Friday, 7 September 2012
Monday, 3 September 2012
On with part four.
Here we see the new Blitz Spirit neck humbucker nestling in the rout as I tried the ‘legs’ out for depth. I usually find a couple of snags in any job … and I found one here. The long legs on the nickel silver base plates fitted in fine, but the clumsy metric height adjustment screws fitted to most ‘import’ guitars, including the Vintage won’t fit US/Gibson spec baseplates. The only US spec adjustment screws I had in stock were 1” rather than the vintage Gibbo 1.25”. This means that I won’t be able lower the pickup enough to clear the strings properly when playing up at the last two frets. Never mind … I ordered a bunch of the correct screws and resigned myself to living with a guitar with 20 usable frets till they arrive!
Back to the rear of the guitar
And here’s the completed job.
I’ve insulated the output jack cable with 9mm rayon loom tape for neatness … and the job’s a good-en!
Time to plug in and test out: the original Wilkinsons sounded thick and quite powerful, but with a really ‘clouded’ top end on the neck pickup sounding ‘soupy’ and poorly defined. The original bridge pickup sounded a touch thin, with a gritty top end, and overall a bit screechy. The Blitz Spirits are a cooler wind 7k and 7.9k as opposed to 8.5 and 14k for the Wilkinsons and have the softer more rounded sounding alnico 2 magnets. Plugged into the clean channel of my Laney LC30 mk2 the difference was pretty spectacular: even with a cooler wind and magnets the ‘Spirits’ are subjectively much louder than the Wilkinsons. Plenty of woody tones are available, and nice sparkling highs available from both pickups. Hummm now for the acid test … cranked tones … what everyone judges a Les Paul by. In a word ‘smooth’! Keeping sweet, singing tones that break up as you dig in is easy … and as the gain gets towards the hard rock/ metal end, the pickups natural compression flatters your playing nicely.
The combination of ‘Iced T’s’ weight and vintage style neck and the Blitz Spirit’s soft, smooth and expressive character makes for a really nice ‘blues/blues rock LP clone. Quite versatile enough for hard/heavy rock, but perhaps lacking that scream for the metal end of things. Though I have to say there is more than a hint of a famous leather top hat wearer when the pressure is applied!
I’m very happy … though waiting for the screws to lower the neck pickup a tad. I will post some sound files as soon as I can.
Saturday, 1 September 2012
Right, on with part three of the improving the Vintage V100s!
Firstly before starting any work on a nice shiny guitar we need some protection for the finish. A slipped screwdriver or some stray molten solder can wreak havoc, so better safe than sorry. There are lots of different ways of doing this … but mine uses a couple of layers of low-tack 2” masking tape. It’s easy and fast to apply, protects against most things, and peels without leaving residue. My workbench has a folded pad of material (some old red drape – a souvenir from the Royal Albert Hall) to protect the instrument, and the neck is supported in a foam cradle.
Right off with the lid to see the rubbish within Iced T’s innerds
Not even as pretty as Tobacco’s! Puny wiring and pigeon-poo soldering … yuck. The switch compartment was similarly nasty!
Someone seems to have had a hole drilling party here oddly. Only three are used to mount the cover!
First Job: the pots: 500k, 2 logarithmic taper for the volume, and two linear taper for the tone. Others may argue and say Log for everything … I quite like log for tone … and it’s my guitar okay?
I punch some holes in cardboard in the pattern of the mounting holes in the guitar top and assemble the bulk of the harness on the bench … NOT IN THE GUITAR! Why? Because there’s bugger all room in a Les Paul wiring compartment , and the depth of the rout makes it tough to see what you’re doing at the bottom. Much better out where the dog can see the rabbit!
Note: I’ve used some cloth insulation stripped off my stock of ‘hookup’ wire on the capacitor legs. Belt and braces really … a lot of people wouldn’t bother, but if one of those legs grounds out to that ‘earth bus’ that links the pots, there’ll be trouble and things won’t work properly!
There’s a great deal of bollocks talked about paper in oil capacitors and how smooth and vintage they sound … mostly it’s talked by those who want to sell you ‘vintage’ capacitors! Simply get a good cap (in this case .22uf Sprague Orange Drops) and save your money. There is no detectable difference between vintage and modern high quality caps … end of story.
Right out come the Wilkinson humbuckers …
note the protection for the body
I’m going to be re wiring with proper, fifties style single conductor screened cable (Allparts UK) and it will be a tight squeeze getting it through those wiring tunnels!
Three long lengths go from the switch compartment to the control compartment … measure thease carefully using the old wiring as a pattern!
I’m keeping the original switch for the time being … it works fine, and as I said before … this is on a budget.
There is an old fifties knack to parting the braid neatly on this type of cable … my dad was an old fifties engineer and taught me:
First kink your wire
Then use your nails or a non-metallic instrument to gently part the braids on the apex of the ‘kink’
Then using a small pointed tool - I use an old multi meter probe - pull the ‘tail' of wire out through your newly made hole
Like so … lovely and neat … and period correct!
That’s about all I have room for here …
See you in part 4 where I put it all together!