Tuesday 31 December 2002

Some nifty chord window generators, scale charts, etc, over at looknohands.com.

Friday 20 December 2002

...and here's one for the Festive Season, the Gibson Christmas 2000 Acoustic Guitar!

Makes you want to vomit, doesn't it?
Gordon Smith guitars
Burns guitars
Vox guitars

Thursday 12 December 2002

Peter Malinoski - more bizarre "art" guitars.
Bullet Bars - custom steel guitar bars.
The Tommyhawk acoustic travel guitar with neck, fingerboard, back, sides and bracing carved from one solid piece of mahogany!
www.artguitars.com... Hmmmm... yes... well...

Wednesday 11 December 2002

Smith Family Music featuring the now legendary Melobar - the slide guitar you can play whilst standing. I first saw one of these babies in the video for Captain Beefheart's "Ice Cream For Crow", and thought it looked well cool.
Double Whammy! Because two tremolo arms are better than one!
A guitar you can dismantle and stow away in an attache case - the Stow-Away from Stewart Guitars.

Monday 9 December 2002

Can I talk Didgeridoos for a moment? Yes, yes, I know this is a guitar website, but check out the unlikely sounding Didjbass which claims to be an electric didgeridoo and bass guitar all in one!
Touch-style instruments from Warr Guitars (the Phalanx series must have the widest fingerboard I have ever seen).
Charlie Hunter's Novax fanned fret guitars

Tuesday 3 December 2002

www.violinguitarmaker.com - this guy is nuts but you've just got to love his wild designs.

Friday 29 November 2002

Ever wanted to play guitar but are convinced that you are totally unmusical? Then this could be for you: the McNally Strumstick. Looks really cool to me!

Thursday 28 November 2002

Now here's useful - highlystrung.net - a UK-based supplier of guitar parts, accessories, strings, effects, books, videos, etc, etc.
The Official Hagstrom Website - oddball swedish guitars.
Ever since I posted that entry here about the Aria Legend plexiglass guitar that I was selling, this website has been getting lots of hits from people searching for plexiglass guitars.

Here are some more perspex-bodied guitars:Of course the original perspex guitars were the now legendary Ampeg Dan Armstrong instruments from the 1960s. These had been re-issued in relatively recent years, although I can't find a link to any official webpage for them. However, there are some nice pics of the Dan Armstrong see-thru bass over at bunnybass.com.

Wednesday 27 November 2002

Line illustration of classic stanceLooking through my bookshelves back at home I re-discovered an old paperback book I bought many years ago at a jumble sale, "Guitar" by Dan Morgan. This was published back in 1965 and is, in places, absolutely (unintentionally) hilarious.

A few examples:
The Solid Electric consists of little more than a neck, pickups and a small solid body, the shape of which has no bearing whatsoever on the tone produced. [...] ...because of the lack of acoustic properties, a Solid can be produced more cheaply. This is not to say that one cannot pay a very high price for a Solid Electric with special refinrements and gimmicks - but the reason for this is more one of fashion than of true musical value. The big disadvantage of a Solid is that without an amplifier it is incapable of producing a musical tone. I would never advise a beginner to start with a Solid.

You're going to have to cut those lovely long finger nails on your left hand. If you don't make this sacrifice for your Art, you're never going to be able to press the strings down in the correct manner.

Jazz guitarWith modern amplifiers rated anywhere from ten to fifty watts, it is possible to make a lot of very nasty noise with an Electric guitar. Somewhere along the line a lot of groups have got hold of the idea that the louder they play the more 'beat' they will have. This can be very wearing on the nerves, and from the customer's point of view about as entertaining as being dropped from a great height into the middle of Armageddon. There's absolutely no sense in trying to give your audience shell shock. Play at a reasonable volume, but err rather on the side of quietness - they may even listen to what you're doing, INSTEAD OF BATTLING TO SURVIVE IN SPITE OF IT.
The book also generously devotes a whole six and a half pages to a chapter on BASS GUITAR:
Of late years there has been a considerable vogue for the use of Electric Bass guitar, a four stringed instrument pitched an Octave lower than the standard guitar. [...] Taking the place of the conventional String bass in a group, the Bass guitar has several advantages over that instrument. A lot of String Bass players have been able to get away for many years with producing nothing more than a percussive 'thud' from their instruments, and paying little attention to the harmonic correctness of the actual note they are fingering. There can be, and neither do I see any reason for, such faking on the Bass guitar, which produces a clearly audible musical tone. When the vogue started, many Bass players who thought they were onto an 'easy number' moved over to the Bass guitar - only to find for the first time in their careers that they now had to concentrate on playing the right notes. For the guitarist, on the other hand, the Bass guitar is an easy number.

Tuesday 26 November 2002

My Guitars

My guitar collection, as of November 2002
Well, it may seem to the casual reader that I've been selling off all my guitars (the Eko 12-string, the Strat, the Tele, the Aria plexiglass) but I do still have a modest collection of instruments, as can be seen in the above picture - plus one or two in the background that are "projects" and will most likely be sold when finished.

At the moment the collection is as follows:

Fernandes Revolver Pro
Fernandes Revolver Pro
This is my main guitar and the reason that I stopped playing Fenders. It features a 24-fret neck, Floyd Rose licensed tremolo, EMG pickup in the bridge position and a Fernandes Sustainer in the neck position. I always used to be a huge fan of the EBow but this guitar and its brilliant Sustainer system makes the EBow virtually redundant. The main difference is that when using the EBow, you want a clean sound on your amp and let the EBow do the over-driving, but with the Sustainer it works much better with an overdriven sound. You can also sustain and slide whole chords, or just use the Sustainer to beef up your sound, and used in conjunction with the Floyd Rose things can go Over The Top very easily. Another bonus factor is that the guitar never seems to go out of tune. I just love it, although I'll admit that it isn't the prettiest guitar in the world. It is actually finished in a dark metallic green (which doesn't photograph too easily) which has earnt this guitar the nickname of Emerald.

