Saturday, May 28, 2011

Enough talk - Action! Manito Flying V Stereo Mod

I finally got around to modding my bargain Flying V from last year. Inspired by a blog post on Tym Guitars website. The mod is pretty easy to do if you have the tools. I used me Dremel and Router attachment. First thing to do was place the pickup on the guitar and drill the holes for the screw adjustment. Next was to flip the pickup upside down and trace the outline with a sharpie. I had to eyeball the line to make sure that I didn't go over. For the most part I kept within the line and did the final filing and shaping by hand. The Mustang Bullet Bass pickup fits nice and tightly in the hole. Once that was ready, I needed to make space in the body. The manufacturer promised a solid mahogany body, it's low grade, but it looks pretty similar to the photos in my woodworking book.  

Routing out the hole was done with the neck in situ, I just made some rails out of ice-cream sticks and masking tape to allow the router edge to glide over the fretboard. A little bit of soldering and a re-string(the proper way) and it was all roses. The nut needed to be replaced and is close to finished, though I need to spend a bit more time on it to make it just right. Once it was strung up I fired up a few effects, with the mustang bass pickup feeding an octaver. 

 It needs a little noise suppression to kill the bleed over from the 5th string, but nothing to worry about in any real sense. A fun project, that I recommend to anyone brave enough to get into cutting scratch plate material.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Parts PaRtS PARTS pArTs parts!

When getting into work this morning I passed by the lads in the mail room (as I always do) and I was informed that some packages had arrived. What could they be I wonder?

As I approached my desk I saw several packages, one I didn't order, one that I had ordered and one that I'd forgotten I'd ordered! One of our I.T. guys is an ex bass player and he was rummaging around some place, found some old Gotoh Bass tuning heads and though I'd like to have them. Yes I would!

My Hallmark vibrato turned up after just 8 days from the USA, and by coincidence, my Mosrite style roller bridge arrived as well. Packed in with the Roller bridge was also the new stud mount wrap tail bridge for the Surfcaster. So I'm all set to get my guitars back in working order. Now I just need to find time.

Yesterday I finally received my Weber Z-Matcher. It's a nice looking unit. Well built and uses no power aside from the amplifier output to do it's thing. I bought it specifically to work with my 16ohm Epiphone cabinet and Fender Princeton to obtain the required impedance per the manual. It'll also come in handy when using my isolation cabinet for recording as it has a line out as well.  Fun times ahead.


Sunday, May 22, 2011

The infinite sustain project

This week the story is about my friends guitar.
It's a black Gretsch Pro Jet (I think). A ncie guitar, and despite having a large portion of the body chambered, it's quite heavy. The existing pickups are Mini Humbuckers, but I don't know much about them.
They're stock and have a nice twang to them, not really like a Fitlertron, but definitely down that road. Nothing like a PAF.

We both agree that the guitar sounds great as is, which is why it's taken him some time to make to move to have it "upgraded" to his favourite pickup configuration. An EMG 81.

I originally though he was crazy. But having done the install and testing, I have to admit, it sounds great.

The job was fairly straight forward as EMG supply the wiring harness, the only soldering needed is to and from the volume pot. Got that sorted and played a little bit. The tone of the guitar still had it's nice country feel, but the EMG was clear and has a great dynamic range. Very quiet too. My flat has severe problems with EMI and as such is a good test bed for the sorts of issues that may come up out in the real world.

The routing on the body is wide enough to just drop in a humbucker, though the length of the rout is big enough to put a non dog ear P90 pickup in. I cut some pine and shaped it to fit at either end of the pickup and painted them black to match the body. Once that was done I added a simple chrome pickup ring that I'd had  in my parts drawer. No drilling into the guitar was needed as the screws just slid between the pine and the body, which in turn secured the pickup at the desired height. The mod is so simple that the pickup can't be adjusted, but that's fine since, it's already at the optimum distance from the strings.

The other part of this mod, is one I've done on a few other guitars over the last couple of years. A home made sustain driver. It's pretty easy to do. All you need is a decent magnet and some 0.25mm enamel coated wire for the driver coil and a 1/4w LM386 based amplifier to power it. The output of the bridge pickup is fed into the amplifier and the coil acts like a resonant feedback (not microphonic) that one might get from a loud amp.

I used a Strat style pickup bobbin to mount the driver on. With the gauge of wire I used, you only need 160 turns to get to 8ohms. With some experimentation I have found that the best results are obtained by winding directly to the magnet, rather than just the pole pieces. This has the added benefit of not requiring the poles to line up with the strings as the magnet is a continuous bar.

Mounting the sustainer in a P90 sized hole presented a problem.

First I cut a piece of ply and shaped it to fit in the cavity, but this was going to be a pain to rout as I didn't have a template available and it was raining (my work area is outside). After messing with a small hand saw for a time, I remembered that there was an old chewed up Strat scratch plate in my pile of bits. All that needed to be done was cut to size.

This was easy in principal, in practice getting the coping saw to cut smoothly was a pain. The blade that I have is a little to coarse and kept getting stuck. I managed to file it all down and fit it in the lot fairly easily and the precut hole was prefect for dropping the bobbin to the required height.

In all it probably took four hours to get it all together, but the end result is pretty cool and I'm sure he'll be happy with his country metal noise monster!

My sustainer tutorial

Jagmaster Project

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Reverse Hummingbird

While trawling the internet for more info on the hummingbird, I came across these photos.
The guitar looks like it could have been originally intended to be a left handed hummingbird, but has been made right handed with the long horn at the top. Honestly, I think the body shape looks great both ways.

Up to now I had thought that mine was a cheap laminate body and was considering routing to place in a slab of mahogany under the bridge for increased sustain and tone. Looking at these pictures though, reveals the wood through the finish and it seems that the guitar was made in a similar fashion as the neck, by laminating thick pieces of timber, going the length of the body.

Now I am thinking that the appearance of laminate in the body routing, might actually be artifacts of the routing process as seen in another guitar that I worked on.

I've not had much time to do anything much lately, the weather has turned cold and damp, plus the days are shorter, so I barely have any workable daylight at all. The re-finish will need to wait until spring, but in the mean time I'll be able to get the body prepared to accept the new hardware and make up the scratch plate.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Works in progress

I've got the parts for my next upgrade projects.
Well most of them.
Waiting on a roller bridge for the Les Paul and an adjustable wrap tail for the Surfcaster.

The Bigsby and Vibramate were easy to fit to the Les Paul, though the strap button wasn't quite in the right spot, so had to be re positioned.  Haven't got strings on there yet as I want to mess with the pickups again.\

I did a quick and dirty job of rigging up the Filtertron on the Surfcaster.
So far I'm quite happy with the sound of this guitar/pickup combo. It's now got the right kind of bottom end and bite. Very nice cleans, very "alive" sounding.

Both guitars will probably end up being setup for flat wound 12's.

Who knows, it might be awesome?

Am leaning toward Filtertrons on the Les Paul now too.
At least one in the neck and the P-Rail in the bridge.

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