Kyuss Lives!

December 1st, 2010

The good news: I have 2 Kyuss Lives tickets for 3rd of April.

The bad news: I really want 2 tickets for the 2nd of April.

Anyone want to swap?

Skip to the End…

October 20th, 2008


If you don’t already know, you probably won’t care.

DIY Fretpress (Part deux…)

October 18th, 2008

Those of you with a long memory may remember my noble endeavor to convert a drill stand into a fretpress. Turns out, it was a bit punky, and the wheels came off.

Actually, the lever came off. It didn’t have any wheels.

Anyhow, let me present the replacement, this time converted from an el cheapo Screw Fix welding clamp.

To convert it from the original use as a welding clamp, I drilled out the rivets holding the lower jaw, and bolted in a straight replacement, using M6 nylox nuts and a section of .25″ steel cut from a discarded hydraulic door closer arm. The top jaw was cut short, and rounded over at the end.

I fitted a pivoting glass-filled nylon fitting to the top jaw, to hold some fretting cauls from Stew Mac, and a teak neck caul (padded with leather) on the lower jaw, slotted to slide back and forwards to allow self alignment as the adjustment of the jaws changes to suit different neck sizes. The pin to prevent the neck caul falling off is an offcut of M6 studding.

Here it is in situ:

The neck shown is the first one I fretted with the new gizmo, and it went very smoothly, despite the complications of an ebony board and teeny-tiny Fender style frets. It’s a replacement neck for Tim’s Musima, more details to follow…

P.S: The flat clamp included in the screwfix welding clamp set is very handy for holding nuts, saddles and other small parts for shaping on a belt or disc sander, especially if you share my aversion for sanding away the tips of your fingers.


October 15th, 2008

Here’s a classic example of why I go to so much trouble to construct a scarfed, back strapped headstock. The owner of this Gibson Les Paul Standard wasn’t aware of having broken the neck - he opened the case and found it broken. Most likely, the case tipped or fell a short distance, and was stopped abruptly by hitting something. The weight of the tuners, supported at the end of the neck, combined with the Gibson Les Paul’s 1 piece neck (which results in very unfavourable grain orientation in the headstock area) and large trussrod adjustment cavity, allowed the whiplash effect to crack the headstock cleanly away from the neck.

From the side you can see that the only thing holding this all together is the plastic headplate, which is flexible enough to act like a hinge:

A (badly focused!) close up shows how little wood is left in the neck once the trussrod cavity is cut - you can see righ through the headstock!

The good news is; as easy as these breaks are to produce, they’re also pretty easy to fix. The headplate holds everything in alignment, and there is plenty of surface area for a good glue joint, which will be as strong as the headstock was originally.

To clamp the break closed, I use a spanish windlass setup. I run a piece of electrical cable (strong, with a cushioned surface, but not very stretchy) through the tuner holes in the head and around the lower strap button, then add tension by twisting a piece of scrap timber in the loop. Once it’s tight, I extend the scrap out to one side, where the neck prevents it untwisting.

This setup only works if the head veneer is intact, but is a very easy way of closing up the fine feather-edge of the break. It also allows easy access to all sides of the repair to clean up glue squeeze out. With the squeeze out wiped away with a damp cloth, I add an f-clamp (with a flat clamping caul and leather pad) to apply extra pressure of the rest of the break.

After for 24 hours, I unclamp the break, and carefully level the repair. Very little levelling is required, and the result afterwards is pretty clean.

However, it can be improved. Gibson still use nitro lacquer on their guitars, so this is what I use for touch up. I apply generous drops of laquer with the tip of a brush to fill any missing chips of finish, then sparingly brush over the entire area.

This lacquer needs time to cure, at least 1 week, or prefferably longer. Once it’s dry, it’s relevelled, wet sanded to 1200 grit and buffed to a shine.

Not a bad result if I do say so myself!

P.S: The guitar didn’t actually keep changing colour - that’s my photography and image editting!

Postponing a Viking funeral

August 21st, 2008

Finally an opportunity to post something about guitars!

A little while back, Tim dropped in his Hagstrom Viking. After a good deal of gigging round Germany, the neck was very loose, and shifting unpleasantly in the pocket. Closer examination revealed the neck block had slipped, and string tension had deformed the arched top and back plates. To return the guitar to it’s original problem would have been prohibitively expensive, but since the neck block seems stable, a carefully shaped shim will do the job to keep the neck in place.

Whilst it’s here, Tim also wanted to upgrade from the cheesy stamped TOM to an archtop style bridge.

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The new bridge is shaped to fit a much more dramatic arch than the Hag’s, so it only contacts at the very edges - no way it can work well like this.

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Out comes the blue tape, and the bridge is taped and the curve of the top marked onto it with a pencil. A quick trip to the disc sander, and a few shavings with a plane, and it’s already much closer. Still a way to go though - and gaps will lead to reduced sustain and volume so a perfect fit is the aim.

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To get there, some 120 grit paper is taped to the guitar top, and the bridge is rubbed back and forwards until it had been sanded over the whole width. After the 120 grit, I repeated the process with 240 grit to refine the fit.

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Et voila - perfect fit!

