Category Archives: Guitars

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.

Nitro!

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).

Spray!

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.

sandpaper

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

Lacquered

 

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.

Barncaster

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:

Stain

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…

Nitro

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!

 

JT’s Pigonse G40V Hot-Rod, Part 1!

I have a Pignose G40V I bought new a few years back and have since loved it’s simplicity and durability. Due to it’s portability, and the size of the venues Grand Beauty generally plays, this amp has seen a lot of action, mic’d through our PA. I won’t claim to know the official pedigree, but it supposedly was designed by someone who had something to do with the original Fender Bassman amplifiers. This sucker is tiny, with only a 10-inch speaker, and packs a massive 40-watt punch!

Pignose G40V
Pignose G40V

Being as cool as it is, I simply can’t leave it alone. Why? Well, it’s equipped with all Chinese parts. Don’t get me wrong- the Chinese are fine people- awesome food, impressive culture. Not necessarily the best folks to be mass-producing tone, though.

Vintage Jensen 10 inch speaker
Vintage Jensen 10 inch speaker

Step number 1 was finding an awesome speaker. CT and I happened on the Midwest Musicians Swap Meet in Saint Louis, where I found a great vintage Jensen 60’s 10-inch speaker in new housing. I also came across a couple of Soviet-era Sovtek 12AX7WB pre-amp tubes (to be seen in part 2).

Testing polarity with D-Cell battery
Testing polarity with D-Cell battery

Once I got the Jensen home, I had to figure out which terminal was positive, as neither one was marked. I used an old trick, where you electrical-tape both the positive and negative ends of a D-Cell (or 9-volt) battery with wire, and then connect to each wire to a terminal. When the speaker “sucks in” on connection, you have negative polarity. Reverse the wires, and you should see a “push out” of the speaker on connection. This will be your positive polarity, and you can now mark on the casing the + and – terminals, and connect it to your amplifier.

Jensen speaker mounted in the Pignose
Jensen speaker mounted in the Pignose

The mounting holes lined up great, and connections were secured. Success! Now my Pignose has a vintage Jensen speaker, rather than the cheap Chinese stock that it came with. Stay tuned for part 2, where I attempt to replace and bias the existing Chinese tubes with Soviet-era, mean-ass Sovteks!

Where did Paul go?

The new music station caused me to once again shuffle everything around in the Living Room but have no fear, folks, Paul is staying.

J:HOME Model (1)

(An updated furniture floor plan.  I don’t know what happened to those poche walls but it looks kind of cool.)

There are some pieces in the house that I really want to hold on to, others I keep around because they fit in for now or I’m still hunting down that amazingly-perfect-but-so-cheap-from-a-thrift find.  “Paul”, as I call my McCobb Planner Group secretary is a keeper.  He was holding up the ledges wall but has now moved over here to greet visitors at the front door.

ENTRY WALL BEFORE AND AFTER

This wall is looking a little bare but I’m slowly moving in artwork as the furniture continues to shuffle around.  What’s great about this setup is it gives us the “landing strip” they’re always pushing for over at Apartment Therapy.  The salon-style vinyl chair is a great place to drop my purse or my work bag and Paul gladly holds the day’s mail and the contents of JT’s pockets.

AFTER AT ENTRY #2.

(View from the front door above.  That’s my Martin Sigma that I still don’t know how to play yet.)  Ironically the salon style vinyl chair and the four wood chairs we have around the tulip table were the things I thought for sure would sell at the Green Shag sale last year but didn’t.  Then I had each posted on Craigslist  and now I’m pretty glad they’re still here.  Go figure.

In the (much larger) world outside our living room, Google decided to close down its Reader.  I liked Reader so much that I even blogged about it (almost two years ago!  yikes!)  So what is a blog-addicted girl to do?  I tried out Feedly and liked the iPhone app but it wouldn’t work on the required Internet Explorer browser we have at work.  No blog reading all day long?  Not happening.  So I switched over to Bloglovin.  (Kind of wish they had a better name, makes me think of McLovin from Superbad).  It has a much more image-oriented format, which I am enjoying so far.

BLOGLOVIN

(Yep, that’s a screenshot from my Bloglovin account and I am a major blog addict!!!)

