Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Washburn #10 - 'WI66 Pro-E'

I quite like the WI64 so have been looking at other Idols on eBay as there are several different flavours. The WI64 is a 'thin, flat top' and the most common of the 'thick, carved top' models is probably the Indonesian made WI45 nowadays. A few have come and gone but never quite cheap enough for a gamble.

I've also seen a few of these for sale but didn't think I'd get one at the sort of price I'm happy to pay as the WI66 Pro-E was near the top of the old Korean made range. You get a mahogany body with set neck, flamed maple top, three ply binding, ebony fretboard, the classic 'very metal' EMG 81/85 combo, all black hardware (inc. 18:1 Grovers) and a single large abalone cross inlay. Pretty much the 'metal Idol' without resorting to the Floyd Rose and pointy headstock of the WI50V. I wish it had no inlay at all as the cross is a bit hackneyed but beggars can't be choosers.

This one was dead cheap because it's slightly beaten up with dings and scratches all over it but most importantly a small piece chipped out of the fretboard. There's a picture of this on here and the crescent shaped mark makes me think it was done by being hit with a tube of some kind.

This may look terrible but you can barely feel it while playing. Likewise, despite all the finish marks none of them have actually chipped it. Korean Idols must be pretty tough. So I paid about £20 over what a pair of EMGs fetches secondhand for a really decent rock guitar.

It was absolutely minging when I got it, the general lack of care shown apparently also included never ever cleaning the fretboard. No matter, I always clean up a secondhand guitar when I get it unless it really is spotless.

If I can think of any way to fill the fretboard that won't look terrible and wear away instantly I may have a go but to be honest it doesn't need doing. It could easily end up looking worse than it does right now too.

Indie #25 - 'Visual DCE'

My first acoustic. Well it's an electro-acoustic but you know what I mean.

I've previously never had any enthusiasm for an acoustic but decided I really ought to own one at some point. It's the cheapest in Indies range, but nonetheless is nicely put together and plays well.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Easy win #4 & #5

My G2V and RS8V had annoying rattly tremolo arms courtesy of the grub screws which tighten down on the nylon bush they run past being missing. So, I bought a bunch of M4 grub screws off eBay and fitted them.

After this I messed around with the tremolo on my gold KC90. The tension spring, which is in the bottom of the sustain block, was too tight so you couldn't actually get the arm to screw in. I had thought the jack socket was dodgy but it seems not.

While I was doing this I tweaked the truss rod of the RS8V again and set the intonation on all three. The RS8V keeps needing redoing as I keep altering the neck relief and action while I don't think I've ever done the other two since I got them.

That's some more little niggles dealt with. I was reminded again that the G2V is nicer than its paltry RRP and plywood body would suggest but that it's badly let down by shoddy pickups. At some point getting a three ply scratchplate made up to replace the grotty original and fitting some decent pickups may happen but I'll leave it for now.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Easy win #3

My old RS530 was never going to get played with a crappy jack socket, so it's been replaced with a decent Switchcraft one I had knocking about.

There should now be no excuse for me not to play this more often.

Easy win #1 & #2

So if I'm going to polish off any of my massive project list I need some 'easy wins'. First up was the RS8V.

Today I swapped out the tremolo studs for a pair taken from one of the MG440s. Which I really should have done the other day when I had the tremolo off. Putting them in with a tiny amount of grease on the threads made adjusting the height a breeze and the unchewed posts have made the tremolo more stable.

Also, somebody had at some point removed a tool holder from the back of the headstock leaving nasty holes. I happened to have one that fitted right kicking around so I popped that on.

While I was there I gave the truss rod another quick tweak, the relief is slowly getting towards what I think it should be. However I can already tell I am going to end up lowering the action at the nut slightly. As I get the action otherwise sorted the high nut is really starting to stand out. I don't fancy attacking the nut shelf with sandpaper. This is doubly so as the nut rests on the neck rather than a shelf on the fretboard. So I can see me having to hunt about for a lower nut.

I reckon this is going to be a fantastic fast playing rock guitar if I ever get it set up right.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Project review

Looking at the Mockingbird again has made me think I need to review my various projects.

