Sunday 24 June 2018

The Piglet guitar build project, part 14

Moving on to assembly, which meant much measuring...

...drilling of holes...

...and even more measuring!

In the picture above we are determining the optimum position for the bridge before screwing it into place permanently. I had created a crude but effective device from some offcuts which is effectively a temporary tailpiece clamped to the rear-end of the guitar. This allowed us to align the bridge with the outer E-strings in place and ensure that both were going to be the correct distance away from the edge of the neck. With the strings taut we were able to make precise movements to the placing of the brdge until happy with it and then we marked the positions of the five holes where it is to be screwed down.

Unfortunately mistakes will happen, and gettting confused about which holes we were drilling - the screw holes or the strings-through-body holes - we managed to drill one of the screw holes right through the body. A silly mistake but all part of the learning curve. We'll worry about disguising this later. (Hey, at least it's on the back of the guitar!) As you can see we also drilled the holes for the strings to pass through the body and for the ferrules to be inserted.

Next we mounted the electrics, which basically means the volume control and putting the pickup into position which will be screwed down more permanently once we have all the strings on so we can align up the pole-pieces. Thankfully the pickup routing allows for some movement to let us do this.

Gunner hard at work doing a preliminary set-up on the guitar; in this picture he's filing the nut slots.

Gunner commented on how easily the guitar intonated. Reckon all those precise measurements paid off.

Here I am having a little test play. First impressions are that it feels good.

We spent a while assessing the balance of the guitar before attaching the strap buttons. Hangs quite nicely on a strap. Is quite a heavy guitar, maybe 10lbs or so at a guess, but then it is quite big and is mainly solid poplar. Just as well I put in quite a few tone chambers or else it'd be heavier!

Here's a photo of where we've got to at the moment. It's not quite finished yet. The output jack is not yet wired up, and I still need to attend to the truss rod cover (I did have one but it split when trying to screw it into place). But we're allowing it to settle in for a while before giving it another set-up, just picking it up occasionally for a little unplugged play.

The next post should be the final one in this series. I hope to include some video footage.

G L Wilson

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Friday 22 June 2018

Stunning Rare 1983 Burns Bandit Guitar


Sorry that I've not been here lately. Life has been busy, and that's good, but it leaves me little time to find cool guitars to share here.

This Burns Bandit needed to be showcased.

We've looked at the bandit a long time ago here but I had forgotten that the pickups were controlled with push-button selectors. I only remember this concept on late 1980s Ibanez guitars.

This Bandit is in great shape and it's the perfect shade of green.

The only thing keeping this rare beauty out of my hands is the listed price of over $5000 Canadian

R.W. Haller

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Tuesday 19 June 2018

The Piglet guitar build project, part 13

At the end of the previous installment I said that all there was left to do was the final assembly. However, I'd forgotten about installing the colour-changing LEDs in the eyes. Here in the photo we see the piggy undergoing eye surgery. I was incredibly nervous about this stage of the build because I'd be drilling through the decals beneath the clear coat finish and I was concerned about inadvertantly destroying the decals in the process.

The pupils in the eyes of the pig each have two small white discs, which I assume are meant to represent reflections. I took some time trying to decide which of the two I should install the LEDs in. I went for the lower "reflections" in the end as each of these discs is smaller than those uppermost, and are more in keeping with the size of the LEDs which have black rubber surrounds which would look weird against the white of the larger discs.

However, when I was putting some protective tape around the areas to be drilled (as seen above) I very nearly selected the upper white disc in one eye and the lower disc in the other. I was so glad that I caught my mistake because the pig would have ended up looking cross-eyed and it would have bugged me forever after.

The holes drilled were 6mm in diameter - easily big enough for the LEDs - but installing them with the black rubber surrounds in place was a complete nightmare. It was a very tight fit, and in the end I had to cut away some of the lugs of the surrounds so as to be able to squeeze them in.

At last the LEDs are in. Hurrah! They are colour-changing LEDs, not flashing because that would be annoying, but rather they slowly cycle through a range of colours. Above we see the piggy with a red glint in its eyes.

And here, above, we see the LEDs have turned green.

Here in this next couple of photos I am gluing the LEDs battery box to the cover plate. This is basically a Stratocaster-style tremolo spring cavity cover.

You'll see that I have drilled a hole in it to access the on-off switch for the LEDs.

Here's the cover screwed into place over the LED cavity. I'm aware that it'll be a bit of a pain to remove six screws in order to change the batteries and then of course put them all back again, but I'm hoping that the batteries don't need changing too often. If it does become a pain, I might have to devise a better system.

