Category Archives: Guitars

Thompson Thrift Comes to Life

Happy Tofurkey Day to all!

I think I’ve mentioned it here on the blog before but JT and I have always dreamed of one day doddering away our time in a joint venture, “Thompson Guitar and Thrift” – a store full of amazing guitars and vintage furniture and objects – kind of just a place you would want to hang out in all day.  Add in Sophie and Shenanigan as two lazy shop dogs and you’re painting my dream picture.

At any rate, a brick and mortar store isn’t something we’re ready to commit to at this point in our lives.  We both have full time day jobs and frankly like the security and 401ks those bring.  But we still dream of the shop and so we’ve both taken (online) steps to make our dream a reality.

JT has been doing the guitar thing for a while now, first on eBay and now on Reverb.  Reverb has been great for him – the percent they take from your sale is way less than eBay and Reverb is geared right at him and his fellow musicians.

Reverb Store

JT has his very own Black Friday sale running until Sunday evening.

Reverb Store Inventory

He’s got some good stuff squirreled away — the ’78 Fender Telecaster, a whole Strat or just a Strat body and pickguards galore.  You can see his store here.  He has 24 reviews right now and I think they’re all five star – he’s a responsive seller and he knows his guitar stuff.

Etsy Homepage Screenshot

Not to be left behind, I decided to open my own store on Etsy, focusing on the vintage goods side of things.  It kind of grew out of necessity as I was bringing so much stuff home that the house began to feel like it was overflowing.  The online shop became a reality last week and I already made my first sale – you can find me at Thompson Thrift!Shop Inventory To DateBoth JT and I have the same philosophy when it comes to curating our shops – we make it a point to only offer items that we would buy for ourselves.  In fact I keep making side eyes at the copper colander I have up right now … maybe I will set it out as part of my Tofurkey Day table setting.


I made a little photo shoot spot in the breakfast nook window as it faces north and gets nice diffuse light.  The Ikea faux sheepskin has been working hard as a nice wintery neutral background for my photos.  I’ve actually been photographing everything with my iPhone using the Camera+ app – it has great controls for focus and brightness along with handy little grid lines to help center things up.  I also started using the Google photo drive to quickly send all my photos to the computer where I can edit and upload them.  I don’t think this Etsy venture is going to be a path to quick riches but it’s a fun hobby and helps justify my weekends spent at the thrifts.

Have a great holiday all.  Thanksgiving is my favorite time of the year.  Food, family and relaxation can’t be beat.  And I’m going to try out this vegan Pumpkin Bread Pudding recipe for dessert.  Cheers!  CT



1978 Fender Telecaster

The guitar in this post is available (although probably not for long) in my Reverb store. Check it out along with my other offerings at Thompson Guitar & Thrift by clicking this button:

Shop My Store on Reverb

All around the guitar-nerd thunder-dome I exist in, I hear a lot of bad-mouthing of guitars made in the 1970’s. I definitely get some of it, and anyone can see it in the bizarre offerings from Gibson especially in that era. Quality control standards and just the sad state of the economy in general are often cited as reasons for these “less-than” products.

I’ll admit I wasn’t around in the 70’s (CT and I were both born in 1980), so I’m quite honestly not sure what the big deal is? For example, I found this 1978 Fender Telecaster recently. This guitar is absolutely solid, totally playable and has that vintage look/vibe.

1978 Fender Tele in awesome brown finish

1978 Fender Tele in awesome brown finish

This is a great guitar that (as a player) I would put up against any pre-CBS era tele.

1978 Tele Close

So much value is placed around the pre-CBS (before CBS bought out Leo Fender) Fender guitars. So much so, folks like me (and likely you) have an almost impossible time buying or even playing them. The average guitar player, and certainly the average musician just don’t have the tens of thousands to get our hands on one.

What we do have however for vintage Fenders is the 70’s era guitars. As much trash talk as I have heard about them, I have yet to come across one that hasn’t been a delight to play. I played a 78 refinished tele for years and absolutely loved it. They look every bit as vintage, have the same tone as those a few years older, and are guitars that you wouldn’t think twice about bringing to a bar gig.

So what the hell is it exactly that makes them so inferior? Cheaper components?These were guitars made by hard-working Americans who I’m sure took great pride in what they were doing, and did the best with what they had. I for one would like to send my thanks out into the universe to those folks who made some great guitars. Not all of us think they’re sub-par.

