SS PEGU GUITAR BUILD (part 5 – complete)

The Pegu Guitar is now complete (in build anyway). The bridge is a temporary component and is not actually fastened to the guitar. As the bracing system is quite radically different to traditional acoustic guitar construction, the traditional bridge does not interact sufficiently to get the most from the bracing. I now need to experiment with numerous alternatives before I can settle on the best design to compliment the bracing.

This has been a project with a strong sense of salvage and marine theme. All the woods used have been gathered from stock that has been sidelined for many years. The Cedar front was abandoned long ago due to it being too thin in places. The Honduras Mahogany neck and back and Ebony fret board were gathering dust on the shelves of a retired local Luthier. The aluminium parts were salvaged from the stand of my old fish tank (which appropriately housed marine fish) and of course, the Teak sides were salvaged from the SS Pegu after spending 94 years on the sea bed.

The initial reason to build a guitar was to use the Cedar that had been sitting at the back of a cupboard for over 20 years. Although not the perfect example, I thought it a shame if this wood did not get used. This led me to think about using it for an experiment or two which in turn led me to consider an alternative method of guitar side construction – hence the ship’s decking idea.

As the tone of the guitar was not likely to be its’ best feature, the Teak from the Pegu proved to be ideal as it was authentic decking timber and had such a rich history behind it. This also allowed me to experiment with my idea for the alternative bracing which I’d originally tried in the past with the Pentagon guitar. As the Pentagon guitar is now over 20 years old and has stood the full tension of strings throughout its’ life, it provided a lot of information as to the longevity of the system.

Together with the Pentagon guitar, I also made a guitar body with the bracing system which was left incomplete and has gathered dust ever since. These two provided invaluable information regarding the effect of full tension and no tension.

As a result, I have been able to modify the bracing to overcome slight problems discovered from the originals.

Woods used in the construction include: –

  • Cedar
  • Honduras Mahogany
  • Oak
  • Wenge
  • Purple Heart
  • Walnut

Plus an amount of aluminium and a small strip of copper.




The 8th July 2017 marked the one hundredth anniversary of the sinking of the SS PEGU. Although I had hoped to complete the Pegu guitar on this date, unfortunately, time (and other jobs) have beaten me. However, I have managed to complete all parts with the final piece being a small chromed anchor set in clear resin within an aluminium sleeve.

Although the guitar was not completed, the final part was fabricated on this day and all parts were placed together to give an impression of the finished product.

I managed to salvage yet more aluminium from my former fish tank frame to make the tail piece for the guitar. As the job of the tail piece is to anchor the strings to the base of the guitar, I thought (as there is a nautical theme going on here) that I would make this to resemble the shape of an actual anchor.

This also means the guitar sits between an anchor at the top and bottom with the tension of the strings seemingly holding them together.

I have designed the top of the fret board in an unconventional manner incorporating a ‘Zero’ fret in place of the usual nut and an aluminium name plate which the stings pass through on their way to the machine heads. Above the PEGU name plate sits the truss rod cover which I have made from the mahogany offcuts from the neck. The cover is fashioned on a yacht‘s decking to go with the theme of the main body sides.

With all parts completed, I now have to glue it all together and affix bindings etc to make the finished product at least look like a professional job. Hopefully, this will not take too long…


This section of the build sees the initial development of the back, neck and fret board. In keeping with the ‘salvage’ theme that seems to be growing as the build progresses, I have managed to find some more excellent pieces that have been sitting waiting for this guitar.

Just a couple of miles from where I live is a wonderful semi-retired luthier (Fred Laugharne) who had some well aged and seasoned timbers that had been in storage since the early 90’s. Fred had some Honduras Mahogany pieces perfect for the back and neck and also some wonderful Ebony banks for the fret board. The beauty of this ebony is that it is from the time when ebony was still uniformly black.

In addition to the timber from Fred, I found a Wenge turning blank 50mm x 50mm x 200mm hidden away in my garage that I had forgotten I had. It has been there for at least 20 years so that had to be used somewhere on this guitar. I sliced it into several thin sections and used this to face off the head-stock and to make the bridge.

