Friday, April 29, 2011

Explorer mockup

I've quickly thrown the Goth Explorer together so I can see what it'll look like if I go with my plan to just refinish the top in natural. It's not got the strings at full tension let alone wired up but it gives me a pretty good idea of the look.

I reckon the black scratchplate works nicely while the treadplate one doesn't. It would probably look great if it was black anodised/painted and it could be tempting to paint it myself but it doesn't quite fit anyway. Whether this is a Gibson/Epiphone difference or on account of this being a copy of a '58 rather than a later model I don't know.

If I'm going to reshape and paint a scratchplate then I may as well look into buying/making one that fits. I can't simply use the existing black one as it's been covered in the same nasty lacquer as the guitar body. I'll have a go at cleaning it up but don't hold out much hope.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail

So, after hours of sanding the thick finish off the strat body I got frustrated and didn't spend nearly long enough with the fine paper getting the gouges out. So I've a whole load of sanding whorls showing through when I put the black on.

Oh well, at least I've proved the nitrocellulose goes on well and dries hard quicker than I expected, even if I'll have to sand lots of it back off again. I can see me ordering more cans.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

More sanding hell

Sometimes I wonder if I do this for good reasons or if I'm just a total masochist.

Anyway, the top of the Explorer is now stripped and I like the contrast between the top and sides. The wood of the body isn't that nice, it's three piece and the lower section is noticeably darker than the other two. I'm not sure whether to jut put some oil on the top as it stands or to lightly stain it which may hide the difference.

I've also stripped the headstock and it's fairly pink mahogany with a join at the tip.

I may 'mock up' how it'll look before doing anything more with it.

Regardless what I do I still have to deal with the nasty varnish on the back and sides. There's less of it than on the front but I still need to get rid of it. If I can I'll try and maintain the original black satin finish underneath, either as it stands or as a colour base to put some clear lacquer over.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hello Korina

Anybody would think I like sanding.

So, with the strat paint drying I need something to occupy me otherwise I won't be able to resist going and poking at it.

The Goth Explorer has been kicking around downstairs for ages waiting for me to do something to it. So I started taking the paint off the top. With it down to the primer there's a lovely transparent black finish if you wipe it with white spirit, but that's not really a finish that can be used, especially as I've now gone through it in a couple of places.

It has made me think that this might actually be nice with a plain natural top and contrasting black back/sides. Especially if I could maintain some 'faux binding' by leaving the black on the edges untouched. Or failing that perhaps fit some binding. Which would be another bit of fun bodgery I've yet to attempt.

This would mean at first glance it's not massively dissimilar to my '58 Korina Explorer but if I stick with the original black hardware, use the aluminium tread scratchplate I have and fit some Seymour Duncan Blackouts you'd have quite a \m/ guitar.

All without me having to think of a design I want painted on it. Which I'm still struggling with.

Playing with toxic chemicals

So, after a load more boring as hell sanding, I had a go at spraying the strat body. As I'm using some nitrocellulose spray cans I bought ages ago I was a good boy and used a proper organic solvent absorbing breath mask.

Although when I went and sprayed it I'm pretty sure they smelled like the spray cans of my youth that I cheerfully used indoors with no protection.

First I did a light dusting of primer then a few hours later a fairly solid coat of black. As expected I got overenthusiastic and put a couple of runs in it. So once it's touch dry I'll move it into the shed and it can bake in there until next weekend when I'll flat down the runs and go again.

I'm going with black because that's what the 'Dave Murray' strat comes in. Any colour you like so long as it's black.

The vintage style bridge from the mahogany strat will get transplanted along with the electrics, so I reckon I'm pretty much there with bits I need to complete this project.

It'll leave the mahogany strat gutted so I need to decide what I'll do with that. I suspect I'll fit a modern 2-point tremolo instead of messing around with fitting a Floyd Rose. I've a lot more things with locking tremolos than non-locking.

It also occurred to me that I've a couple of sets of Reflex active pickups I collected ages ago, one HSS, one SSS and it might be nice to use a set of these on it. If I do I'll route the body for a battery box, therein scratching my urge to bodge.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The boring bit

One of these days I'll do the sensible thing and just buy an unpainted body for one of my projects, rather than spend hours sanding a painted one back.

Anyway, I've got the paint off the front and back of this strat body and it's relatively nice wood underneath. Next I've got to do the edges with a palm sander, but it's currently raining.

Spring project review

I was messing about in the shed clearing a space and it got too hot so I came in and decided to review where I am with the various projects I had in the Autumn.

