Collings & Dusty Strings

A quick hop, skip, and a jump from my work is a great guitar shop call Dusty Strings. On one of my lunch breaks I made a quick trip to check out the National Resolectric I saw online.

The National wasn’t what I had hoped for, but I did see a lot of great guitars. Namely this Collings SoCo LC!

Collings SOCO LC

What a great instrument! I liked it a lot, but it is a semi-hollow body guitar and I am looking for the lighter full hollow body guitars like my Fender Coronado II or the 1964 Guild Starfire III measuring stick.

But there are some absolutely gorgeous instruments being made in this world. We can’t have all of them, but we can try to get exposed to as many of them as possible.

So a big thank you to Collings for making a great instrument and an even bigger thank you to Dusty Strings for a great shop and for providing those wonderful opportunities.

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Practice Amp

I’ve been watching Craigslist for a while and a Matrix amp came up. It looked pretty good with hi and low inputs, phones out, line out, reverb footswitch, master volume, 10 inch speaker, etc. So I got it for pretty cheap and cleaned it up.

matrix amp

The insides are pretty straight forward, I think. It has a slight hum that gets louder with the treble knob. I cleaned all the pots.

matrix amp insides

Then I put it all together and added it to her little set up. Fun stuff!

starter set up

Hear Me

When my daughter was young, she had a pediatric cardiologist. You don’t want your new born to have their own pediatric cardiologist, no matter how nice the doctor is. On one particularly nerve racking visit for us new parents, our daughter’s doctor was explaining to us all the tests they were doing on our child and what the results were. While any parent would be freaked out as he described the nuances of the sound of her heartbeat and the slight changes in tone as the blood went where it was supposed to and where it wasn’t supposed to, all we could think about was how awesome his home stereo must be with ears that good.

Guitar for Worship (now Karl Verkade Music) recently posted about how he sold all his boutique pedals and still makes music that sounds good. He wasn’t criticizing the expensive boutique pedals. He has just moved on with how he makes music. So is it the ear, the equipment, or the artist? And is listening an art?

Guitar Parts

I went through my work bench, gathering up all the parts I have accumulated and came up with this.

Project Guitar Parts

That’s right. Four complete guitars…that just need a “little” work. A bolt on neck Les Paul knock off. An real live parts-caster with a MIM Fender Neck and a starcaster body. A Peavey T-15 body and a Hondo neck. And a beginner diy tele with guitar fetish neck. Where do all these parts come from? All I need are two tuning machines and a bridge. Everything else is good to go.

So I’ll be getting to work on these in my limited free time and maybe get them in the hands of friends and family (or even strangers) so they get played. I’m pretty good with what I’ve got right now.

Fretboard Conditioning

I’ve been meaning to replace the strings on my Warmoth project guitar for a while now. And when I actually broke the high E string, it seemed like the perfect reason to condition and clean the ebony fretboard and throw on a new set of strings.

When I took off the strings the nut came off too. This is one of those Tusq nuts and came with the Warmoth thurnderbird style guitar neck I have on the Warmoth strat body. The three spots of glue had stopped working at some point and were totally crystalized.

ebony fretboard

Sorry for the lame picture, but I must of deleted the other ones I took. Anyway, I used a polishing cloth and the edge of a credit card type… well, uh, card from some retailer membership club to clean the grime off the fretboard. It was nice to see I’m putting some wear and tear on the fretboard. Better than a pristine neck that isn’t getting used! But even after cleaning it, you can still see where I play the most. The stainless steel frets are doing wonderfully well and don’t need to be polished (unlike all the frets on almost all my other guitars).

Then I got some sandpaper and an exacto knife to take the glue residue off the nut and nut slot on the neck. That went fairly quickly, but I moved slowly so I wouldn’t damage anything. And since I had the guitar strings off I started looking for the graph tech bridge pieces I had picked up over a year ago. And I couldn’t find them. I actually ended up taking everything out of my work bench and then putting it all back together. I was so frustrated with having lost those bridge pieces and spent so much time looking for them that I put a few dabs of wood glue on the nut and strung up my guitar…without conditioning the fretboard!

I’ll wait a few weeks (or months) to replace the strings and try to remember to condition the fretboard then. And thanks to a recent article I read, this time I’ll use a tooth brush to work the oil into the fretboard instead of just spreading some on, letting it soak in a bit, and then using a paper towel to remove the excess. I’ll probably still have to remove excess, but it sounds like a good idea to me!

Maybe I’ll even find those graph tech bridge pieces by then.

Pedal Repair

I mentioned a while ago that my first gen BBE Green Screamer was acting up. And when I got an Electro Harmonix LPB-1 Boost I took the BBE Green Screamer off my board. The BBE Green Screamer has been sitting on my shelf of stuff to fix for a while and I finally sat down to figure out what was wrong with it.

I plugged it into my guitar and amp and got nothing. No power. The 9V DC power plug wasn’t working. I then put a 9V battery in and the blue light came on and off when I hit the footswitch. Good sign. I then hooked up my guitar and then plugged into my amp. Nothing. I turned the pedal off. Beautiful noise. I turned it back on. Nothing.

I’m no expert, but something was wrong.

So what do you do with a malfunctioning effect pedal? You go to the internet.

Gear Drone provides a nice overview of what to do.

geofex has a nice break down of all the different things that can go wrong and how to fix it. It isn’t complete, but it is helpful.

I started with looking the pedal up online and found a schematic on DIY guitarist…too bad I don’t know what I’m doing otherwise I’m sure this would be very helpful. Next I used the tapping approach. I used a wooden chopstick to poke stuff while everything was plugged in. Nothing.

