Monday 30 September 2002

Cartoon time! Presenting Jackson's "The Simpsons" guitar and Gibson's "Beavis and Butthead" doubleneck.

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? - 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 - 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. - 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:
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!"


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