Dilemma

Gear Acquisition Syndrome is a real affliction.

This week a POG2 showed up on my local craigslist.  I have passed on the POG and the POG 2 when I have had past opportunities, but this time it was different.  The in-laws were in town for the holidays and had just given us Christmas money to pick up our own gifts.  They were kind enough to provide just enough to cover the costs of the last bicycle commuting gear I have on my wish list (gloves, booties, fenders).  But this amount would also take a significant chunk out of the prohibitive cost of the POG2 listed on craigslist.  Oh what to do!?!

This was a real dilemma for me because I really want both things.  This is totally selfish and all about me, but we’re talking about Christmas gifts.  And we’re talking about the acquisition of stuff, which I seem to enjoy more than the stuff itself.  Besides, picking your own gifts is about as selfish as you can get (unless you end up buying a Vox Virage with this month’s mortgage payment without telling your spouse, not that I would do anything like that).  The POG2 has been the object of my affection for a while (as shown here, here, here, and here).  My morning commute in the Great Northwest winter rain has made a few of my current bike gear limitations pretty obvious.  So which selfish desire do I fulfill at someone else’ expense?

After comparing these two options to each other, I still couldn’t decide. So I brought in some more variables.  Here is my inner dialogue (yes, I have an inner dialogue, not a monologue).

I am interested in adding a digital delay pedal (Boss DD7), but not as much as the POG2.  I “need” to get some high end Lollar pick ups as the last parts for my Wolverine guitar upgrades (then it will be complete).  I’d rather do that than get the POG2, or would I?  Well, I definitely want the Frenzel amp upgrades (effects loop and additional power tube) for my Super Sportster Champ amp.  Do I want that more than the POG2?  I think I do.  I would use the upgrades to the amp more than the POG2.  I could use the POG2 without the upgrades, but the upgrades would make future use of the POG2 and my existing effects easier.  Plus the additional power tube (with switch) would add volume when I want, as well as allow me to blend different tube configurations (very cool) when I play!  But I really am getting tired of soaked feet when I ride to work.  And plastic grocery sacks only work for so long (I always seem to get a hole in one bag, so I have one soaked foot and one dry foot by the time I get to my destination).  My new jacket really is nice.  This would be my chance to get some other gear upgrades and make my ride even nicer.  But do I really need all the bike gear on my list.  My hands are doing well with just my ski gloves.  And will booties really be necessary if I get full coverage fenders?  How do I find this out without trying fenders before purchasing the other stuff on my bike gear list?  Maybe just one purchase and then go from there.  Of course by the time I figure out the bootie/fender relationship the POG2 will be gone.  But I don’t think I am going to get the POG2 right now.  I’d rather get the amp upgrades and those won’t go away so I can focus on the bike gear question.  Yes, that’s what I’ll do.  Get the fenders.  Try them out.  Decide if I need booties.  Put whatever money doesn’t get spent on bike gear toward the amp upgrades.  This plan is ingenious!

There you have it.  I came to a decision.  Amazing.  I am moving forward.  And I only question/review that decision every couple hours.  And I will continue to question/review that decision until I’ve made the commitment of actually purchasing the fenders.  Then I’ll start agonizing over the next purchase decision point.  Oh the life of a non-committal wanna be.

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Are you musical?

I’m not musical.  Even though I’m trying to play a musical instrument, I’m not musical.  My entire family of in-laws are musical.  We have classically trained singers, violinists, trumpet players, piano players, etc.  Everyone reads music.  Everyone understands music theory.  I do not.

My wife and I talked everyone into playing “real rock band.”  You’re all familiar with the video game.  Well, we teach a group of people a song (usually Seven Nation Army (the new Smoke on the Water)) on guitar, bass, drums, vocals.  Then we play it as a band and usually by the fifth time through it actually sounds like a song!  I’ve mentioned this before in past posts.  Most of our friends are not musically inclined and we really dumb it down (even more than I need it dumbed down for myself).  They come away knowing a little more about what goes into playing music and that it isn’t some unreachable group on a stage.  It really is “real rock band.”