Fender Squier Stagemaster 7
Squier Stagemaster 7
I bought this for a song on eBay a few months back. I had for many years been intrigued at the possibilites that a seven string guitar could offer, but I didn't want to buy an expensive instrument and find that I couldn't play it. This cost me the grand sum of £130, so it hardly broke the bank. And very interesting it is too. The seventh string - a low B - is no problem at all. It is easy enough to adapt six string chords - adding extra notes on the low B - or else there is the option to not sound that string. It is also great for playing riffs on - low bassy powerchords. On the whole the guitar is a bit of a growler. It has a very different tone to the bright-sounding Fernandes; this is a ballsy guitar. Oh, and as it's sparkly purple, I nicknamed this one "Amethyst". (There were a few dings in the finish, but I filled these with purple nailvarnish). The only thing that confuses me about this guitar is the upside-down headstock. I often find myself turning the machine head for totally the wrong string that I'm trying to tune.

Bozo the Clown, short-scale bass
Short-scale bass
This was another eBay purchase from earlier in the year. I was looking for a bass guitar that I could use as a "fuzz bass"; something that I could essentially use as a guitar, play overdriven powerchords on it, etc. This bass fits the bill perfectly, and - despite its short scale - sounds quite good as a regular bass too. This may be in part due to the retro-fitted jazz bass pickup. I have to admit that I quite like the sound of the neck pickup - deep and boomy - would be great for those dub-reggae-style basslines. The bizarre "artwork" on this guitar was not my doing. I bought it like that. Basically, someone has painted it green at the top and blue at the bottom, and has then covered the body with cut-out vinyl shapes. The stuck-on red stripe dividing the blue and green halves actually goes along the back of the neck. You'd think that it would be annoying when playing, but surprisingly it isn't. The paintwork is quite crazed in parts so I'd say that the guitar was refinished in this manner many years ago. The angular scratchplate, pickup surround and truss rod cover have all been cut by hand and presumably added by the same person who "customised" this beastie. I have no idea what make this bass is. The person I bought it from thought it might be an Ibanez, but after having done a little research, I can find nothing that looks like it might have been this.

Old 70s Tele copy
Tele copy
This cost me £52. I bought it as project fodder, thinking that perhaps I could refinish it, add a snazzy perloid scratchplate, change the hardware, etc. However, upon receiving the guitar I found that there was nothing wrong with it, and that it's actually a very nice, very playable guitar. The pickups - both of which are chrome-covered - have a surprisingly high output and sound excellent. I'd imagine this would make a nice little blues or slide guitar. The body - which appears to be real wood, by the way, and not plywood, is much thinner than on a real Telecaster and its shape is not very accurate to the traditional Telecaster outline. The most obvious oddity on this guitar is the inclusion of the jack-socket on the metal control panel and not on the side of the guitar. However, it is a very likeable guitar, and I don't want to alter anything on it, as I think it would spoil a very nice instrument. (And if you're wondering why I just sold my real Fender Telecaster but have still got this, can I remind you again of how much it cost? My Fenders were worth lots of money, a money injection which my ailing bank account desperately needed!) As to the provenance of this one, I think that it might possibly be a Shaftesbury, but it is hard to be sure as the badge that was once pinned to the headstock (which is much larger and chunkier than on the real thing) is missing.

Fender Jazz Bass, fretless
fretless Fender Jazz Bass
This is absolurely gorgeous. It was another recent eBay purchase for just £250 and arrived in virtually new condition. It is a Mexican-made Jazz Bass with a lined fretless fingerboard. I love fretless basses. I used to have a fretless Westone back in the 1980s, but I sold it over 10 years ago and have long since regretted doing so. I had been on the lookout for another for a few years, and when I saw this at such a low price I knew I had to have it. I haven't yet gotten around to changing the strings on it, so it is not currently sounding its best. It still has the flat-wound strings that would have been supplied with it from the factory. Fretless basses are often supplied with flat-wounds so that the fingerboards do not get marked while the instruments are in shops, being played by would-be customers, etc. The trouble here being that flat-wounds sound awful. They just make the bass go THUD when the instrument should SING. I will be upgrading to proper round-wound soonest. By the way, the sticker beneath the bridge is of Maggie Simpson, and was put there - I presume - by the bass's previous owner. I left it there because - hell - I like The Simpsons too!

One other guitar I forgot to mention is the lovely little classical guitar that I have featured on the banner at the top of this page. Again, it was an eBay purchase, and was a bargain at only £27. This is the guitar I keep in the living room and grab when I'm trying to work out songs, or just for practice without having the mess of leads, effects, amps, headphones, etc. It is a gorgeous little guitar - much better than the pile of junk that I had to take to guitar lessons with me when I was 12 - and should have retailed for a whole load more, but it was apparently part of an over-stock for a German music fair. The chappie selling this one was also selling a whole load of others just like it, so it sounds like he had a job lot on his hands to get rid of.

Monday 25 November 2002

The Paisley Fenders have been sold.
Paisley Fenders
The Stratocaster went for £460 and the Telecaster reached £485. Both went to dealers which suggests that in a shop these will both have even higher price tags.

Wednesday 20 November 2002

Yet another celebrity guitar fails to sell at auction; this time it's John Lennon's Vox organ guitar.

This Website and Making Contact

It seems that a lot of people are finding this website from Google and other search engines using queries such as "how to remove varnish off a guitar", "how to sand a neck", "Telecaster routing", etc. Other times people are looking for information on specific guitars (e.g. Teisco or Wandre) that I may at some point have mentioned.