  • Mockinbird - plays like shite and that's not in a good way
  • Goth Explorer - plays OK, looks like shite, not fully wired up, kind of redundant now I got my DT350X back
  • RR2V - plays nicely, tremolo fucked, no locking clamps for nut, looks like shite
  • MG440TPL - essentially done, but has crackly pots and an uncertain destiny
  • MG440PWS - need to lower tremolo by taking a router to it
  • Black RS530 - dodgy jack socket
  • Marine Burst RS530 - frets badly worn, but plays OK. Just.
  • Rhoads Ex Pro - plays fantastically, looks like shite. May stay like this as it's genuinely 'reliced'
  • RS8V - needs more setup
  • Red EC29 - need to redo the scratchplate
  • Trans gold KC90 - dodgy jack socket
  • Headless thing - plays like shite
  • Shape custom semi-hollow - plan to fit a bridge humbucker but otherwise perfect
I really mustn't acquire any more 'project' guitars. There are undoubtedly a few more gratuitous pickup swaps on the cards too beyond the semi-hollow. I fancy a neck P90 in the IJ1 for a start and I've a Seymour Duncan Jazz/JB combo sitting in a box aching to go into something. That's it I'm not allowed to speculatively buy any 'cheap' pickups either. Unless I really need them for something specific of course. :-)

Most of these are something I can see me making progress on. However the MG440s are in limbo as once fixed they've got bugger all resale value and my only interest in them is the messing around with them. I really should just break them down and 'part them out' to use an Americanism but I can't bring myself to do it.

The neck from the MG440TPL would look nice on a more standard strat body but I reckon the combination of wide heel and 24 frets would make it a serious hack and slash job to fit. You'd probably need to start with a hardtail body too as the bridge is going to move a tad unless you move the neck pickup back a bit to cater for the 24 frets. All in all a lot quicker to just buy a matching neck and body if I wanted a trad-ish looking strat with a maple board and locking trem.

Whatever happens I've got something to do on the coming winter evenings.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Your mission, should you accept it... to try and make this Mockingbird play nicely.

One of my first noughties acquisitions, this has never played well. I got it in a scruffy state, changed the hardware, messed around with several flavours of pickups and so on but it has never been nice to play. In fact it's always been a bit nasty.

So today I ripped out the pickups that were in there. The bridge pot I used last time I swapped things around was iffy so I simply wired up the original BC Rich bridge pickup straight to the jack socket. This way I will not be at all distracted by dicking around with the electrics and can just concentrate on working out what it is that makes it nasty.

A very quick look shows the following.

  • Almost no (if any) relief in the neck
  • A quite high action at the nut

These could easily be conspiring to result in the current state of it. The cheap-ass tremolo (literally the cheapest I could buy so I could see what a gold one looked like on the guitar) is something to think about swapping but to be honest it works OK.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

RS8V setup

When I got my RS8V recently I tried to set it up and found that I couldn't get the action low enough for my tastes.

This was simply because the heads on the tremolo studs were quite chewed up and I couldn't shift them very much with the tremolo under tension. As I wasn't sure if this was because they were stiff or had reached the end of their travel, today I slackened the strings, removed the tremolo and wound the studs down.

It was pretty obvious with the tension off that they're simply a little stiff so I've now got it closer to what I want. There's still a little more bow in the neck than I'd like so I adjusted the truss rod again while the strings were slack.

This still leaves a fair bit of relief, so I may have to revisit this and make a jig to take the tension off the rod while I tighten it. It was getting pretty tight and I don't want to mess it up.

There is a possibility I'll mess the neck up if I go OTT with this, but then again it wasn't the most expensive guitar and I like the process of learning how to make things play better.

EC29 rewire - again

Today I finished up another rewire of my teal EC29. The active Reflex pickups that were in it when I bought it failed a while ago and about a year back I put in a Kent Armstrong Motherbucker and cool rail to get it playable.

I've now swapped to active Seymour Duncans, a 'Blackouts Metal AHB-2' in the bridge position and a 'Blackouts Single AS-1' in the neck (well middle really) position.

As they're both switchable output pickups I made up my own quick connect leads so instead of just placing a jumper on the pickup I could switch the output from normal to hot easily. The multicore shielded cable I used was quite thick so I had to route out a little channel in the back of the battery compartment for it to have any chance of fitting. It was always stupidly tight anyway so this was kind of necessary before I started.

This, combined with a couple of busy weekends and general laziness meant it's taken me a couple of weeks to finish the job.

I used a Dimarzio double wafer switch and wired it up so I got the following options in order.

Bridge hot
Bridge & Middle hot
Middle hot

I did think about just using a 3-way switch and push-pull pots to do the hot/not switching but fancied trying this.

Wired up like this means there's a clear progression in output as you use the switch from 'moderate single coil' to 'stupid high gain death'.