Anyway, my in-laws all got instruments and microphones.  I explained it twice.  We listened to the song once.  And then they played it.  I had to yell out the changes, but they played the song.  It was really cool and they had a lot of fun!

But it reminded me that music is music. Whether you are singing opera, show tunes, rock and roll, or blues, it is all music.  If you are good at one, you can get a quick grasp of another style because it is all music.  Admittedly you may not master a different style of music, but you will probably pick it up faster.  They certainly did!

Which reminds me of the “lead singer” in my law school band.  He was a show tunes guy.  He had toured the world with a show tunes choir of some sort.  He was really good.  But when he joined us, he turned on the Axl Rose scream and shout.  He had pipes!  It was hilarious and great fun.  His wife hated it because it was going to ruin his voice, but he dropped out of law school to become a dentist.  That was the beginning of the end for the law school band.

So back to more important things.  Me.  I am not musical.  I am a fan of music, but I am not musical.  Everything I learn is a struggle.  Everything I play is usually off….off tempo or out of tune or just off.  I don’t put in the time to become musical.  Because it really is practice.  Maybe I will become more and more musical over time, but at this point I am not.  I am a true wanna be, but I have fun.  I really do enjoy it!

What’s your damage!?!

The other day I was cleaning up my office space in preparation for the in-law’s holiday visit.  I moved my newly made speaker cabinet from the floor to the top of the bookshelf when I noticed that the dust cap didn’t look right.

I looked at it closer.  It was pushed in with a big dimple.  My stomach fell.  I was panicked. I went online and searched fixes.  Some forums talked about using a toilet paper roll and sucking.  Others talked about using a vacuum.  I tried both, but they were talking about tweeters and this was a 12 inch guitar speaker that none of these things would fit.

I expressed my sorrow to my wife (that’s the nice way of saying I whined) and how I blamed myself for putting it on the floor where my two year old could explore with his stubby fingers.  She looked at it as I tried different remedies gleaned from the internet.  After no success I started looking for more.  She started to poke and prod the dust cap, turned to me, and said, “There.  It’s back to it’s original form.”

I was amazed.  She fixed it.  Thanks!

Pri-or-i-tize

The title of this entry is to be read like Cartman saying “Respect my AUTHORITY!”

That’s right.  I need to PRIORITIZE.

So everytime I sit down to blog about guitars I will ask myself a few questions.

  1. Should I be studying for my fencing instructor exam?
  2. Could I actually be playing the guitar right now?

I did that earlier today when I sat down to write about some other guitar oriented thing.  I should have been studying, but I had studied already in the morning.  Then I realized that it was post dinner and pre-bath, so the kids were awake, but did not need immediate attention.  So I plugged in and played along to two songs that my work band played.  Gouge Away took a quick listen to get the timing right on the “solo” parts, but was a nice warm up.  Then I tried I Know What I Am by the Band of Skulls.  I have never figured out the chorus for that one.

I tried to play through it, but failed miserably.  Then I focused on just the verse.  Easy.  It is all D5.

Next came the chorus.  I couldn’t get it, so I moved on to the end.  As always, a straight forward group of power chords.  Gotta love it!

I went back to the chorus and googled the guitar tab.  I found a lot of different interpretations of this song.  Obviously the one I had used originally was not right about the chorus.  It just didn’t sound right.  Then I found a bass tab that seemed right on.  I played the root note that the bass tab wrote out.  It was a simple A and E over and over until it ended the chorus on B.  Of course!  That’s it!  So I played along with the song and nailed it (well, to my ears anyway).

I started on the solo, but then it was bath time for the kids.  I put everything away quickly and washed hair.