In the blog world, I’m afraid we may have lost JT from this site forever.  He set up a great new site for his band, Grand Beauty, here.  We haven’t all the way decided on things but I think he may start posting his guitar raids and fixes on the band website.  We’ll see.

recording-2013-001

At any rate, you should check it out.  He’s uploaded a bunch of their recordings.  That’s my husband singing “Beast of Burden” and if it doesn’t make you want to take your clothes off and dance around, you may need to have your head examined.  Cheers – CT

PS – HAPPY BIRTHDAY SISTER!

Alvarez Prototype Semi-hollow Electric Guitar

Saint Louis has it share of rock & roll instrument history, thanks in no small part to Saint Louis Music, who over the years have brought us brands like Ampeg, Crate and Alvarez.

alvarez advert

Alvarez is an odd brand in particular. They are almost always solidly built, and cheap as hell. But, they suck to look at. Boring design. Pisses me right off. There is simply no excuse for boring, bland design when you’re dealing with something that you present live or record with. Probably why they aren’t respected as well as they could be.

SIDE ANGLE

Which brings us to this find I made last year- caught my eye on Craigslist. It was super cheap and looked amazing. The gentleman selling it works for STL Music, and informed me that it’s a prototype. One of only 2 or 3 made (same design but different colors) they were built by Alvarez to send out to their biggest dealers, in an effort to test the market. Sadly, Alvarez ditched more classic, cool designs like this, in favor the now laughable super-strat, heavy metal designs that fizzled away once the hair bands started hitting the methadone clinics.

CLOSE FRONT

But wow, is this thing cool. The build is crisp, and the finish is beautiful. Honestly, one of the most incredible sounding and feeling guitars I have encountered. Doesn’t hurt that it has two Seymour Duncan designed humbuckers- one of which is the coveted Seth Lover model (bridge position).

To me, this treasure, this haunting, screaming muse is a sad, rare ghost of what could have been at Alvarez. Most working musicians cannot afford the high end Gibson/Guild/Gretsch hollow-body designs. This could have worked so incredibly well for so many folks I have met and listened to, who are world class musicians, but commonly are forced to save for years in order to posses a guitar that is worthy of their abilities.

Looking for the right home. See it on Ebay here.

P.S.- next long-term is a 60’s Fender Champ Lap Steel. Going to take a while, as I have to find the bridge/pickup assembly. Got it off a old country boy out in Troy, MO. I get a lot of instruments from these older guys out in the country, who bought them new way back in the day, but don’t have the market locally to sell them. They have a nephew post to Craigslist for them, and I can usually jump on them before most even see the post. Fun for me, though. I speak their language. I’m 100% hillbilly, going back about 200 years.

P1240278

Music Room Meet Office

Maybe a good holiday gift for the Living Analog household would be those little “moving men” furniture sliders because we have been doing an awful lot of moving furniture around in this house.  It’s all a part of the “waste not, want not” philosophy and it works wonders.  If your house/room/life is needing a jolt, just rearrange!  It really is amazing how moving the furniture around can let you rediscover a room in your house – and usually for free!

So without further adieu, the music room.  It’s looked like this for a while now:

BEFORE 3

Lots of guitar and amp space, lots of seating – two chairs, the storage cabinet/bench, a stool and an ottoman.

BEFORE 1

Bookshelves that are getting out of hand and need to be cleaned/organized/staged/styled/whatever it is that amazing internet bloggers/stylers do to their bookshelves.

BEFORE 2

With a lot of the changes taking place in the bedroom and living room, the laptop was looking for a place to land.  Also, starting next year, JT will have the option to work from home one week a month and so we needed a proper office. Furniture rearranging commence.

Here’s the layout we settled on.  Everything that was in the room stayed except for the Eames rocker which moved to the bedroom.  The table desk I had bought a while back at a hotel liquidation store for $10.  It was originally a nice hotel warm oak color so I had painted it black to go in the last iteration of the office/music room and it held JT’s recorder.  Then it went downstairs and I had painted it white thinking I would use it for my dressing table.  That didn’t happen so it because our new desk!

AFTER VIEW LOOKING AT DESKAFTER WITH DOGS

Already we are using this room so much more (online holiday shopping and the like.)  And with the desk at a right angle to the wall, you can be a part of what is happening in the room while you’re on the computer.