Please feel free to search through my archives (see right-hand column). This website is a blog - or weblog - which means that it is a frequently updated website, mainly consisting of links to content elsewhere on the internet. If you are looking for a particular type of guitar or information on renovation it is possible that I have covered it somewhere, but you might have to go trawl back through the archives to find what you want. What's at the top of the front page today, will not be there next week or next month!

Perhaps I should see about incorporating a "Search this website" feature.

I have recently added a commenting feature, so you can leave feedback beneath individual posts. If you have any direct questions you can always email me at gl.wilson@ntlworld.com but I warn you now, I am not a guitar guru as such, just someone with a passion for the instrument. Possibly you know far more about the subject than I do!

Monday 18 November 2002

Auction update: The Eko Ranger XII was sold for £167 (that was fun sending that one off - I didn't have a big enough box, so had to fashion one out of two other guitar boxes and a whole roll of brown tape), and the Aria Legend plexiglass guitar auction has just finished with a winning bid of £180. The bidding may have gone higher but I disqualified one of the bidders because I took a look at his feedback ratings and saw that he had two negatives from within the last four days - obviously he just bids on things which he clearly has no intention of buying. People like that are a right menace on eBay.

In other news, the fretless Fender Jazz Bass is absolutely gorgeous, although it still has the factory-fitted flat-wound strings on it, which makes it go "thud" rather than give that beautiful sustain-rich fretless tone.

Thursday 14 November 2002

Bass guitars galore over at Subway Guitars - a nice collection.
www.musicvox.com - the Musicvox Space Ranger has got to be one of the wackiest modern day guitars currently in production. Nice to see the Spacecadet 12-string bass too.
Get more sustain out of your guitar or bass by clamping a Fat Finger to the headstock, and thus tuning out unwanted dead spots.

Tuesday 12 November 2002

This saddens me. I have been forced to put these two guitars up for auction:

Paisley Strat
Fender Stratocaster, pink paisley, Japanese built JV series, circa 1988

Paisley Tele
Fender Telecaster, pink paisley, Japanese built JV series, circa 1986
collectguitars.com - a bunch of people showing off their guitar collections (although in some instances I don't see how one guitar can comprise a "collection"). Perhaps I'll submit some photos to this myself!
Daisy Rock guitars for girls, although it looks like a few boys play them too! Robert Smith of The Cure is a fan.

Thursday 7 November 2002

Aria Legend Plexiglass guitar

Another guitar I'm selling...

This is an Aria Legend solid electric guitar, based loosely on the stylings of the now legendary Fender Jazzmaster guitar. It features two powerful humbucking pickups, 1 volume, 1 tone and 3-way pickup selector, a 22-fret neck with rosewood fingerboard, and body and headstock made from clear perspex making this guitar look ultra cool. The perspex headstock is scarfed onto a wooden neck (which looks like maple) and the joint is absolutely seamless.

The extremely dense body material makes this guitar very heavy, but at the same time it gives it excellent sustain. The action of the strings is nice and low and the neck allows for some fast lead playing. The machine heads work superbly and are very efficient at keeping the guitar in tune.

I bought this guitar new in January 2000 and have only used it at home. It has never been gigged and is in excellent condition. There is, however, one small flaw, namely a small crack inside the perspex body itself, adjacent to one of the bolts holding the neck in place. The guitar was in this condition when I bought it. The "crack" shows no sign of spreading, and the instrument seems to be structurally sound despite this small flaw.

The sound is superb, the guitar is a joy to play, and looks really neat into the bargain. The only reason I am selling is because I have one six string electric guitar too many and one of them has to go! This poor beastie was simply getting overlooked in favour of my other instruments (a Fernandes sustainer guitar and a 7-string, so this poor guitar is basic in comparison)*. It would make someone a great visual and very playable instrument. This guitar deserves to be played and to be seen.

This guitar is being auctioned on eBay, now! (Auction over. Sold for £180)

* This is not the whole story: I need to sell this guitar so I can afford to pay for a fretless Fender Jazz Bass. Is that a good enough reason to sell, do you think?

Tuesday 5 November 2002

microtones.com - microtonal guitars and recordings - dedicated to providing the best in alternate-tuned music.

Thursday 31 October 2002

FOR SALE: Eko Ranger XII with Shadow pickup

Eko Ranger XII
This is a nice example of the ever-popular Italian-made Eko Ranger 12-string guitar. It is a full-sized acoustic guitar and is approximately 17 to 18 years old (I bought it new in the early 80s), and features the Eko company's trademark bolt-on neck (on an acoustic!).

The guitar also features a Shadow piezo under-saddle pickup in the bridge, and an accompanying volume control on the upper shoulder near the neck. The pickup was installed at the factory and isn't a retro-fit. I have used it for recording the guitar (excellent sound) and also for playing through a PA system.

(I do also have a Schaller magnetic sound-hole pickup, that is not included in this auction, but if you are interested let me know and we might be able to work something out. Using a combination of the two pickups, I have been able to produce a HUGE sound - piezo through a PA and magnetic through an AC30! Amazing!)

The bad news is that the guitar does have one rather nasty knock to it, on the rear of the guitar at the base near the end-pin - see photo. I took it to a band rehearsal once (I don't know what I was thinking because we were a punk band) and the drummer was fooling around with it. Back at home afterwards I found the injury that had been inflicted on it. But that's drummers for you.

However, the sound is not affected by this injury. I've played many 12-strings, including some a lot more expensive than this one, and I've never found another that I liked the sound of as much, nor that played as easily. The guitar has quite a low action to it, so this obviously increases playability.

