Saturday, September 27, 2008

the girls on saturday

working on: three Les Pauls and a Jazz bass

"let's move the wax and put the fan on."
"am I going down, or up?"
"so that guy's living in a yurt behind her house?"
"he used to live rent free above the porn shop."
"plek has stopped!"
"he said he'd sell me his UV curing light when he's done with it"
"where's the two-headed fret hammer?"
"I set it up and Leo knocked it out of the park."
"a walk would do you good."
"no, your walk would do us good"
"what's for lunch?"

weather: sunny and cool
playing: right-handed fingerstyle arpeggio patterns on a lefty guitar
watching: vignettes of Paul Newman movies on youtube

glue starved or just couldn't take it anymore

This guitar came to us in two pieces. It's the original neck joint and it came apart extremely cleanly. It almost looks as if not enough glue was used during the original assembly. With this type of break we first clean up the old glue, shim the side to side part of the joint (since that's where most of the strength is required it needs to fit tightly) and then glue it up. This join will need no reinforcement since it is the original neck joint and fits together so well. Notice Tim's trick of putting a clamp on in the middle of the neck to use as a place to attach a separate clamp that pulls the neck into the body. Before putting the neck on it's also a good opportunity to check the neck angle to make sure the bridge will be the correct height off the body for desired action.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

human nature and why it can be so good

Here's Tim playing one of his own custom built Tim Frick five string basses, brought into the shop today by Jim Cooper. Jim purchased the instrument after being approached by a person on the street. He paid an absurdly low price and was taking the bass around to various shops to affirm it's provenance. No one could tell him who the manufacturer was. Turns out the bass had been stolen from Tim two years ago. When the realization sank in Jim offered it to Tim for the same absurd figure, including the various pedals and the case it all housed. Jim believes in karma. Tim is glad to have his bass back. You never know what's going to happen, do you?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The challenge of assisted sustain, making Gary's brain explode

Allen our wonderful man of many hats and blogmaster has been in and out of town so I (Gary) have been at it.
Today I had to make EMG pickups work with a Fernandes sustainer.
Owners send me these tasks from far and wide and I'm not a stranger to them. Recently Gibson hired me as a consultant to assist in the prototyping of the Neal Schon guitar ( a very cool Les Paul with a Sustainer, Floyd Rose and smoothed out neck heel joint).

Always learning!!!!

Here we have to combine a sustainer with an EMG 81 and an EMG SA pickup in the neck of a Neal Schon Les Paul. The challenge: according to the fine instructions included with the sustainer you simply hook it up as shown and you're off and running. Well, that's okay if you like low pitch oscillation creeping in while playing in the sustain mode and a deafening high pitched squeal. Our solution: install a filter to decouple the power supply between the sustainer and the EMG pickups (sharing the same power supply made them oscillate to distraction). There were a few other options but this turned out to be the most stable (and we could get away with using one battery). Result: Low rumble & squeal gone!!!!

Other tweaks, mods, etc. involved in this particular job: I tried padding the EMG signal going into the circuit to make it a little more like the passive signal it expects but I found a better idea. I added a trim pot to to the gain circuit so we have the ability to further turn down the gain of the sustain. Since the drive was much higher with the active pickup input there was plenty to spare. Here are some work in progress pics. On Fernandes's behalf they do state how difficult it is to use the sustainer circuitry in applications that stray from how it was originally intended to be used (and that we did!). I'm glad they now make it available, because there was a time they would not sell sustainers outside of the guitars they built since it is so difficult an installation. There are also a few other Sustainer products on the market that in some ways are easier to install and work great. I will go over them in the future.

Always a big thanks to our friend: Doc K.R.!!!

the wax man cometh (Tim has a melting moment)

Electric guitar pickups can squeal. The approximately 6,000 to 9,000 turns of very fine magnetic wire that make up a pickup coil can start vibrating within itself. As the gain increases so does the vibration and that brings with it the potential for microphonic feedback. Metal pickup covers, pole-piece screws or anything loose can also vibrate annoyingly on a pickup. Squeals are typically quelled by potting (or dipping) the pickup in a thin waxy liquid that permeates the coil and holds it all together. We use hot wax in a vacuum to get as much permeation as possible. Occasionally we may use lacquer or very thin epoxy - whatever is best for the job and will not compromise the pickup. Here Tim is mixing up waxes with different properties. Some experimentation is required to come up with the best formula.

a very strong neck repair

Gary was out on a mission in the South-Eastern United States and, as he will, visited a guitar repair shop. As repair peeps are wont to do they start comparing notes about what ever happens to be
on the bench at that moment. This particular visit they shared a way to inlay a graphite weave and epoxy resin into the back of a guitar neck to repair and reinforce a cracked peghead. We've tried various resin and cloth reinforcement methods over the years but usually stick to matching a wood lamination over the back of the break. With our newfound knowledge and a taste for adventure we put Trevor to implementing this graphite weave.