1978 Tele headstock

Charvel Model 2 Project PART TWO

So I completed the Charvel Model 2 project! Totally awesome guitar, but since I started building my own superstrats (look for a future blog on this) I decided to sell it in my Reverb store. It’s on sale the weekend of October 8-11, 2015 if you’re interested- just use code GUITAR1 at checkout to save an extra 6%. Check out this and everything in my store by clicking this button:

Shop My Store on Reverb

Finished and in original case

Finished and in original case

Since it was gutted and the original tremelo was destroyed, the list of work is pretty long:

-Replaced original (and destroyed) Kahler tremolo with a Wilkinson (which fit the original bridge posts)

-Added Guitar Fetish VEH (Vintage Extra Hot) Brown Sound pickup

-New gold-plated Switchcraft input jack

-Push-pull split-coil pot

-All-rosewood volume knob

I gotta sat that guitar fetish pickups are where it’s at. This VEH has this amazing tone- just think of a hot PAF humbucker, or Eddie Van Halen’s mystery pickup he had on his frankenstrat. I loved this pickup so much I bought a white one for one of my superstrats (again- look for a future blog post).

Rosewood volume knob

Rosewood volume knob

The push-pull split coil pot was a first for me. It’s a complex wiring job, but I knew that the variance it would add to the tone would be necessary. With the split coil, simply pull the knob up and the hum bucker is now a single coil. It really sounds great and even with the single coil engaged there is minimal to no noise. This is such a great thing to have with a single-pickup guitar.

Completed wiring for push-pull volume pot

Completed wiring for push-pull volume pot

The brand new Wilkinson 2-point tremolo has a big block and keeps nearly perfect tune. What’s great about the Wilkinson is it matched the two posts that were there for the old tremelo. No drilling or filling. This is also great for anyone who would want to find an original Kahler tremelo, as it would fit right back on there.

Wilkinson tremolo mounted on original Kahler mounts

Wilkinson tremolo mounted on original Kahler mounts

This was a really great project, and a real treat to play if you’re into Kramer, Jackson, Charvel or Fender super strats.

Check out more pictures of it, along with a short demo video of me playing it at it’s listing here.

Charvel Model 2 Project PART ONE

New to Phoenix, with the itch to find guitars to work on, I have found one very surprising thing. What you can find on Craigslist in Phoenix is no where near what you can find in St. Louis. Perhaps it’s St. Louis Music/Ampeg being headquartered in STL? Not sure. All I know is I could consistently get my hands on great, cheap vintage and hard-to-find guitars in the midwest. In Phoenix all you get is a bunch of busted Squires and the occasional guy wanting $1000 for his sad-sack-of-shit partscaster. It’s alright buddy, I build them too.

Welp, old JT managed to find himself an awesome group of guys to play music with, and what’s really interesting is we are all in love with New Wave music. I finally get to play Duran Durn, Depeche Mode, The Fixx, Talk Talk…all the stuff I grew up with and listen to every day.

This got me in the mood for an 80’s guitar. Something somewhat flashy, but simple and refined. I was lucky enough to find exactly what I was looking for: a circa 86/87 Charvel Model 2.



I’ve always wanted a one-pickup one-volume guitar, and I finally found me one.


This guitar came completely gutted, with no pickup, no electronics of any sort or input jack. On top of everything else the original Kahler tremolo was totally trashed, like someone pulled it off the guitar and hit it with a shovel for a few hours.

Stay tuned for PART TWO!

Pine Barncaster Build Part 3

I gotta say, I had a lot of fun doing my first nitro spray. I started by picking up 3 cans of Behlen nitrocellulose musical instrument lacquer online. You really have to order this stuff- no store around the corner is going to carry it.


Nitrocellulose Lacquer was used early on by Fender, Gibson and all the other bastards making guitars back in the 50’s and 60’s. Basically each spray treatment ‘melts’ into the previous layer, forming a kind of crunchy candy shell (think M&M’s) as opposed to polyurethane, where each spray forms it’s own layer (think Gobstoppers).

Anyway- in order to use it, you gotta warm it up in hot tap water. Otherwise it will spatter and fart out big globs (which as it turns out it might do anyway).

Warm it up

Warm it up

The plan I developed was to spray 9-12 coats, 2-3 coats a day, 1-2 hours apart. From what I have read, this allows the layers to melt into each other. I would hold the guitar flat, spraying about 1ft from the body with the can at a slight angle. I started and ended each spray away from the body, doing a cross-hatch pattern on the front and back. Look up Will Kelly on Youtube for more details (I did).