What else can I tell you about it? The neck is straight, the machine heads all work well, and the general condition is good apart from the one battlescar that I have already mentioned. My only reasons for selling are that my guitar "collection" needs to be cut down and I simply don't play this one any more.

This guitar is up for auction on eBay in the UK (Auction over. Sold for £167)

Tuesday 29 October 2002

And now for something completely different: A story about repetitive strain injury from the BBC News Health and Safety pages (!) - Rock guitar is a pain.
P Bass reaches 50 - The Fender Custom Shop is now taking orders for the 1951 Anniversary Precision Bass. Unveiled at summer's NAMM show, the bass will start shipping in October, the same month the in which the bass was originally launched 50 years ago.

Friday 25 October 2002

The person who sold me that pile of junk has emailed me:

I have just noticed that you have left a complaint about the guitar project saying that the description was mis-leading, could you please contact me and advise why.

I am happy to offer you a refund if you are not satisfied with the item you have received, it is not my intention to mislead anyone.

I await your response.

My reply:
OK, I quote the description:

"Guitar project Tanglewood strat copy for spares or repair good neck and hardware body badly damaged"

"Body badly damaged" - true. But the rest of the guitar is badly damaged too, which you hadn't implied. It certainly was not a case of "good neck and hardware". The neck is the most bent out of shape guitar neck I have ever seen. It is not repairable.

So that leaves the hardware - pickups and pots are rusty looking underneath, as if the guitar had been kept somewhere damp. One machine head has the tuning button broken off, and the tremolo/bridge is incomplete.

So basically it was £30 spent on some old pickups that have seen better days, plus pots and a few pieces of incomplete hardware. The guitar is not really repairable.

G L Wilson
It'll be interesting to see how he answers that. I don't see how he could possibly have thought that the neck was in good condition. He must know absolutely nothing about guitars, but even in that case he should have been able to spot the state it was in.

I suppose the lesson to be learnt from this is to be very careful when buying old beat up guitars off eBay.

Tuesday 22 October 2002

Well, the Tanglewood Strat-style guitar turned up. And in short, it's a piece of crap. It looks as if someone has used it to smash up on stage. I don't know why they didn't finish the job properly having gone that far!

The body is dented quite badly. It does appear to be solid wood, but the wood is not very hard. I will try removing the finish and sanding it down, and will attempt to fill in the dents and the holes using woodfiller as best I can. It's possible that it may not be salvagable though.

The neck (which was listed as being "good") is the most bent out of shape guitar neck I have ever seen. I can't even get an allen key anywhere near the trussrod head to adjust it. Not that I think it'd help anyway. The fingerboard is also half hanging off.

I've taken it entirely to bits and hopefully the pickups will be usable for another project. Those and the tremolo bridge (which is lacking saddles). I would say that I'd got a set of machine heads out of this too, but even one of those is lacking the tuning button.

All in all, a disaster, but I will salvage what I can.
Rick Nielson's Guitars (the Cheap Trick laddie with a penchant for bizarre guitars, e.g. that five necked beastie)
The Unofficial Kiss Guitar Website (the title says it all really)

Friday 18 October 2002

Heart Strings: Fundraiser featuring opportunities to purchase custom, hand-painted Fender Stratocaster guitars by Eric Clapton, Shari Belafonte, Kevin Bacon, Elizabeth Hurley, Whoopi Goldberg and other celebrities.

Thursday 17 October 2002

Yet another project!

Tanglewood guitar
Yet another eBay win (£30) for a renovation project! Here's how the seller described it:
Guitar project Tanglewood strat copy for spares or repair good neck and hardware body badly damaged
Despite the lack of punctuation, the implication is that the neck is straight (I do hope so!) and the hardware is all in good working order. As to what "Body damaged" means, I'm not so sure. Is it just damage to the finish as can be seen in the photo, or are there any serious cracks in the body. If it's the former, it'll be another strip and re-finish job, but if the body is seriously knackered then I'll need to cast it aside in favour of a replacement. Only one way to find out, and that is to wait and see, but here's hoping I got a bargain for 30 quid.

Wednesday 16 October 2002

All you ever wanted to know about the Basitar and Guitbass! Inspired by the Presidents Of The USA.
Tenorguitar.com is an excellent site devoted to this mysterious 4-stringed instrument.
I've just spent quite a little while reading through Bob's guitar pages which he describes as "an information resource to both aspiring and existing hobbyist electric guitar makers". Really excellent stuff, and if you're after a custom made instrument, then his prices are very reasonable!

Tuesday 15 October 2002

Another modular guitar system - the Chrysalis Guitar system "consists of a family of interchangeable components which allow a musician to quickly assemble a full-size full-scale electric/acoustic guitar without tools. The parts snap together, and the strings are brought up to playing tension with a lever in the back of the headstock. With interchangable components, a wide variety of instrument forms can be created, including 6- and 12- string electric guitar, 6- and 12-string acoustic guitar, 8-string electric or acoustic mandocello and acoustic bass guitar configurations."

"The guitar components are designed for rapid assembly and disassembly without tools, making it extremely compact for storage and transport. All of the parts for the guitar can be fit in a small cloth gig bag measuring 8" x 2" x 20" (10 cm x 5 cm x 40 cm)."

Monday 14 October 2002

Mike Rutherford's Custom Shergold Doubleneck - there were actually four "halves" of this instrument which could be clipped together in different double-neck combinations. Great website about these classic British guitars, by the way!
Some very colourful and vivid graphics by Harley Guitars and a preponderance of parrots!