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The job didn’t finish here, because the new bridge is significanlty taller than the original. So, I made a tapered shim to adjust the neck angle for a nice low action. The shim tapers from about 3mm to a feather edge, so the neck is fully seated on wood, rather than raised up on a shim at one end of the pocket. I much prefer this method to the old standbys like a folded business card or a matchbook, and think it’s beneficial to tone and (particularly important in this case) stability.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take any pictures of this before I put the neck back on, but you can see the results - with the guitar strung up, the action is spot on, with scope for adjustment in either direction. Should keep this Viking fighting fit for a good while longer…

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August 13th, 2007

I’m not dead. Honest.

I do, however, seem to be having some email problems. If you’ve tried to get in touch and got no reply please try again, and failing that leave a comment here and I’ll try to get back to you.

Unless you’re posting spam (I just deleted about a brazillian spam comments - burn!)

DIY fretpress

January 20th, 2007

Pressing frets has a good few advantages over hammering, not least the noise - hammering frets at 12.30 in the morning isn’t a good way to make friends and influence people. I didn’t want to lose workbench space to a dedicated arbour press, so I decided to convert a tool I already had, but didn’t use (unless you extend the definition of ‘use’ to include tripping over it. I did that *a lot*).

Here’s the victim, a Black and Decker drill stand. This was a staggeringly crap tool for it’s intended purpose. Assuming you could finally get the drill clamped square and true (not a safe assumption, as it happens) the first time you introduced the drill bit to wood the stand would flex and the bit would take the path of least resistance, which invaraibly took it somewhere you didn’t want it to go.


The first thing I did was to remove the front half of the drill clamp. This effectively disarms it, removing any risk of innocent parties trying to use it as a drill press…


I drilled 2 holes in one face of a scrap of english oak, then turned it 90 degrees and drilled a 3/8″ hole, into which I screwed an M6 threaded insert.

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I shaped a a block of glass filled nylon to make a fret arbour, narrowing one face so it was a little over 2mm wide, and cutting a 12″ radius into it, then drilling a recess to accept an M6 crossdowel in the other face. I screwed a short length of M6 studding into the crossdowel to act as a shaft. I screwed this shaft into the oak block, using a nylox nut as a rotation stop so the studding won’t come loose.

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I then attached the oak block to the drill press, using the allen bolts which held the drill clamp. Et Voila - fretpress! The cross dowel allows the radius press to self level, so that it matches the alignment of the fretboard, and pressing the fret is as simple as cranking the handle.

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The press works very well on RW fretboards, though early tests suggest it struggles with harder woods like ebony. The flex which made it so useless for drilling is still apparent, but really doesn’t alter it’s effectiveness as a press, and the conversion gives it a chance to acrue some positive karma for all the times it let me down as a drill stand. Best of all, it cost less nothing to make, since had all the components already.

**Edit 17/10/08**

The old fret press is dead, long live the new fretpress.

Shit, shit, shit.

November 23rd, 2006

Today was a genre defining ‘I should never have got out of bed’ day. One of those days where everything you touch turns to shit, and just when you think the pile of indignites is heaped so high that nothing else can possibly go wrong, somebody manages to balance another one on top.

Based on the uncanny accuracy of Tuesdays’ prediction, I imagine my stars for today looked something like this:


To have had a flat battery this morning would have been annoying. Likewise, to dent the crap out of the landing door whilst parking would be annoying. To lock the keys in it 5 minutes after getting it home would be annoying too. Doing all 3 in 1 day would be enough to convince you the van was cursed.

Van man…

November 20th, 2006

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, there’s not been much happening guitar wise; my current builds are unchanged since I started the new job.

That’s not to say I haven’t been making sawdust in the garage - the last week I’ve been out there full time, fitting out the locksmith van which I will ultimately be turned loose in. In light of my less than comprehensive driving experience (read: 6 months driving in the 3 years since I passed my test) my bosses decided it would be unwise to release me on an unsuspecting world in a Transit, so I was set the challenge of shoehorning a transit-sized amount of stock and tools into the rather less than transit sized Vauxhall combo.

Quite apart from the size, the shape is enough to make for some serious headscratching - nothing in the van is geometric or straight, and there’s no reference for square or plumb (moving from one side of the van to the other changes what’s upright - great!) - I got pretty good at scribing and fitting to curved surfaces by the time I’d got all those shelves in! I also got to break out a few tools I’ve not used much before, not least the air nailer, which allowed me to channel my inner Norm Abraham and thunk nails into everything in arms reach.

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It all looks nice and square there - but if you look at the first couple of uprights in place you can see how curvy the interior is - every component had to be trimmed to height or length, tried in place and scribed to fit before being cutout on the bandsaw.

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Aerodynamics be buggered - if you ask me, this is how a van should look.

New Job…

September 28th, 2006

…or to look at it another way; job.

It had to happen eventually, and it has. This morning I accepted a trainee locksmith position with a local locksmith. Hours are long and the pay during training is pretty tight, but the work should be interesting, they seem like a nice bunch, and they were very keen to employ me, even after I initially declined the position.

It’ll inevitably mean having a lot less time to spend on guitar building, but I’ll still keep working on them in my spare time, and posting progress on here.

So there you go, I’m employed, and I start on Tuesday.