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Friday, 24 February 2012

Ho hum!

Tele's are naturally less noisy than Strats!

Seen a couple of posts on forums recently blaming certain brands of single coil Strat pickups for being really noisy with regard to 60 cycle hum. Well, I don’t normally leap to the defence of other pickup manufacturers … especially those who get their products made cheaply in the Far East … but with the normal ‘shielding’ and wiring plan of a Strat™ hum is part of life … and more to do with your environment and amp settings.

Some single coil designs are particularly prone to hum … like the P90, but the Strat™ pickup as such is actually relatively quiet. The problem lies in the normally unshielded control cavity and the ‘earth loops’ created with the standard wiring.

The answer is ‘star grounding,’ that is having an earthed conductive ‘cage’ around all the wiring created by a properly screened cavity and pick guard, and having all the earths running back to this – see this article http://www.guitarnuts.com/wiring/shielding/shield3.php

Don’t blame the pickups … blame a more genteel age of guitar design and more sedate stage volumes!

As a post script to this post, so to speak, many companies sell copper tape that can be wound around a Strat coil then earthed to pretty well completely eliminate hum … but beware! Firstly the delicate windings should be protected by ordinary tape before the copper shielding is applied … secondly you may well change some of the essential character of the pickups when you do this. I know professional guitar technicians do this on the big star’s guitars … but usually this is just for high volume stage use.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Fixing the Jackson Christian Olde Wolbers signature guitar. Part 2

Well the Jackson has been christened 'Old Wobbler' as I can't be bothered with her real model designation ... and it gives a nod to how trashed the head was when she came into the workshop. .

Titebond was syringed into any cracks ... held open with convenient screwdrivers ...

Then I did a juggling act, holding all the fractured bits together, while wrapping the whole shooting match in cling film so that it wouldn't stick to the jig.

Time passed by ....
..... so slowly

Can't beat a cuppa!

Clamps off ... and ... well it admittedly doesn't look any prettier than before ... but it is now solid and in one piece! Next job? Well, I'm waiting to hear back from a guy who makes water-slide transfers as the Jackson logo has taken a hell of a beating and really needs replaced. Some joker in the States quoted me fifteen bucks for the 'decal' and twenty five bucks delivery! Thanks, but no thanks Bub! Will probably use black epoxy filler to loose the cracks in the thick poly finish ... and depending how the repair feels after 24 hours I may let in some cross-repair mahogany 'biscuits' to toughen the joint up.

Then it will be hardware time ... all black and nothing fancy ... followed by putting one of our prototype humbuckers where the EMG 81 would have sat.

Fixing the Jackson Christian Olde Wolbers signature guitar.

Well, largely due to the use of mahogany on a pointy headstock design we have a rather sad Jackson here. When it arrived the headstock was still attached … just ... but with a horrible, long splintered break parallel with the bass side of the neck going through the ‘D’ tuning machine hole.

The break may well have to be ‘completed’ to allow a proper gluing surface for the repair. While the head was in one piece(ish) however, I took the opportunity to make up a clamping jig that will keep the pieces aligned and provide a toe-hold for my favourite lever action clamp! A bit of wizardry with my tenon saw and some scrap softwood and ply and we have this:

One ply face is fixed and one tightens down with woodscrews so that it just holds the headstock back and front. One end of the jig presses against the ‘heel’ of the head and the ‘toe’ is a snug fit against the other so that when a clamp is tightened u between the ‘shelf‘ I’ve cut and the bass side of the head (this is a reverse headstock) everything will be forced into line.

The best glue for this job is Titebond … main stay of instrument builders for years. If I’d intended for the joint to be taken apart I’d have used their ready prepared ‘hide glue’ as it can be ‘steamed’ apart quite easily … as it is I want this joint to take the rock and roll lifestyle for many years to come so I will use their ‘original’ aliphatic resin wood glue. This stuff is seriously strong, cleans up with water and sands easily. Never, never, never use either Super Glue type adhesives or PVA wood glue for this sort of job: Super glue is not good on porous materials, and is easily 'jolted' apart by a blow. PVA dries with an 'elastic' consistency and joints under shear force will 'creep' out of alignment over time.

This afternoon I'll jump in and fix the break ... showing you how to stop the head firmly gluing itself to the jig (with a bit of luck!)

Oh, an example of the beautiful ebony fingerboard and superb fretting that make this neck worth saving!

Continued here http://theguitarweasel.blogspot.com/2012_02_01_archive.html

Friday, 17 February 2012

Prototypes coming thick and fast!

