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Author Topic:  Question: Emmons History
Jim Saunders


From:
Houston, Texas, U.S.A.
Post  Posted 12 Jul 2019 5:42 am    
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When was the last Emmons guitar made and who bought it? Have the craftsmen and women moved to other makers?
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Tony Prior


From:
Charlotte NC..
Post  Posted 13 Jul 2019 2:20 am    
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probably impossible to answer. The last decade or so it was basically a one man shop, Ron Jr built all the guitars. I last visited Ron maybe around 2010, or so. He was the only one building guitars. I had visited a few times previously and still, he was the only one building guitars.
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Roger Rettig


From:
Naples, FL
Post  Posted 13 Jul 2019 3:05 pm    
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I can't remember the year but, last time I was there for any length of time (Ron Jr added a knee-lever for me), Doug Palmer was assembling P/Ps from old cabinet stocks.

Nobody else was working back in the shop, though.

I just checked my receipts - Summer, 2005. I vividly recall having to pay the bill up-front so that Rebecca could go to the machine shop and buy a handful of bell-cranks. It was all pretty much 'hand to mouth' at that point.
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Jim Saunders


From:
Houston, Texas, U.S.A.
Post  Posted 14 Jul 2019 5:38 am     Thanks
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Did Ron do the metal castings, etc on the pedals, endplates and all the undercarriage parts?

Here in Houston, I once bought a Remington S10 from Herb, but he wasn't able to complete it because the man who made the metal parts died. Herb farmed out the cabinet work, the metal work, and Bobby Bowman did the assembly. Herb handled design and sales. Mine only reached the cabinet stage.
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Douglas Schuch


From:
Valencia, Philippines
Post  Posted 14 Jul 2019 6:12 am    
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Jim Saunders, as I recall, at the end there, which was just about when I was getting into steel and reading the forum, the castings were not being done in-house, and that was part of the problem that helped push them under - inability to get castings that were not somewhat akin to Swiss cheese. They were having problems delivering guitars on schedule, or sending out guitars with inferior castings. This issue is why many builders went to machined end plates and other large parts instead of cast ones, I think.
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Roger Rettig


From:
Naples, FL
Post  Posted 14 Jul 2019 7:32 am    
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Douglas - you're correct.

End-plates were 'bought in' and quality did become a problem.
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Tom Vollmer


From:
Hamburg, Pennsylvania, USA
Post  Posted 15 Jul 2019 5:05 pm     Emmons Guitars
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Reading the Forum at times is like as they say 'Fake News'. I was involved with Ron in the last number of years. My friend Wally Heffner was dealing Emmons Guitars and asked me to help Ron out as he was having business problems. I got together with Ron and supplied the end plates and key heads. They were cast in Pennsylvania. I repaired the existing patterns and made some new patterns. The necks were made else ware as I got them from Ron to machine. The castings were all solid. All the casting were done on CNC machines. All were cast to original specs , same alloys as the Push Pulls .

Ron built me a Single Neck Double Frame Counterforce Compansator Lashley III .I received the guitar in 2013 and it is as fine a steel as I have ever owned. It probably was one of guitars made near the end. I can only say Ron and Rebecca are fine people as far as my relation to them. I think he had finance problems which ended the company but his guitars were and are top Quality. As I was a small business owner I know how hard it is to succeed. As for castings you can have blows and porosity but that was not an issue in the last years when I supplied them. Hope this answers some questions about the castings.
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Bruce W Heffner


From:
Payson, Arizona
Post  Posted 15 Jul 2019 7:22 pm     Emmons Guitar Company
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Ron and Rebecca did the best they could with the Emmons Company. Ron always took care of me and any problems that came up with the dealership relationship. Ron inherited a company with serious issues that he wasn't able to overcome. At one time a group of investors was going to put an offer in to purchase the business and manufacture the guitars in an efficient modern production facility. After doing the legal due diligence, we found brand/trademark problems that would have been too expensive to rectify, so the offer was scrapped before it was ever made.
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b0b


From:
Cloverdale, CA
Post  Posted 15 Jul 2019 8:10 pm     Re: Emmons Guitars
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Tom Vollmer wrote:
I got together with Ron and supplied the end plates and key heads. They were cast in Pennsylvania. I repaired the existing patterns and made some new patterns. The necks were made else ware as I got them from Ron to machine.
The castings were all solid. All the casting were done on CNC machines. All were cast to original specs , same alloys as the Push Pulls .
[...]
As for castings you can have blows and porosity but that was not an issue in the last years when I supplied them. Hope this answers some questions about the castings.