Now I’m back on the computer and have asked myself these two questions again.  I should be studying.  That one’s going to be answered with a yes through February.  I could use headphones to play, but I won’t.  In the future, I will be less likely to blog and more likely to study.  I need to re-prioritize things in life.  I’ve taken on some challenges that need to be the focus right now. It is a bit daunting to re-prioritize life, so I’m starting with just these two things.  There are other things that are more important, but I’m starting with where blogging fits first.  Family, friends, work, church, scouts, etc. also have to be prioritized (and will probably end up being in that order), but I’m starting small.

My family is still the main focus, so the next things I need prioritize are the things that show my family that they are the main focus.  Bath time may seem mundane, but it is a priority because it is for the family (not to mention anyone the kids interact with tomorrow!).

I find myself escaping too easily into this blog and other guitar oriented things that don’t actual improve my playing or detract from things that are more important than guitars.  If you go back through past blogs (but why would you, I don’t), you’ll see this is a common theme.  But today I really do see a need to change.  And I have actually changed my behavior today.  I will not be so focused on getting a blog entry each day.   I will focus on my top priorities in life.  And right now, blogging is below a lot of these.

 

Another project

I have another project on the back burner.  I got two 12 inch guitar speakers via an old craigslist posting that I thought was closed.  Apparently the original purchaser never showed up…multiple times.

So now that I’ve made one guitar speaker cabinet for a single 12 inch, I’m looking forward to building another one.  Only this time, I will add a switch so it can be changed from a series to a parallel speaker configuration.  Pretty cool…someday!

Folsom Prison Blues cover

I watched Brandi Carlile on Austin City Limits cover Folsom Prison Blues and it was fantastic.  The guitar and fiddle “battle” was great to watch.

The rest of the episode was fun to watch.  Especially Rosanne Cash’s back up singer and guitarist, John Leventhal.  His telecaster had a great looking maple neck and a well worn, but loved mini-humbucker pick up in the neck position.  I  must admit, I really just watched the episode to see the guitars.  I was not disappointed.

Multi-media book reading

I went to a multi-media book reading at the Olympia Library the other night.  The book was “Destroy All Movies!!! The Complete Guide to Punks on Film.”  This book reviews over 1100 movies with punks in them.  The two primary authors read excerpts of movie reviews and then local band White Boss played.  In between the reading and the band, they showed a 15 minute compilation of these movies.

The audience was mostly unbathed local scensters who love punk…a very strong counter culture here.  There was a lot of jokes and the entire audience was in good spirits.  The weather was really bad and the power flickered on and off numerous times, requiring the movie compilation to be restarted.  But like I said, the audience was very forgiving and had fun with it all!

By the time the band played the power appeared to have stabilized.  White Boss looked frayed.  Their clothes were worn and dirty.  Like most everyone there, they were rough around the edges.  Their drummer’s kit was tiny and well worn.  Their speaker cabinets, PA, bass amp, etc. were all covered in duct tape.  I have nothing wrong with any of these things, but it was almost stereotypical how DIY they appeared.  And then they brought out two brand new, gleaming Mesa Boogie Mark V heads to put on top of the beat up speaker cabinets.

What!?!

Maybe it was just me, but these two amp heads stood out like my blue Mountain Hardware Dragon soft shell jacket stood out in the audience of torn and dirty jean, leather, and army jackets.  The band started into their first song.  It was hardcore screaming/roar, but the drummer was this awesome diminutive lady that pounded the skins hard!  She drove the band.  It was great to see.

Thank you local library system for putting together great free community events like this one!

Blue Prints for 1×12 speaker cab

Alright, this is a long post, but here are the drawings I made for an open back 1×12 guitar speaker cabinet after reading a lot online about how to make one.

I did not follow this plan exactly.  These drawings assume I was going to use a dove tail joint for the four corners.  Unfortunately my friend who had the tools didn’t have the right size jig for this project, so we ended up using a biscuit joint.  This meant that the top and bottom boards were 16 inches across, but the left and right side boards were only 14.5 inches across.  I used a standard 1 inch by 12 inch by 6 foot whitewood (hopefully pine) board that I got at my local hardware store.  I went through everything they had and this one was the least warped or cupped.  After finishing this box I agree with all those comments on the internet about the importance of finding a straight piece of wood.  It is painful to make a square box with a bent, warped, or cupped piece of wood.

