3/05/2015

1970s Yamaha FG-260 12-String Guitar


Sound clip soon!

This "oversized dreadnought" (16" lower bout) 12 string really is not bad at all. It's one of the Taiwan-made Yamahas with a 7-digit serial number that's essentially meaningless (many Yamahas can be dated to the day of manufacture) and despite my usual inclinations to skip over any old Asian-import 12-string... I did take this one in trade without rolling my eyes!

It was just -- rather clean! After a fret level/dress, tiny bridge shave, string ramp additions, and a new bone saddle and strings... she plays great with standard 3/32" bass and 1/16" treble action at the 12th fret. I did tune it all the way up to concert E-E pitch with the set of 10s on it (smooth sailing), but I still always suggest folks keep these tuned down a step anyway on long-scale models (like this one).

3/04/2015

1952 Martin 000-18 Flattop Guitar




This is a consignor's nice old Martin. It came in yesterday, got a fret level/dress and minor setup and cleaning this afternoon, and now she's ready to head on out again. It's in superb shape with no cracks and aside from some very minor scratching, pickwear and use-wear to the treble side/back area (probably from going in and out of a case), it's very clean. There's your usual finish weatherchecking but I was totally surprised to pull this out of its case and find it looking like a 15-year-old guitar.

If you're unfamiliar with Martin 000s... they're basically the ideal guitar for "folkies" with a heavier hand as they record well and maintain clarity played in a variety of styles ranging from full-on strumming to fingerpicked intimacy. The body shape also "hugs" your knee nicely compared to a dreadnought shape, even though you've got the extra warmth and carrying power of a 15" lower bout.

3/02/2015

Ephemera: Lime Lifesavers (1920s)


For good times, play Supertone mandolins! ...and ukes. You, too, could be the life of the party. Or... lifeboat.

3/01/2015

1950s Czech-made Lignatone 4/4 Violin




While I'm not sure on the date, I'm pretty sure Lignatones (made in Czechoslovakia -- at the time) like this were made in the 50s and early 60s. This is a friend's instrument that's now for sale and even through the steel-core Super Sensitive strings on it I think you can sort out the nice clarity and simple presence this fiddle has.

It came in with a little work needing to be done: soundpost set, a small seam repair, and light setup. That's all done, it plays great, it's crack-free, and good to go. I rather like the sound: it's up front and direct with a good solid feel to it... and the nice flamed maple used in the neck, ribs, and back give it a good semi-professional look.

Spring Cleaning: 1960s Gretsch? 15" Floor Tom/Field Snare? Drum


While this is unmarked (badges and various hardware is missing), the build and style of this rim is undeniably Gretsch from the 50s/60s. It's got the cool silver paint inside and all that and shares the same design attributes. It's a 15" unit and is fairly deep. I've been using it as a big old tom and it certainly sounds thunderous and rumbly. Two tension bolts are missing and the rest are perhaps not the perfect fit (and two are missing), but it gets the job done. I used this to get some "middy thunder" on Living in the Future.

This has two Remo Renaissance tom batters that are 4-5 months old and holding up fairly clean and well. If you're the kind of guy that has old Gretsch hardware around then you could get this up and running with proper trim in a kit quite quickly and it'd be running around as a cool old $350-450 piece. Or... like me... you could use it for an all-around "mid-baritone" sound in your mix. With loose enough heads and damping you can get a decent "small kick" sound out of it, for that matter (yes, I've tried... fun)!

Spring Cleaning: 1960s Japan-made Stewart 14" Snare Drum


Ply shell, cool blue sparkle "wrap," and hardware all intact if not in beautiful shape. It's a simple drum, but it sure does that "funky rattlebox vintage" snare sound pretty well. It's the only snare I used on Living in the Future and I liked its sound. Before recording I added new Remo Renaissance heads... but despite being only 5 months old, they've got some use.

Spring Cleaning: 1990s 13" Igniter Tom


This is a pretty straightforward Taiwanese-made 13" tom... ply construction with a simple cream exterior... with functional hardware (missing one tension bolt)... but with lightly-used new-ish Remo Renaissance heads. One side has the overtone dampening addition while the other is a straight-up head. This gives you "two tones" to play with by simply flipping the drum.