Thursday 10 October 2002

Elvis Presley

Elvis' first ever guitar on sale

A 50-year-old guitar held together with scraps of tape could fetch £4 million at auction. The instrument was handed to her son by Mrs Presley for his 11th birthday back in 1946. It cost the equivalent of a fiver but was to help little Elvis to become the biggest rock ‘n’ roll legend the world has ever seen. More...

Pictured: Elvis plays guitar (a Gibson Trini Lopez, I believe [edit: no it wasn't, it was a Hagstrom]): probably not the one his mother bought him for his 11th birthday.
Xilinx and Gibson Guitar Team to Deliver the Music Industry's First True Digital Guitar

Tuesday 8 October 2002

Guitar Project: Update

Remember this? This was to be my next guitar project:
Encore Guitarist model
To re-cap, it's an Encore "Guitarist" guitar, very beaten-up and with missing pickup, knobs, bridge saddles, etc. The heavily-scratched body appeared to be made from MDF and still had the sheared-off pickup mounting screws stuck in the front of the body.

The neck, however, is in very good condition, so I was considering marrying this neck to another - better quality - guitar body.

Today I received a parcel containing the Telecaster body I've been expecting.
Tele style body / Encore neck
The neck from the Encore would seem to be a perfect fit into the Telecaster's neck pocket, and indeed, I think that the shape of the headstock is aesthetically pleasing when used with this body shape. But I will have to make some careful measurements as it is highly likely that the body has been designed for a 21 fret neck whereas this is a 22 fret neck. This means the whole neck is slightly longer and to compensate for this the bridge on the guitar would have to sit slightly more forward from the usual position, bringing it very close to the rear pickup cavity.

I'm wondering what are the rules governing distance from the rear pickup to the bridge. Obviously if it is too close, there will not be enough string vibration for the pickup to capture. But, of course, this depends on what kind of pickup I put into that rear cavity. If I put in a single coil pickup, I could position it away from the bridge.

By the way, pickups I currently have available are a Seymour Duncan Stratocaster-style single coil pickup, and a DiMarzio humbucker, although I am still on the lookout for others (just in case).

Another thing I have to bear in mind is the scratchplate and/or control plates that the body will need. I have no idea from where this body originated or who made it, but the routing is hardly typical telecaster. All the standard Telecaster-style scratch plates that I have seen (including Custom and Thinline variations) would not suit this body. For example, with a regular Telecaster scatch plate mounted on this body, the routing from the rear pickup to the control cavity would still be uncovered.

Also, that control cavity looks longer than normal, so again, a standard Telecaster metal plate would not be suitable here.

I need to find someone who can cut a custom plate to my own specifications.
Bass Project

The Project: Short-scale bass guitar - Pt 6: Stumbling Block

Continuing to re-attach the hardware, I put the pickup in place, followed by the scratchplate, thumb-rest, and the bridge. I then decided to put the strings on also, so I could see whether or not it was all going to work as it should.
Bass project
Bass project

The strings were very old, flat wound (or tape wound), but that was unimportant; they still highlighted a very serious problem. The action was extremely high.

Looking down the neck I could clearly see that, with the pull of the strings, the neck was as bent as a banana.

So, off came the truss-rod cover, out came the allen keys and having tighted the truss rod as far as it would go...

The neck was still bowed!

Possible solutions:
  1. Replace the bridge with a Fender style one that sits lower down on the body, and which might help decrease the action and make the bowing less pronounced.
  2. Find a new (straight) neck.
Either way, it's going to make this project much more expensive, and I can't see me being able to make my money back. But as it stands, no-one would buy a bass with a bowed neck.

Wednesday 2 October 2002

The Project: Short-scale bass guitar - Pt 5: We can rebuild it!

Putting it back together againUPDATE: Having applied five coats of the All In One finish to both the neck and the body and having built up quite a luxuriant rich-coloured finish, I decided to re-bolt the neck back in place, and have begun to add the hardware, e.g. the machine heads. I would add all the hardware, but am undecided if I want to put the old bridge back on, or whether to buy a new Fender-style bridge (in which case, would I need to fill in the holes for the old bridge?).

It would also have been nice to have added a second pickup such as a jazz bass pickup in the treble position, but this would mean (a) buying the pickup (expensive) and (b) routing a cavity in the body to accommodate it. I think that for this project what I'm going to do is to leave it as a retro-piece, which just the single neck pickup.

One very real problem that I have yet to address is the Big Hole in the front of the control cavity. Someone - a previous owner - had butchered this bass in an attempt to fit a Stratocaster-style recessed jack-plug socket. The only problem being that they couldn't actually fir this inside the control cavity, so they flipped it over so that it wasn't recessed by protruded outwards from the body! What a bodge job.

Needless to say, I do not intend reinstalling this socket. A regular jack socket, mounted flush to the body should do nicely. Only, I have the Big Hole to contend with. So, I suppose I ought to mount the new socket on a plate of some kind. I might be able to buy something, or perhaps cut myself one from a piece of wood and stain it the same colour as the body.

Sunday 29 September 2002

The Project: Short-scale bass guitar - Pt 4: Putting things right

So, the doubts having settled firmly in my mind, I decided to go back to the drawing board, and stripped all the turquoise varnish off the neck. I then tried sanding down the finish I'd given the body, but it just wasn't happening, so I decided to re-apply the Nitro Mors varnish stripper and take it back to the bare wood again.

Re-removing the varnish
Re-removing the varnish

Staining the neck
Staining the neck with Ronseal All In One
Staining the body and the neck (fingerboard masked off with tape)

Then, having sanded the neck until I was happy that it was nice and smooth and that there were no traces of turquoise left, I set to work applying the first layer of Ronseal All In One. I'd chosen a mahogany colour, which darkened the wood to a rich brown. It's so easy to apply, just wipe it in with a cloth. (Rubber gloves are adviseable though, because that stuff is so sticky!) After two hours I applied a second coat. Apparently two coats are all you need, but I think I'll go for at least four layers, because I'd like to build up a really nice finish on this.

