Finished Project – MEOW-TRON (Mu-tron III)

I just finished a new build. Before I post the pictures, let me give you a bit of back story. I will try to keep it short. If you just want to see the pedal, scroll down.

Back in 1998, my brother Brian adopted a kitten from a humane society near Chicago. He named him Jerry Garcia. My brother already had one cat, and he could only have the one at his apartment. We took ownership of Jerry Garcia that same year with the promise that we would take good care of him.

Jerry was the first kitty that Jaime and I owned together, and was very special to us. He was a living connection to my brother, who died in 2011 unexpectedly of a brain aneurism at 40 years old.

Unfortunately, we had to have him put down on December 12, 2014, about a month and a half ago. He had chronic hyperthyroidism that we managed for several years, but age caught up with him. He rapidly developed lymphatic hyperplasia, and deteriorated quickly after losing his coordination and appetite. He lived 16 and a half years, and we took good care of him until the very end.

A few days after we had Jerry put down, a card arrived in the mail. It was from our vet, who is a friend. He and his staff had all written very touching notes– the entire card was full. Included with the card was an ink pawprint. Unbeknownst to us, our vet had taken Jerry’s pawprint on the day Jerry died.

So, to commemorate Jerry Garcia, my cat, I built the most appropriate effect that I could think: the Mu-Tron III.

I have always wanted one, and this was the perfect justification. I decided to use a pre-made PCB (Naughty Fish from MadBeanPedals). This made for a nice, easy build. I used premium components, namely the fancy-pants sausage resistors. These were a bit big for the layout, so if you build one, use regular ol’ 1/8-watters. I used a Hammond 1590TRPB, which afforded a little bit more room than the recommended 1590B.

I etched Jerry’s pawprint into the enclosure. Considering I haven’t etched a pedal in quite some time, I am extremely pleased with the results.

I present to you, the MEOW-TRON:

1960s Eko 995 Broken Truss Rod Nut

My last post was about a 1960s Eko 995 bass that made its way into my hands (link). My intent was to restore it to playable condition.

I thought it would be pretty straight forward. Clean it up, rewire it, fabricate a bridge and pickup mounting ring, and string it up. Well, that isn’t going to be the case.

Jaime was all excited to get the bass cleaned up this weekend. We got all setup, and started pulling parts. First to go was the truss rod access cover. Three screws later, and this project is pretty well over, for now.

It turns out that a piece of the truss rod broke off in the nut when someone tried to adjust it. Here is what it looks like:

If you look closely, you can see a small brass plate where the wider portion of the nut sits. The broken rod is inset the distance of the thin part of the nut, obviously.

It can be fixed. I can remove the brass plate (someone already tried, I can succeed). Stewmac sells a tool that allows you to drill around the truss rod so you can re-thread it. Unfortunately, the tool costs more than the guitar would be worth.

And then, I would have to have a custom truss rod nut fabricated, which I cannot imagine would be cheap.

Anyone have any ideas? We have set an artificial deadline of October 2015 for having a repair strategy. If I can’t figure out a way to fix it by then, it will be parted out on Ebay with the proceeds used to buy something musical for Jaime.

New Project Bass: 1960s Eko 995

Oh boy, this is going to be interesting.

The story goes that my wife Jaime‘s uncle, as part of his job, is tasked with clearing junk out of the forest preserves in Cook County, Illinois. He stumbled upon a bass, and told Jaime’s cousin about it. Jaime’s cousin asked on Facebook if anyone knew anything about it. I researched it, and shared what I found. Jaime’s cousin said she could have it. Jaime’s brother got the bass from their uncle, and brought it to my mom’s house with my Christmas gifts. My mom brought it to my sister’s house on Christmas, and gave it to my dad. My dad drove it down earlier this week.

And here it is…

Yep, it is disgustingly dirty. Jaime and I will be cleaning it up this weekend, I think. And yeah, it is missing some parts– namely the bridge and a pickup mount. But all told, it is mostly there. The frets are good. The neck looks straight. There isn’t much corrosion, and no rust.

We’ll see how this goes. More to come!

New Guitar: Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar

Well, I bought another new guitar. It has been 15 months since I bought one, so I guess I don’t feel <em>that</em> bad about it.

The ordering process was a huge pain in the butt. Musician’s Friend jerked me around and attempted to defraud me by <em>twice</em> sending me used guitars. The third one they sent was brand new– as I ordered. It took over two weeks to get things straightened out. The time I had to spend to get MF to quit being such…ermm… MF-ers… certainly outweighs the $15 credit they gave me (after <em>twice</em> trying to defraud me by send used gear as new).