So far I'm quite happy with this and think it complements my other EC29 with the passive SSL-2/TB-4 Seymour Duncan setup well. It's all a bit metal but then so is this guitar.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Mirage #1 - crapola Steinberger clone

In the mid 90s I had a Hohner G3T, which was a very acceptable clone of the classic Steinberger L-series, only made in traditional materials. I ostensibly had this, along with a Zoom 9000 to practice at work in my lunch hour.

In reality I spent lunchtime in the pub and never liked the sounds I got from the Zoom. So both got sold on, the Zoom at quite scary a loss but there you go.

With an eye to resurrecting this idea I've been keeping a look out for a travel guitar. However the Hohners go for very good money, as do pretty much any decent travel guitars. You get the odd no-name one come up but they're always far too pricey to take a risk on.

Somebody put this up on eBay with a £75 'buy it now' and it hit my threshold for taking a risk on an unknown quantity. How bad could it be I thought.

Oh dear oh dear oh dear. This is by far the nastiest guitar I have ever touched. It looks OK at first glance but it's nasty.

The actual neck is OK. It came with quite a bow in it and having adjusted the truss rod it's now much better. The frets were grotty, like they're corroded and I've cleaned it off but I bet it comes back. The rosewood is obviously the nastiest driest stuff they could find and not very well finished.

It has a zero fret, like the original Steinbergers but the locking nut isn't fitted very well and doesn't hold the strings down against it hard enough. So the top E/B strings don't really sound properly.

The bridge is made by the improbable sounding 'Overlord of Music' out of mystery monkey metal. This includes the saddles, so I can see them wearing pretty quickly. The whole thing is shonky in the extreme. Locked in place it's not very stable, I dread to think what it would be like if I found a tremolo arm that fitted and tried to use that.

Even with the worst of the bow taken out of the neck, the action is excessively high and there's simply no adjustment available to lower it. Each saddle can be adjusted but they all came at the lowest position without any effort to match the fretboard radius. I may do this but it's only going to raise the action. I think I'd need to route out the body a bit and lower the whole bridge assembly a little to fix it. The neck is set so there's no real opportunity to change the angle.

Amazingly it sounds kind of OK once stuck through my JamVox, the pickups are sort of acceptable and all the controls work. Setting the stupid action aside it actually plays OK, but feels nasty while doing so.

I could spend lots of time sorting this out but you know I'm not sure I can be arsed. I may fix the worst bits (the nut really) and punt it back to eBay. If I do I'm tempted to steal the leg rest for my Jackson Rhoads so I can play it sitting down.


The joys of mystery monkey metal

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ibanez #3 - 'RS530' marine burst

Like my other RS530, only with a fancy flamed maple top and transparent blue burst finish. This would be lovely if it weren't terribly scruffy. The frets are heavily worn, there are dinks all over the body, the finish is flaking off the headstock and the strings have worn gouges in the pickups from them being too close. It's also missing the 80s boomerang strap buttons and I've substituted some Schaller straplock buttons which I fit to most things.

It's sort of a spares donor for my other Ibanez as the hardware is in OK nick.

It would be tempting to turn it into a refinish project but I've got something simpler I want to tackle first.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Ibanez #2 - 'RS530' black

I've still got the receipt for this. Bought on 2/8/90 in the Kentish Town Music and Hifi Exchange for £115 with a snug fitting hard case. Back in the day when I used to haunt actual shops instead of eBay.

From the same stable of mid 80s Ibanez as my Destroyer, this RS530 was at the upper end of their Roadstar II line. I didn't know this at the time, it's only now with the advent of the Internet that I've a clue what this is. I do remember seeing a secondhand RS1010 Steve Lukather model once for silly money on Denmark street and commenting that this was very similar.

I couldn't afford an RG, let alone the JEM/JS1/Radius I lusted after but this was around and cheap. It became my main guitar for years until the EC29 came along. Much though I like my Destroyer it is a great big uncomfortable lump of guitar and that's kind of why I sold it.

This is packed with fancy stuff for something if its age, 24 frets, push-push coil taps and locking trem but still the Pro Rock'r rather than the Edge that came shortly afterwards. It's just a shame those frets had great runnels worn in them from it having very heavy use before I bought it. I didn't let this bother me and I soldiered on with it regardless.

The Pro Rock'r tremolo is a piece of beautiful engineering that makes a Floyd Rose look basic and agricultural. It's smoother on the hand, you can adjust individual saddle heights and the intonation adjustment is done with a fine pitch screw instead of loosen and shove. The baseplate and block are a great lump of decent cast metal so you've got the mass people try to get back by fitting big blocks to Floyds. You don't have to cut off the ball ends, you pass them down into the block and lock it off.

