Twelve Stringin'

bagman67

Senior member
Messages
8,353
Aloha brethren and sistren, ladies and gentlemen, theydies and gentlethems, and kids of all ages!

One of my kid sister's dearest friends recently posted on Facebook about wanting to pick up an electric 12-string, and was griping about the limited options that didn't involve backing up the Brinks truck at a guitar dealer for a Rickenbacker. So I mentioned I've been building guitars from Warmoth and other components, and volunteered to build one for him for free, and he'd just cover the materials. We've been discussing it, and we've learned a few things about what his must-haves, his needs, and his get-that-away-from-me factors. We're still not certain we'll go forward with the plan, but now I have a bug to try this anyway.

I had a couple questions that Spike graciously answered for me, but alas, the answers I got were mostly not what I wanted to hear, to wit:
  1. Can I order a paddle-head tilt-back neck with a 12-string nut preinstalled?
    Answer:: No, as we have no tilt-back 12 string option, nothing was set up to provide a nut for one.

  2. If I were instead to order a 12-string neck, can I order that as a tilt-back?
    Answer:: I'm afraid that we have no option set up for that.

  3. Are the holes drilled on each side of the 12-string neck spaced so that I can install a row of vintage-Kluson-style tuners on each side?
    Answer:: Yes, yes they are!
    😊
So it sounds like a tilt-back paddle neck, plus a prefab 12-string Graphtec nut that I'll sand and file to suit. Should be a hoot!

Anyway:

I welcome thoughts on the following -

Bridge choices. Tune-o-matic vs flat-mount, and among the parts available on the Warmoth site and elsewhere, any parts that are known to be inferior to or superior to the run-of-the-mill?

Pickups? Anything out there that does a reasonable job of approximating the Ricky vibe without dropping the GDP of Albania for it? I see some gold-foil P90-style pickups at Guitar Fetish that my potential customer finds interesting, but if anyone's aware of other Secret Sauce out there, I'm all ears.

Tuners! Obviously one wishes to keep the headstock as light as possible on a 12, because all them tuners make the axe more prone to neck-dive. Any favorites for open-backed machines? Reliable Klusons? We're toying with replicating a Ricky slotted headstock, but candidly, the idea of it makes me feel a little queasy, so I will probably shy away from it; but, if I lose all sense of reason, any thoughts on a complement of tuners for such an arrangement?

Wiring-wise, I don't expect to get too fancy: two pups, one volume, one tone, one 3-way switch - but if there are wiring schemes that bring more out of the 12 without you needing a degree in electrical engineering, I'm curious to learn more.

My guy is interested in a semi-hollow body, which I will be building by hogging out the bulk of a mahogany slab and then gluing a figured maple bookmatched top on. I'm leaving a solid hunk for full contact with the top under the bridge, and probably the pickups as well. Anything I'm not thinking of that I need to be thinking of?

@mayfly I'd be interested in your experience with your 12-string hand-painted Jazzmaster now that you're some years into your relationship with it.

Anyway, thanks for your patience with my ramble here. I look forward to hearing back from y'all.

Yours,

Bagman
 

Spud

Senior member
Messages
1,268
Aloha brethren and sistren, ladies and gentlemen, theydies and gentlethems, and kids of all ages!

One of my kid sister's dearest friends recently posted on Facebook about wanting to pick up an electric 12-string, and was griping about the limited options that didn't involve backing up the Brinks truck at a guitar dealer for a Rickenbacker. So I mentioned I've been building guitars from Warmoth and other components, and volunteered to build one for him for free, and he'd just cover the materials. We've been discussing it, and we've learned a few things about what his must-haves, his needs, and his get-that-away-from-me factors. We're still not certain we'll go forward with the plan, but now I have a bug to try this anyway.

I had a couple questions that Spike graciously answered for me, but alas, the answers I got were mostly not what I wanted to hear, to wit:
  1. Can I order a paddle-head tilt-back neck with a 12-string nut preinstalled?
    Answer:: No, as we have no tilt-back 12 string option, nothing was set up to provide a nut for one.

  2. If I were instead to order a 12-string neck, can I order that as a tilt-back?
    Answer:: I'm afraid that we have no option set up for that.

  3. Are the holes drilled on each side of the 12-string neck spaced so that I can install a row of vintage-Kluson-style tuners on each side?
    Answer:: Yes, yes they are!
    😊
So it sounds like a tilt-back paddle neck, plus a prefab 12-string Graphtec nut that I'll sand and file to suit. Should be a hoot!

Anyway:

I welcome thoughts on the following -

Bridge choices. Tune-o-matic vs flat-mount, and among the parts available on the Warmoth site and elsewhere, any parts that are known to be inferior to or superior to the run-of-the-mill?

Pickups? Anything out there that does a reasonable job of approximating the Ricky vibe without dropping the GDP of Albania for it? I see some gold-foil P90-style pickups at Guitar Fetish that my potential customer finds interesting, but if anyone's aware of other Secret Sauce out there, I'm all ears.

