Pickin' with the penguins?
Rick Turner's Antarctic Special
© Frank Ford, 2001; Photos by FF

It's really cold at the South Pole. REALLY COLD. So, when Henry Kaiser received his grant to spend three months there composing music, he wondered about what guitar would be suited to the "climate." He wanted a fine traditional handmade guitar, rather than a more "bulletproof" synthetic one. After a number of conversations with various luthiers, he contracted with Rick Turner to make this unusual instrument. As it happens, both Rick and Henry had a fondness for the antique "Howe-Orme" adjustable neck joint. Now, he has a really fine guitar to take to that harsh climate, and he can adjust the action and the neck angle with ease.

Check out the peghead inlay - Antarctica, of course. This is a great sounding and playing guitar; it's a fine tribute to the original Howe-Orme design. Makes me even more skeptical about the "tonal necessity" of a dovetail joint. Click here for a note from Rick Turner with more details.

Please click the small image

There are two carbon fiber rods mounted inside to stabilize the neck block.

This small size model gives a better view of the carbon neck block support rods.

Clearly, the focal point of this guitar is its neck joint. Sitting on a tripod of adjusting screws and anchored by a single bolt, this joint allows superb flexibility of neck angle.

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Dear Frank,

Thanks for featuring "Miss Antarctica" in your Museum section. I'm really honored to be included among so much really great company!

A couple of other features of that guitar: graphite topped back braces... .010" CF (carbon fiber composite) on top of the spruce braces. I stood on the center of the back before I glued the top on & it held! Also, doubled side thickness at the top joint & down the sides by about 1 1/4". Makes the sides really stiff and I think tonally reflective.

Also, barely any bracing in the upper bout since the pressure on the neck block is being held by the carbon fiber flying braces. I'm sure you've repaired too many instruments which have those sheer cracks on either side of the fingerboard & have the neck block trying to meet up with the bridge. This takes care of that & does so even with more traditional building methods. But it's so cool to have that cantilevered fingerboard! Another trick: the graphite bars in the neck are dadoed 1/8" into the fingerboard and 3/8" into the neck, allowing me to use full 1/2" x 1/8" bars. The fingerboard is "Pakka" wood, a phenolic/dyed birch composite. The fingerboard with its glued in graphite bars also supported my weight when supported at each end. I think of it as a structural fingerboard rather than a structural neck. The neck could almost be balsa if I carried the CF up into the peghead to support the tuners.

One other thing - in part thanks to you, I went with all French polish for the finish on Henry's guitar.

My Best,