  • Mockinbird - plays like shite and that's not in a good way Now fixed by lowering the nut and plays nicely. Still a bit scruffy so may get a refinish.
  • Goth Explorer - plays OK, looks like shite, not fully wired up, kind of redundant now I got my DT350X back Stripped for a refinish but now just languishing
  • RR2V - plays nicely, tremolo fucked, no locking clamps for nut, looks like shite Following a complete refinish, new tremolo etc. this is now a kick-ass looking guitar.
  • MG440TPL - essentially done, but has crackly pots and an uncertain destiny Sold
  • MG440PWS - need to lower tremolo by taking a router to it Sold
  • Black RS530 - dodgy jack socket Fixed
  • 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 I lowered the nut, sorting this
  • Red EC29 - need to redo the scratchplate
  • Trans gold KC90 - dodgy jack socket Fixed
  • Headless thing - plays like shite Sold
  • Shape custom semi-hollow - plan to fit a bridge humbucker but otherwise perfect
So despite my habit of buying new projects before finishing the old I'm not doing badly at getting things sorted out.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Welcome to the knackers yard

Tonight I gutted the strat I picked up in the week. It's got a huge 'bathtub' route which should make putting the HSH setup from the mahogany strat in it dead easy, so long as the scratchplate actually covers the hole. It's a really big hole.

Next comes the dull bit, sanding all that lacquer off.

Indie #34 - 'IPR1 Anniversary'

Kerbling Fatman!

Yet again I have bought a duplicate, but this came up at a 'rude not to' price on eBay.

It's #120 and other than the fact it came with amber control knobs it's pretty much identical to my other one.

I'm still not a fan of fixed wraparound bridges so as soon as I got it I swapped the bridge for a Gotoh adjustable one.

When it arrived it had rather heavy strings on, maybe 12s, and there was more relief in the neck than I'd like. After leaving the guitar a few days to settle with no strings on I've given the truss rod a tweak and it's now pretty much how I want it.

Incidentally when I got my notched straight edge out to set the neck relief I found the scale length was 24.75", not the 25" you'd expect for a PRS copy or the 25.5" that was on the Indie website ages ago.

Some things just irk me

I have a number of guitars with a simple traditional wraparound bridge, as used on many vintage Gibsons. I admire the simplicity of this, but equally I'm frustrated that you can't really adjust the intonation very well.

I believe PRS made a big thing about their guitars being so accurately made and their wraparound bridges so well thought out that generally they intonate perfectly. I don't own a PRS.

All of my guitars with wraparound bridges do intonate as well as I'll ever need but still it irks me. My wine red double-cut has an adjustable wraparound bridge, so maybe it's not just me.

So some time back I bought a Gotoh fully adjustable wraparound bridge for my IPR Anniversary and it's been languishing in a box ever since. This not only has tune-o-matic style moveable saddles, but locking studs that work with special bushes to hold it tightly in place. This is probably to increase sustain but I bet a philistine like me won't notice.

Having recently pickup up another Anniversary, I decided to fit this bridge while I was giving the guitar its initial clean and setup.

I've made myself a basic puller out of a lump of wood, nut washer and bolt. This has had loads of use and means you can get bushes out cleanly without any worry of damaging the guitar. So I soon had one of the old bushes out to fit the first of the new ones.

Sadly, Gotoh have gone with quite petite bushes and there's no way I can use them without filling the holes and redrilling. Luckily the Gotoh studs have the same metric thread as the originals so I just popped the one I'd removed back in and strung the guitar. I won't get the benefit of the locked down studs but like I said, I won't miss them.

I'm quite pleased with the results, the bridge is a beautifully made piece as well as being fully adjustable. My only reservation is that when you string the guitar you have to poke the strings through it onto the body and it would be very easy to put scratches on the guitar doing this. I just used the envelope the strings came out of to protect the body.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Indie #31 - 'S type' mahogany

A mahogany bodied strat, with a 50s style one piece maple neck. This was bought expressly to make a 'Dave Murray' inspired strat. Which is essentially a black 50s strat retrofitted with cream Duncan Distortions at neck and bridge. There are also chrome pickup surrounds, which I assume on the original guitar hid a scruffy job of fitting the pickups.

So modding a standard strat into an 'inspired by' guitar of my own was not much of a reach really, although the official Fender item apparently has a special neck profile. I won't bother with that.

After a couple of evenings throwing parts together I've got it to the state you see on the left, which is pretty much where I want it, apart from the natural finish body. This is quite a nice large lump of mahogany and I'm now thinking I'll actually keep that on display.

The beauty of working with strats is that I can just lift the whole scratchplate assembly out and install it in another guitar. The cheap strat I've just found is likely to be the home for it once I've refinished the body.

Which means this is still very much a work in progress.

Valuable or hard to find?

I recently renewed my guitar insurance and was thinking about what I'd do if I actually needed to make a claim.

I would find it hard to replace several of my guitars.

By contrast, my friend who collects vintage (and modern) Gibsons could probably replace most of them fairly quickly if armed with market value in cash.

Out there vintage guitar dealerships are keeping good care of their stock. Most people who were going to carelessly dispose of them probably have done so by now. So while they aren't making any more of them, they probably aren't getting much more rare either. Daft speculation and 'investment' has driven up values in the past twenty years but apart from the real obscure ultra-rare items (original Korina flying V's for example), you can probably find many vintage items in the UK if you have the cash.

Apart from a small cult ownership following, nobody is looking after the EC29s of the world. You can occasionally find them supposedly for sale online in a smattering of places but I'd probably have to go to the US to find one. Even then you'd have to take whatever finish was available.

