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The Practical Side of an Otherwise Impractical Career Choice

January 14th, 2009

I’ve been pretty broke lately as the pizza delivery business has slowed down some, and as such I’m trying to take care of business.  I cleaned up my hard drive and I’m trying to organize my press contacts and research more opportunities.  I decided I should be playing a show every month or so.  My natural rhythm of things is to book too many shows in a short period of time, and then not play any for 3 months.  I’m trying to do better.

I also have some backup in the works.  My friend Sarah has been practicing with me, doing keyboards and harmony vocals.  The upcoming shows should be interesting as the sound continues to fill out more:

I’m still working on booking a February show.

I had to go to a clinic to get my ears flushed out, and now I have my hearing back!  It’s amazing how much you appreciate something so simple after not having it for five days.  Especially being a musician.

I also revisited my makeshift guitar building studio for some long overdue sanding and practice with the router.   I’m reinspired.  Which doesn’t mean much when you’re broke, since guitar building is a pretty expensive hobby.

A New Workspace

November 25th, 2008


I’m still planning on building the guitars I’ve designed–slowly.  Today I hung lights in the basement of a friend’s house.

I was going to post the plans I drew up, but then progress ceased.  Anyway, above is my eventually-to-be-cluttered workbench.

The Jackson Re-build

June 22nd, 2008

I’m refinishing my Jackson, and in the process converting it to a hardtail-bridge, three-single-coil Strat format guitar. I’m doing a real hack job and I’ve documented half the process. Photos…

Before. HSS pickup layout and floyd rose bridge routing a la 90’s wannabe shredder rock. The hardware was cheap and stripped, rendering the guitar nearly useless.

Paint Stripping
I stripped all the paint by hand using a sanding block and 60-grit. Everything in my apartment got covered in dust.

Down to 120 and then 180.

I called someone I know who has a wood shop in Stevens Square to route out the cavities. I didn’t have a template and I’ve never used a router before, so the edges got fucked up. I just cut blocks of alder to approximate size to fit in the new cavities.

I used a chisel to remove the extra wood to fit the blocks, and accidentally knocked out a huge chunk from the back. I pried it out and glued it back in.

Adding Wood
Once the blocks fit (enough) I used a shitload of glue and clamped them in place one at a time, letting each side set for 24 hours. Then I used my dad’s belt sander to get it flush with the body.

I'm a Hack
I fucked up on the back. It got all wavy from me not holding the belt sander right. This is why I did the back first!

But I TryTo Cover it Up
I used lots of wood fill everywhere to get it even. This is my kitchen table. I eat here, pay my bills and shit, and now I sand wood here too. I’m questioning my lifestyle.

Sanded it again by hand with 120, and primed it with cheap rustoleum primer. Maybe it’s time to work on recording again.

I’ve never done this before

June 20th, 2008

It’s been a shaky transition between drawing stuff on paper and actually cutting and glueing wood, but I did one thing right: I started off with an experimental project that uses cheap materials.

I’ll right more about the project later, after I get the drawings for the circuitry done, but for now I’ll say that it’s an electronically modular guitar, built out of laminated birch veneer plywood.

Yes. Plywood. This idea is not going to appeal to Hendrix and Clapton wannabes, but again, more on that later.

The challenge at this point was actually laminating (glueing) the plywood together. I needed two pieces of 3/4″ and one piece of 1/4″ to make 1 3/4″–the standard thickness for an electric guitar. The original was to have the body shapes pre-cut with all the cavities cut out and then just glue it all together. Once I actually applied my woodworking skills using a hand-held jigsaw, I knew that wasn’t going to work. I just made rough cuts.

For the laminating itself, I tried clamps. (glueing the 1/4″ to one piece of 3/4″, which will be the back of the guitar) I got a huge gap in the middle because I didn’t have enough clamps, so today I came up with a new solution (below.)

Laminating Part 1Laminating Part 2

Laminating Part 3Laminating Part 4
Photo one is the bottom of the guitar (the previously and poorly glued part) covered in glue, waiting for the top. Two and three shows glue getting spread on the top. Then instead of clamping, I took a bass cabinet I bought at Savers for $7.99 and put that right on top of it. On top of the cabinet, my keyboard amp, and on top of that, a bass practice amp. (photo four)

I had dreams last night that I took the clamps off and the guitar just fell apart. I also had dreams of afunctionul in Dead Poets Society. But that’s a different story.