Tuners! Obviously one wishes to keep the headstock as light as possible on a 12, because all them tuners make the axe more prone to neck-dive. Any favorites for open-backed machines? Reliable Klusons? We're toying with replicating a Ricky slotted headstock, but candidly, the idea of it makes me feel a little queasy, so I will probably shy away from it; but, if I lose all sense of reason, any thoughts on a complement of tuners for such an arrangement?

Wiring-wise, I don't expect to get too fancy: two pups, one volume, one tone, one 3-way switch - but if there are wiring schemes that bring more out of the 12 without you needing a degree in electrical engineering, I'm curious to learn more.

My guy is interested in a semi-hollow body, which I will be building by hogging out the bulk of a mahogany slab and then gluing a figured maple bookmatched top on. I'm leaving a solid hunk for full contact with the top under the bridge, and probably the pickups as well. Anything I'm not thinking of that I need to be thinking of?

@mayfly I'd be interested in your experience with your 12-string hand-painted Jazzmaster now that you're some years into your relationship with it.

Anyway, thanks for your patience with my ramble here. I look forward to hearing back from y'all.

Yours,

Bagman
I like playing my 12 string acoustic, but hate restringing. Your project sounds awesome though.
 

Rick

Senior member
Messages
4,508
It might be worth a search here of amigorobo's 12 sting build. He used a gotoh bridge, I think and put a sort of ring around it. The gotoh is pretty good. I think his pups were from england?

As to the tuners, I found the open back hipshots locking light enough and then swapped the buttons for plastic, made them a lot lighter, or go for the knurled buttons. Locking tuners have less turning. And have silver butter beans for the light strings, and pearloid for regular strings, so you can tell which goes where.

The offset site might have more pics of 12 strings.
 

stratamania

Senior member
Messages
9,453
You can find the link to Amigarobbo's 12 string build in the Welcome to the forum thread linked in my signature.

The plate he used around the bridge is from Faction guitars, it makes the Gotoh bridge look more like an Electric XII which probably is not relevant to this build.

The 12 string Gotoh bridge Warmoth sells is a good bet, I would say, for intonation. For a TOM style, check out ABM bridges.

If you are trying to emulate a Rickenbacker I believe they put drones below, rather than drones above. Perhaps something to check out.
 

mayfly

Senior member
Messages
8,302
Hey! Some quick notes about my guitar:
1 - It's better than a Rick, as the neck is wider (Rick necks are skinny), better balanced (Ricks are neck heavy) and it's easier to string up (the Rick 12 string headstock is a wonder of inventive design, but it's a total PITA).
2 - I put lipstick pickups in it, but I don't think I'd do that again. The lipsticks don't pick up the high e-strings very well and that's part of the 12 string thing.
3 - Rick 12s are indeed strung with the drones on the top BOTTOM. Yes this changes the sound. I've tried both and have settled on 'drones on bottom TOP'. (here, 'top' refers to the side closest to the ceiling).
4 - Tiltback headstock is a good idea. I have staggered tuners and I still had to use string trees. That high g string is pretty floppy and will flop out of the nut if you look at it funny.
5 - Different tuner button colours for drone strings (a Mayfly innovation) works well. Suggest you think about doing that.
6 - I used a modern construction neck, but had to really work on it to get enough truss rod pull to make the neck flat-ish. It was crazy - I really had to crank that thing. I think that the dual truss-rods on the Rick have an edge here for sure. BTW, Rick necks are set straightedge flat, but I've got a leeeetle bit of relief on mine. Works well.
7 - I have not played it in a while! I should go and do that...
8 - I use the d'addario 12 string set. I like them better than the Rick strings. Not a lot of options for strings for electric 12s, but then again you don't need to spend a lot of time experimenting either!
9 - It's been awhile, but I *think* I used threaded inserts on the neck.
 
Last edited:

stratamania

Senior member
Messages
9,453
- Rick 12s are indeed strung with the drones on the top. Yes this changes the sound. I've tried both and have settled on 'drones on bottom'.

Are you defining top and bottom as related to pitch, or what is towards the floor or ceiling?
 

amigarobbo

Senior member
Messages
945
The Gothoh bridge is excellent, but not that Rickenbackery my pickups were Curtis Novak, I'd go for Rickenbacker high/low strings arrangement if you want the Rickenbacker sound.
 

aarontunes

Administrator
Staff member
Messages
2,585
Are you defining top and bottom as related to pitch, or what is towards the floor or ceiling?

Rick (the company not the forumite....but in the time it took to type this clarification I may as well just have typed out "Rickenbacker"...but I digress) puts the drone strings physically above the main string - aka closer to the ceiling. All other manufacturers I know of put them below.
 

DuckBaloo

Senior member
Messages
299
I'm totally lost as to what people are defining as top/bottom, floor/ceiling, etc. It's safe to safe Rickenbacker does it opposite everyone else.