When I've sanded down the body again, and got rid of all evidence of the disasterous turquoise finish, then I'm going to use the Ronseal on the body too.

And then it'll be re-build time!

Friday 27 September 2002

Alan Bond's Mandolin Museum and Ukecat Ukulele Museum - lots of photos of weird and wonderful instruments to gawp at.
The electric eukulele! George Formby must be spinning in his grave.

Thursday 26 September 2002

A four and a half - and a third - string bass guitar? Introducing the Step Neck Bass from READ Custom Instruments.
The Bresh Dualette is a double-sided acoustic guitar - classical on one side and steel string on the other - built by Langejans Guitars for guitarist Thom Bresh.

Wednesday 25 September 2002

The Project: Short-scale bass guitar - Pt 3: Changing my mind

I've decided that I really don't like this turquoise finish, and in a mad moment tonight I took the whole lot off the neck using good ol' Nitro Mors once again.

I'm still in two minds about whether or not to re-strip the body too. The problem is that this stain/varnish is nothing like I envisaged. I really wanted a translucent coloured stain, but this turquoise stuff is opaque and the consistency of paint. I may as well just have splashed emulsion all over it. The other problem is that is will not go smooth. There are little lumps and bubbles in it, and drips and brush marks everywhere. Sure, if I coat the whole thing in polyurathane afterwards, and sand that down after several layers I could achieve a nice glossy finish, but will the lumpy surface beneath be hidden beneath the layers of polyurathane or will it be magnified and be made to look worse?

I've bought some sandpaper that is supposed to be good for sanding down between layers of applied paint on a project. I'll try this first and see if I can repair the awful sloppy varnishing. But if it looks bad, or starts taking chunks out back to the wood again, then I'm going to re-strip the whole thing. Again.

And then - after more sanding - I would apply good old Ronseal All In One finish for an oiled natural wood look. Just apply it with a cloth. No fuss, no lumps; just nice and smooth.

I'm certainly going to use All In One for the neck.

This is turning out to be an expensive project, but I may as well get it right, and I should just look at these set-backs as part of a learning curve. Next time I'll know better!

More later.
Guitars (and other instruments) made out of scrap metal. I particularly like the one made out of an old washing machine!
Made out of matchsticks.
Which of these is the World's largest - and supposedly playable - guitar?

Could it be this Stratocaster from J T Hargreaves?

Or how about this outsized heavy metal machine from J K Lado and Company?

The Gibson website suggests that this Flying V is the largest, and it certainly looks it. But is it really playable?
Update: Hendrix's flaming guitar fails to sell which isn't altogether unsurprising.
More italian oddities over at the bizarrely-named Fetish Guitars website.
Wandre guitars - very odd early aluminium necked beasties.
Stig Petersen´s Basses - the fact that they only have 2 strings is one of the less eccentric features of these basses!
Royer's One Man Band featuring the guitar machine. Eric Royer explains it like this:
I invented and built the first Guitar Machine in Tucson in 1994 and since then have built three more versions, each time making it more playable and more portable (for playing on the street, in subways, etc...). The machine, often compared to a Rube Goldberg sculpture, consists of an acoustic guitar, a bass guitar and a cowbell all suspended in a copper pipe frame. I play all three instruments by depressing pedals with both of my feet. There are no computers or anything like that involved, it's all mechanical. The pedals pull strings that cause several different movements on the machine, strings get plucked, capo things go up and down, a golf ball hits the cowbell, the "Pretty Polly" doll dances, etc...

Tuesday 24 September 2002

The Project: Short-scale bass guitar - Pt 2: Stripping the neck and applying stain

Stripping the varnish from the neck was much the same procedure as it had been for the body, only this time I used masking tape to protect the fingerboard. Which turned out to be a waste of time in the eventuality, as the tape just came away when the stripping solution was applied. The varnish stripper I have been using is called Nitro Mors. It's the kind of thing that is used in furniture restoration, and it does its job very well, happily eating its way through lacquer and varnish.

Having let the Nitro Mors do its stuff, I cleaned the neck off with white spirit and set to work on it with sandpaper, and soon obtained quite a satisfactory result. The only fly in the ointment was the total Pig's Ear of a job that someone had made of trying to add their own side dot markers to the top edge of the neck. Crude holes had been drilled straight into the wood of the neck - not even into the side of the fingerboard which would have been understandable - but into the neck itself. These holes had then been badly filled in with white woodfiller or something. A real bodge job. I took a drill to these dot markers and drilled out the white woodfiller, and then used woodfiller of my own (mahogany) which when sanded afterwards made the offending holes much less visible.

Before: the neck and those
offending side-dot markers

Nitro Mors
Nitro Mors...

Varnish removing
...goes to work on the neck

Before: the headstock
The headstock as it was

The headstock being de-varnished
The headstock gets the Nitro Mors treatment

Sanding the neck
Sanding the neck

Reapplying a coloured stain
to the back of the body
and the headstock

The stain was a pain to find. Most shops I tried only seemed to stock wood stains and dyes in woody colours. I wanted a coloured colour. I was thinking blue, green, purple... something like that. Eventually I discovered that in Homebase you could get a base and have the lad in the shop add the colour of your choosing to it. Just what I wanted! So, I chose this turquoise colour. This particular woodstain is supposedly a varnish too, so I'm not sure - yet - what the effects of putting a polyurathane finish on over the top will be (as was my intention).

Having applied the first coat of stain/varnish it struck me that my translucent stained wood effect is not really going to happen. I'll need to put a second coat on, and when that's in place the finish will be opaque. It wasn't quite what I was aiming for, but still has potential to look good.

