Hi Ho Silver!

Posted in Gibson, Gresch, guitar with tags , , on Tuesday, August 4, 2015 by Ed Wyrd

I’m about to drive all the Gibson fanboys crazy.

Remember back when I wrote Eenie Meenie Minie Mo, Which Guitar is Going to Go? and I had decided to trade in my 2000 Gibson SG Special for a Gretsch? But then in SG Update I decided not to sell the Gibson? Well, guess what?

A few weeks back I traded in my 1980s Peavey Backstage Plus and was able to get a brand spanking new Peavey Vyper VIP2. It was relatively painless. And it got me to thinking about the SG again.

On Saturday (4 days ago)  my wife and I went to the Half Price Books across town. Next door to this is a Music Go Round, so I figured, what the hell, I’ll just go in and look. No harm in that.

They had a wide assortment of guitars, mostly cheaper things like Epiphone, Squire, Luna, First Act, Oscar Schmidt, Cort, but also some Fender, Ibanez, LTD, Schecter, PRS, and a 2008 Gibson SG Faded Cherry. I pulled that one down and started playing it. It was in pretty good condition and actually felt better than my SG.

The next day, Sunday, I came back and brought my SG with me to get an estimate. While they priced it, I played with a few other guitars, a Carvin DC150, an Ibanez AFD75 Artcore, an Ibanez AFJ95VSB, a PRS SE.

And then I saw it: it had a silver speckle finish and a welcome glow. I plugged it in and it purred like a kitten, while the tremolo bar gave the purr a nice wavering warble.

About this time, the salesman came up and said they could offer $349 cash for my SG or $360 in trade, which was close to the ballpark figure the guy at Cream City Music had quoted me.

I said, OK, I was interested in the SG Faded, but I noticed it had some fret buzz on the E and D strings when you fretted from about the 3 fret up to the 7th. He took it and played with it, then said, yes, there was some buzz, but nothing unusual. I admit I’m no expert on guitars, but I don’t think fret buzz is acceptable and it means I’d have to take it in for a tune-up. So I asked if I could get some money off of it (I was thinking at least the $50 it would cost me to get it tuned), and the manager had come over by this time and said, maybe a few bucks.

I said, no thank you, I’ll have to think about it. So I left. Over the last few days I kept thinking about that guitar. My dreams were filled with its gorgeous curves and luscious finish. I had to have it. So I went back tonight. I walked in and told them I had made my decision and wanted to trade in my SG. “For the Faded SG?” No, not the Faded SG, the silver sparkle one. The Gretsch G5246T Double Jet with the Bigsby tremolo.

So say goodbye to my SG:

2008 Gibson SG Special

2008 Gibson SG Special

And say hello to Silver:

2015-08-04 19.50.30

2007 Gretsch G5246T Double Jet


Yes, I named it after the Lone Ranger’s horse.

Now I don’t want to argue whether or not some of you experts think this was or was not an upgrade, because for me, it was. I was never truly happy with that SG and I’m very happy with Silver.

And it would seem that in the process I’ve become a Gretsch fanboy.

Hi ho, Silver! Away!

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These were a few of my favorite stores

Posted in album art, books, vcr with tags , , , , , , on Friday, July 10, 2015 by Ed Wyrd

As a child, my favorite store to hang out and just browse all the cool shit was the hobby store at Capital Court mall. It was called The Hobby Horse, I beleive. Both it and the mall are long gone, just childhood memories now.

But back then I was into plastic modeling and racing HO cars (those little slot car racers made by Aurora). HO cars, like trains, were a huge fad back in the 1960s. Unlike today, where you get a cheap race track set for a few bucks that runs on batteries, has crappy cars that won’t stay on the track or even run half the time, and you end up throwing the whole piece of shit in the trash in a month, the HO cars of the ’60s were well-made, durable, and customizable.

Everything on the car, from the chassis itself, to the wheels, magnets, bushings, and the conductor rails, were replaceable with higher end accessories designed to give you an edge in a race. (I still have my cars and parts.)

Many  a Saturday afternoon was spent in the Hobby Horse just window shopping for all the latest car designs or the newest plastic model kits.

Then, sometime around when I was 14 or 15-year-old, my tastes drastically changed. It happened when I heard my first Black Sabbath album and read my first fantasy novel (Tarzan or Conan, can’t remember which was first). My new favorite stores to browse in became Walden Books and 1812 Overture, a record store on the corner near my home (as well as downtown’s Radio Doctors).

