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Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Pickup joint

For those who are interested here is my unofficial and totally biased top five of favourite aftermarket pickups.

No 5……..Bare Knuckle vintage Strat set………had those on my ‘mint and cream’ Strat……very good but VERY pricey…..

No 4………better value for money (all three pickups cost less than one Bare Knuckle) and nearly as good sounding: Wilkinson Vintage Alnico Strat set…got to be the best bang per buck on the market for Strat users.

No 3………Kent Armstrong vintage alnico Telecaster pickup. Another cheaply made far eastern pickup, but a fabulous sounding one for all that.

Worthy runner up………The Wilkinson Alnico PAF humbucker. Cheap as chips and nearly as hot! I honestly cannot praise this pickup highly enough.

In first place………The Di Marzio super distortion/dual sound humbucker, the pickup that started the whole aftermarket pickup thing……Designed in the early seventies and still as good today as ever. I had a pair of these first in 1975 in an Antoria Les Paul Copy….. it was a killer!

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

More on the green meanie


Progress has carried on the ‘Junior’ I have been attempting to complete after it’s long rest in one of my cupboards (see March post). Well the horrible green see through poly brushed on to test it years ago has been sanded off…contrary to my initial worries it put up very little resistance. Some green gunk has soaked into the grain of the body but I’m not too worried as white primer is going to cover up all that, especially when followed by a butterscotch cream top coat.

My initial plan to use a wrap over Les Paul junior tailpiece was shot down in flames when after spending out on one (gold plated) I discovered the neck set angle of about two and a half degrees would not allow the action to go low with the ‘Badass’ stile bridge that tops out at 20mm from base to top of saddles. It was back to the drawing board and back to Axesrus who have a brilliant string through body ‘hardtail’ Strat style bridge that looks different enough from a fender item to give the junior a character all of it’s own……I like it so much I may say to everyone that I planned to use it all along!

Up at the head end I have installed a set of lovely gold plated Wilkinson open gear tuners…Wilkinson hardware is so impressive these days.

Next step will be putting the body in primer, cutting a proper scratchplate and ordering a pickup.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Well I’ve slapped some strings on the Canjo to try it out….I was fed up with waiting to finish it completely.

Well…it plays….like a banjo really. The intonation is pretty well spot on….it’s a little more guitar like and less spranky than a proper drum headed instrument…..bit like a banjo crossed with a National Steel guitar.

Lessons learned? Well aside from vowing never to attack a lump of Jarra in earnest again, I think it’s fascinating that perfectly playable instruments can be made out of junk…..though it has to be said…a pug ugly ones! I may now indulge myself by creating a baritone guitar, a mandolin and any other junk yard orchestra instruments I can think of! I am even thinking about writing a book about it!

Monday, 11 May 2009

Tuner friendly!

The 'Canjo' neck is fretted......like the first Telecasters there is no separate fingreboard...the narrow banjo/mandolin frets are pressed straight into the neck. also like the first Teles there is no truss rod.......the Jarra is so hard and stiff there is absolutely no point! Above is a piccie of the ace-of-bodge job I have done making a 5th string tuner. I shortened the tuner shaft and re-bored and reamed the string hole......ten quid saved on a commercial banjo tuner!

Friday, 8 May 2009


Well here it is partially complete....as ugly as...well... a lump of sub atomically heavy Jarrah wood temporarily clamped to a Roses sweetie tin that's roughly banjo shaped! the whole assemblage is so weighty I might have invented the worlds first heavy metal banjo. No fret slots cut yet and the neck needs half a ton more wood taken off it.....

Thursday, 7 May 2009

'Ring Ring those....er....Cookie tins!

It’s amazing to me how crude a musical instrument can get away with being and still produce a pleasing sound in the hands of a skilled musician. If you type in cookie tin banjo or cigar box guitar into U tube you will get an idea of what can be done with very little…and indeed how our ancestors probably made music.

Yes this is the cue for yet another project…..I have always had a yen to try my hand at banjo….and hearing the results of others efforts at construction…I decided to chuck together a ‘Cookie Tin Banjo’. I have a large stock of Australian Jarra hardwood kicking about so I decided to sculpt a neck from that…….poor move……the stuff is soooo hard that virtually all tools bounce off it (okay so no truss rod will be needed) and boy do you get vicious splinters from it.

I’ve got it roughed out after two evenings of hard graft…note to self….don’t experiment with lovely looking hardwoods you’ve never worked with before unless you have adequate tools!

I have found however some fabulous software for calculating fret spacing, and better, printing out a ‘fret board’ on paper that can be stuck with Spraymount to the blank finger board then the fret slots cut through it with a ‘Gents saw’. This eliminates all the tedious marking and checking….result!


I will post photos of the beastie soon.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

30th anniversary

It's thirty years since I built my first custom guitar to order........and this was it........seen in 1979.
It was quite a beast and well over the top....but then that suited the personality of the guy I built it for TomTaylor, at that time my boss at the music shop where I worked. The features were: an ash straight through neck with Honduras mahogany 'wings', two high output humbucking DiMarzio bass pickups with series/parallel and in/out of phase switches feeding in stereo to two (yes two) six band graphic equalisers and an active preamp! This was a fretless tone monster with a gaboon ebony fingerboard and a Leo Quan Badass bass bridge...Oh yeh and it weighed a bloody ton!