Monday 23 September 2002

Guitar Project: Encore "Guitarist" model

Encore Guitarist model
I've just received a parcel by courier containing this.

It's an Encore budget model guitar, this version specially commissioned by Guitarist magazine back in the late 1980s (I think... else it may have been the early 90s). This is another "sold as seen" eBay purchase on my part, so whilst the guitar is incomplete, the £21 it cost me hardly broke the bank.

Most obviously it is missing its pickup. That's easily solved. It is also missing two bridge saddles. Again, these are cheap and easy enough to replace. There are two ferrules missing on the machine heads, but a closer inspection reveals that the machine heads are cheap and nasty and most likely wouldn't do a very good job at keeping the guitar in tune, being the single strip open-backed type. Fortunately I'm expecting another eBay win to be arriving shorty - namely a set of machine heads taken off a Squier Strat. Or something like that.

Otherwise the neck is fine, in general good condition with one or two minor knocks. The body is quite tatty and would need refinishing. I couldn't tell what the material was as that black is everywhere - in the pickup cavity, in the control cavity on the back, etc. So, I took the neck off and found an unpainted spot in the neck pocket. Looks like it's MDF or some very dense kind of chipboard! Ho hum! Well, at least that tells me that sanding it down and giving it a clear finish is an unwise move.

So, I'm thinking of ideas for this one as a project. I was toying with the idea of making it into a travel guitar - putting a simple on-board amp and a little speaker into the body in the area between the pickup and neck, but there's only 4 inches to play with there so it might be tight.

But I'm sure we can do something with this beastie.

Another option might be to discard the body altogether, keeping the neck which is the best part of this guitar (it's actually a one-piece neck - that droopy head is not scarfed on - which is unusual coming from a budget instrument).

I have a Telecaster style body arriving soon. Possibly I could marry this neck to that body. It's certainly worth trying out.

Friday 20 September 2002

The Frame Works guitar is a minimalist electro-acoustic that's truly portable.
Is it a bass or is it a guitar? It's the Mobius Megatar. Sorry, but it looks like a rip-off of the Chapman Stick to me.
Dodge Guitars offer the Dodge Convertible, a modular instrument featuring interchangeable middle sections of the body complete with various different pickup formats, whilst MEG - Modular Electric Guitar takes a different approach to the guitar with parts that you can chop and change.
The Synsonics Terminator. Could this be the worst guitar ever? Some of these guys think so! Mind, there are several other contenders for the title over at Cheesy guitars.
The Serial Number Guitar Dater for Fender guitars.

Thursday 19 September 2002

Smarter than the average bearAn acoustic guitar made from a synthetic polymer rather than wood has been built in the UK by Loughborough University PhD designer Owain Pedgley and well-known luthier Rob Armstrong.

Apparently the guitarist Gordon Giltrap is "really impressed with it and has recorded with it, so the instrument's reputation is growing all the while."

Let's hope it's an improvement on this Yogi Bear plastic guitar.
Vox Humana's 18-string bass - where will it all end?
www.12stringbass.com - the URL says it all.
Jackson car guitar - it actually rolls. (From the Jackson archives).
This is one monster bass guitar from Conklin Guitars with twin 7 string necks!

Wednesday 18 September 2002

Ron's Crazy Guitars ... Hhhmmm... I reckon ol' Ron must be seriously disturbed, for these guitars are the stuff of nightmares. (Warning: japanese website).
More spare parts: Brandoni Guitars
The first ever doubleneck?

Monday 16 September 2002

Some useful links for my guitar renovation projects:

The Project: Short-scale bass guitar - Pt 1: Getting rid of the varnish

So, this weekend I visited my local hardware store and bought a bottle of paint and varnish remover, sandpaper, wire wool, white spirit, a brush, plastic sheeting and protective gloves.

I had already removed all the hardware from the body of the bass, although getting the final screw out of the bridge was a challenge because the Philips style head slots had been totally worn away giving my screwdriver nothing to get a purchase on. I fixed that with the aid of my trusty mini drill.

Setting up a wallpaper pasting table in the garden, I set out removing the finish from the body.
Before: the front

Before: the back

Varnish removing
The varnish remover does its stuff

Sanding down the front...

...and those bevelled edges

...the back

...and the sides

The next couple of jobs are stripping down the neck - after all, I really ought to make it so that it matches the body, and applying a new finish.

I'm still not sure what direction to take as regards the new finish. Seeing as I got rid of all the dark red varnish and that the wood is quite light underneath, this means that I can do virtually what I like with it. I quite fancy the idea of finishing the guitar in blue or green. But shall I stain it and then apply a clear coat over the top, or shall I use some kind of oiled finish such as Ronseal's All In One?

Saturday 14 September 2002

The Project: Short-scale bass guitar - Introduction

Not so long ago I bought this bass guitar from eBay. The seller described it thus:
This needs work to make it a playable guitar made around the late 60s in Japan, the model is Avon SG model 3405 ser no 0775, the back plate is missing needs the wiring sorting out, looks like a solid body,with a bolt on neck, so if you fancy sorting this out best of luck.
"Hey, just a bit of wiring," I thought to myself, "I can do that. And it doesn't look too bad in the photos."

Boy, was I in for a shock. When the bass finally arrived (the seller had detached the neck as he was worried it would get broken in the post!) I opened the box and my immediate impression was that I'd been sold a pile of junk. Quite frankly it was not worth my winning bid of £62 - not in the condition it was in. Which, in short, means that it was scratched and beaten up to buggery.

