Infrequent Blog posts are not an indication of inactivity. Teases of big things ahead will bear fruit.
Lucky Numbers: 666, 420, 69
Infrequent Blog posts are not an indication of inactivity. Teases of big things ahead will bear fruit.
Lucky Numbers: 666, 420, 69
Anytime I travel the second place I seek out is usually a guitar shop. Breweries come first but only because of the strict barley diet I’m on due to my gluten dependency. This is the first of what I intend to be an ongoing travelogue as I visit guitar techs, builders, and retail shops when I travel. Why not supplement one pipe dream (successful guitar tech) with another (writer).
My one stop flight to the syrup city began with another airline PR disaster as the gate agent shook and gagged on her offer of $500 for a volunteer to take a later flight as our cartoon trainer jet had been overbooked and over stuffed.
Being sensitive to the plight of flight peddlars I heroicly stepped forward to take that $500. Tragedy struck however as a couple slow no shows didnt make it to the gate and I was dragged onto the plane kicking and screaming without my $500. No expensive duck poutine for me.
Waking up in a foreign land dehydrated, confused, and without cell service isn’t as terrifying or exciting as I expected. Later today I’m meeting with Mike of Indian Hill Guitars to talk about his work, his shop, and the community of artisans Montreal has fostered. Until then I’ll be wandering around, sniffing out Wi-Fi signals, and listening for anything with six strings.
Walking down St. Catherine street it’s hard not to be in awe of the historic cathedrals nestled in between the majestic strip clubs. One block after another, XXX in neon beckons the pious observer. Oddly I don’t see a single parishioner enter any of these houses of worship. My only conclusion is that sex doesn’t sell here and the churches are all now nightclubs.
It’s difficult ignoring all these tempting attractions but I hear the faint wails of what can only be a guitar store. Archambault, my first expérience de guitare foreign. At ground level it looks like an old timey cd and movie shop so I walk past, assuming the random guitar plunking to be leftover PTSD from my days in retail though as I turn back I see a Fender banner beckoning me inside. Above the plastic circle floor is the stuff used to make the noise on all those plastic circles. Guitare et plus guitar. Quite a fine selection of Fender, Godin, Fender, and more Godin. Some practice amps, great string selection, even had Fender bass VI in stock. This is not a comprehensive review, only my fragmented and distracted impression, I’m really just looking for a bathroom. So as I look for a place to déposer un ou deux I round the corner to the acoustic room. The Quebecois appreciate 000 and OM styles more than big fat dumb Americans with our Jumbos and Dreadnaughts. Plenty of Martin and Bourgeois, nes pas toucher!
Further down St. Catherine two famous concert clubs are being scrubbed of puke and piss. The Metropolis and Club Soda.
Ok, eager to get on with it after getting lost in the subway I find myself at the first meeting place, Mile End Guitar Co-Op.
They’re a in big fucking building. Used to be a factory making useful things now it’s carved up into artisan spaces, co-working computer labs, and I dunno maybe web cam parlors or something. The co-op is occupied by nine Luthiers all doing their own thing, scraping wood and scraping livings together. Very impressive work here by my gracious host Mike of Indian Hill Guitars (click the link already). I was surprised and impressed to see this number of people working together to create a space where they can all thrive and learn from each other. I imagine places like this exist in the states somewhere, definitely not Denver what with rent and yea yea yea. I believe Mike is showing at the La Conner guitar festival this weekend if you are in that area. I wish I could say more about these handcrafted instruments and their builders but we mostly talked shop, our way through this strange “career”, and hated on all the retired engineers crowding us young guys out. Just relax and enjoy the pictures.
Kind of a blur, went to a metal fest, met cool people, drank beer, normal stuff.
Can’t vouch for the accuracy of this timeline, just imagine it’s a Jordorowski film or mushrooms and don’t fight it. Walked enough this day to begin to feel my age, back stiff, feet sore, fuck this. Nah it’s cool though, more guitars and buildings!
Steve’s in old port is the best of the retail shops I visited (keep reading anyway for a big surprise at the end). It’s one of those old, cramped, bad ass shops that we all love. Tons of pedals, nearly every brand and size of string, big amps, used shred guitars, new shred guitars, synths for days. I’d be happy to work in a place like this. The repair tech looked rather happy. Wanted to chew his ears but he appeared to be deep into and explanation of string theory and vibration calculus. Possibly, it was all in French so could have been talking about his latest trip to his mama’s. STFU pics or it didn’t happen!
