Author Archives: JT

Tree Stump Table

So we have this amazing view of South Mountain in our backyard, but when we moved in it was blocked by two trees. Well, one tree and one sad-sack-of-shit tree stump that was totally overgrown with weeds. We were sure it was providing hiding places for snakes, coyotes, tarantulas, hikers, hipsters.

Big crappy trees

Big crappy trees

No more big crappy trees

No more big crappy trees

We had someone come out and cut them down, which they did in about 2 hours flat. One by-product was a couple logs, one of which I decided to turn into a tree stump table so I could contribute to CT’s living room design.

When I went to grab the stump, I found a giant bug on it. Maybe it was a molted shell, maybe it was alive……I don’t know. All I know is I saw something brown, green and about 5 inches long in a split second before I dropped it and jumped-jerked-pirouetted away. I then soaked it for about 3 minutes with the hose. From there I gathered up the courage to gather it up and set it in the sun for few days to dry out in the midsummer Arizona sun.

Sanded, ready for poly

Sanded, ready for poly

Once I got it into the garage, I began sanding it. Quite honestly I really didn’t know how much sanding I wanted to do. The whole idea of this project was bringing in a rustic touch, but at the same time I needed some leveling of the ends. My solution was starting with medium-coarse grit and finishing with 600 grit. Just enough to smooth out the real rough spots. I cleaned it off with a can of compressed air, and started in with layers of clear brush-on polyurethane. After a few weeks of curing, it was ready to bring in and enjoy.

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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.

IMG_2845

IMG_2844

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

IMG_2847

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.

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!

 

Blah Blah Blah

I just had to tell someone: NO one rocks harder than Iggy Pop. What a blissful album. Such a grand mix of 70’s punk/post-punk sensibility with 80’s pop-kitsch. Good guitar work. Nice pants.

freaking awesome

freaking awesome

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!