You’ll also notice that my drawings adjust for the real dimensions of the wood I was using.  That 1x12x6 board is actually 3/4 inches thick and really about 11 1/4 inches wide.  But it really was 6 feet long.  Thanks to all the people on the internet who posted this warning!

I would also recommend going with a harder piece of pine because this whitewood stuff is pretty soft.  My local hardware store had two kinds of boards.  I didn’t go with the harder, straighter, and smaller grain pine that was three times more expensive because I was afraid I would screw this project up and have to start over.  Might as well ruin cheap wood first, right?

I did get 7 ply, half inch birch for the baffle which I am happy with.  I got some “hardwood” 3/4 inch square by 36 inch wood for the cleats and that seemed to work well.  Finally, I got 1/4 inch birch ply for the back.  I was concerned about weight, but in hindsight I think I would’ve saved some money and just used some leftover 1/2 inch birch ply for the back.  Also, after putting the box together, it wasn’t a perfect square on the inside, so the baffle actually measures 14 7/8 by 14 1/2 inches instead of 14 1/2 by 14 1/2 inches.

Once I had all the wood, I measured everything and cut it.  It is important to label things so the grain of the wood lines up and you keep putting things together in a way that the front remains the front and the back remains the back.  My friend with the tools and workshop also used staples to hold everything together while the glue dried.  After the glue dried we used a 1/2 inch router bit to round all the outside edges of the box.  I used screws and glue to attach the cleats in place.  I used screws with finishing washers (like cars use) for attaching the baffle and back pieces to the cleats.  For any beginners out there (like myself), it is very important to predrill holes for the screws.  Use a drill bit that is smaller than the screw diameter.

I haven’t made the grill cloth cover.  I want to make it using cane, but we shall see.

And just because I found this advice on the Telecaster Guitar Forum (tdpri.com) to be the most helpful, I am republishing it.  I hope the author, Rob DiStefano, doesn’t mind:

IMO, the recipe for a good cab involves either 3/4″ solid pine (for a lightweight and resonant box) or 3/4″ birch ply (for a heavy and rugged cab that’s definitely less resonant). I prefer cabs that are uncovered, just stained and clear coated – again, to maximize wood resonance. The actual box dimensions aren’t that important, IMO – I prefer using 12″ wide (11-1/4″ actual) 3/4″ pine boards, and the finished cab width and height are at best arbitrary. A “floating” baffle is a good way to hang the speaker(s), using a pair of 3/4″ hardwood baffle cleats – I like stout 1/2″ birch ply baffles, some folks like more flexible 3/8″ ply baffles. I add a front 1/4″ baffle ply frame and a full grille (cloth is nice but wicker cane is wicked good!). You can seal off the cab, but I much prefer an airy open back, YMMV.

And his list of what he gets and does for a build:

cab box – clear (or knotted), low cupped, straight pine – 3/4″ x 11-1/4″
cab back panels -1/4″ birch or oak ply
baffle cleats – 3/4″ square red oak
rear panel cleats – 3/4″ square pine
speaker baffle – 1/2″ birch or oak ply, 7 or 5 ply
cleat screws – #8 1-1/4″ pan head + #10 washer
rear panel screws – #8 3/4″ pan head -or- recessed washer screws
speaker screws – 8/32 s/s machine screws 1-1/2″ + nuts

You’ll also need to consider …

– grille cloth or cane or metal
– matte back paint for the baffle front
– handle
– feet
– corners (maybe)
– covering and/or finish
– speaker(s), wiring, jack

And, what tools you have and how proficient you are with ’em.