More guitar builders! Today we meet Gab of Markott Lutherie. Actually I met Gab earlier in the trip, runs in the same circle, we became pals, he’s my pal now. Gab works out of an even larger co-op, in another former factory, with nearly twenty builders. Again, talked shop, talked future projects, talked about our wood collection. Gab also does R&D for Godin! I think that stands for Rat Delousing. It’s interesting to note that these co-ops are organized as non profit entities and each new member must bring a communal machine to join. Bench fee’s are quite low and some of these lucky fools have gotten grants from the government to further their businesses. The roads may suck but I’ll walk everywhere if it means more support for the arts, music, and the people making culture more interesting. Check out L’Atelier de la Corde to see what sweet lumber comes out of that place.
Wrapping up the trip I had to see Moog Audio. A friend here in Denver recently visited the place since they sell the synths she builds and I couldn’t quite believe a place like this exists IRL. They sell synths. Lot’s of synths of all styles with the draw being modular eurorack modules with the plugs and cables and knobs and voltages and strange farty sounds. They had a bunch of guitar pedals too. I was kicked out for setting a wobbly bass drop on infinite repeat, the building may not be there anymore.
Final day. What have I learned? I like Canadians. I already knew that but now I like all kinds of Canadians. I may like the French kind better, at least until I’m invited to Vancouver, we’ll wait and see. There seems to be more guitar builders here than most other cities on the continent. No shit, not kidding. I couldn’t list everyone I met in this business because I was drinking and don’t speak the language. So trust me. Or google it, whatever. So, 5 am flight, a pat on the head, a pat on the butt, and off I go. Here are some more random shots of the trip if you wish to live through me. Who doesn’t really?
I’ve neglected the website but I have been busy in the shop. Just finished a cool job on a Jackson 7 string the involved thinning the neck, carving the heel, and a pickup swap.
First: Neck shave. Plenty of ways to do it. I prefer my Veritas spoke shave for the bulk of the operation.
I measured the neck thickness at the first fret to be 0.802″, 0.890″ at the 12th, and 0.920″ at the 15th. After taking a few passes to dial in a consistent cutting depth I go to town, measuring a shaving every ten passes to ensure my math will add up. I’m being conservative and only taking 0.030″ off since I don’t know how deep the rod channel is and want to avoid blowing into it. I suppose it’s possible to figure that out, or even call up Jackson and ask, but time constraints mean I gotta jump to it. https://youtu.be/jPj-5jp8adY
After shaping the contour and sanding the next step is oiling the neck. The previous poly finish was glossy and had a bit of drag, Danish oil will protect the wood while still giving the neck a bare/satin kind of feel.
Second: Carving the obnoxious heel. I’m doing a simple bevel. Went at it with a course rasp file. Cleaned it up with a scraper and a bit of sanding. Then stained and sealed it quick. You can see how thick the finish is. Took a few attempts to cut the line straight, it kept chipping out on me. Suppose it’s time for new exacto blades. Also had to countersink the screw hole, ditch the neck mounting ferrule, and cut down the screw.
Third: Pickup swap. These are actually DiMarzio 7 string PAF’s. The BN boxes are for show… Anyway the first problem was the PAF’s were attached to surface mounting back plates. Not gonna work. So I took the plates off the existing pickups and put the DiMarzio coils on those. Not a perfect fit but it worked. Next was wiring the 3way pickup switch so the inner coils are active in position 2, with the bridge and neck doing what they do on 1 and 3. Not a problem except that the hot and ground lead needed to be swapped and a magnet had to be flipped to ensure everything was in phase. I only realized this after putting the pickups in, stringing it up, and hearing the inner coils were out of phase. Anyway, fixed that, set it up, sent it home to its owner. He was happy. I was happy. Hope your happy. Schedule your appointment today.
In my last post I complained about the Ibanez RG 8, a 27 inch 8 string guitar that’s too short for drop E. Today I cut and paste those same complaints onto the ESP LTD SC-208.
Only the SC-208 is even shorter at 26 inches and the owner needs to go down to C#1!!! That’s the lowest C# on a standard 88 key piano, the second black key, with a string gauge around 0.2 inches and 55 inches long on a grand piano. So let’s see if we can make it work on this thing.
Someone was drunk on the LTD line that day. String through holes don’t line up with the bridge. Not a big problem for most of the strings but we’re stuffing a 0.090 and a 0.070 on the bottom two so you know what that means…
File out the tuner and the bridge plate. Fortunately the strings had normal ball ends and didn’t need a larger ferrule. Problem now is the intonation. That low string is too thick to be able to pull the saddle back far enough to be in tune at the 12th.
Anyway, what matters that it’s all set up and ready to roll. That C# might be an indecipherable thud but I’m just here to fix them.
