Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Blanton Doubble Neck

Not much to say about this classic beauty. She was bought new from A&S Music over thirty years ago. Her owner brought her back this year, confessing that he never learned how to play this fine machine.

If you don't know, south east Texas has produced a lot of fine musicians. Especially in country music. At one time Beaumont was prime stop on touring circuits. Most times, when I'm "under the hood" of some old pedal steel, I wonder where shes been. Who she may of harmonized with night after night under the steady hand of a seasoned house band player.  

Not this one. Left alone in a closet for a long, long time. Sad?
                                                                         I think so.

 The good news is that I became an adoption agent of sorts. Our sweet little Blanton found a new home before I even finished the minor repairs she needed. That's the first time I ever sold a piece right off the work bench!

 So here's to owning fine musical instruments... and PLAYING them!
                                                                Take us home, Boss!

 Here's a look at some of the work I did.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Charley and me.

I never know what kind of project will find its way to my work bench. My favorite are the ones that require me to do a little research. Last week a kid came in to the shop with this.
A Fender Road Worn Strat. He was asking if I could swap out the factory single coils for “Lipstick Pickups”. Simple enough. He also wanted HEAVY strings.... Ahha. “ Are you going for a Stevie Ray Vaughan thing? I asked. Yes sir. He said. Great!
    The actual project will be relatively easy this time around. A new pickguard will be needed, some modifications to the nut and I will have to rout out the body cavity for the larger “Lipstick” pups. All in a days work.
   But why? why does this kid want me to cut up his guitar? What is so special about these pickups that a legend like SRV would add them to his arsenal?
    Looks like I’ll need to do a little research.
Unlike a traditional guitar pickup that uses a plastic or fiber bobbin as a form for winding its coil, the lipstick-tube pickup has its coil wrapped around an alnico bar magnet, and then wrapped in tape, usually a cellophane-type tape on vintage units, before being inserted into the metal tube casing. Vintage Danelectro lipstick-tube pickups are quite wide, at 3.22 in (8.18 cm) overall. They cannot be retrofitted into a Stratocaster or similar guitar without removing plastic from the pickguard or wood from the guitar body. To overcome this situation, a variety of aftermarket lipstick-tube pickups have been offered that are the same general width as the common Stratocaster style single-coils, with a 2.77 in (7.04 cm) wide tube casing.[1] * Wiki. Not the Kent Armstrong pups I had to work with. This guitar is getting cut!
   Before I do any mods to the guitars body though I’m going to test these old garage sale pickups to be sure they are working properly. The first two measured at 4.5K - about right for these pups - the last pickup gave an inconsistent reading and a loud buzz. What? I’d better take a closer look at the wiring.
Yep. The ground wire had come loose. A quick fix with the soldering iron and I’m ready to start on the body.
Fender probably used a nice C&C router to make this Strat. All I have is a Craftsman table router and the steady hand God gave me (mostly steady - I have definitely destroyed a few projects in the past). I measure the body first, make marks to show the center and then mark where to cut for the pups. Wood is tone, so I take as little as possible. The tape protects the surface of the guitar from scratches (not that this one didn’t already have its share).
See? Not much missing, just enough to slide in the lipstick tubes.
    The original “Charley” wasn’t a Strat at all. Its what you would call a “parts guitar”. Just like it sounds, a parts guitar is made of whatever parts might be available or just laying around. In ““Charleys” case a Fender body - Deanelctro pickups - a noname neck and a “hardtail” bridge (different from the Fender Synchronized Tremolo that Vaughan used heavily each night).  
Larger pickups need a larger pickguard. I used a jig I made to drill the screw holes and a router to cut opening for the oversized pickups.

Our version is more like a strat.... well it IS a strat. Were keeping the Fender tremolo and standard three knob (volume tone tone) controls. A few things are different but the body and pickups are just like the original “Charley”.
Another thing that we're doing like the original is heavy strings. To use the size strings that Vaughan used I need to open up the slots in the nut a little.
Big strings are hard to play but they have a sound that cant be beat! A little adjusting of the neck and bridge...

From Charley's Guitars in Dallas to A&S Music
Ready to rock! "Tune low and play fast!"