Musikraft – Licenced OEM Guitar Necks and Bodies
In this Spotlight segment Scott Smith, General Manager of Musikraft in NJ, answers many questions regarding guitar neck and body manufacturing as well as adresses some key details like the type of glue that is used, cloning a vintage neck, what effect finish thickness has and how the different types of truss rods effect the strentgh of a guitar neck and the impact of the tone of the guitar.
300guitars: Hi there Scott. Can you tell us when was Musikraft started and who started the business? What was the inspiration?
Musikraft: Musikraft was started back in 1994 by Gulab Gidwani who is one of the largest importers of exotic woods in the USA. He supplies all of the major guitar manufacturers in the USA and this seemed like a natural progression. A few years after it was up and running, Jim Jamerson, who was there from the start and was the acting GM at the time, purchased the company from Gidwani. Jim has owned the company ever since and has grown it into what it is today.
300guitars: How many crew members are there at Musikraft and are you all guitar players?
Musikraft: Depending on the time of year, we have 15-20 employees and almost all of them are musicians – most playing guitar and a lot of them know how to play multiple instruments.
300guitars: How many products does Musikraft currently make?
Musikraft: That’s a tough question – The licensed Fender line of replacement parts is our mainstay. We also make exclusive parts for quite a few OEM guitar companies and we do a large variety of custom parts that have many different options as well, so it is very difficult to say exactly how many products we offer – it kinda seems limitless in some ways.
300guitars: Where do you get high quality wood for guitar making?
Musikraft: Actually we already have a large supply of high quality exotic wood in stock. As far as new supply, we have quite a few different sources from all over the world. We try to buy the best of each type of wood we use straight from the source so that we are able to get the best quality, pricing and variety. This enables us to cut out the “middlemen” and/or importers who many times keep the choicest cuts for themselves and at the same time allows us to get the best wood for our customers at the best prices! We also do several buying trips per year where we will go out to various suppliers and dig through their stock looking for those rare gems and/or certain pieces to fill special orders etc. It’s really enjoyable to go on these excursions since you see so many different species of wood and it’s really a thrill to unearth those rare pieces of “treasure” when they come along. Then you get to see them become amazing pieces that will ultimately go to a musician or builder that will really appreciate what they are getting and will make great music with them.
300guitars: What is the wood screening/quality check process like?
Musikraft: We generally bring in all of our wood in raw form or basic bulk cut form. We then mill everything from there and cut each piece to a workable size for whatever the wood is designated for. Then each piece makes it’s way to the CNC machine and after that it is hand shaped, sanded and finished. At each step in the process, we carefully examine each board for issues, problems etc and discard anything that is undesirable along the way.
300guitars: How much wood is rejected and not up to your standards?
Musikraft: It depends on each shipment of lumber that we receive. It is impossible to end up with a 100% yield and even though we are specific with our suppliers about defects etc, we still end up with approximately 25% of our lumber in the scrap pile.
300guitars: How difficult is it to get premium exotic wood?
Musikraft: It really depends on the wood. Some species like Brazilian Rosewood are illegal to export and import so obviously, it is very hard to find Brazilian. Since wood is a commodity, there are types that can be hard to find at certain times of the year and/or if there is a run on a certain type of wood and it becomes highly desirable (like quilted maple) then it can become a lot more expensive, especially if certain manufacturers or companies are using it for many of their guitars.
300guitars: What type glue do you use for bodies and necks?
Musikraft: We work pretty closely with our suppliers, like 3M, in identifying certain applications and obtaining the right products for each application. Usually for most wood seams we use Titebond which is the industry standard.
300guitars: What kind of frets are offered for your necks and who is the fret manufacturer?
Musikraft: We use the highest quality frets which we import directly from Germany and we offer all the standard sizes.
300guitars: How did you arrive at your standard neck profile shapes?
Musikraft: Generally, we offer the most popular profiles and the ones that we get the most requests for. All of our profiles have been taken directly from real necks – especially the vintage stuff. We are lucky enough to have had access these parts and have modeled our necks after them. What many people aren’t aware of is that most every neck from every guitar manufacturer varies from guitar to guitar. Especially the vintage stuff since there was a great deal of hand work that went into shaping and finishing. Each neck and you could take two guitars built on the same day at the same shop and if they were done by 2 different guys or even by the same guy, they could be vastly different. Wood is wood and it has that alive quality to it and each piece has its own unique personality and “mind of its own” and that coupled with the process of the machining that it goes through and the guy who ends up bringing it to the finish line- goes a long way as far as the ultimate feel and vibe, or “mojo” that it goes into this world with. (sorta like people!)
300guitars: With modern technology can you clone a neck that may be someone’s vintage favorite?
