Saturday, December 03, 2011

this and that in smojos cigar box guitar world

It's been a bit of a frustrating time here and an exciting one too. Still a bit quiet on my CBG front. Much as I love 'em, there are many other interesting distractions going on in my life. First the frustrations - I bought some cool looking lipstick pups, cheap, with the intention of building myself a super duper CBG with frets and a proper magnetic pickup. Got as far as cutting the neck from a piece of old shelving when my bandsaw blade snapped. So that one went on on hold.

As you will have noticed, I've been heavily into the electronics side of things. Not a million miles away from the cigar box guitar ethos of making something cool and musical out of junk or stuff that was never meant for that purpose. So I started "bending" an old casio keyboard. Found a cool distortion bend, drilled holes and mounted the switch and two pots. Working one minute - the next it was just making a horrid buzz. Messed about but can't seem to fix it. Maybe I burnt out something. So that's on hold too. Moved on to a new electronics project - making an envelope follower from the Nic Collins book. You can connect a sound source like a guitar or CD player and it's supposed to light some LEDs when the signal peaks or dips. Got the preamp part made but can I get the LEDs to come on when they should? - no, on hold too.

So what are the exciting bits. Well I had an great weekend in Manchester with my mate who had organised the Hollowbelly gig at his local pub. Great atmosphere and the whole thing went down well. Hollowbelly belted out his excellent punk blues material whilst entertaining us with some funny stories in between. The support act was great too, three local people who got together with slide guitar (and CBG), african drum and cigar box bass to play some nice bluesy stuff. Lot's of time to chat about music stuff and do a bit of jamming back at my mates too.

I bought an old ex-forces bakelite communicator set which is a chest mounted microphone and headphones. I was looking for an old telephone receiver to make a distortion mic and I found this. Might be ww2 but if not, will probably be at least 50 years old. I dismantled the set to make three mics, the chest mic I'll keep for myself, the two headphone mics I might eventually sell on. They look so cool and make fantastic hand held mics for vocals or harp where you want a bit of an old-timey, mildly distorted sound. If I get time I'll post a photo or two.

Finally (please forgive me but let me explain) I'm about to build a solid body electric 6 string guitar. As I said I do love CBGs but I suffer from GAS (guitar acquisition syndrome) where I have to keep getting a fix with a new guitar. I see something cool and I want it! Yes my friends you know what I mean. The explanation will justify the diversion from 3 strings, a stick and a box guitar. For some time I've wanted the personal satisfaction of building a "proper" guitar. Something really cool and unusual. Also to take my luthier skills a little higher and get to grips with the more complex elements of guitar building. There's a local guy who runs courses on guitar building on a one-to-one basis. I went to see him this week to talk about starting with him. My initial idea was to make something based on the old guyatone solids of the 50s/60s. They look so cool with their simple retro shape and colours. But I do have a really nice Harmony Stratotone reissue that fits the bill so what to build instead? Then the bulb lit up in my head. A solid body reso similar to the National supro reso guitars. A bit of research showed that they make a modern version still. So my design will be based on that but with a bit of the guyatone look about it. It will have an under-saddle piezo and a single coil neck pickup. I've done a very rough photoshop job to get some idea of what it might look like and here it is. I'm starting the build this wednesday. We're going off to a timber yard to chosse the wood and then back to cut it up and glue the two body halves - can't wait! I'm gonna keep a record of my progress and put something on here so if you're interested, come back and take a look regularly. It might just get me inspired enough to get cracking with my lipstick pick-upped CBG too.