I put the finishing touches to our as yet unnamed vintage style humbucker. I shy away from calling it a PAF because there are so many flavours and outputs of the real thing (some of which don't sound particularly good) that to draw much comparison is pointless. It's PAF style in that it has an impedence of just over 8k, was wound with 42awg wire and has an Alnico 5 magnet.

Should have our humbucker test guitar soon: I spotted what turned out to be a Christian Olde Wolbers signature model Jackson on e-bay, with a damaged headstock, no pickup, electrics or bridge or machines ... just a hulk. I took a punt and got it silly cheap considering what they cost new. Will do a photo article about getting the beast back playing as soon as it gets here. Mahogany neck unusually for a shredding instrument ... and this probably explains why it's taken a nasty break across the head. Mahogany necks are notorious for being brittle when shaved down to less than baseball bat proportions ... I have had so many old SGs, Juniors etc come through my hands for neck or headstock surgery. You lean them against an amp for a moment ... next thing, it's crash and the head is off and lying on the floor in a tangle of strings.
Still it's fixable, and has allowed me to get a far better guitar to act as host to new products than I'd expected. It has an ebony fingerboard with absolutely no position markers ... so that'll make me work for my supper.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

'Goodies ahoy!'

The development of new products goes on … this Tele bridge unit for example … easily distinguished as a prototype by the over-the-top looking colour coded wiring … is a bit special. It is the first Oil City ‘Diesel-Tap’ pickup. At its heart is a ‘Hardman’ style, hot 9k wind … but with the coil tapped at 6k too. Married up to a push pull pot this gives the option of a moderate vintage output; twangy, and crystal clear with great note separation … or a blistering rock powerhouse … hotter than many humbuckers, yet still with that Tele cut and attack.

Next we have our first humbucker … seen here in mock up assembly stage … coils yet unwound … no slugs or pole screws … just test fitted to check screw lengths, the handmade mahogany bobbin shims, and the lovely , shiny bobbins … all the way from San Dimas California. Just waiting for a delivery of some special, thinner-than-normal wire to pack those bobbins to the max!

I was determined we wouldn't jump the gun with producing a 'bucker' until we had something with very much our own flavour to offer. Firstly I was determined we would use only top quality components and put them together without any compromise. Secondly, I wanted something that was individually voiced and not a 'me-too' copy of someone else's product. It will be scatter wound hot, but with aesometric coils for maximum range and 'openness.' I'm shooting for all those screaming blues-rock tones I can still hear in my mind from the glory days of Jeff Healey.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Danno/Tele hybrid and P Bass pickups

The Danelectro Telecaster hybrid that has been taking up a fair bit of my time is waiting for its lacquer to cure before final clear nitro coats over the Daphne blue. For the uninitiated, like a Danno it has a pine frame and a Masonite top and back ... essentially being a semi acoustic without f holes. Ignore the front pickup 'rout' ... the intention was always for this to be a single pickup show-piece for my 'Hard Man' pickups.

Today I put the finishing touches to our first bass pickup prototype ... a split Precision humbucker:
A nice vintage 10.5k, it's round and growly with plenty of pop. I put it in the cheap Westfield P bass copy that hangs around and visits the odd jam with me (I'm not really a bass player, but I give it an enthusiastic shot). The pickup it replaced was a horrible ceramic magnet effort: much too thin and clangy ... you had to roll all the top off to get a nice chug, but then it turned muddy and muffled. Now the tone control works properly and it really doesn't sound like I paid seventy quid for it!

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Triple Blues Set ... or how to get your yourself in double the trouble ...

There's a lot ... er, that's an understatement ... of heated debate as to what gets you that SRV sound. Well here's my five pence worth: 60% in those great, powerful hands of his ... gotta learn his chops and phrasing. 20% in clonking great strings ... and 20% in the pickup/amp combination.
With the pickups you need clarity, lots of overtones and plenty of midrange growl. But you mustn't sacrifice the sparkle on the top end to the god of high output! The tone should be huge, but without as much overdrive as people think.

My Triple Blues set is probably not made in anything like the way No.1's pickups were ... for a start they have flush pole pieces for added mid boost and string definition. They are wound 6k, 6k, and 7k (neck to bridge ... and figures are average) so they are only a smidge hotter than standard, and they have a RWRP middle pickup so switch positions 2 and 4 are hum cancelling.
So ... do they sound like SRV? Well to my ears there's all that twang and aggression ... and with a valve amp coupled with a good overdrive - set to full level, minimum drive - there's that scream too.

My own Strat has a set of these now ... I sold my Japanese Fender pickups as soon as I heard the Triple Blues ... confidence in my product OR WHAT?

Thursday, 2 February 2012

A bit of a demo!

Don't worry, I'm working on a better demo for my pickups than this ... I was concentrating on the video, not on the playing lol