I then tried resoldering every joint that didn’t look shiney. There were a lot of them.

What I should’ve done was us my volt/ohm/whatever meter to see where the current did and didn’t go (again, this is where the schematic above would be helpful if I knew what I was doing). But I got lucky. Turns out I have a faulty footswitch. The two lugs for connecting the output from the circuit board to the output jack did not connect when the footswitch was turned on. This would explain why nothing comes out when the pedal is engaged. The input and the led indicator light lugs on the footswitch did work.

InsideGreenScreamer

Thankfully I had a 3PDT footswitch lying around from a past project I didn’t finish. I tested the replacement first and all 9 lugs worked appropriately when switched on and off. So I took pictures of the inside of the pedal before I made any changes…which is good because when I got the old footswitch out, I couldn’t remember exactly which wire went where. I was able to reference the original picture.

Replacement3PDT

It isn’t as pretty as it was before, but it now works! And the power issue is magically gone too…or it could be my awesome fixing skills. Probably magic. Woohoo for magic!

And sometime in the future, I’ll try fixing the old switch following this instructables.

So I put it all back together and it still works. I really like the combination of my Boss SD-2 Dual Overdrive and Electro Harmonix LPB-1 boost, but now I want to get this thing back on my board. It has a different flavor than the current two pedals and I am very curious how it interacts with the LPB-1 boost. But that is for a different blog entry.

Starcaster tryout pt 2

The burst Fender Starcaster my local guitar shop got in a few weeks ago sold quickly…and not to me. But they got a new one!

back by popular demand

Of course I played it. I had to see if my concerns with the first one I tried were still true. Overall they are. Even though I love the headstock shape, the standard Fender neck shape/profile is still there. That’s great for anyone who loves the standard Fender neck profile, but not what I’m looking for in a brand new guitar. Used…that is a different story.

However, I did notice that I liked the burst paint job on this one better. It took me a while to figure out what the difference was. The first one I looked at wasn’t bad. Neither of them have that cheap “spray paint can” look. But this new one was actually attractive to me. What was the difference?  It was the amount of grain in the wood. The more grain that comes through the burst and I like it more.

I did not know that about myself. I think I like the multidimensional feel of a burst guitar that also has highly figured wood grain. And were not just talking about beautiful curled maple Les Paul or PRS tops. Nor just flame maple strats. I mean, just look at this guitar from www.nationwideguitars.com.

1977 Fender Starcaster 008 copy

No, I’m also just talking about the lines in the basic laminate Fender Starcaster. However, this is an example of one with no wood grain and I’m not a big fan.

aged_cherry_burstIt just feels very one dimensional. But the new one at my local guitar shop at least had some wood grain coming through the aged cherry burst finish. I still think I’d like a natural finish best, but I wouldn’t be upset if I got a nicely figured or at least wood grained burst. Funny how we can always learn more about ourselves.

Strap lock buttons

How is it already the 9th of January? It seems like New Year’s was just yesterday. That was a week ago! Where does the time go?

Well this past week has gone toward work, kids, friends, more work, home repair, and all the other things that make up life. But not a lot of guitar.

So when my gold strap lock buttons arrived at my local guitar shop on Tuesday, I was pretty excited to have a reason to focus on my new 1995 Epiphone Sheraton VSB. I don’t have any straps that don’t have strap locks. Wow! Double negative. How about, “all my guitar straps (all three) have strap locks and all my guitars have strap lock buttons.” But they are all chrome and the Sheraton has gold (albeit faded and worn) hardware. And I am not going to buy an entire strap lock set just for the buttons.

My local guitar shop only had chrome strap lock buttons in stock, so I ordered some gold ones. And I’m patient…usually.

But now they are here and I have a process I go through.

First, I remove the old strap buttons and save them in a small zip lock bag with a piece of paper saying what guitar they came from.

Second, I cut out a small washer from scrap leather I got a while back and punch a hole in it.

Third, I rub the new screws in some soap so they are easier to screw into the guitar (if the old hole seems a bit worn, I will use some wood glue and a tooth pick to fill it).

Fourth, I screw the strap lock button and leather washer into place.

Finally I test it with a strap!

How do you keep your strap secure?

Pedalboard Advice Needed

I have a small budget of Christmas money and am thinking about getting a pedal board. I know, I made my last one. And I have plans to make another one out of an old crib. But now that I am looking at it, I am thinking about buying one. Something that will fit my pedals, so large (like a Pedaltrain 3). And it would be nice to have a place for my VooDoo Pedal Power 2 Plus underneath. Used isn’t a bad thing either! Any suggestions?

Mod Mod World

I am too lazy to go back and look, but I think I have titled a blog post the very same way before. Oh well.

I’m on the internet looking at things to do to my new/used Epiphone Sheraton VSB instead of play it and I see this:

20065_Used_Alex_Lifeson_ES_355_AL150_1

It’s for sale at the Music Zoo so way out of my price range, but man it looks cool! It’s a used Gibson Custom Shop Alex Lifeson ES-355 Electric Guitar in Alpine White with adjustable wide travel Tune-o-Matic bridge and Maestro Long Vibrola tailpiece. All in gold hardware!

I’ve been looking at adding a gold Bigsby tailpiece (probably a B70), but have been hesitant. Then I thought about adding some modern thing that may not look as classic, but will work better. Now I think I’m headed toward a Maestro in gold. I loved the one I had on my old Epiphone “1965” SG G-400. It was nice and firm. It didn’t do crazy bends, but it gave me the feel I like on my strings. And I could get a little warble with little effort. 

Which tailpiece would you add if you had Christmas money burning a hole in your pocket?