I don't doubt you, Tom, but I'm confused because I know so little about the process. I always thought that casting and CNC milling were two different processes. Please excuse my ignorance and "explain like I'm five" how castings are made on CNC machines.
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2019 12:14 am    
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Me too, if you please.

What Bruce says sheds much light.
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Tom Campbell


From:
Houston, Texas, USA
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2019 5:55 am    
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Possibly the key heads and end plates were very rough castings and then machined on a CNC milling machine to close tolerance's???
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Donny Hinson


From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2019 6:10 am    
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Exactly, castings have a rough finish, and they normally need machining, sanding, or grinding operations to get a surface smooth enough to polish.
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Dave Diehl


From:
Mechanicsville, MD, USA
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2019 6:18 am    
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Ron inherited a company with serious issues that he wasn't able to overcome.

Be careful with this Bruce. Not sure what you meant with that statement but if I understand it correctly, I personally know information which I can't/won't share but that statement is not the case.
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Tom Vollmer


From:
Hamburg, Pennsylvania, USA
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2019 7:09 am     CNC Castings
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As some have stated, The castings are machined. For instance the keyheads are faced on the bottom and drilled and tapped. The holes for the keys are spotted, drilled, and reamed. The slots for the rollers that the strings ride on are cut with a key cutter. CNC work as in any machine operation can be done on a piece of metal stock or casting or apiece of wood as a Fender neck or body. An interesting point to me was the amount of machine work on the
Lashley end plates that almost all the surfaces fitting the body were machined compared to the Push Pull end plates that had very little machining.
As a Patternmaker of many years I can tell you that casting is an art/science and can have blows and porosity. A good Founder can usually overcome and
correct. As in any thing else when good results are achieved reruns are good. Hope this sheds a little light on the casting issue.
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b0b


From:
Cloverdale, CA
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2019 7:55 am    
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Thanks for explaining.

Why are the parts cast first instead of being milled entirely with the CNC machine from blocks of aluminum?

Did Emmons have a CNC on site, or was that work farmed out?
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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2019 8:08 am    
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It has always struck me as wasteful to machine from a solid block if the swarf is going to outweigh the finished article. I supposed it depends on whether you can reuse the scrap.
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forrest klott


From:
Grand Rapids Mi USA
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2019 8:53 am    
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Generally speaking, when you do parts like castings there are minimum order requirements. There’s a particular part that the company I work for does that is cast aluminum and we have to buy around eighty pcs at a crack in order to get a favorable price. Every time you go to run a job like this, there are set up charges to switch over the tooling to run a given product and while prices vary from shop to shop they’re most times pretty significant. Those charges are then amortized into the final product. The more you order in a run the cheaper it gets.

Conversely when you’re talking machining an item from bar stock as most steel builders now do, I can pretty much guarantee that the cost of the entire block of aluminum is factored into the price of the guitar. Most machine shops do recycle the “chips” that get swept up after the end of the job.

Given all this I can see why manufacturers are now machining necks and end plates vs casting them as Sho-Bud, Emmons and other builders once did. I may be wrong but I think Zumsteel May have been the first company to use machining vs casting, I know that early model Zumsteels had castings and at some point they made the change. Im sure there were other factors than what I noted that came into play also. Personally I prefer the sound of guitars that used cast necks and end plates and I’ve heard the same from other guys that I know. Your mileage may vary.

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Ian Rae


From:
Redditch, England
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2019 9:15 am    
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Of course it's partly a quantity issue - I should have thought of that. Most steel builders need what I imagine a foundry would regard as small numbers.

In Bruce Zumsteg's book he recalls how getting good quality castings was quite an obstacle at one time.

