Saturday, August 29, 2009

Trevor's New Do!

With Burning Man coming right up, it's time to get your freak on! And what better way to say: "I'm a playa on the playa" than iridescent hair color? Light up the day! Glowstick your night! He's a natural!

(er....actually a trick of the light shines inadvertently in Trevor's hair. In this photograph he is testing a completed set-up on a Peavey JF1EX, a pretty guitar and brand-spanking new. One of the nice things about completing a job is being able to spend a few minutes fine tuning one's work by mind-melding with the instrument. We still love guitars, even after all this time.)

Friday, August 28, 2009

A Trip to the NAMM show

Bob Sperzel explains the finer points of tuners to Tim

Michael Manring wows them

the author pays attention to the details

the author with Roger Sadowsky

Tim Frick and the Great Wall of SVT

(byline: Trevor Healy) - In January 2009 Tim Frick and I drove to Anaheim for the 2009 Winter NAMM show. Neither of us had ever been but we’d heard many stories from Gary Brawer and others. We walked in and slammed right into the insanity that is NAMM. Ampeg built a 15 foot tall SVT stack, bikini’ed Jaegermeister girls were pulling in crowds at the booth and the NOISE! I should have grabbed those earplugs.

After moving past microphones and PA’s, the first guitar I saw was the new MOOG guitar which we’d heard about. I was surprised and dismayed by its poor set-up and total lack of innovation it’s reported to have (and which MOOG is famous for).

My main thoughts were on heading downstairs to the custom builders’ booths. I first headed to Sadowsky Guitars to say hi to my old boss, Roger. It was great to see him and we caught up on the last few years. Roger’s long time customer Will Lee was playing a set at the booth on his new signature model. I enjoyed seeing the new instruments they’ve been working on since I left 3 years ago.

There were many familiar faces and it seemed like everywhere we turned someone from the San Francisco area was walking by or showing instruments. Tom Ribbecke had his new Halfling basses and guitars which feature a half flat, half arched top. The sound of the guitar I played had a very full and warm tone. Right across from Tom was Blackbird Guitars, now building their instruments in the Dog Patch area of San Francisco. They make a travel size, fully graphite guitar which really throws people for a loop. The guitars are well designed, comfortable to play, and have a clear bright tone.

I next visited Zon Guitars, with whom I worked when I first moved to CA. Joe Zon and Mark Gullo, two very hard working guys who build beautiful basses, had sold most of the instruments by the time I got to the booth. Walking through hoards of punks with mohawks, tattooed rockers, and relentless salesmen we began to feel a bit claustrophobic. Tim and I headed off to find some beer for a little relief. I had heard there was a bar in the Dean booth, but that was about a mile away so we took what ever was closest. A bar just happened to be right next to a huge line of people waiting to get a signature from Mick Mars of Motley Crue, one of the many strange sightings throughout the weekend.

We met up with Gary shortly afterwards and headed off to the Gibson rooms. They have half a floor to themselves and have filled every inch with new gear. Gary talked with Edwin Wilson about the new Jimmy Page relic Les Paul while I checked out the Robot guitars. We’d been eager to see the new PLEK machine as well. Joe Glaser demonstrated the new system and its improved speed. An entire fret mill can now be done in 12 minutes.

It was almost 6pm now and the show was closing for the night so we headed up to meet Gary again in the Executive Lounge at the Hyatt. Our good friend Kirkwood was there too, along with friends Liz and Gary’s sister Audrey. I headed off to LA to see a friend perform and Gary with his gang went across to another hotel to check out one of the many concerts.

The next day was a blur but the highlight was meeting Bob Sperzel, designer and founder of Sperzel Locking Tuners. He was very gracious and talked with Tim and myself for a while. We learned about his new bass tuners and a new metal nut for all guitar styles that allows for easier string bending. I tried a full-step bend on the G string at the 2nd fret and it really was easy. To meet someone with his energy, enthusiasm and durability is a real treat.