When you strum down on the Rickenbacker, you hit the main string first, then the high octave. This gives power chords and such more "umph!" You up-pick for chime.

Rickenbacker-360-12-12-string-maple-glo-2138771-9_4000x@3x.progressive.jpg


This is unique to Rickenbacker, and is as opposed to traditional...high octave first, then main...
DSC_9857_4000x@2x.progressive.jpg

But without fabrication or adapting to the Rickenbacker bridge or some sort of tune-o-matic you can slot yourself, options are very limited for 12-stirng electric bridges in the style of Ric. The downside to Warmtoh 12 string neck is not one makes the old Fender 12-string retainer, you have to have a retainer fabricated with the non-tilt neck.

As for pickups, a hot lipstick, a Jazzmaster, or a P-90 work great. P-90 is the closest thing to Ric's erroniously-named "High Gain" pickups (which were based on Mosrite pickups).
 
Last edited:

TBurst Std

Senior member
Messages
2,661
Well that being I own a Ric 360-12, I though I would chime in. Items in no particular order.

Forget slotting the neck for tuners. Using them is a pain in the @ss.
String it as Ric does: EeAaDdGgbbee
(I may even re-nut my Guild 12 to this)

The Ric TOM style bridge is not cheap! And it is not compatible with anything else posts wise. For this I suggest you use the flat mount you referenced. If you do go with the Ric TOM styled bridge, for the Tailpiece, DO NOT USE the R tailpiece (if you happen across one). They WILL break. Instead use the Winfield harp style tailpiece.

Tuners, go Hipshot open gear non locking as possible. Use plastic tuner buttons.

If you have a path to a tilt head neck, do it!
Get a modern style neck.

Strings: as you don't have 2 truss rods ala RIc, do not use the classic Byrds setup of TI flats. Their tension is even heavier. Go with round wounds.

Pickups: First what sound do you want? Currently 360s come with Hi Gains. Tons of people (myself included switch those out for Toasters). If you want the "classic" Ric sound, Toasters are the item. Now whats your budget for pups? Sweetwater can get them for you within a week for $160 each.

If thats outside you budget, I would suggest against P90s, total different tonal value. I might consider a Gold Foil, a Filtertron or a Dynasonic.
Actually GFS has some Dynasonic clones.

Next body wood. A 360 is all maple. If possible, use maple for your body and "top" Keep in mind, a Ric 360 is NOT a semi-hollow. It is heavily chambered (which is the same plan you laid out).

Now if you want to have fun when chambering it, and get the same feel as a 360, don't route out the top and glue on a "top".
Reverse that. Ric chambers from the back, then glues a "back" on. Thats what allows them to get that roll over on the top for comfort on the 360.

Next, get a compressor and a treble booster. I have an onboard JangleBox on my 360.
 

TBurst Std

Senior member
Messages
2,661
Also, look around for used 360-12s. I got mine for $1250 back in 2017. A lot of W builds are in that price range.
 

stratamania

Senior member
Messages
9,453
Rick (the company not the forumite....but in the time it took to type this clarification I may as well just have typed out "Rickenbacker"...but I digress) puts the drone strings physically above the main string - aka closer to the ceiling. All other manufacturers I know of put them below.

But then this is opposite to the octave (drone) strings being below the main string (closer to the floor) as shown in the post #12 above of @DuckBaloo which is what I understand them to be, but the descriptions seem contrary.

 

Rick

Senior member
Messages
4,508
Yeah the Rick's are opposite from normal. From the website:

Our 12-string nuts are cut with the higher octave strings on top (drones above), so they are struck first when strummed. This matches the Gotoh 12-String bridge that Warmoth sells.

That said, looking at the Gotoh, it should work reversed. Just a matter of getting a nut cut. Might have to notch the drone side ever so slightly.

I like that description ... up for chime.
 

mayfly

Senior member
Messages
8,302
Well I'll be jiggered. I completely got the drone/main string thing backwards! I'll correct my responses above in a bit.

Apologies all!
 

TBurst Std

Senior member
Messages
2,661
They way to describe this is as I put. Forget this all up/down aspect as no one knows if you’re talking tonally or height wise in playing position

A 6 string guitar is EADGBE

For 12 strings (case specific)
Rics are EeAaDdGgbbee

Others are eEaAdDgGbbee
 

TBurst Std

Senior member
Messages
2,661
Also, don’t do Ric and instead go wider on the nut width. Id go 1 11/16 minimum. Maybe look at 1 3/4+.
I’m having my Ric nut redone to offer a little more ‘grace’ between courses of strings. In the Ric world this is known as the “Arnquist” mod.

Basically your outside strings are as close to the fret/fretboard edge as a wide spaced (vintage) Fender. Except at the nut end. This allows for better spacing between your courses of strings.

Oh and if you haven’t played a Ric, while the nut width is narrow, the depth of the neck is more chunky.

It’s not like a 12 string is a shred machine, unless you’re Leo Kottke.
 
Top