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Koa tricone - not quite a kit

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Koa top, back and sides, maple binding, Hanalei Moon 5 piece neck, koa headplate, 25.4 rosewood fretboard, NRP cones and tee bridge, KTM-9 over Zpoxy.

May 03, 10 | 6:03 am

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Beautifully done Freeman...I'll bet it sounds great also. :)

May 03, 10 | 1:53 pm
Kevin Sjostrand

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Total Posts: 981
Freeman ,
That is some kind of Koa! It is beautiful. Great job.
I know nothing about this type of guitar but it sure looks good.


May 04, 10 | 6:11 am

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Total Posts: 165
I'm with Kevin - don't know much about it but looks great, especially the flame in the side. I hope my koa turns out as nice. Is a 12 fret neck typical of a tricone? is the body asymmetrical or is that just an optical illusion? Can you show a close-up of the tailpiece?

Well Done!


May 04, 10 | 9:49 am

Total Topics: 27
Total Posts: 668
Thanks, folks. That was a very special set of koa and it really hurt to cut a great big hole out of the front. I've got a lovely bookmatched scrap LOL

I have two other commercial resonators but always wanted a tricone. Different reso designs all have the cone sound in common, but the configuration of the cone(s) and bridges, as well as the body materials can dramatically color things. The sweeting singing long sustain of a spider bridge and the brash, nasty loud sound of a metal biscuit are the extremes (I have one of each) - this one is somewhat in the middle.

Most tricones are metal, but NRP now has a mahogany one and I've seen a few others. They are almost always 12 fretters, once in a while you see a cutaway. Ironically, since they are often played with a bottleneck you spend a lot of time banging around at 12, but that never seems to be a problem. The body is symetrical - it is the triangular soundwell and the grills that make it look as tho it isn't. My body is very traditional dating from the Nationals of the 30's - however I did make a few changes (scale length, very slightly wider body). The grills were made out of stainless steel on a laser where I work, the cones, tee bar, coverplate and tailpiece are off the shelf items from NRP (via Beard). The tail piece is pretty common for this type of guitar - I considered making it but just bought one. There is no way I was going to try to make the other metal parts.

Here are a couple of pictures of the insides during construction showing the soundwell and cones

Lots that could be discussed here, but it really does deviate from the idea of a "kit guitar" so I'd better not.

May 04, 10 | 12:05 pm
Ken C

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Total Posts: 554
Beautiful guitar, Freeman! That indeed is some very nice Koa, and you did it justice! What a cool guitar! Wish I could play it!



May 04, 10 | 6:21 pm

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Just outstanding, you really went all out with koa and a custom neck.

May 05, 10 | 5:01 am

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Total Posts: 480
Great built. Congrats Freeman. Your're the reso man here. On day I'll make myself one of these because my wife tells me so. She is very fond of the sound of resos. And then I'll turn to you for advise.

To be true, I never played a reso. And as I'm a very poor slideplayer: How do they hold up when they are just fingerpicked?


May 05, 10 | 8:14 am

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Total Posts: 668
Herman, depending on the setup and the player they can be finger picked, bottle necks or even flatpicked. And while we think of them as a slide axe, Blind Boy Fuller and others played strictly fingerstyle in standard tuning. Remember that they were originally developed in 1930 to be LOUD - they were played in jazz bands as well as on the street corner.

I mostly play mine in open tunings, G and D usually, but I mix slide and fretted, blues and more modern songs. I've played Bach's "Jesu, Joy.." and Leo Kottke songs right along side Robert Johnson - every player should have one in her quiver.

May 05, 10 | 11:18 am
Ken Hundley

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Looks great, freeman! Very impressive!

May 06, 10 | 4:31 am

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Total Posts: 448
Wow! Thats pretty cool! Beautiful wood, excellent craftsmanship. Well done. I have never heard a tricone in person but I like the looks of this one!

May 07, 10 | 1:27 pm

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Well, that is a wonderful instrument. Well done. May I ask: Do resonator guitars have truss rods? I dont know where you would access for adjusting it.

May 10, 10 | 8:20 pm

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Total Posts: 190
Freeman is Dad AND his brother both played theirs in their respective bands in the 30's and 40's in 440 tuning as conventional guitars...Dad used a thumb pick (And finger style) and his brother used a flat pick. This was in the pre- amplifier days...It was the VOLUME they were looking for.
BOTH guitars had conventional round necks..though, my uncle later picked up a square neck Tri-cone Dobro and played it as a "Steel" or Hawaiian guitar.

Xavier, some of the new one's have truss rods..I may be wrong, but I believe you can see some sort of rod in the neck of Freeman's guitar in the last pic (Blue area)...they are generally adjusted from the inside with the removal of the cone assembly. I have seen a couple with adjustments from behind the nut, but I THINK that's rare for some reason with resonators. :)

May 15, 10 | 6:58 pm

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Total Posts: 668
Xavier, as far as I knowk most of them have some sort of truss rods, newer round necks at least, have adjustable rods. I don't know about square necks - relief is not very critical when your action is 3/8 along the entire neck. My 1932 Dobro does not have an adjuster - my 1980 has one in the headstock.

I put a standard Martin style double acting rod in this one, adjustable thru the sound well with a very long allen wrench (welded two together). Because I play both fretted and slide I set my reso's very similar to a normal acoustic - nut clearance in the 0.018 or so range, 0.006 or so relief and action at 0.090-0.100.

Here are my three - you can see the plastic cover over the adjuster on the one on the left. This pretty well covers the different styles, brass bodied biscuit cone, the tricone and a very old wood bodied spider

May 17, 10 | 5:39 am

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Very nice Freeman! I would love to hear them played.

May 18, 10 | 7:17 pm

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Total Posts: 190
Freeman, didn't you buiild a 0-12 a while back with a dragonfly inlay? I can't seem top find that...I was interested in the size and sound of that little I remember, it was really pretty.


May 31, 10 | 11:36 am

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Total Posts: 668
Ray yes I did.

I did a long series of build threads at HCAG. I really love that little git - it is very loud for such a small guitar, balanced for finger picking. If anything the sound is kind of "boxy" - I gave it away before I recorded any clips of it. LMI parlor kit - basically Martin size 0 but not quite. One caution - if you build to the LMI plans the bracing is as tho you are looking thru the top - not at it as you would think. More than a few people have made left handed braced guitars from those plans.

Jun 01, 10 | 12:40 pm

Total Topics: 21
Total Posts: 190
Sorry, I couldn't find it...I remember cool is THAT? I'll bet she loves it.
Thanks for the re-post and info on the bracing...I had no idea!... =:)

Jun 01, 10 | 4:53 pm

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