Surfing under the Blood Moon

One of the questions I get all the time is where the ideas for all these builds come from as well their names. While there are more than one answer to that let me give you an idea with an example.

One of these days I’m scouting for fine woods you all are so used to expect from ViK Guitars. And there comes up a quilted maple drop top with a nice tabular figure of long sausages nicely packed in rows on perfectly mirrored sides. I don’t use drop tops very often but it’s been a minute since I last crafted a Domineer with a highly figured top, so I went for it. Few days later it arrived in the mail, got properly drooled over and went to the wood shelf to acclimate and get otherwise ready for the glorious future it was destined for.

The figure on that top reminded me of the lefty ViK Duality 7 “Pacific sunset” that I built several years ago. The stain pattern on it came out so well I’m still receiving lots of messages about it and complains for making it a lefty.. Making the same thing all over again is not really my way so I’ve been cooking ideas for this new build on backup while preparing and processing all the woods I picked for this project. Wenge neck and swamp ash body is one of may favorite combinations that provides a very solid foundation for an instrument with nicely shaped big bottom, tight growling low mids and not too crisp or biting top (as opposed to adding maple neck). Adding a maple top would tighten things up, add focus and overall control over that one piece super lightweight and resonant body. Decision to use roasted birds eye maple for the fingerboard came on later stage after the top had already been stained. I think it was a great fit design-wise and a new thing to try out as I’ve never done it before.

And so the body was glued and well seasoned, routed with the CNC and carved/sanded by hand. That’s when you gotta line up the stain bottles and get your inspiration/creativity levels into the beast-mode as you don’t get too many second tries with these fancy tops.

I like to correlate my staining patterns with the body shapes, try and see the flow of the curves and lines and follow them wherever they’d take me. From the time when I was working on the very first ViK Domineer H6 with gorgeous green quilted maple top (that was later presented at NAMM’20) it was clear that Domineer model likes the “dragon breathe” pattern as it’s called by one other company)). The aggressive scoop at the bottom of a Domineer body creates a fully justified “open” area that would otherwise have to be a part of a “closed” sunburst pattern. Which means I can “loose” my outer darker accents at the left and right edges and allow the center tones flow to the bottom and graciously drop like a waterfall into the “headless” scoop.

So we have our staining pattern, we have the figure to apply it to, we have the colors, let’s do it!

I like to use water based stains as they allow for more working time as well as nicer smoother transitioned between colors. Well dried maple takes the stains nicely and instantly opens up all the 3D figure it’s packing. Sometimes it’s hard to not get distracted and finish the job without drooling all over it. One of the upsides of having a creative freedom is that you can follow the vibe of the moment and let it take you wherever it needs to go. With this staining job I found myself doing way more blacks to intensify those fading “waters” going on the horns and at some point it hit me – I’m not drawing the setting Sun anymore.

For three years I lived on the Pacific coast in California I’ve seen a lot of sunsets over the ocean. That’s one of the most vibrant images I have stitched into my brain. Those several minutes when we would park by the Pacific Highway and watch the red hot sun disc drop into the cold waters of the Pacific. Depending on the time of the year and weather conditions every single time that would be a different picture but always gorgeous nonetheless. One of those images was well represented on the ViK Duality 7L “Pacific Sunset” project but this was somehow different. I realized that instead I’m heading for the Moon or rather for its’ reflection over the dark ocean waters in the middle of the night. The amount of reds I’ve already put in made it absolutely clear – this was no ordinary Moon but rare and eerie “Blood Moon”. Now it all finally made perfect sense and that picture was now complete. The name of this project has just revealed itself. Satisfied with the outcome I sealed the top and clear coated it.

Few days later I found out that this whole story was followed by actual Lunar Eclipse which creates that effect of red Moon also known as “Blood Moon”. Imagine my surprise! It’s the moments like that when you have to realized how everything is connected in the world whether you know it or not. There are lots of things we don’t fully understand about how this Universe operates. It’s hard to tell where the inspiration comes from but knowing this event found its’ way into your artwork is pretty amazing.

Now where does the Surf part fit into all this? I found it’s the result of the train of thoughts I encountered after doing some “soul search” on the subject of Blood Moon. And I think it’s about courage. Surfing in dark waters is pretty scary and probably fairly stupid thing to do but also very courageous. Doing that in the light on the eerie Blood Moon is taking all that to the level of rebellion and defiance, facing your darkest fears and overcoming them altogether. What a remarkable twist to otherwise rather dark and dreadful concept!

Once the spiritual part of this artwork has been resolved it was only a matter of adding a few details and wrapping the whole thing up. My “Moon phases” inlays design fit right in.

The rest fo this story is mostly of technical nature and falls outside of our subject this time. Hope this provides some insight of what goes into conceptual projects like this one and many others.

Cheers,

Vik

 

ViK Guitars on Patreon.com

We have just created ViK Guitars page on Patreon.com. This is the place where you will find latest updates on all custom and in-stock builds, workshop news, guitar making tips and vids  and eventually livestreams for patrons!

We are not looking to get rich from this venture, just creating a well-equipped platform to share the “cause” with those who cares enough. Join and enjoy or else..