I’d spend hours at each, just browsing, picking up books that caught my attention, or flipping through records in the bins. Walden’s then had a great selection of current books in the science fiction, fantasy, and pulp adventure reprints. Back then, it seemed like every visit brought a plethora of new paperbacks that smelled fresh off the presses: a new Doc Savage, The Shadow, Tarzan, or Conan.

And the record store as well was an aural and visual delight. The store’s staff always had some new music playing and just browsing through the bins was an adventure. This was back when album covers were truly worthy of being called art. Many artists of the day created some frame-worthy pieces, most notably Roger Dean.

Yes's

Yes’s “Tales from Topographic Oceans” by Roger Dean

Then in the 1980s, the VCR became affordable for consumers and video stores opened up, like Suncoast Pictures, where you could go and browse for your favorite movies, TV shows, or musicals, and to reserve copies of the newest upcoming releases. Browsing a Suncoast was a movie-goers dream: they offered not only videos, but posters and other Hollywood memorabilia.

For many of us, browsing is a thing. We could spend hours sifting through records, or videos, or perusing books. It was a truly enjoyable experience and one that has in many cases gone away.

Today, everything is digitized and available on the Internet.

Record stores are just a memory. No one buys albums any more (except for the current nostalgic fad). Music is just a bunch of binary 1s and 0s and album art is also a thing of the past. I mean seriously, is it possible to appreciate a postage-sized graphic representation the way we could a 12 inch by 12 inch gorgeous piece of artwork?

Video stores are all gone and book stores, like Walden, B. Dalton, and Borders are all out of business. Only Barnes and Noble survives, but they’re becoming just a shadow of their former self, catering less to bibliophiles and becoming more of a gift shop, specializing in action figures, Legos, and manga. For book browsers like me, a trip to B&N takes mere minutes now.

For those of us who love to browse, the Internet and digital technology is our bane. Its sad because people need that adventure of discovering new music, or a new author, or what have you, that only comes from physically holding the object, enjoying the tactile feel, appreciating the visual aesthetics, reading the cover blurbs or liner notes. You can’t do that online, not like in real life.

In comparison, online shopping is one-dimensional. You can only see what they want you to see. The experience is static, artificial, and unfulfilling. Maybe one day businesses will realize this and attempt to give customers more of the old-fashioned, hands-on shopping experience. Sure, they’ll never return to brick and mortar stores, those are proving to be too inefficient, but maybe three-dimensional holographic stores could be the answer. With a pair of glasses, you can log-on to Amazon (or online retailer of choice), choose books or music, and voila! You’re transported to a virtual bookstore, with shelves lined with books, just like the good old days, and you can pick them up, look at the front and back, open them, peruse them, and discover books you wouldn’t have just scrolling through page after page online.

Maybe. One day.

A fella can dream, can’t he?

But, until that day, at least I still have guitar stores to go to and browse.

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Zen and the art of guitar maintenance

Posted in guitar, Ibanez, Les Paul with tags , , , on Tuesday, June 23, 2015 by Ed Wyrd

My experience maintaining my guitars has been minimal, at best. I’ve done nothing more complicated than changing strings and polishing them. So what I just did, for me, is nothing short of miraculous.

Over the last several weeks, I took my corroded Ibanez Les Paul and transformed it into a working beauty.

Most of the issue was metallic. All the hardware needed replacing and I was fortunate that the original dark wood finish was still in great condition. So there was no sanding or refinishing involved, just electronic replacement.

If you want to see what a hot mess it was (and I apologize, I don’t know how that term slipped into my vocabulary), check out yesterday’s blog post, Waiting for the luthier or someone like him.

Over several weeks, I ordered all the new parts I thought I’d need and when the last one finally arrived, I got down to work.

Never having undertaken such a task, of course I consulted all the YouTube experts, but I also acquired information the old-fashioned way: I checked out a few books from the library, including the “Haynes Gibson SG” book, which provided a lot of help.

I won’t bore you with the step-by-step process (and I could do that very easily since I used to be a tech writer before the economy went south in 2009), but basically, I removed all the screws, put them in order so I wouldn’t get them confused (in reality, they all ended up in a jar to soak in WD-40, on the off chance it would remove some of the corrosion). This actually turned out to be unnecessary, because all the replacement pieces came with shiny new screws.