Progress: –


The two pieces of the back have been joined and smooth sanded to the desired thickness and cut to shape. I have also inlaid a decorative Satinwood binding down the centre.


So far I have shaped the head-stock and roughly cut the neck to shape. The strip of Oak running through the centre of the head-stock and into the neck is to offer strength to the scarf joint at the head and also to give a little decoration to the rear of the guitar.

The oak towards the heel will also serve for strength and decoration when the rest of the heel and body joint is built up.

The Copper logo inlaid in the Wenge head veneer is shaped from a single strand of copper wire from 30amp cooker cable. Each wire strand is approximately 1.2mm thick so the lettering groove was cut out to a depth of 0.6mm and the wire strand glued into position. Once firmly set, the protruding face of the wire was sanded flat to the face of the head veneer. This gives the effect of the Copper inlay being cut from a flat piece of Copper and is quite effective when it catches the light.

The fret board has been slotted for a 640mm scale length (approximately 25.2 inches) and has been radius shaped to 250mm (10 inch) at the nut through 291mm (11 ¾ inch) at the 12th fret (and so on). The current plan is to use a ‘zero fret’ instead of a traditional nut but that may change in the near future.


The bridge is shaped from the Wenge to match the head veneer and will be complemented by an aluminium tail piece as the next part of the build.

SS Pegu Guitar Build (Part 2)

With the carcass from part 1 safely put to one side, I have joined and partially smoothed the Cedar front  and cut to fit the recess of the carcass. The sound hole ‘plug’ has been cut from the sheet of the Oak used for the top and bottom edges of the carcass.

The Oak sound hole plug will fit into the cutout in the Cedar front from the back. The lip around the edge will glue to the back of the soundboard and provide strength to the circumference of the sound hole. The photograph shows the plug loosely placed in the Cedar front as a preview.

In addition to the SS PEGU text cut into the plug I have cut the date ‘8-7-17′ to represent 8th July. I have left the year as ’17’ to represent 1917 as the year the SS Pegu was sunk and also to represent 2017 as the year the guitar was built. If all goes to plan, the last part of the guitar build will be put into place on 8th July 2017 to complete the guitar on the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Pegu.

Everything is rough cut at the moment but with a bit of grain filling and added trim the finished product will be nice and smooth.

The aluminium tailpiece and Purpleheart bridge is for another guitar and is included in the photograph to gauge the finished article. The actual bridge for this guitar will be made from Wenge with a similar aluminium tailpiece.

Wedding album

In the dark old days when cameras had to be loaded with strange canisters filled with long rolls of chemically coated plastic, I dabbled in developing and printing photographs.

Those were the days when photography had an air of skill needed in order to get the frame right first time.

Those were the days when you never knew if the photograph was going to be any good until days after the event when the moment had gone and could never be recaptured.

Those were the days when something like wedding photography was truly an art and the photographer really had to know what he or she was doing. Of course, no-one could stop them taking as many pictures as they wanted back then but each click of the shutter came at a cost. The film wasn’t cheap and neither was the processing compared to today – and there was no Photoshop to fall back on.

Skip forward to the onslaught of the digital world and the wedding photographer now has the freedom to take thousands of photos at virtually no cost with instant confirmation to set their mind at ease.

So, a few years ago, when a friend asked, “Will you take the photographs for our special day.”

I said, with ease, “I will.”

The day went off without a hitch (apart from the one that joined the Bride and Groom together) and actually turned out to be one of those extra special celebrations everyone loves to be part of.

The photograph tally stretched into 4 figures so there was no problem finding enough to fill the album. The trouble was there were too many shortlisted so a bit of creative filtering was needed.

To make the occasion a little more unique I decided to make the wedding album myself. This way we were not limited to the number of photographs or to any specific size.

The album cover was made of glass and aluminium. The glass started life as a 12 inch square mirror tile. I covered the back of the mirror with sticky plastic backing before cutting a design based on the happy couple’s initials and peeling the remainder away. I then sandblasted the exposed mirror coating to leave the letters ‘A&B’ as the only reflective surface and to give the desired, unique finish.

The edge of the cover was made from a strip of aluminium with the married name and date cut into it. Each page was made from three layers of textured white card with a heart design cut into the edge to frame the photograph. Each page was separated by a film of tissue paper embossed with the married name.