I have many problems. I wake up in strange clothes, I yell at children on the light rail, and my 401k won’t provide me a retirement in even the cheapest RV park. But this is the most common one I deal with…the Ibanez RG8. An affordable 8 string that was just born bad. Being a cool dude in the metal scene means I get to handle lots of new, cutting edge gear that goes chugga chugga. I do enjoy fondling other peoples property but anytime one of these lands in my sinkhole I put on my counselor gloves and probe why the player thought this purchase was a good idea. Let’s start with the original sin.
It’s too fucking short! 27 god damn inches is not long enough. I mean yea, it’s longer than any low energy old man 6 string but Ibanez knows everyone wants to be Tosin or Ihsahn or Thordendal. That means the F# just aint low enough! Everyone drops their panties and their string for that low E. At 27″ a standard 0.074 isn’t just a sloppy floppy wet noodle, it’s a signal of ones lack of virility and prowess. If them chugs aren’t tight no ones gonna get on your groove. The audience doesn’t want to swim through your muddy brown sound morass of flubba flubba. So how can we get that chugga chugga? Well, the thicker the better to ram that djent home. So let’s install an 0.080
Oh wait, it don’t fit and I’m out of lube. So the player just got suckered into this and they’re not leaving without that low E so let’s make it fit. First I ream out the ferrule
Then the tuner
Gotta file that nut slot
File the saddle…
Compensate for an intonation screw that’s too long and pinches the string before it’s intonated
And finally after all that it fits
So was that it? Is that all it takes? Don’t get your hopes up. The 0.080 is better but your really only draining the swamp of doody and replacing it with mud. Consider that a standard bass is 34 inches and uses a .105 gauge string for that E1. So not only is the Ibanez RG8 lacking in length but pumping it up to give it that extra girth can bust it apart at the seams. 27 and 0.080 aint enough change to ride the E1 line. Go buy a 30 incher.
I have a friend, let’s call him Carol. Carol lives in the South Pole research station. He has the largest known pedal collection south of the horn. Problem is there’s no more ice to study what with global warming so he needs to sell some gear for the boat ticket home but the used pedal market went bust down there. That’s where I come in. Click on these reverb links and buy these pedals so Carol can get home to his lovely wife and horrible children (they really need some sense knocked into them).
I recently had a customer slip into the Gutter with his American Strat (I greese the sidewalk to “attract” customers). At some point he had a push pull pot installed giving him three series modes. You can see the mod detailed here.
While in series mode these are the pickup switch combinations.
As you can see position 4 is boring and redundant. The customer is an adventerous go getter and wanted another option for that switch position. The circuit doesn’t lend itself easily to other options.
Fortunately the customer, we’ll call him Cus for short, also wants a master treble and a master bass cut. This frees up one half of the 5 way pickup selector…. Interesting. Thinking, head scratching. I could just google a solution but I prefer a novel approach.
Let’s look at that middle bastard and figure out why he’s too subborn to TURN THE FUCK ON when pup switch is at 4. So a litle about electricity. Like water (and myself at times) it has little will of its own so will follow the path of least resistance. Pickup coils are essentially just a long, winding, miserable, grueling path of resistance. When a pickup circuit is connected correctly from ground through the coil to positive the electrons have no choice but to rejoice when the strings excite the magnet mist. (Stay with me). Looking at the PP switch (it’s a technical term, look it up) we see that the middle negative can either be connected to the ground lead or the wire going to the 5th lug of the pickup switch which also happens to be connected to the positive lead of the neck pickup. Same with the bridge but we don’t care about that right now. When PP switch is down electricy can flow from ground through neck coil to postive out to the negative entry of the middle,through its coil and to the 4th switch lug creating the series connection. But you can see all that. (Nevermind that pickups induce an AC current, it’s just eaiser to think about it this way).
So now that we are all electrical engineers we can clearly see what the problem is. No? Since water, er, electricity is kinda lazy it doesn’t want to go through the middle even when it has a path because while in the 4th position there are two paths and one is much easier than the other, through the neck and out the jack.
Cutting to the chase since Cus needs his guitar back I decided to use the now free half of the pickup switch to change the middle pickups ground path while in the 4th. But there is a snag. For reasons I’m too tired to explain the 3rd and 2nd terminals cannot be connected on this half of the switch to work correctly. My hack solution was to cut the wiper in the switch that connects them. Only it’s a fender switch and they are a pain to disassmble. So I used an asian enclosed five way and opened it up. See below, go ahead, you can look, it’s asleep and won’t mind a peak at its insides.
Long story short I wired it up so the neck and mid are in parallel in the 4th position. Cus already has that option when the series switch is disengaged and the strat functions as usual but fuck it, he’s happy with it.
Next post we will discuss the treble bass cut portion of this.