I pried out the huge metal anchors that held in the bridge and tail piece. Then I pounded in the new anchors with a rubber mallet. The tail piece fit perfectly, however, this is when I learned that tune-o-matic bridges are not universal! The new one wasn’t wide enough to span both posts. That’s when I measured the two and found out the new one was a couple millimeters shorter. Frustrated at myself for not figuring this out in the first place, I ordered another one.

The new tune-o-matic fit without even having to use its supplied anchor posts. And personally, I think it’s much snazzier looking. Instead if the traditional wedge-shaped strong guides, this one has little rollers, lime so:

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Next, I removed the humbucker. First the bridge one, tugging on the wire to see which pot it was connected to.

I do not know if it’s the nature of the braided wire Ibanez used originally and the metal acted as a natural heat sink, or if Ibanez used some special heat-resistant solder, or if the soldering iron just wouldn’t get hot enough (but it worked like a charm on all the other soldier joints), but I had a helluva hard time unsoldering those braided ground wires.

Here’s a picture of the rat’s nest prior to my attacking it:

image

I had to take a hooked tool and tug while I applied the iron to the solder.  Eventually, they came loose and I was able to feed through the wires for the new humbucker and solder it in. I repeated the procedure with the neck pickup.

Then I replaced the output jack. This was fun because it not only was difficult getting the braided wire unsoldered, it was just as hard getting it soldered into place on the new one. I eventually cheated by taking some bare wire strands from a piece of speaker wire, wrapping it around the post and the braided ground wire, and liberally applying solder to the whole damned thing.

I ended up doing something similar to wire in the new three-position switch because it had three braided grounding wires coming in. I wrapped them together and soldered them to the grounding prong on the switch. Then, my ADHD kicked in and I jumped the gun by screwing in the switch’s cover and the neck humbucker before I tested them to see if they worked.

I plugged in my Smokey amp then out a tuning fork near each pickup. The bridge pickup worked fine. The neck pickup didn’t work.

I unscrewed the switch’s cover, carefully removed the ring bolt, pulled it out, bent back some prongs and made sure no wires were touching, did some solder touch-up, then before putting it back together, tested the humbuckers. Yay! They worked. I put everything back together and tested again. Double yay! They still worked.

I was almost home free. All I had to do was press in the replacement tuner bushings and I’d be done. Turns out, the bushings, although they fit onto the tuning machine pegs, were too wide for the original hole in the headstock. (Having learned my lesson with the wrong sized bridge, I had, in fact, measured these. Unfortunately, the measurement was of the inside diameter of the bushings, not the diameter of the hole it was to go into.

So I got out my drill and a round file and went to work widening each hole. That done, I pressed in the bushings, screwed in the original machine heads, and now I was ready to restring.

I put on the two E strings, then I pressed the low E string at the first fret and at around the 20th fret. I sighted along the neck and realized it touched every fret. That meant I had to adjust the truss rod to put a slight curve in the neck or I’d be suffering from string buzz.

That done, I finished stringing, tuned each string, then played its harmonic at the 12th fret. It was in tune. (I had duplicated where my original tune-o-matic had each string guide set, and must have hit it perfectly).

I played a few tunes on her and was very pleased with her unamplified sound, but the real test would be plugging her in. I had bought a cheap pair of humbuckers off of eBay fully intending to replace them somewhere down the road with higher quality ones, but when I plugged in and played her…

Wow. The sound was rich and warm, with some nice bottom, unlike the thin, trebly-sounding original pickups that I was never happy with.

So now I essentially have a new, nice sounding Les Paul. I had replaced everything, even the strap pegs, except for the volume/tone pots, their knobs, and the tuning machines.

And now, the reveal:

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image

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I’m happy with the results. I also have a feeling of satisfaction having done the work myself. In fact, now I want to buy one of those unfinished wood guitar kits and finish and assemble it.

Until then, my next project is to refinish this stool I found in the trash:

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I would like to give it a piano gloss-like finish. I figure that will give me some experience before I tackle a guitar body.

I’ll let you know how that goes.

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Waiting for the luthier or someone like him

Posted in guitar, Ibanez, Les Paul with tags , , , on Monday, June 22, 2015 by Ed Wyrd

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, my Les Paul was last seen languishing in its hard case, subjected to all the multifarious atmospheric conditions that plague our basement, most of them involving moisture.

Years of neglect led to this:

image

And this:

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The Treble/Rhythm Ring is worn and the pickups show rust.

And this:

image

Hard to see, but all chrome hardware is corroded and flaking. Bridge pickups show rust.

And this:

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More rust.

And this:

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Corroded tuner bushings, missing high E bushing.

