Sunday, December 13, 2009

Guitar ruiner, by appointment

So, my friend wanted a 'rockabilly guitar' but a full size Gretsch was a bit pricey. After a flirtation with the idea of a Sparrow, it was Indie to the rescue in the shape of an IJ1 in a suitable shade of orange.

This still wasn't OTT enough so today I've helped him mod it so it doesn't look quite so much like the single-cutaway 335 it really is. On the list were the usual hackneyed suspects, dice knobs and pinup decals but he was a bit stumped what to do with the fourth control knob. After all if you're going to have dice, you have to set them to 666 and that's only three dice. So I suggested an 8-ball.

The dice knobs you can find for sale in guitar shops are generally tiny and cheap looking, but being a gamer I knew where to find something better. I bought a selection of 18mm dice from Bob the Dice Man while he ordered an 8-ball keyring from eBay.

He was also unhappy with the look of the pickups as they were more reminiscent of standard humbuckers than Filtertrons even if they sound fine. So off with the covers and on with some slightly different 'H' ones. We disturbed the wax potting under the cover obviously, but so far it doesn't seem to have lead to any bad microphonics when practicing at sane volumes indoors.

I carefully used a g-clamp when soldering the covers on so they're nice and tight to the bobbins. If they do develop microphonics then I'll look into DIY wax potting.

Initial playing with the Bigsby style tremolo had shown it to have awful tuning stability. He reckoned a roller bridge was the recommended upgrade to try and deal with this. So he acquired a Wilkinson roller bridge from AxesRUs for ~£25 while ordering the pickup covers. This was still cheap enough that it didn't matter if it wasn't much good.

This proved to be a really good investment. The bridge is nicely made, locks onto the bridge studs and is very pleasant to adjust when setting the intonation. Most importantly it's transformed the Bigsby clone on the Indie from near-unusable to pretty damn stable. OK it's not a Kahler but it is now 100% usable for gentle vibrato and returns cleanly to tune. This was even with new strings and a guitar that hadn't settled since being set up.

I liked it so much I may buy one for the BFI, even though it doesn't have a Bigsby.

The dice and 8-ball were drilled out on my pillar drill. I brought it into the kitchen because it's bloody freezing in the shed. Initially I just drilled 6mm holes in the base of the dice but found this made everything sit kind of proud of the surface even when pushed on as far as they would go. So I went back and used a 10mm bit to create a hollow in the base so they could cover the threaded section of the pots that stand proud of the guitar body.

With this done, they site nicely flush, almost like they've been left sitting on the top. He has now taken the guitar home to stick the pinup decals on as they take a while to dry. He's also thinking of fitting a different pickguard as the standard tortoisehell one is a bit angular, it'll be good to see the finished article.

Is it now a 'rockabilly guitar'? I couldn't really say but I know that if I played it all you'd hear was old Metallica.

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