We headed back over to the Zon booth to check out Michael Manring playing the Zon Hyperbass, which Joe designed for him, allowing many different tuning options both at the bridge and the Hipshot D-tuners. He dazzled the crowd with right hand harmonic pops and surely helped take in a few orders for new instruments. It was hard to avoid the big companies like PRS and Taylor but they suck you right in. I had no idea PRS made acoustic guitars and that R. Taylor Guitars was an offshoot of Taylor. The Martin booth had some stunning inlay work, and it was good to play some instruments from two of my favorite acoustic makers, Santa Cruz and Collings.

I finished off the day downstairs by saying hello to Robert Mazzulo of MUDD Guitars. He was an instructor at the Robert-Venn School of Luthiery when I attended in 1999. He was saying how much he enjoyed seeing so many former students stop by his booth as well as showing instruments of their own at the show. I’m not sure if I would go to NAMM every year but it was a good first trip and I was glad to have seen so many old friends, new products and experience all the event entails.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

there are many creative ways...

...this could be explained but the truth is more interesting. A large (some would say major) guitar manufacturer has released a line of handmade-in-America guitars that look like they are forty years old and extremely well-loved. The manufacturer has taken the time to make every part of the guitar look aged and in so doing, odd things happen, even under normal use.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

leave the light on for the Muse

Because you never know where she'll alight. And you have to stop whatever it is you're doing and allow her full sway. You could be anywhere...doing anything...she will have her way. (here the Muse strikes Chela on a beach in the middle of the Pacific Ocean)

Saturday, August 15, 2009

“I’ll give you the groceries and you cook it up”

So says Hadi D. (L), here giving Gary carte blanche to install a sustainer system of Gary's choice into this Paul Reed Smith single cutaway. There are several choices of sustainer systems, and Hadi trusts Gary to choose the system appropriate for this particular instrument and, of course, taking into account how Hadi plays and what his expectations are from his guitar. It's a big job and requires routing into the wood of the body to fit the onboard electronics, switches and a battery box.

Friday, August 14, 2009

moral support

Tim is refretting a mid-Seventies Precision bass with the assistance of his pal Aura, who is almost five. Aura snacks on roasted pumpkin seeds and takes keen pride in getting the husks into the dustbin without hitting the sides. Work is punctuated with Life and Life is a continuous infinitely variegated panoply of joyful times. Long life to you!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

a neat trick

On a tremolo where the strings' ball end is not removed (Parker, Kahler, etc...) there is occasionally an issue where the string consistently unravels at the ball end during use. This is irritating at best and Gary has a nice trick for it, dropping a small bead of solder on the wind prior to stringing up the guitar. This solidifies the spot and eliminates the unraveling.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

is this our core competency?

Joseph really wants to go the old school analog synth stylee squeak, grunt and beep by triggering this frowsy 360 Systems Spectre from his Fender Strat. Gary has mounted the pickup for this suitcase audio bomb and a few connections inside the vintage circuitry had to be traced down and repaired, as well as a LEMO connector that had to be procured and spliced on to the existing cable. The unaffected sound is an inadvertent cross between an unreasonably harsh Tangerine Dream melody and Steve Hillage on a bender. Awesome.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

"It's better then I could've imagined!"

...exclaimed Brent R. as he picked up his Gibson Firebrand after Tim's completion of a particularly heavy duty headstock repair. Tim had glued the large and ugly crack and also fabricated a strengthening laminate (the technology of which is documented elsewhere within this blog). When pressed for details (an endless source of fascination) Brent had allowed that roommates had been at fault and, thankfully, the roommates had expressed appropriate contrition, even to the point of offering recompense, which is only right. Brent was exceedingly complimentary of the quality of Tim's work (he is that good) and, as he departed the shop with his guitar he was heard to suggest that: "I may have to consider naming my first born after him."

hey that guitar looks familiar...

Duncan H. (L) brought in his blue Gibson robot(!) guitar for us to swap out the stock humbuckers for a brand spanking new set of TV Jones Classics. Little did he realize that earlier in the day Trevor had benched and was now at this exact moment re-fretting his beloved ES175D. Duncan paused briefly to wonder at the beauty of his guitar, helplessly laid open on Trevor's bench and being carefully and lovingly improved. Simultaneity is our middle name!