What's nice about this method is the way it inlays. You can control the distribution of strength of the graphite cloth by altering the direction of the fiber lengths. The cupping effect of the cloth running lengthwise with the neck will also add strength and support. The success of this repair also depends upon finding an epoxy with the correct characteristics.

The repair was a grand success and has the added benefit of a look of it's own. Think tennis racket vs spaceship. In theory this is now the strongest part of the neck. The added stiffness may add some attack and sustain to the overall sound of the guitar. I'm guessing we'll be sticking to our matching wood laminates for most of the severe neck breaks since the laminates can be stained and finished to match most wood grain. Of course we can always paint over anything. Most important, the owner that paid us do this to his guitar is extremely pleased and back on the road touring. This peg-head that had broken repeatedly is now the least of his concerns. He can get back to the important stuff like where the band is sleeping tonight.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Keeping it dry down the rapids!!

My (Gary's) girlfriend Ms. Liz just came back from a 2 week trip river rafting through the Grand Canyon. Boatman Extraordinare Matt Herman came up with a great way not to leave his guitar behind. He built a crunch-proof, boat-flip-proof, running-the-rapids-at-Lava-Falls-proof custom wood case-- waterproofed that and found a dry bag to fit the whole thing. So far so good.....and it floats!

Friday, September 12, 2008

It's you again!

Old friends sometimes come to visit, co-workers from the long ago time before time...they appropriate some free bench space (a rare commodity) and carry on the conversation that lapsed the day they left.

Here the inimitable Max Butler performs a quick pickup install into a much played and well loved acoustic.

fight or flight

cant take it....they'll one could carry on under this pressure...the dust in my eyes...a sweatshop...the brutality...and I hate guitars - there! I said it! I hate 'em...their little gritty strings and shiny round parts and the cases! Don't get me started on the cases....O! There's the phone...should I answer it? They might smell the fear....

Thursday, September 11, 2008

yeah, the owner knows it's silly

This instrument (shown in its detached plumage) presented with a severe case of neck to headstock delamination. The join at the top of the original yellow neck where wood meets acrylic was like a science textbook image of a slip fault, just on a smaller scale. Plate tectonics notwithstanding, the challenge of separating and reattaching the acrylic with the wood would have been too great a financial burden to justify the repair. We chose to "drop ten and punt" (thanks Vince Lombardi) and ordered up a replacement neck from the manufacturer. Sadly, they were out of yellow acrylic. Permanently. Happily, the owner has an appreciation of the absurd and opted for the two-tone approach.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

unsung heroes

Does a day go by wherein we do not casually and ofttimes thoughtlessly rely upon these icons of modern life? Like a parent smirking misguidedly in gratitude as a passerby admires their child, does the manufacturer of these incredibly important objects get to smugly grasp responsibility? No. These items exist in their own universe. If it hadn't been one womb, it would have been another. The essential nature of these two products called themselves into being.

Friday, September 5, 2008

deeper into the purple...

So enough already about how odd, interesting and inspiring the finished work about how the in the hell did you do that?

Our can-do attitude made it impossible to accept the manufacturer's claim that a nine volt battery will not power those Fulltone Deja Vibe stompbox guts steaming inside that poor exhausted Epiphone Sheraton. So first we wired six 1.5 volt AA batteries in series, providing nine volts at increased amp/hours above a standard nine volt battery. As a just-in-case fallback fail-safe we also wired a Fulltone standard power input jack into the side of the instrument body. If Matt Z. is oscillating a heavy ostinato he doesn't want to stop to change batteries. We also built a custom circuit to reference the voltage from the indicator LED connected to the Fulltone guts. The LED on the pedal guts gets brighter and dimmer corresponding to the modulation of that effect. And that voltage from the LED going into our circuit makes it possible to put out a specific amount of plus and minus voltage so our LEDs would alternate equally; also corresponding to the pedal effect. To get that characteristic psychedelic purple we combined red and blue LEDs using a diode on one of those colors so the two colors flash at the same rate. Red and blue LEDs react differently to the same level of voltage, no?

(Special Thanks to our Super Friend KR without whom this mod would be possible but improbable)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

the amazing purple light-up guitar!

Matt Z. of The Bad Hand had a request (see our entry for Thursday, May 22nd). He acknowledged his odd request wasn't right for all but knew we were crazy enough to handle it. Using our super powers and putting our heads together with our super friends we were able to install the guts of a Fulltone Deja Vibe pedal inside the body of this outraged Epiphone Sheraton. And since too much is never enough, each F-hole lights up a purple LED array concurrent with the signal oscillation. This is our idea of a good time.

(to be continued: Deeper Into the Tech Behind the Mod.)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

a syncretism of space & time!

We've mentioned before that it's a small shop but have we mentioned the often eye-opening amount of fecund psychic energy contributing to our seemingly random happenstance and synchronicity? This is only an everyday occurrence. If a name comes up it's usually because the person belonging to it is close by.

A perfect storm of Les Pauls, all picked up at the same exact moment: an action adjustment, a fretmill and a refret. Their Moms know them as: (L-R) Mark, Brian, and David.