I wonder if there's really a difference in the sound. If there is, might it be because a casting is more homogeneous while a bar may have acquired a grain?
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Tom Vollmer


From:
Hamburg, Pennsylvania, USA
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2019 1:44 pm     Early Pedal Steels
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There are a number of factors in making a product.
In castings you need pattern equipment for one or 100 pieces. That cost would be 1 casting $1000 pattern plus $30 casting equal $1030 cost.
Pattern cost plus 100 castings $40 per .
In CNC you have set up, fixtures, tooling, also
a fixed cost same for one or 100.
You must think of the years when the designs were made. Paul Bigsby was a Patternmaker and used castings in the late 40s and 50s. I am sure Shot and Buddy copied some of his ideas. Also as cars were built in the 40s, 50s, and 60s they are not built that way today. As far as Emmons Guitars if I were builing them and they used castings and sound like they do I would not change the design.
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Jack Stoner


From:
Inverness, Fl
Post  Posted 16 Jul 2019 2:26 pm    
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My Franklin has cast parts - ends, necks, keyheads and pedals. He had them cast at the same company that cast Sho-Bud parts. He didn't do large orders, maybe even one or two at a time.
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Douglas Schuch


From:
Valencia, Philippines
Post  Posted 17 Jul 2019 5:28 am    
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For a lot of further information on casting, milling, and the final days of Emmons, you can read through this thread, with some of the same participants as this current one:

https://bb.steelguitarforum.com/viewtopic.php?t=244721&postdays=0&postorder=asc&highlight=emmons+casting+endplates&start=25
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Donny Hinson


From:
Glen Burnie, Md. U.S.A.
Post  Posted 17 Jul 2019 3:52 pm    
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If you're making substantial quantities, castings can be cheaper and faster than machining. As quantities go down, casting can be less economical due to the pattern making and setup charges, but it's still a faster process than machining once the prerequisites are met. Waste is often less with casting, and many large and complex products are made with a combination of both because casting vastly reduces the machining time and amount of raw material required to get a finished product. (Think: things like engine blocks and transmission housings.)

Castings can have hidden broblems and inconsistencies, though, and full machining from plate, rods, or billets eliminates those issues and so yields a better product, but at higher cost.

As with most things in life, everything is a trade-off. Oh Well
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J R Rose


From:
Keota, Oklahoma, USA
Post  Posted 22 Jul 2019 8:30 pm    
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Well, I don't know nothing from nothing but I think that casting's for most of the guitar, end plates, neck, key head give the guitar more ring like a Bell. As for cost I think you would find that casting's would be cheaper after you get your mold's made. But they will have to be machined some to clean them up for polishing them. I like the clean looks of machined metal but it is slower and a lot more waste. Of course it can be recycled. Just my unlearned thoughts, J.R. Rose
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Barry Yasika


From:
Bethlehem, Pa.
Post  Posted 23 Jul 2019 5:14 am     Resonant Search On Aluminum Necks and End Plates
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I've always wondered exactly why aluminum was chosen for the necks and end plates. Did Emmons or for that matter anyone building steel guitar necks and end plates ever do a resonant analysis to see what effects the different frequencies produce on these parts. I wouldn't know what the frequency band width would be on a steel guitar but it would have to be fairly wide. Aluminum responds to frequencies in its own unique way but, also depending on how its shaped and how big or small it is there will always be a resonant frequency, in which, I'd have to believe would produce unwanted vibration. So why aluminum? Why not titanium or Magnesium? They'r light weight very rigid and the resonance is not as big a problem as aluminum. Even wooden necks are more stable with regard to response to resonance. I know this has nothing to do with Emmons last years but the discussion about the end plates and necks has peaked my curiosity.
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Tom Wolverton


From:
Carpinteria, CA
Post  Posted 23 Jul 2019 7:24 am    
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Working as a mechanical engineer in aerospace, it has been my experience that alu parts machined from solid billets were usually stronger that cast aluminum. The yield strength and ultimate strength values are typically higher with non-cast aluminum. Even when the castings are perfect. But it’s a minor improvement.
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