Musikraft: Yes, we have state of the art 3-D digitizing equipment that we can replicate something so that it is exact to the original. Of course, this does take a lot of time and effort so it is not cheap to do. We do offer something that is very unique on our necks and that is a custom back profile where you can tell us what thickness and shape you want on the back of your neck and we will cut the neck to your spec. This is only an $80 upcharge which it pretty reasonable to get a custom back profile. It is not digitizing and would not be exact but it is a great alternative for most players that are looking for a size that is otherwise unavailable to them.
300guitars: How many OEM companies do you supply components for?
Musikraft: You’d be surprised – it’s quite a few but we cannot divulge any info as it is kept confidential.
300guitars: Are all Musikraft products made in USA?
Musikraft: Yes, all of our necks and bodies are made here in our shop in New Jersey.
300guitars: What is the basic nitro finish schedule? How thick is the finish in the end after sanding and buffing?
Musikraft: Basically it is Grain Fill, Lacquer Based sanding sealer and then multiple coats of nitrocellulose lacquer with sanding between coats and then buffing. Final thickness of our traditional lacquer coatings is between .003 – .004. We feel the thinner the finish, the better the sound and the less muffling you get. Many companies lay it on heavy ( between .01 – .015 +) to cover a multitude of sins and sounds.
300guitars: Besides oil & nitro what other finish options are there?
Musikraft: None. We feel lacquer is the best by far when it comes to translation of your sound and that’s all we offer.
300guitars: Are there any plans for a set neck LP (or similar) type husk?
Musikraft: We are already building a deep set neck and we also offer a LP ’59 authentic style neck with a paddle headstock, and we are offering neck throughs also on a custom ordered limited basis right now.
300guitars: How important is customer service these days?
Musikraft: It is crucial. Many companies have forgotten how important it is and we subscribe to the philosophy that we are not happy unless our customers are happy and we do everything possible to make that happen!
300guitars: What are the advantages/disadvantages of the different types of truss rods?
Musikraft: The dual acting truss rod is modern and great. It is an easy truss rod to operate and has a nice bright sound to it. The single acting rod is good for the vintage crowd that wants the correct look and they tend to have a little mellower sound to them and you have less adjustment control using a single acting rod.
300guitars: Do you press frets or hammer them? Do tighter fret slots affect tone or sustain?
Musikraft: We press our frets in one at a time. Yes, the more connection and tighter the connection to the wood the better all around.
300guitars: How does tight grain vs open grain affect tone for both bodies and necks?
Musikraft: In general, tight grain and density tends to be clearer and yields a brighter, more defined sound where loose grained or less dense wood has a warmer, mellower sound.
300guitars: Do you take one-off custom orders?
Musikraft: We don’t generally make it a practice to do one off custom orders but we are able to do them and on occasion, we have done them. What many customers do not really understand is that we are a unique shop in the sense that we are a production shop that is capable of doing large runs of necks or bodies at any given time and, for the most part, we are set up to work in that mode. We are however, able to shift that on a moments notice and set up to do custom runs or smaller quantities of just about any type of part. To remain profitable, most other companies have to be one or the other. We have mastered both and are therefore able to offer very high quality, custom necks and bodies, with some very exclusive features, that have been cut to precision and have been hand shaped and finished – all at a very reasonable prices.
300guitars: How much hand work vs automated machine work is there in producing a neck and body?
Musikraft: All of our necks and bodies are precision machined on our state of the art CNC machine and then they are shaped and carved by hand in order to maintain that human element and that highly sought after hand made vibe or mojo.
300guitars: What are the main differences in strength and tone between quatersawn and flatsawn necks? Does this also apply to necks with glued on fingerboards?
Musikraft: There is an explanation of this on our site that goes into more detail, but basically, the quartersawn necks are a lot stiffer, stronger and brighter than the flatsawn necks. The flatsawn necks are a lot more pliable and tend to have a more mellow, warmer sound to them then the quartersawn.
300guitars: Do you have plans for future expansion?
Musikraft: Yes, we are always improving on what we do here whether it is buying new equipment, training, learning new things etc. We try to conduct as much R&D as time allows for. We love to experiment with new concepts and ideas from every aspect of our business from the players, the builders, engineers and customers point of view. It is truly a work in progress and we are never satisfied. There is no finer sense of accomplishment than taking an idea from is conceptual stages to the drawing board and to the shop and then ultimately to the customer and having them not only tell you that you hit the mark but that you hit the bullseye. That’s what keeps us motivated and keeps us going!
300guitars: Thank you very much Scott for taking the time for this very informative interview. I wish you and Musikraft much sucess in the future!
Musikraft: My pleasure Billy. Please feel free to contact me anytime for any further information! Keep rockin’!
For even more detailed information you can tune in to Musikraft’s YouTube channel.