Once it cured for about 14 days, I wet-sanded it using 800-2500 grit sandpaper, to get it smooth and shiny. I wet the sandpaper and the body down with a detergent/water mix.  Again, Look up Will Kelly’s videos. They really helped me out.


The end result was absolutely awesome. I love it. Just look at this monster.



Not sure these pics do it justice:

Barncaster 009

I even brought it in the house and put it under sexy lighting to show the ridiculous colors:

Barncaster 011

Close up of the ‘big red spot’

Barncaster 012

Next up, I’m gonna show you how I relic’d all the brand new shiny parts using melt-your-face-acid…so stay tuned…

Barncaster 007


Pine Barncaster Build part 2

Let me start by saying that I know there’s steps you have to take in order to seal in sap so it doesn’t mess with stain or paint. I’m not going to do that. I simply don’t care. Is this a mistake? Yeah probably. But, in the end I’m building it for myself as my Merle Travis machine, so as long as it doesn’t explode, I don’t care about discoloration or whatever.


That being said, I do care about how the guitar looks overall, and am critically concerned as to how I would like to stain it. I already decided it will get a clear coat of nitrocellulose lacquer, so picking out the stain will be critical. What I am interested in is enhancing all of the natural colors and features, while, if possible, making it “pop” even more.

One option is going with a kind of driftwood, bleached-out effect, which should pronounce the dark coloring more heavily. To get this, I mixed ebony and natural stain together at a 1:6 ration (respectively). Here’s a pic of the little stain guys and my bigger mixing bucket:


The result on my pine test board is pretty great, as the mixture really penetrates the grain brings out the hidden features well:

Ebony/natural 1:6 ratio

The other option I landed on is just going with a straight natural stain. I did this for my first guitar build, and it adds a slight “yellowing” to the grain. While it overall darkens the pine, it doesn’t necessarily show any kind of hidden details:

Natural stain

So after much hem-hawing, pissing and moaning I decided to go with CT’s advice, and apply the 1/6 ebony/natural mix. Here’s the results:

Barncaster fully stained front

This worked perfectly, as the ebony really penetrated all the cracks and imperfections, and even brought out a few features that were otherwise invisible.

Barncaster side stained

I’m also glad that this mix didn’t mask the dark features.

Barncaster back stained

When we were living back in St. Louis, it would literally take at least 7-10 days for stain to fully penetrate my guitar bodies, given the heavy mid-west humidity. Here in Arizona that process cuts down to about 2-3 days, which is awesome.

Part 3 will cover my first attempt at a nitrocellulose spray lacquer finish. Wish me luck…


Pine Barncaster Build part 1

Moving 1500 miles cross country has proved tough for CT and myself, what with leaving family and friends, starting new jobs, and learning to live in a place that seems to be trying to kill you for several months out of the year.

So….guess what….I chose to reward myself with a new guitar building project! As of late, I have been fascinated with the recent revival of pinewood guitar bodies. Bill Kirchen (think “Hot Rod Lincoln”) recently posted an interview on YouTube, showing off his pine telecaster built by Carmine Street Guitars in New York. The sound and look absolutely killed me. Carmine Street actually builds these guitars out of 200 year old pine lumber, reclaimed from New York city buildings. I certainly can’t think of a better way to recycle.

When I hit Ebay looking for a body, it became clear to me that I needed to make a choice- do I get a piece of perfectly figured wood, or find something with more personality? I decided to go with a body filled with knots, worm holes and discoloration. A Barncaster.

Barncaster body front

So I picked this body up off Ebay from a very reputable builder. When it arrived, I was nearly speechless. Painfully cool. The colors are simply unbelievable. If you hold it up to the light, the corners glow amber from the un-cured sap.

Barncaster body side

Check out the blue/green coloring, and the details of the fibers.

Barncaster colors

The spot that you see is an almost translucent, hard sap

This spot is almost pure sap!

This spot is almost pure sap!

The character continues on the back of the guitar. Notice the rear-loading cavity.

Barncaster back

This guitar is absolutely gorgeous to me. I am a true believer that it’s our imperfections and limitations that make us unique and interesting, and that same thing can be said for guitars, or really anything we choose to create. Follow me unto the desert and join me in the worship of cactus as we await the spaceships.

For the past few days, I have been sanding this sucker down, starting with 220 grit, and ending up with 400 grit for finishing. I even bought a can of compressed air to blow the sanding dust out of all the cracks and worm holes.

Stay tuned for part 2, where I struggle with what stain to use, and make my first attempt at a nitrocellulose lacquer spray-finish!