Finally in this installment, here's a video of the LED eyes doing their colour changing thing!

G L Wilson

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Monday 18 June 2018

The Piglet guitar build project, part 12

Following on from part 11, with the artwork now applied, the piglet was ready to be clear coated. I tried hanging the guitar body up to spray it but I found that the Rustoleum clear spray that I was using didn't want to come out in a mist like the colours I'd used had, and thus it was causing lots of drips. I then lay the body flat on a piece of polysterene to spray the front, but when it had dried I discovered a clear rectangular imprint of where the polystyrene block had been positioned on the back, and so I had to sandpaper away the offending shape before re-spraying once again. I had a problem in that I wanted to spray the guitar body lying flat, but I didn't want to have to rest it on top of  anything, so I came up with the idea of cantilevering the body over thin air, which effectively meant very carefully clamping the makeshift handle (screwed to the body in the neck pocket) to my workbench (see photo above).

Here we see the piglet in the sunshine after having had several coats of clear applied and having been left to dry and harden for a couple of days.

I couldn't help attaching the neck and positioning some key components upon the body so as to get a better idea of what the finished guitar is going to look like.

Here we see the piglet out in the sunlight again, but now the body has been wet and dry sanded through the grits and has been buffed up to a nice shiny surface using rubbing compound. Unfortunately in this photo we don't really get an idea of the smoothness of the finish.

However this photo of the back of the guitar gives a much better impression of the smoothness of the finish.

And on this later photo taken inside the conservatory you can clearly see reflections from the windows on the surface of the piggy.

I spent a few days getting the headstock sorted out with a logo and a clearcoat. My first attempt was a failure - probably because I didn't spray an initial clear coat onto the surface before applying the water slide transfer - so I ended up stripping it back again and doing it all over again. Clear coat, then apply the transfer, then three more clear coats and leave a couple of days to harded before sanding and shining up using more of that magic rubbing compound. And, as you'll notice in the photo above, I also mounted the machine heads.

Again, with the neck in place, here's how the piggy is looking.

All that is left to do now is the final assembly. I'm going to wait a few days before doing this as I need a helping hand from my partner in crime on this venture, as we're going to be doing things such as positioning the bridge and lining it up accurately. Two heads are much better than one when doing important fine measurements.

Hopefully this little piggy will be ready for our next batch of gigs.

G L Wilson

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Thursday 7 June 2018

The Piglet guitar build project, part 11

Picking up from where we left off last time, here I have painted in the outline of the piglet, using the carbon lines as a guide. Finally we're getting to see what this little piggy is going to look like, and that it isn't just some weird random-shaped pink blob.

I couldn't resist putting the neck into the pocket to give a better idea of the proportions of the whole guitar.

After waiting several days for the dry rub-off decal paper I'd bought to arrive in the post, this morning I was busy printing off the more detailed parts of the pig's features.

I printed spare copies but try as I might I just couldn't get on with that decal paper. Today must have been the most frustrating part of this entire guitar build to date. I mean, I thought some of the sanding between coats of the finish was hard going, but this damned dry rub-off decal paper had me tearing my hair out.

Somehow, probably more through luck than judgement, I did manage to get three piece of transfer onto the guitar - one ear and both sets of trotters. I tried the snout and the eyes but after wasting about half a day and nearly half of my decal paper supply, I decided to abandon that approach and look for another method to realise the piggy's features.

Luckily I remembered that I still had some sheets of water-slide transfer paper. I had previously used some of this on a cigar box guitar build and recalled it being relatively easy to use. So I set the printer back to work, printing out the piglet's features all over again. It was just as well I'd bought and installed new printer cartridges, considering the amount of toner I was getting through.

Water-slide transfer paper requires being sprayed with a couple of coats of varnish before it can be applied, so while I was waiting for that to dry I set to work painting the various areas of shading around the outside of the pig's body so as to create a three-dimensional effect. Note the areas to the back of the legs, the belly, the jaw, the edges of the ears, etc.

Finally I got to apply those water-slide transfers and they went on very nicely indeed. It took me a few minutes arranging the pig's eyebrows so as to give him (her?) the correct friendly expression but I think I got it about right. It had started getting dark by the time this photo was taken, so it is a little pixellated, but I think you get the idea.

It's really taking shape now. Next job will be to start the clear-coating.

G L Wilson

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Tuesday 5 June 2018

Gibson Grabber Bass copy by Melody

If any of you still regularly tune into Guitarz these days, you may have noticed that when I'm not posting about piglet-shaped guitars, that more often than not my attention will be on basses. There's a good reason for this as some might call me a "born again bassist". But yes, this is where my main interest lies as the bass is what I like playing the best.