Despite its simple trappings, this is a pretty good-sounding tom with a nice, fundamental sound. It's not cluttered at all. This is one of the drums I used heavily on Living in the Future.

Spring Cleaning: 2012 26" Rosewood-rim Tunable Bodhran (Frame drum)


Look familiar? That's because it came off of my 26" banjo bass that was later modified, parted out, and went on to become other projects and instruments. I'm pretty sure this was made in Pakistan.

This is a super cool thing -- big, whoomy, and full-sounding -- and I've used it as a portable bass drum, really, when needed -- by stuffing a pair of socks to mute overtones. As a frame drum it's big and lush and, especially after adding the Remo Renaissance head... hypnotic.

Spring Cleaning: 2015 Lappocaster




The next few posts are going to be "student priced" Spring cleaning items. I've been so busy reorganizing the place and my own private mix of musical odds and ends that it's time to let some fly just to get them in hands and playing again.

This curious parts-bin wonder is a basswood hardtail Strat-copy body mated to an Asian-import neck. I've added a tall bone nut and set the compensation to "zero" for lap-steel/Dobro style playing. It can certainly be used as a regular electric with a standard nut (still have it, ask), but some minor twist/relief in the neck even with the truss dialed "into reverse bow" means I don't OK it as a neck for standard "Spanish" play (doesn't meet my standards). So: this is more fun.

Yes, it's a grape soda purple body... yes it has a "SuperStrat" humbucker at the bridge... yes it's one-volume-knob in wiring... and yes the pickguard is cream, not white. It's a... Lappocaster! Sounds terrible by the name but makes music to the ears. Hum, hum. Bucker.

2/28/2015

2015 Partscaster/Barncaster Electric for Rick




My friend Rick has been after me to transform a hunk of very old barnboard into a functional guitar for quite a while. I finally took the time to finish it off (4 months later) over a bit of Friday and this afternoon. It's just as funky as I expected it to be but as a bonus it's also really fun!

He handed me a roughly Tele-shaped body and I recut that quickly on the bandsaw after tracing a "real" Tele outline on it. After that I routed a neck pocket to fit his parts-bin Strat neck and figured out what parts to contribute. His main input was: gold tuners and a funky purple/gold Duncan humbucker that he supplied. The rest is stuff I had hanging around in my parts pile. He had me order a lipstick-style bridge pickup (in gold, of course), but he decided to go one-pickup instead.

2012 Eastwood Hi-Flyer Electric Bass




This is a nearly-new Eastwood Hi-Flyer that was traded into me. It even had its pickguard protective film still on it (which I removed). I did a quick setup and cleaning on it and it looks like it could still be hanging on a rack at your local dealer's shop. There's only the most minor use-wear from light playing.

The previous owner just didn't like short scale instruments. I do, fortunately, and find this "Mosrite" or "Ventures" or "Univox" style bass right up my own alley. The reverse-offset body design shoves the neck right into your hand and the shorter 30 1/2" scale means that body style gives this a very electric guitar feel. That's a good thing, in my book, as it eliminates longer-show fatigue.

2000s Enoch Tradesman Fretless 5-String Banjo




A customer of mine brought this recently-bought used Enoch banjo in for a new bridge and more accurate setup. What a treat! These are built after the fashion of my favorite old 5-strings -- Buckbees -- though with a modern twist. The Tradesman is an entry-level model (I believe) for Enoch instruments, but it has all that you could want: a sturdy walnut neck with nicely-carved "boat heel," simple wood (maple?) lightweight 12" rim, quality ebony fretboard, and classic looks supplemented with quality hardware. It has all the sound and feel that you need for a fretless.

Initially it looks like this was setup for steel strings but the new owner wanted to use nylon (in this case, Aquila Nylgut) setup for "minstrel" tuning (which is like banjo tuning but down a few steps). It's currently tuned to open E where it sounds great.