Sure, I could wire it up (on a closer inspection it looks as if the problem may just have been that of the wire from the pickup touching terminals it shouldn't, and shorting them out) and get the damn thing working straight away, but it looks a sight, and if I want to re-sell it, I ain't going to get my money back, let alone make a profit.

So, this was when I decided that I needed to re-finish the instrument. Strip it right down. And while I'm about it, I can change that vile hand-cut plate that the volume and tone knobs are mounted on... Oh, and that upside down Stratocaster style jack socket which is sticking OUT rather than in! What idiot was responsible for that?

Friday 13 September 2002

Design you own guitar: The KISEKAE Telecaster/Stratocaster virtual guitar modelling system. (Scroll down the page to the KISEKAE banner and click).
Rod Clements from Lindisfarne is auctioning off some of his guitars on eBay, and I have been drooling over the pictures of this Ampeg-style Fretless Bass.

Warning: Some of these links may expire soon.

Thursday 12 September 2002

This is just plain silly... The Flamingo guitar which sports multiple necks for electric guitar, banjo, classical guitar and mandolin (as well as a flamingo neck!).
Even more strings... These Harp Guitars are quite fascinating!
...and this Gretsch double-neck six-string bass/guitar is quite tasty too.
Still on the topic of multi-stringed instruments, take a look at the Sympitar which is a standard six-string guitar with 12 resonating (sympathetic) strings running through the neck and down to a bridge set inside the body.

Wednesday 11 September 2002

Pah! Seven string guitars? That's nothing. Introducing the José Ramirez 10-String Guitar.

And here's one from Woodfield Guitars which appears to have an extended fingerboard for the lower four strings. It looks way too complicated.

And if you think that's complicated, take a look at these 14 string guitars belonging to Paul Garthwaite and Michael Bianco, and No - these do not have the strings arranged in pairs (courses) as on a traditional 12 string guitar.

The prize for the most strings (albeit not all on one neck) must surely go to Pat Metheny's Pikasso guitar which sports two soundholes, three necks and forty-two strings in four groups. Unlike double-necked and other multi-necked instruments, this guitar is designed for compositions using all the strings played at once.
Weird Vintage Guitars.com - a private collection for sale by the collector.
Captain Sensible talks about his guitars and other equipment on his gear page over at the official website of The Damned.
www.bunnybass.com - a fabulous bass guitar website. I especially like their Amusing basses galleries; I've seen quite a few contenders on eBay that they could add to the ever growing list.

Tuesday 10 September 2002

Refinishing your solid-body electric guitar by Edward Dijk. Which might be a useful link for an upcoming project of mine (i.e. making a decent bass guitar out of a well thrashed instrument bought "as seen" from eBay).
"Who wants to be a guitar hero?" asks The Independent.
South Africa's oil can guitars - how cool are these?
When Alex Gregory originally came up with the design for a 7-string guitar he intended that it have a high A string, rather than a low B... The True History of the 7 String Electric Guitar.

Eventually, he realised that the world wanted a guitar with extra low frequencies, and after a couple more 7-string prototypes he abandoned the 7-string idea altogether and instead proposed a 5-string tuned in fifths, and thus having a greater range than a 7-string tuned in fourths. And thus was the celloblaster conceieved. See: www.pentasystem.com
Hand carved guitars by Doug Rowell - the things this guy can do with a knife and a basic Fender Stratocaster!

Monday 9 September 2002

Last week I bought this off eBay:
Squier Stagemaster 7
It's a Squier Stagemaster 7 ... basically a souped-up Strat with two humbuckers, 24 fret neck, hardtail bridge, and that all important extra low B-string. I love it!
Now, here's a rather bizarre item... Jam Bass which according to the blurb "is a wafer-thin neck back panel for guitars that duplicates the bottom E and A strings fret by fret, voiced an octave lower like a bass guitar. The strip then plugs into a circuit pack that generates 128 Bass Audio Voices and also generates MIDI control signals!"

Wednesday 28 August 2002

Check out these beautiful steel-bodied guitars from James Trussart Custom Guitars. Now, if only I had a few thousand pounds lying around doing nothing...
Strawberry Alarm Clock's Mosrite guitars. Well wicked.

Hendrix's burnt guitar for sale

Dweezil Zappa and the now legendary Strat

A guitar famously burnt on stage by Jimi Hendrix is likely to become the most expensive guitar ever sold at auction when it is sold in September. Hendrix's Fender Stratocaster Sunburst, thought to be the same instrument that he set fire to at the London Astoria in 1967, is expected to fetch at least £400,000.

He also burned it at the Miami Pop Festival the following year.

Frank Zappa - who was also on the bill at the festival - found and restored the instrument and played it on his 1976 album Zoot Allures before forgetting about it. Zappa's son Dweezil found it in pieces under the stairs at his father's studio, and set about putting it back together. "It's a very inspiring guitar because it has such a unique history, one that can never be recreated," he told BBC News Online. "When I found it taken apart, in 1991, I told my dad I'd found the Hendrix guitar, and he said I should have it. Now I think it's time it should pass on to a new owner."

Hendrix only owned two Sunbursts, and it is thought that this is the one that was torched on the two occasions, according to Ted Owen, of Cooper Owen auctioneers. "All of the Hendrix archivists and all of the books are pointing to the fact that it was originally burnt in 67 at the Astoria and was restored and burnt again in Miami," he told BBC News Online. "It's particularly burnt where the electrics were and the plastic scratch-plate area. The neck is completely burnt."

Hendrix was recently voted the greatest guitarist of all time in a poll of readers of a UK music magazine. He once said: "The times I burnt my guitar it was like a sacrifice. You sacrifice the things you love. I love my guitar."

He is only thought to have set fire to guitars three times - in London, Miami and at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967, which became the most famous torching because it was captured on film. BBC


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