Carving a Duality top

For the last 15 years every single ViK Guitar that left my shop was carved by me with my own hands and a set of tools for the job – some planes, chisels and sandpaper to smooth it all out. This may seem as not quite necessary “suffering” in 21st century but back in early 2000s CNCs were not widely available to small builders and so everything outside of 2D modeling/routing was done by hand. The technology caught up with demand by 2015 and most builders who could afford it switched to cnc process and so did I in some ways, specifically in the areas where precision is required. Fret slots, neck pockets, complex bindings, purflings and custom inlays gained the most benefits from cnc process implementation. However the 3D area has still remained mostly uncharted territory as it required some very specific skills that people go to college for – 3D modeling. While it’s not rocket science and can be learnt the amount of time needed to make any good and actually bear some 3D “fruits” in guitar shapes is just not really there if you have your “books” full and lots of customers waiting for their dream ViK. There’s one more issue for me specifically that’s been holding me off going fully “digital”. Believe it or not but I actually enjoy working with my hands and carving those gorgeous timbers into elegant beautiful shapes. To a certain point it’s one of the few truly artistic areas where personal skills and experience and creativity still make difference and have profound impact on the final result. Of the hundred Dualities I have carved by hand each and every of them is unique and truly one of a kind as simply no any other is exactly the same. Depending on the top material, top thickness, type of bindings and purflings and staining patterns, day of the week, hour of the day and my personal mood and level of inspiration for the job they would all come out differently and that’s the beauty of a truly handmade object with its’ own unique character and set of circumstances envolved. Comes at a price though. And it’s not even the time and effort invested but simple physical difficulty of it. Even with the sharpest tools it takes many hundreds or even thousands of strokes to remove the excessive material and roughly shape the carve; then IBEX-plane those curls into beautiful continuous curves of a Duality top where afterwards lots of areas can only be sanded by hand. It goes from the roughest P80 grit to P120, 240, 320 and 400 for final perfectly smooth silky finish that will take in water based stains without raising too many wooden grains. While softer woods like swamp ash and mahogany won’t do much damage hand carving your favorite quilted or, God forbid, BURL maples is the toughest task. All that fancy figure is created by millions of individual grains intersected in certain patterns to create the look. Or more often in burls, simply tangled without any logic or rules which makes carving it a complete mess. Within one square inch those grains can go in dozen various direction and fight the blade movement immensely whichever way you go.

 

We’ve Moved!

ViK Guitars has relocated to the great state of Idaho, USA. There’s plenty of things to be taken care of to complete this process (physically, legally and financially) but we are doing all we can to make that happen as soon as possible. We appreciate your patience and support and looking forward to making Idaho a new Home and a new “place of birth”

A very special kind of mahogany..

Mother Nature can be very creative and as a result of that once in a while you come across something truly spectacular.. like this piece of genuine mahogany that has very distinctive “plum pudding” figure and also curly pattern! Putting a top over that would be a crime so I ended up turning it into a one piece body ViK Duality 7ff project and named it “Nugget” which it truly is.

ViK Guitars at NAMM’20

ViK Guitars will be exhibiting at booth #2539 at NAMM show 2020 on January 16-19 in Anaheim, CA. Come see what I will have on display. This year is going to be very special! The exhibit will include some top-secret projects built specifically for the show. See you there!

”Hey! Great job, guys!”

“Hey! Great job, guys!” This is the most common comment I’m getting. While it surely is nice for someone to say that, there’s one major problem with it – there’s no “guys”. ViK guitars is a one man show which means all the instruments you see are hand made by one person – luthier Vik Kuletski. From sourcing the timbers to shipping a finished guitar. Same goes for all the pictures, videos, social media, etc including this very message)). A lot for one person to handle. This is why I believe “Luthier” is not a job or profession, it’s a lifestyle. It has its ups and downs but in the end of the day what really matters is the instruments created on this journey. I hope you enjoy what you see as much as I do! Thank you!
Vik

Do the woods actually matter when it comes to electric guitars?

Just recently I had these three custom ViK Duality 6s on my couch. The most interesting part about having them all together was the fact that they shared a whole number of common specs/ingredients like same exact make and model of pickups (SD Alpha/Omega), same Hipshot hardware, same body woods (one piece black limba), close enough selection of neck woods (2 indian rosewood necks, 1 madagascar rosewood), same nuts (buffalo horn), same scales (642mm/25.27″), same fretwire (stainless steel jumbo), same strings (DR 10-46), same tunings (standard E), close enough electronic components (2 exact same, 1 minus push-pull/tone control), same amp, same hands, same simple tunes.. The difference was in tops and fingerboards selection (2 had quilted maple tops that came off the same board, one burl maple; indian rosewood/ziricote/laos ebony fingerboards). So naturally you’d expect them to play and sound about the same… However, even plugged into a small half-digital practice amp (Boss Katana 50W) they all had very distinctive and unique tones/characters. Digging deeper would allow to find out how exactly the tone was affected by the variable elements but that’s a topic big enough for a full article. Here’s a little video comparison I shot at the shop, hopefully it will give you some idea of what I’m on here about:

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