includes the most complex decorative surface of any PalmGuitar produced to date, along with a complex mechanism for the convertible strap arm, the Chameleon uses only a single volume control – no tone control. It does have the 3-way pickup selector switch, but we doubt anyone would use it.
The Legendary PalmGuitar® Tomahawk – A Stealth Rocker for the Boardroom (never commercialized)
Although the PalmGuitar® is virtually unaffected by changing climates, it is not indestructible. Imagine starting a new business with a scarce and sinfully costly raw material component that you carefully store on individual racks. You reach for a new one in a moment of haste, and … ooops! Slow motion takes over, as you struggle to overcome pathetically slow reflexes that just can quite seem to re-grasp what you’re about to drop. In a cruel twist, rather than just hitting the concrete floor, you actually make contact with it right at the end in what seems like a fleeting chance to avoid disaster. Ooops occurs again, when you realize that you’ve not only missed grabbing it, you’ve flipped it end over end and added at least four times the kinetic energy it might have had in a simple drop. In full rotation, the headstock hits first. It’s heavily reinforced with carbon fiber, but like a Formula 1 race car that smacks the wall after spinning off the track, the headstock didn’t survive. When it snapped off, it sounded like a gun shot. Then, because of the energy released by severing the carbon, it simply disappeared into some other remote part of the workshop! Gone! Never to be found again!!
When you’ve just depleted your already scarce inventory by decapitating the body in line, there’s only one thing to do – try a “headless” design. One of the most common questions asked by customers is, why don’t you guys make any headless guitars? Well, there’s a good reason, and we’ll let you know what it is. Anyway, back to our story …
Understand that only the headstock broke off … but since it a) wasn’t immediately able to be found, and b) even if we found it, we can’t simply glue it back on. So what should we to do?? We already made a short scale guitar, so just trimming up the broken end and trying to fit a headless tailstock on the other end wouldn’t really give us any new information.
Since I had retired from the corporate world, all my old weapons of war, including a venerable, beat up old Zero Halliburton aluminum attaché case was stored nearby. Hmmm … I wonder how much of this neck I have to saw off to be able to fit a guitar into that case? Turns out that all but 17 inches had to be sacrificed. That turned out to be the easiest part of the surgery.
All PalmGuitars have a tiny hollow cavity directly under the bridge that house the electronics. So trying to fit a headless-style tailpiece onto the body would require eliminating the electronics cavity completely, and heavily reinforcing it to support the tailpiece. With no room for a pot, a switch, or even an output jack, the only alternative was to hot wire the pickup to an enclosed output jack that ran in a half inch wide port that ran parallel to the tailpiece. For the pickup, we chose the Seymour Duncan® P-90 Stack – arguably the greatest pickup ever made. Unfortunately, the P-90 Stack is actually thicker than the PalmGuitar body … so the entire undercarriage of what was to become the Tomahawk was very heavily reinforced, and the pickup itself was fully potted into the pickup cavity in a way that chemically cross-linked it into the rest of structure. Basically, if the pickup ever shorted out, the guitar would become a brick. Anyway, this will hopefully answer the question about why we don’t do “headless” guitars …
At the other end, we had a different problem. When you buy commercially available headless systems, they come with the tailstock, and the string terminator end at the nut. For most normal guitars, that piece is designed to replace a normal scale guitar at the nut – normally about 1.56” wide. The “nut end” of this stubby little guitar was just about 2 inches. The standard piece wouldn’t work. So we had to craft one from a half inch thick piece of solid brass. When it was done, we strung it up, tuned it up, turned the amp way down (remember, it’s wired at full throttle), and plugged it in. Since the scale was so short, rather than trying to tune it E to E, we tuned it up a 4th to A to A. We have a little Rivera R30-112 amp in the shop, so after warming it up we spun the dial half way on the clean channel and hit a chord. Wow! Very nice! Without much thought, we switched to the dirty channel and hit another chord … WOW! This tiny little brute was smaller than a ukulele, but was real fire-breather. I played it all night long until my fingers could play no more. Unfortunately, as cool as the Tomahawk is, getting the custom headless end produced in small quantities was simply not cost effective, so we never commercialized it and never made a second version … (we also never broke another one either)!
Let us know what you think about this “designer’s corner” part of the site and we’ll add to it from time to time.