A total of 40 pictures were included in the album with a few collages of more informal shots added towards the end of the album.

In the photographs of the album I have removed the full name and date from the album for privacy. (Photoshop is a wonderful thing).

SS Pegu Guitar Build (Part 1)


Update following on from the Cutty, Sark SS Pegu and a Guitar article…


A few weeks into the build and the sides have taken shape – although needing fine finishing.

I suppose ‘sides’ is not the correct term as it is one continuous piece – so more of a carcass than two sides. This is made up of 64 individual ‘planks’ cut from the salvaged SS Pegu Teak. These are 14mm deep and 3mm wide and go together to form the main body of the carcass. The top and bottom of the carcass are made from another 64 individual pieces of Oak set with the grain of each piece running at 90 degrees to its’ neighbour for visual effect – Oak being yet another non-traditional guitar wood.

The Oak is wider than the Teak to act as the Kerfing layer and is recessed to accommodate the soundboard and back. The Kerfing is the ridge on which the front and back of the guitar rests and is usually made from a separate piece of ‘toothed’ wood.

Each ‘plank’ has a lug with a 6mm hole through to allow alignment when assembling and gluing. To strengthen the carcass, once glued, the holes were filled with dowelling to further interlock all pieces.

Although the carcass is one complete unit at the moment, the top will eventually be cut away to allow the neck to join. For the time being it will remain in tact to maintain the strength.

Dream Guitar

When I think of every guitar I own or have owned, my pride and joy is my wonderful Lowden F12C that my wife bought for me.

It was Sunday 18th October 1998. We had been to see Eric Clapton at Earl’s Court the night before and the Sunday saw a long awaited trip to the London Acoustic Guitar Centre. I was always reading reviews of guitars and found that Lowden guitars seemed to be everything I wanted an acoustic guitar to be. George Lowden’s Guitars are one of the best things to come out of Ireland and are renowned for their pure tone and quality but are very expensive and are limited to the more exclusive guitar shops.

Having played a few high end guitars in the Acoustic Centre, I found the Lowdens to be everything and more they were reported to be. Then my wife asked which one I’d buy if I had the chance. It was a no brainer – I would have to go for the Lowden. Then, to my utter surprise and delight, she said go on then, buy one.

This was completely out of the blue and put a whole new perspective on the trial as it turned the dream into a reality. Just to be sure I was making the right decision I tried the other makes of guitars again… and again… and again. After spending three hours playing every guitar in the shop I finally decided the Lowden was truly the only one to go for.

This was and will always be my pride and joy, the smell when I open the case is wonderful and the tone from its’ Spruce top and Mahogany back and sides is unbelievable.

However, there is another guitar maker (Luthier) from Ireland that is even more elusive than Lowden and he is Dermot Mcilroy.

I have never seen a Mcilroy guitar for sale in a shop in the UK so it was ironic that I first got to try one whilst on holiday in Australia. I went into the Acoustic Inn guitar shop in Perth to try some Australian made guitars. The shop assistant didn’t bring the Mcilroys to my attention at first but after playing a few of the Aussie offerings he brought out the big guns. I think they need to be sure you have an idea of how to play before they risk the more exotic offerings – and at $7000 each, it’s not hard to see why.

Playing the guitar was like magic – it felt like it instantly added ten years to my playing experience and felt like it was impossible to play a wrong note on the fretboard. It looked, felt and sounded wonderful and is the closest thing to my own Lowden guitar I’ve ever had my hands on.

Mcilroy guitars are relatively new, as Dermot only set up his business with his wife in the year 2000. Not surprising is the fact that for the ten years prior to setting up Mcilroy guitars, Dermot worked for Lowden Guitars. It is therefore, highly likely he was involved in the building of my own Lowden guitar in 1998. It’s a small world – even if you do have to go to Australia to realise it.

If I were ever in a position to buy another high end acoustic guitar, it would be a Mcilroy P series – this is my dream guitar. It would never replace my Lowden but rather would compliment it perfectly. But that’s just a dream – perhaps I’ll put one on my Christmas list.

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