I still have to change the strings, and work some setup magic to get it exactly how I like it. My plan is to age the pickguard (no fake damage, just natural sunlight-induced yellowing) and swap out the saddles. Anyway, here is a pic, just to prove it happened.

Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar

Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar

More to come!


New project: Making a pickguard

Time for a new project!

The pickguard on Jaime’s P Bass Jr. has bothered us since she got it.

The previous owner had left the plastic on the pickguard since it was new, back in 2004. That pickguard had a sticker on it, and a big white oval was left on the pickguard when we removed the plastic. There is no cleaning this spot– it must be UV discoloration.

That leaves us with the option, in order of preference, of just dealing with it, or putting a different sticker over the spot, or having a custom replacement made, or making a custom replacement myself.

I’m sure you can guess which we picked…

Tortoise Shell Pickguard Material - No Flash

Tortoise Shell Pickguard Material – No Flash

Tortoise Shell Pickguard Material - With Flash

Tortoise Shell Pickguard Material – With Flash


Yup, that’s right. Brown celluloid tortoise. Best I can tell, it is the real deal.

It was shipped straight from China. I ordered it on Feb 2, and it had a delivery estimate of Feb 26 – Mar 17. It arrived today, Feb 11. Not bad at $22.88 for an 11″ x 17″ sheet, delivered.

The next step is to scan her current pickguard as a backup. Then, I will use double-sided tape to secure her current pickguard to a piece of 3/4″ MDF. I finally get to use my router table to make the template an exact match of the pickguard’s outline. Once the template is done, I will use it to reproduce the current shape on the new pickguard material.

For the pickup cutout, I plan on assembling a pin jig. That is the only way I can come up with to accurately make those small-radius corners.

I haven’t figured out how I will do the counter-sinking of the screw holes, since I don’t have a drill press. I’ll come up with something, though. Or, I’ll get a drill press (sorry, Jaim– it’sĀ  your fault!)

More to come!

Black Strat Update

Here is an updated photo of my black Strat, as discussed here.

To summarize for those who don’t want to read the other post, it is a 1995 MIM Fender Squier Series. I replaced the tuners, tremolo, switch, pots, jack, and… finally… the pickguard.

Black Strat

Black Strat

Epoxy Experiments

I know, I have not actually built anything in a while, but it is not for a lack of trying. I have had a very busy spring and early summer doing projects around the house, and watching the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup. I hope to be building again soon.

I have a few things in the works, with most of my time going towards a delay pedal with companding, tails, modulation, and an effects loop (wet only, once through or infinity) in a Hammond 1590TRPC.

I do have some cool stuff to report, though. I was surfing around one day, and stumbled upon this topic, which chronicles the building of a sparkle green Telecaster. That got me thinking, and I have been doing some experiments.

I started my experiment by taking a piece of aluminum stock, painting some square areas on it, and etching it with HCl+H2O2. The plan was to put some glitter in the etched areas, and clear coat it. It was not to be, however, and two failed etch attempts later let me looking for a new plan.

The new plan was this: take the same aluminum stock, sand it flat, and drill some holes. Put some parchment paper (silicone impregnated paper) over the holes on the bottom, secured with blue tape. Then, place a drop of super glue from the top, apply glitter, and epoxy over that. Here is what resulted:

As you can see, there is some potential, and some problems. The main problem is that the epoxy I used– Permatex Crystal Clear 5-Minute Epoxy– set way too fast. I had no time to attempt to remove air bubbles. In fact, you can see that some of the epoxy is kind of just piled on there. Not pretty.

The potential is there, though. I am going to switch to 30-minute epoxy to see if I can get rid of the bubbles. If I can get a more even glitter coat, and be more accurate with the epoxy, I could make something really cool.

Experiment two. Since the epoxy in the first experiment didn’t look good, I decided to see what would happen if I smoothed it. I started with sandpaper, which didn’t make a dent, and quickly progressed to a file. Once I got near the metal, I switched back to sandpaper. As you can see, one row of holes has a beveled edge, and the other has a straight edge. Sanding flush to the metal gives a nice, finished effect.

Experiment three. Since I had better success with the filing-and-flattening, I decided to try another one. This time, I drilled four different sized holes in the aluminum, and skipped the parchment paper and super glue. All I did was drill some holes, cover the bottom in blue tape, add glitter from the top, and drip on epoxy. After it cured, I filed it down, and then used a razor blade to scrape it flush with the metal.