I remember what this was like…

June 16th, 2008

I now have my laptop back and glass in my passenger side window.  Such simple things, but what an effect.  Now I can get back to work on my life.  Wait, do I want to do that?

I got a neck in the mail today.  $25 of Ebay.  A slightly strat-style design, but not looking too standard as far as fit.  (I lined the holes up to my Jackson and they’re off.)  Perfect for a new build, though.  I have to keep an eye on these.  Necks can go pretty cheap because they can all have slight differences.  But it seems that if you’re building from scratch, you just start with the neck and work around the differences.   New necks of standard dimensions are rarely seen under $100.

I have a show tomorrow.   As far as I know, they’re still looking for people to fill in the night.

Oh yeah.  I designed another guitar last night, after looking at Telecaster Thinline forum threads.  I designed a PRS-type body with a drip-shaped f-hole, that can be built hollow with a wood frame and masonite.  I really want to make it a 12-string, if possible.

Guitar Design

June 12th, 2008

I get into these phases which, if you’re on the periphery of my life, look like ruts, but they’re not. I get an idea and I want to run with it, and that gets in the way of what I’m “supposed” to do.

I’ve completed my guitar design, and now I have a general drawing of the whole thing, left and right sideview drawings (to show the contours), a wiring diagram and pickguard layout, and a rough routing diagram.

On top of that, I got another idea for a guitar design, and it threw off my sleeping schedule. I was laying in bed a few nights ago, trying to fall asleep, and it hit me. I stayed up sketching it out until about 4 a.m. I’m not saying what it is yet. I want to get the plans done first. It’s a unique idea that there may be a niche market for. It would also be a good one to start out with as a practice build–but that’s all I’ll say! I already bought a neck off of Ebay.

I’ve been harassing Geek Squad the best I can. I sent a customer complaint online and by phone, demanding my computer be done by Saturday, and I’ve been calling them constantly. I had to explain to one of them on the phone that it doesn’t need to take a week for something to get shipped from Minneapolis to Kentucky. Every time I buy something expensive it gets shipped two-day Fed Ex. Geek Squad, on the other hand knows they’re losing money when a repair job is under warranty and instead goes with the pony express. Figures.

All this falling apart

June 9th, 2008

The last month has been a disaster. I’m trying to dig myself out of so much negativity, my body feels completely drained. It probably doesn’t help that I only sleep 4 hours a night, or that sometimes I forget to eat, or that I never forget to drink. I trudge my way through the day and reclaim myself at night, tending to overextend my schedule. Now I have a new job I’m not quite sure of and I’m as far as ever from realizing any of my goals. Somehow I’m in good spirits today. Maybe that’s because my downstairs neighbor was home all morning, meaning I didn’t have to wake up to the sounds of tortured animals. (see below)

I have a lot of stuff to work on, once my laptop is actually in my hands again. Geek Squad is my #1 source of stress right now. There’s a lot of stuff I can do to try and make some progress, but it’s all in the air for now.

I designed a guitar. I’m ditching the idea of making a Jazzmaster copy. Seems a little pointless to build from scratch and not design it yourself. So I took some hints from the Jazzmaster, Telecaster, Les Paul flat top and my Washburn, and successively traced draft after draft of my own design on translucent graphics bond until I was happy with it. The body is a single-cutaway design that’s offset like a Jazzmaster, but with a more standard body size. (I tried to match my Washburn’s basic dimensions.) I designed the pickguard as sort of a cross between a Jazzmaster and a Telecaster Deluxe that I’ve seen pictures of. The hardware and pickups are laid out like a Les Paul or SG, with a Tune-O-Matic bridge and two humbuckers (to match the more Gibson-style short scale and Mahogany body.) The real weird touch is that I’ve incorporated a Strat-style jack plate as a continuation of the pickguard design, in the same way that the Jaguar’s control plate is set. The controls will be simple: one master volume and one master tone, but instead of a switch I want to have some sort of a balance control. Still have to figure that out.

I post pictures you know when.