featured build 1/2009
Featured Build - Custom Consort
The really nice thing about being a custom guitar builder is you never know what's round the corner. A while ago I took a call from a guy who wanted a copy of a Vox Consort. Now I knew about Vox Phantoms, Teardrops , Mandolas and Organ guitars of the 60's but I'd never heard of a Consort. It was apparently the three pickup version of the two pickup Vox Escort, again a guitar I'd never heard of. Not to worry I have a picture of one said Ian and so we arranged a visit to my workshop to discuss the possibility of a custom build.
Ian duly arrived with an old 60's Vox handout held together with yellowing sellotape. It showed a five centimetre tall, grainy shot of a heavily Fender Strat/Jaguar influenced guitar. Not the prettiest beast I had ever seen and sporting a headstock that looked as though designed by Salvador Dali.

It was very apparent whilst chatting with Ian that he had something of an encyclopaedic knowledge of guitars ( It turned out that he actually made parts for the 'resotube' trems on the 60's Burns guitars) and that he was passionate about the Consort.

The spec. for the proposed guitar was a bolt on neck, three pickup guitar with trem. Switching was via three pickup selector sliders with two phase reversal switches for pickups one and three. There was also a Strat style master volume and two tone controls and an active mid boost circuit. With this agreed, we arranged another meeting before work started.

My first port of call was to trawl through all of my guitar books- no mention or picture of a Vox Consort or Escort anywhere. I tried Google and came up with amps and organs bearing the name, a line or two about the first series Consort (1961/63) and second series (1963/65) but nothing more. I did get a picture of a second series model sent to me by a very helpful American firm called 'Phantom Guitar Works', unfortunately the shot wasn't square on and so it was somewhat distorted. But together with it and some scale measuring and a good enlarging photocopier, I finally came up with a version which I was happy with.

Ian was also happy with the shape and suggested a slight mod to my pickguard outline and it was then down to choosing woods and hardware.

Ian chose Alder for the body and some very nice flamed maple for the neck, (which was to have a Phantom 'paddle style' headstock rather than the original.) Fingerboard was rosewood; all very Fender. The nearest to an original trem. was a Fender Mustang unit and the pickups, covers and aluminium knobs would be supplied by the friendly Phantom Guitar Works (the pickup covers were square ended unlike modern single coils but accepted Fender 57/62 pickups). The only outstanding item was a mid-range boost tone control that Ian assured me the original Vox did have. This I was going to have to work on. The body colour decided upon was a pale blue, again a very Fender DuPont colour. Ian had bought his favourite guitar neck with him (attached to a Gibson SG) and I took measurements and profiles. So all this decided Ian went on his way and I said I'd keep in touch when the build started.
Vox Consort
With a one off custom build, success is all in the planning. I like to get all the hardware together, every piece and every screw so that any layout can be as accurate as possible. The only missing part was the mid boost circuit. I made templates for the body and pickguard and routing templates for the trem, pickup and control cavities and set to work on the build.

I tried searching for mid boost circuits but couldn't find what I wanted, which was a fixed frequency, variable gain circuit. Most came as Strat packages with all active volume and tone controls but I wanted the guitar's volume and tone controls to be passive, with only the mid boost active.
I rang Andrew Rothwell of Rothwell Audio Products to see if he could help or at least advise. I had used his famous 'Hot Little Knob" circuit in a Strat and was much impressed and I had also met him and we had got on well.

Andrew said he was looking into building a mid boost floor pedal to add to his range of boutique guitar pedals and thought it possible to use the guts of this to put into a guitar. He sent a mock up pedal which had frequency sweep and gain controls.

I sent this to Ian so that he could choose the exact frequency that he wanted boosting on his guitar. This done, Andrew supplied the circuit with the frequency fixed, and what a circuit it was, If you want that "Money for Nothing, wah wah pedal halfway down" sound this is it! I would suggest all Straits players go out and buy the pedal when it hits the streets, the sounds are gorgeous.

The build went really well, the only change along the way was Ian decided he wanted the body in a three colour sunburst. At one point I had to phone Ian as I was going on holiday so the guitar would be two weeks later than the original completion date quoted to which Ian replied, "I've waited forty six years for this, another two weeks won't make a lot of difference!"

The guitar is a delight. The sounds are truly early sixties and the range of sounds amazing and it does have the feel and vibe that Ian wanted.

As I said you never know what is round the corner. ( I do actually, its a hybrid T type with Variax and mag pickups and parallel outputs for a guy in Texas!)

MARCH 2010 UPDATE - Since building this "Vox-a-like," I have been contacted by Brian who used to own and play an original Consort in the early 60's. Many many thanks to Brian for the photo below. Why did we always pose with THAT chord?.

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