I think it looks really good, especially considering I only scraped it. No sanding, no polish.

The next step is to incorporate this into a pedal. I decided to build a simple little silicon fuzz in a 1590a enclosure. I chose a fuzz not only because I have all the parts, but becauseĀ  I will be able to file the word “FUZZ” into the top of the pedal, and fill it with glitter and epoxy. I will then most likely drill a bunch of random holes, and glitter/epoxy them as well. It should be pretty cool.

More to come!

Finished: MIM Fender Squier Series

It’s finished. Well, for now. Pictures are below.

I made a some pretty nice improvements.

  • New Tuners, Fender 099-2040-000
  • New Bridge, Fender 007-1014-000
  • New Switch, Fender 099-1367-000
  • New Pots, Fender 099-0830-000
  • New Jack, Neutrik NYS229
  • NOS Capacitor, 50n (2x 100n Tropical Fish in series)
  • New Strings, D’Addario EXL115

I got everything installed, and have it nicely setup. This one was a bit of a challenge.

The neck relief was way too much, something like 0.040″ I would say… maybe more. 3/4 of a turn on the truss rod over two days, and it is 0.010″.

Once I got everything installed, I realized that the action was waaaay too high, even with the string saddles lowered as far as they can go, . Only one way that I can fix that– neck shim. I ended up using a piece of an old phone card to make a shim. It is a tad too thick, but should be just fine.

I needed to add an extra tremolo spring to get it to float properly, and the system is now in near-perfect balance.

I decided to stick with the ceramic pickups for now. I have never really had an opportunity to give ceramic pickups a chance. My American Standard came with Alnico, and I upgraded them with nicer Alnicos. The American Standard pickups went into my Mexican Standard, and it’s pickups went into a box. I’m going to give these a shot. In combination with the 50n capacitor, it should be significantly different than my other two Strats, which all have 22n caps.

One last thing to note is that of my three potentiometers, two were around 245k, but one was about 274k. I used that one as the volume, as I have read about people who like 280k volume pots in Strats. 274k is pretty close to that.

So… how does it play? It’s hard to say. After I had finished using a razor blade to scrape an uneven bit on the pickguard, I carelessly set the razor blade down, dragging it slightly across the tip of my middle finger, left hand. It was enough to create a 1/16″ deep, 1/2″ long slice. Direct pressure led to skin glue, which led to butterfly bandages, which led to medical tape. No more bleeding, and a nicely sealed wound, but I really can’t play guitar for a while. That is also why I did not replace the shim with something thinner– I can’t seem to use this hand without opening that cut back up.

I can say, however, that while I was doing the setup, I found the guitar to play very nicely. Maybe it is because my American Standard was made in 1993, and this guitar was made in 1995, but the necks seem incredibly similar. I like it a bit more than my 2011 Mexican Standard, which has a bit of a chunkier neck. Overall, though, I think I am going to like this guitar.

MIM Fender Squier Series - New Tremolo

MIM Fender Squier Series – New Tremolo

MIM Fender Squier Series - New Tuners (back)

MIM Fender Squier Series – New Tuners (back)

MIM Fender Squier Series - New Tuners

MIM Fender Squier Series – New Tuners

MIM Fender Squier Series - Finished

MIM Fender Squier Series – Finished

More to come!

New Guitar Day: Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster 50s

I did it again. I got another guitar. This time, it is a Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster 50s in Butterscotch Blonde.

Classic Vibe Telecaster 50s Butterscotch Blonde

Classic Vibe Telecaster 50s Butterscotch Blonde

I picked it up from Musician’s Friend for a very good price– much lower than is listed on their website. I ordered it on Monday, and it was in my hands on Friday. I was able to play it for a few hours on Saturday.

I haven’t had enough time with it to post a full review, but here are my initial impressions. Overall, the guitar seems to be put together very well. I would put it on the same level as my Vintage Modified Jazzmaster.

The fit-and-finish are great. The body is flawless, albeit heavy. The neck pocket is perfect. The frets are well done, with no sharp edges or dead spots. The setup is actually quite good. It even has a little card attached to show measured clearances. Everything is aligned properly. It is hard to find a flaw on this guitar.

When I played it yesterday, I thought it sounded great. All three switch positions were very usable. I can’t compare it to a real 50s Telecaster, or even to an American Fender, but it sounded great to my ear.

I will post a full review in the coming days, I’m sure. I think I need to write a review of my Vintage Modified Jazzmaster, as well.