She was in bad shape. I had purchased her used in 1984. It is an Ibanez Les Paul copy, (as you can tell by the headstock, post-lawsuit). At one point, I had sent a letter to Ibanez asking how old she was. They replied it was a 1978, although now, researching on the internet, the serial number seems to indicate it was made in early 1977.

Her sound was never quite right to my ears, although now I realize that probably had as much to do with my Peavey Backstage Plus amp as it did the pickups. It just didn’t seem to give the low end punch I wanted from a Les Paul.

There were other issues also. A buzz. Not a fret buzz, but an annoying vibration from the neck pickup. Being stupid about guitars at the time, I made the assumption it was those ugly metal pickup covers causing the vibration.

So instead of seeking professional assistance (this was in the days before the internet) I took a screw driver and pried them off!

Luckily, I didn’t do any serious damage to either the pickups or the finish. But the vibration persisted until I wedged a folded piece of cardboard into the space next to the pickup. Problem sort of solved, but it didn’t improve the sound or her appearance.

So I stopped playing her, got a new guitar, and stored her away. Until recently. I pulled her out and like Linus looking at Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, I said, “she’s not really such a bad looking guitar. All she needs is a little tender loving care and some new parts.”

Over a period of a few weeks, I ordered a new Treble/Rhythm ring (the words were completely worn away), a new 3-way switch (the old one crackled when moved and didn’t work in the Treble position), new humbucker pickups, a new bridge and tail piece (the old ones were really grungy and corroded), a new pick guard (not that there was anything wrong with the original. It’s just plastic, but the mounting hardware was rusted and corroded), and some tuner ring bushings (also corroded and one was missing). I’d have replaced the tuners themselves, but I couldn’t find an exact match and would have had to drill new mounting holes.

And over about a three week period in June, I worked on her a little bit when time permitted.

Last night, I finally finished, put new strings on, and tuned her up.

Tomorrow, I’ll do the reveal.

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Dreamweaver

Posted in dreams, guns, tv with tags , , , , on Tuesday, June 2, 2015 by Ed Wyrd

I usually don’t remember my dreams. I wish I did. I wish I was one of those writers who keep a pen and notepad by their bedside so when they wake up they can jot down every juicy detail and use it for fodder for their next story.

But my dreams are like an ephemeral mist that dissolves when exposed to warm rays of the sun.

But last night’s dream has lasted, or at least a part of it has and its odd enough that I thought I’d share.

I was assisting special agent Jethro Gibbs of NCIS (the TV show). I wasn’t an agent, but for some reason I was helping him. He had even given me his gun.

I had trailed the bad guys back to their lair and decided to apprehend them myself.

I quietly entered through the rear door. It was dark and hard to see, and I moved cautiously, holding my gun out before me as I entered the next room, like they do on cop shows on TV. From out of another room, one of the bad guys appeared, firing at me.

I returned fire and he fell. I kicked his gun away, then kneeled down to check him. He was dead.

From another doorway, the second baddy rushed me. I tried to fire, but the gun jammed. I looked at it and saw that it was stuffed with tiddly-winks.

What the heck? Somehow Gibbs had kept his gun in his pocket and also kept tiddly-winks in it, which got into the gun, jamming it.

OK, let me pause a moment here and explain the gun. It didn’t shoot regular bullets, instead you loaded these metal discs into it. It didn’t fire the discs, like one of those plastic toy guns that launch plastic discs horizontally from the barrel by a spring. No, these were metal discs, like slugs (those stamped metal discs that you have to pop off of a metal electrical outlet to run the wires through). Like slugs, these too were about the size of a quarter. You loaded them into the gun vertically so when the gun fired, the hammer struck the face of the slug, firing the bullet.

You can see how tiddly-winks could screw the whole thing up. The plastic disc would come between the hammer and the slug, preventing the gun from firing.

And all this made sense to me in the dream. It wasn’t anything unusual, this disc-firing gun. On the contrary, it seemed oh so normal.

So back to the dream. The baddy is attacking me, knocking me around, and all the while I’m struggling with this gun, cursing Gibbs, and trying to remove the tiddly-winks and reload it with the slug-bullets.

Again, in real life this would be impossible: to fix a jammed gun while under attack. But this was my dream, and this too seemed normal.

Finally, I was able to clear the jam and reload the gun. I leaped clear of the attack and fired several shots at the baddy. Several were body shots but I saw a hole appear in his forehead.