Unlike a 1957 Les Paul Junior in TV yellow, which I'm pretty certain you could just buy.

Indie #33 - 'S type' butterscotch

Yes, I've already got one of these in exactly the same finish but this was bought as a 'parts donor' for projects and is the cheapest guitar I've bought, at the grand total of £31.99.

It's even a guitar with a fairly minor but genuine indie rock star heritage. Bought randomly off eBay, the seller was actually Mike Baker of 'The Holloways'. The band received several guitars from Indie some years back. This one kicked around on their tour bus for ages (it shows) and was played by all manner of people they toured with, including Kasabian.

It's not going to stop me gutting it and turning the remains into a partscaster. The plan is to strip the body and use it for the 'Dave Murray' project instead of the last S-type I bought. I like the mahogany body of the other one too much to cover in paint.

It's missing the bridge and is covered in scuffs, scrapes and filth. The photos don't really show how nasty it is, it looks like people have been walking on it. However the neck looks straight and the body dings are all minor. Some of the neck dings are actually through the finish so I may end up refinishing it or swapping necks if they interchange nicely.

I may also take this neck and play with fitting a locking nut to it if some measuring shows there to be enough clearance over the truss rod. It's the next logical step after I built myself a jig and recut the nut shelf on the Mockingbird.

If I do that then I'll route one of my strat bodies for a Floyd Rose and make something reminiscent of a Charvel So Cal, i.e. a first generation superstrat.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Indie #32 - 'Shape' quilted cherry sunburst

Looking at the big list of Indie guitars on the right you'd kind of think that I had an example of most of the 'Shape' models Indie make. However I didn't really until now have a basic 'standard' model, they're all slightly special models in some way either high end Extreme's or things like the Futuristic with single coils and a tremolo.

This is the 'shape' in almost it's most basic form, short of an all-mahogany opaque finish one, so I thought I'd look at it with fresh eyes. There are nods to the telecaster in the body outline but it's very compact and the spec. reads like it's a Les Paul.

So we've a mahogany body, quilted maple cap, set mahogany neck with rosewood board, twin humbuckers and tune-o-matic bridge.

The hardware is all good quality Korean bright chrome stuff, Schaller style machine heads and the aforementioned tune-o-matic with stop tail.

Indie have their own pickup range (I suspect they're actually made by Artec) and in this guitar they're M8s which are moderately high output ceramic magnet beasts. Controls are a simple master volume/tone and three way toggle but continuing the theme, Indie have used good quality Korean electrics so it all moves smoothly and they work meaningfully. The treble bleed fitted to the volume control on many later Indies is a particularly nice touch. It's something that costs pennies to do but makes a noticeable difference to the guitar. Likewise the flush fitted barrel style jack socket is classy, even if I'm not a fan of them because it's impossible to bend the contacts if the lead starts to get a little loose.

The top finish is a fairly standard thick poly one that's nothing fancy but it does a great job of showing off the thin bookmatched maple cap. The cherry sunburst staining is well done, the Korean guitar factories have got adept at turning out good finishes reliably.

A nice touch is the Indie logo at the 12th fret. CNC machinery has made putting something like this in cheap but it still stands out from simple dot inlays without being flashy. I've seen some hideous 'because we can' CNCed fretboard inlays that spoil otherwise attractive guitars. To some extent Indie are guilty of that with the Tribal Extreme's but I've seen much worse.

The most telling thing is I got this, along with a fully fitted Indie branded hard case, barely used, from eBay for a fraction of what you'd pay for a similarly appointed new Epiphone or LTD. They simply blow the Vintage goldtop I have away, there's no comparison you really are looking at the better end of the Korean guitar market but for Vintage money. Secondhand Vintage money. You just need to be patient and wait for one to come up.

I've said time and time again to friends if you want a nicely made, slightly unusual looking but traditionally appointed electric guitar you really need to look at an Indie 'shape'.

My only worry is that with Indie's main base of operation having relocated to Canada that I'll see fewer of them here in the UK.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Old or vintage?

My first guitar was a Columbus Les Paul copy a lot like the one on the left. Having managed to buy back my 80s Ibanez Destroyer recently I've been looking at Columbus guitars on eBay as I fancy another nostalgia fix.

There is no way I could ever get my original one back, unlike the Destroyer I wouldn't recognise it anyway.

What I have noticed though is that if in good condition these 70s/80s Japanese copies are actually worth more than I expected. Not 'real' money, but a tidy one seems to easily make £150, perhaps climbing to £200.

Ten years ago they were probably considered little better than firewood. Much like 90s Washburns are now. I picked up my first KC90 for under £100 and that's a very nice guitar, up there with the well regarded early 90s Japanese made Jacksons that have become collectible. It was made on the same production line after all.

Thing is, I seem to remember my first Columbus actually being rather poorly made with nasty brittle plastic parts, crummy electrics and second rate hardware. You're not getting some forgotten Japanese gem.

So have these rather lowly cheap copies transcended just simply being old and become 'vintage'?