Now, moving on to the matter in hand, although we have looked at the Gibson Grabber bass before on this blog, what we have here is a cheaper copy which I'd imagine was contemporaneous to the Gibson Grabber itself, produced between 1973 to 1983. (I can't imagine that copies were being produced after the real deal had ceased production, but you never know). My feelings are that this particular example would have been produced in the latter end of that period, probably more towards the beginning of the 1980s. This gut feeling is mainly based on the headstock logo, a stylised letter "M" which does have a distinct 1980s vibe to it and which replaced the "Melody Guitars" italic script as seen on earlier examples.

Of course, the Grabber was famous for - and named after - its single sliding pickup, which admittedly doesn't have a lot of travel, and on this copy the sliding pickup is all present and correct and seems to be working properly. In the above two photographs we see the pickup in its forward and rear positions respectively.

The metal pickup cover does appear that someone may have painted it at some point, or else removed paint from the upper surface which is now bare metal whereas the sides show scrappy black paintwork. The pickguard itself seems to be made out of... well, I want to call it bakelite; it has all the appearance and texture of that very dense black proto-plastic as famously used for the manufacture of 1950s-style dial telephones.

Here's that Flying V style headstock with the 1980s-style "M" for Melody logo.

The bass is very heavy. The neck and fingerboard are Maple, and I suspect that the body is likewise. The neck is chunky and highly reminiscent of a baseball bat. Scale length is a un-Gibson-like 34", but the fact that they were playing around with several bolt-on neck designs during that whole period was another un-Gibson-like characteristic. Underneath the cover (often removed and thrown away) the bridge is a 2-saddle affair reminiscent of the Fender '51 Precision/Tele-bass style.

But of course, this isn't a Gibson, it's a Melody.

Melody were actually an Italian guitar manufacturer, and had affiliation with Eko guitars. For some history the company, I couldn't tell it any better than, so pop on over there and have a little read up!

However, this is one of Melody's later range of guitars and basses when they moved away from original designs and got onto the whole copy guitar bandwagon, that era of instrument production often erroneously referred to as "lawsuit" guitars. It's also highly doubtful that this is an Italian-made Melody. It's much more likely this is a Melody branded instrument originating in Japan (Dare I say "Matsumoku"? I don't know, but I have seem that name bandied about on forums discussing Melody guitars). Identical guitars and basses from the same production line would also have been badged up with other brand names. Grabber basses such as this were also offered with Aria, Avon, Cimar, MIA and Eagle branding.

I'm lucky to have been given this bass by a friend, a dealer who got it as part of a job-lot of guitars he was buying. It needs some cleaning and some TLC. The action isn't too horrendous and hopefully it can be tweaked to make it more playable. The pickup seems to work fine but I had trouble differentiating between the tone of the pickup in its different positions; admittedly I haven't trialled the bass properly through my gigging bass rig yet, I merely used a practice amp to check it was working. Pots are scratchy, but you'd expect that on an old instrument like this. The E-tuner is a bit dodgy too. If this bass looks like a keeper, I'll consider swapping the machine heads for something more modern and more reliable. (Note also, by the way, the different size screw-head on the rear of the tuners in the above photo. Looks like some tinkering has taken place).

And of course, the finish could be cleaned up as well, which shouldn't be too great a problem.

All in all, a very interesting piece, and very nice for a freebie.

G L Wilson

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Sunday 3 June 2018

The Piglet guitar build project, part 10

Having painted the final coat of pink on the front of the guitar, leaving to dry for a few days and on removing the masking tape, I found that the line around the top where it had been masked off was mostly very sharp.

However, there were one or two areas where the pink had bled under the tape. Not a big problem, relatively easy to fix.

More annoying was that the pink spray paint had got right underneath the guitar and onto areas which I hadn't thought would be necessary to mask off.

This meant having to sand back the entire rear of the guitar again, which was a job I thought I'd already done for the last time.

After a light sanding of the pink paint on the front of the guitar, the piglet is ready to have the graphics applied.

Time to get out the original paper template (which I used to cut out the shape of the piglet earlier on in the project) and to tape it in position onto the front of the body.

Then with a sheet of carbon paper placed beneath the template I used a pencil to trace the outline and features of the cartoon pig onto the body top.

Just checking the image is transferring correctly.

Here we see the finished transfer of the image.

Next up will be to paint in the outline. The eyes, ears, snout and trotters are going to be applied using dry rub off transfers, which I will align to the carbon markings pictured above.

G L Wilson

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Please read our photo and content policy.


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