He should have gone down. Heck, with a head shit, he should have died instantly. Instead, this was dream-reality and he kept coming.

He picked up a large tube TV that had been sitting on one of those 1960s metal stands with the spindly legs where the TV sat on a lazy-susan spinning center. He raised it over his head, about to smash me with it, when finally his nervous system shut down and he crashed to the floor, dead.

Then my alarm went off. So I never did get to chastise Gibbs for giving me a gun jammed with his tiddly-winks. Which is probably for the best, he would have just Gibb slapped me anyway and said something terse like, “Next time, check your weapon beforehand.”

And DiNozzo would have called me a proby and compared my situation to some movie.

Or something like that, and it would have all made perfect sense.

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Build it yourself

Posted in Fender, Gibson, Gresch, guitar, Ibanez, Les Paul with tags , , , on Monday, June 1, 2015 by Ed Wyrd

All right, first I have an assignment for you. Go to the following URL on eBay and look at the item, then if you like, look at the rest of the seller’s inventory, then come back here so we can discuss it.

thestratosphere

Interesting? I found it searching for used Les Paul guitars. That isn’t the only company that sells “project” guitar bodies and necks, but their the first one I ran across.

Seeing those bodies at a fraction of the cost of an actual Gibson, Fender, or Gretsch left me with several questions.

First of all, if you buy a 2015 Gibson Les Paul Studio body, does it come with a Gibson factory warranty?

I’m thinking not. It would be like buying a stripped down Vette body and filling it with your own components. I doubt that Chevy would stand behind the product, and in this case, I wouldn’t think Gibson would either.

Another question, where do these stripped down guitars come from? Does this company buy say, a $1000 guitar, strip out all the components, them sell everything individually? How do they make any money on that? The example guitar, you could probably buy all the parts for anywhere from $25 all the way up to ten tines that. Even then, you’ve only spend say $750 for a $1000 guitar. How is this company profiting?

Unless these are blemished or used or even demo guitars that they got at significant discount on, but even then, I can’t imagine them being able to pick up a 2015 Gibson Les Paul Studio for what it would take for them to turn a profit at $459 for a body and neck.

Another question is, if you do purchase one of these project guitars, once you have it all assembled and functioning, can you make a profit selling it? Would you be able to sell it at whatever the going rate for a used Gibson is? Would an appraiser be able to spot it as a fake? Or is it considered customized?

I’m only curious because I’ll essentially be replacing everything on my lawsuit era Ibanez Les Paul except for the tuners, the volume and tone pots and much of the original wiring, and if I find that an enjoyable experience, I wouldn’t mind trying my hand at one of these projects where I’d have to put in all the hardware.

Maybe it could be the start of a new avocation for me: Shadow Ferret Guitar Customization.

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SG Update

Posted in Gibson, Gresch, guitar, Ibanez, Les Paul with tags , , , on Friday, May 29, 2015 by Ed Wyrd

I stopped in at Cream City Music and asked for a rough estimate on what my Gibson SG special  might be worth.
Since I didn’t have it with me, he couldn’t do a thorough examination of it to give an accurate estimate, but he did do the ball park figure thing.

For a 2000/01 in mint condition, he said you could expect to get $600-700 for it.

Mine is in mint condition except for a small paint chip on one of the horns — the left one, which is the one facing you when you play it.

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I’ve been trying to get an estimate for repair, but most of the guitar stores only do minor repairs and they don’t have painting facilities. I did contact Gibson and they sent an email with instructions on how to pack it and ship it to them. Then they’d look at it and provide an estimate.

In other words, I’d pay for shipping, then if I didn’t like Gibson’s estimate, I’d still have to pay $80 for the privilege of having them look at it, and I assume, the cost of return shipping.

The estimate of $6-700 was right around what I was hoping, but then he said that’s what they’d expect to get when they sell it.

Oh. And what could I expect to get selling it to you? “Around $350.” Trade-in? A few percentage points more.

Much less than I was hoping for a trade-in for a Gretsch.

So for the time being, I’m keeping my Gibson, and looking for a guitar store or luthier that does paint repair. Then if I still want to sell it, I’ll have to do it myself, possibly on eBay or in the classified. Or, if I feel like dealing with creepy, scary people: Craigslist.

In the meantime, I’ll be refurbishing my Les Paul. Stay tuned.

Oh, and it looks like I’ll be keeping my Peavey Backstage Plus. The guy at Cream City Music said they’re a dime a dozen. I guess everyone owned one once and they’re all trying to sell them.

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