My typical cab schedule is like this …

Label the boards for the dovetail process
Dovetail all four boards
Assemble the box – dot of yellow glue in each dovetail joint
Fill in an wood voids and cracks with wood paste
Sand dovetail EDGES with 80-100 grit belt sander
Roundover all external cab edges
Sand dovetails and sides with finishing sander, 120 & 220 grit
Measure/cut 1/4″ rear panels, 1/2″ speaker baffle (handle panel optional)
Stain and clear coat cab and panels
Install leather handle
Cut 1/4″ ply speaker baffle framing
Build baffle board: cut hole(s), glue framing, paint flat black
Clear coat the back of the baffle – only when covering w/cane
Layout and install four 8/32″ s/s speaker machine screws
Cover baffle with wicker cane or cloth
Soak cane grille for 45 minutes in hot water (not the cloth!)
Staple cane or cloth to baffle (allow to cane to dry and shrink)
Measure cleats: 3/4″ in for baffle, 1/2″ in for panels
Screw the pre-drilled 3/4″ oak baffle cleats (3 screws)
Drill jack hole in upper panel – 3/8″ bit
Assemble jack into 1/4″ rear panel, solder leads
Screw the pre-drilled 3/4″ pine back panel cleats
Install rubber feet
Screw speaker to the four baffle screws
Screw baffle to cleats – #8 1-1/4″ screws + #10 washer
Solder speaker leads & screw in top panel

I didn’t sand or fill anything before I put it together (See pics here).  I had limited time with my friend’s tools and shop.  I’ll finish (as in filling and sanding) on my own time in my own garage.  I will say now that I’ve got it all together, it will be hard to take it apart and not have it while I finish it!

Loud

It wasn’t late in the evening, but I turned my amp up loud and I began to play!

For a single EL34 power tube, it gets very loud!  My wife hopped on the drums and I made the kids put on their headphones for ear protection.  I then turned it up!

It was great!  I started with just turning up the master volume, then I turned up the gain for each input as I switched between the F and M inputs.  Then I played with my pedals at wonderfully loud volumes.  It was great fun and will certainly keep up with the drums.  Thanks to the family for joining me on my journey to test this new speaker cabinet.

Over the next few days I’ll try to scan in my blue prints and the build steps in case anyone else out there wants to give it a try.

It Works!

It works!  It actually works!

I assembled my speaker cabinet today!  It is not the most beautiful piece of woodwork.  In fact, I haven’t even sanded it yet.  But I wanted to see if it would actually fit together and make the desired noises.

It does!

Admittedly I only played it at post-children-in-bed low-master-volume levels, but it sounds pretty good!  Not too bass heavy.  Not too ice-picky.  But what amazes me most is that it actually works!

I put the baffle on the box with six screws and finishing washers, then put in the speaker in with four nut and bolt sets.

Next I soldered some standard speaker wire from the jack to the speaker.  I thought about using clips to connect to the speaker, but the used speaker already had solder on the tabs.   So I cleaned it, added new solder, and hooked everything together.  If you ever do this, remember to put a towel or something down to protect the speaker from any splashes of hot solder or slips of the wrist with the hot soldering iron. It would be bad to ruin a speaker.

Then I attached the back panels and the jack to the top back panel.

Now that it was all assembled, I just had to plug the speaker cable from the amp to the cabinet and turn on the amp.

I left the amp in standby for a long time.

I then flipped the switch from standby to on and heard a pop.

Then nothing. No hiss.  No fuzz.  Nothing.

I hit a chord on my guitar and slowly turned up the amp’s master volume.  Within milliseconds there was sound coming from the speaker.

I muted the strings and it was quiet again.  I hit a single note and it sang.  I played a quick progression.  All the strings rang out.  I played a blues riff and bent some notes.  They all came out of the new speaker cabinet through the powers of glorious amplification!

Now I still need to take it all apart, sand, and finish the box, but at least I know it works.  At least I know it will make sound when I reassemble it in its finished form!