Here’s a view from behind the desk:

AFTER FROM ABOVE

The pictures are making it look small but it feels comfortable in real life.  Don’t get me wrong, this room is about the size of a postage stamp but there is plenty of circulation room and all the cabinet doors and drawers can open just fine.  The five-foot-long storage drawer we were using as a bench also works well as a guitar display surface for guitar stands and casually leaned pictures so while we lost a little seating by not using it as a bench, all the functions of the room are still there.  Most of JT’s guitars are packed up for the winter right now and live in the little closet behind the American flag so we may have to look at our layout again when those come out in the spring.

PHOTOBOMB

And I’ll leave you with this Shenanigan photobomb.  What an idiot.

1961 Silvertone 1458 Guitar and Amp

Picked up this odd package from a guy who had bought it new back in 1961. Everything in the original ad was there- the guitar, amp and case. Amp still sounds amazing, even with the strange RCA-to-1/8” input system.

The guitar is straight as an arrow, and required minimal adjustments. I did end up replacing both tuning arrays with period-correct replacements.

The electronics on the guitar, however were (as always) perfectly destroyed. You will rarely find original potentiometers or paper-in-oil capacitors in working order.

This package is another beautiful testament to the durability and wonderful design of these early Sears-brand guitars and amps, made in the USA in the late 50’s to early 60’s. A period when even a cheap, catalog-bought instrument was made with the utmost attention to quality.

See my Ebay posting here

Auction Action

Sunday was the big auction at Vandeventer Vintage.  The small-ish shop filled up with other dealers, antique mallers and assorted “vintage vultures” (as Dabito at Old Brand New calls them/us).  The action got started right at 1pm and for me a few unsuccessful attempts at bidding –first for an awesome Lucite book stand (you all know I love me some Lucite!) and then for a pair of Paul Klee paintings.  I could have gone a little higher but I was waiting for Lot #100 — a pair of Hans  Wegner (esque) rope/jute folding chairs.  These had some wear to them so they came with two sheepskins (real and vintage) and you all know how I LOVE sheepskins. .

So . . . here’s the living room on Sunday night after a major rearrangement:

And again in the morning light:

And as seen by a lazy sprawled out dog . . .

(There’s another lazy dog on the sofa hiding behind the sofa arm. They can’t be bothered to get out of the way for the sake of photos.)

I was also lucky/determined enough/coughed up enough cash to win Lot #56 – an arc lamp:

It’s been a nice addition to the living room.  I’m typing under it right now . . .

The base actually disguises a real-honest-to-goodness brick to act as a counterbalance to the light fixture proper.

I’m not 100% sold on it though because it’s a little brassier then I usually bring home . . .  Mr. Modtomic not only has a nice video of the auctioneer from Sunday running through his patter (favorite line: “You got to find ‘em first!”, repeated 100 times) and also has some awesome CHROME arc lamps he scored this weekend.  Jealous. (Check it out here and here).

But I’m definitely keeping the pair of chairs . . . (do you know how hard it can be to find things in pairs?)

Then the weekend wrapped up with a bang when JT found two guitars on Craigslist calling his name.  Quote from the guy he bought them from “When I buy things, I like to buy them in pairs”.  Me too, random Craigslist dude, me too.

Maybe JT will be back with a guitar post.  It’s been awhile, I bet you miss him.  The guitars are identical except their finish — this one is my favorite of the pair:

I can’t choose between Hans and Wenger though.  They’re both my favorites!

A little weekend update . . .

Kitchen update soon, promise.  First here’s a little update . . .

Sophie got a Thunder Shirt . . .

And learned how to pose for camera.

Shenanigan became a chameleon as I tried to photograph our little tree/plant that I’ve named “Jazz Hands”.  (He may have been a little upset with me by his annual vet visit followed by a nail clipping that morning).

Earth Day recycling of all the random things that have a plug at Rex (Recycling Extravaganza).  Although it was a little un-earth friendly because they made us all queue up and drive through to the different drop off stations . . . . I’m not complaining because we had been stockpiling some broken appliances for a while (two humidifiers, a hair dryer and straightening iron) along with so many outdated technology components.

And after playing back-to-back gigs Friday and Saturday night, JT snagged a new guitar off Craigslist . . .

That’s a hard-working lumberjack.  (Please help me convince him to get the paisley pick-up covers.  It would make that guitar pretty B.A.)

Not bad for two days off work.  There’s more, like some projects around the house (kitchen!) but those are coming soon — I PROMISE!