It's just a shame it doesn't work very well. I'm no expert but I reckon this is all because it moves on brass pins mated up against a channel in the bridge studs, instead of knife edges. So even when in perfect condition and lubricated there's tons of friction that means it doesn't return to the same point very easily.

The top-lock which locks the strings at the headstock rather than nut probably doesn't help either. I suspect both these problems were caused by Ibanez attempts to avoid paying a licence fee to Floyd Rose. Which backfired in my opinion.

So the heavy use that wore out the frets also meant the tremolo is pretty unreliable. You can use it heavily but then it needs a bit of a tweak afterwards to get it back to pitch.

I've recently had the frets dressed on this and it's transformed the guitar, I should have had this done years ago but my usual lack of trust when it comes to 'professionals' stopped me.

This sort of thing is getting genuinely collectible. Not quite as much as the 70s Ibanez or the original RGs/JEMs I couldn't afford at the time, but it's interesting to see how much they go for on eBay sometimes. How times change, when I bought this it was desperately unfashionable and definitely just 'old'. Mine is not 100% original, I replaced the 3-way switch because it failed and the jack socket is now crackly and I can see me replacing that too. Oh well it's not like it's a '59 standard.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ibanez #1 DT350 X series Destroyer

As alluded to recently I've just got hold of my first proper guitar again. Not one the same, but the very same guitar.

This was not my first guitar but it was my first 'proper' guitar. Back when I was young guitars were pretty pricey things and teenagers would settle for anything you could find or persuade your parents to buy you that wasn't totally rubbish.

So your first guitar was probably OK-ish, the days of unplayable tat being all that was available to the skint were receding, but you probably couldn't get quite what you wanted. When I went to college I took my first guitar, which was a late 70s or early 80s Columbus Les Paul copy. My partner in guitar disaster had a Squier strat with a single humbucker. We probably should have swapped knowing what we know now.

Anyway neither of us really had what we wanted although they were eminently playable guitars, perhaps if I'd just stuck with one guitar and practiced more I'd actually be able to play. My old Les Paul might even be collectible (although not valuable) now as all manner of 'vintage' Japanese stuff is getting that way even if I'd argue lots of it is 'old' rather than 'vintage'.

So, enter the Destroyer. It was summer 1989 (I think) and I wanted to be James Hetfield. I had a reasonable summer job fixing radio pagers and some money burning a hole in my pocket. This was an Explorer, it was jet black and it had a locking tremolo. Also in black. A slab of pure metal.

At some point I decided it needed more 'oomph' and I bought a set of active electronics from one of the shops on Denmark street that gave a bass/treble cut/boost circuit and wired it in. This was my first ever guitar modding project and it must have gone OK, it's still in the guitar and working today. I had to drill a hole for the third pot and fit some replacement knobs as it originally only had two. I still have the two original knobs in one of my boxes full of guitar parts.

Eventually I decided I wanted the money for something else so I sold it to my mate Dave, who used it in bands in the NE until he sold it himself to buy a Rickenbacker 4001. I hadn't been searching for this, I just stumbled across it on eBay and bought it off a guy in Brighouse. I recognised it because of the chrome knobs and active circuit, there really can't be any other guitars around the same.

It's in much the same condition I remember. There are a few more scratches but absolutely nothing untoward. It's 25 years old now and been used so you've kind of got to expect this. It even came in the minging bass case I bodged up to fit it all those years ago with the same graffiti and GB sticker I remember.

My cup of nostalgia overfloweth.

A long time ago Andy The Pugh proposed that eBay was like a great universal lending library and that anything you sold but later wanted could simply be replaced from there. This proves it.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

On dangerous ground

Back in about 1990 I bought an X-series Ibanez Destroyer. It was black and very metal. I stuck an active bass/treble boost circuit in, which was my first guitar modding project.

In about 1993 I sold this to a mate, who then sold it on later to help buy a Rickenbacker 4001. This self same guitar has just turned up on eBay, I've stolen the pictures and stuck them up here.

The really scary thing is that I was not looking for this. It found me. I have a search for old Ibanez Roadstars going on eBay but not Destroyers. A Destroyer got picked up in this search that looked similar to my old one and it made me have a quick look to see what other Destroyers were for sale. This happened the same week as the guy listed my old guitar.


I've checked and I'm pretty sure it's my old guitar. There is a mark in the paint I remember and I had to drill a hole for a third pot when I fitted the active circuit and swapped the knobs to chrome. These Destroyers originally came with two controls and black plastic knobs.

There is a real chance I will buy this. It won't reclaim my youth, but I kind of want it back.

Update: I seem to have just won this. ;-)