Saturday, September 26

Of "v"s and "x"s

Man, it feels like a week since I've posted...oh, wait. I will have you know that, for some reason, my keyboard has decided to throw a few keys. I can no longer make a "v" or an "x". I'm reduced to copy/pasting. Oh, the trials I must suffer through.

It's funny, you don't realize how much you need a "v" until you don't have it anymore. I'm lucky the other key is an "x", because if it were actually used more than once per page, you know, like an "e", I would just snap. But then, the good thing about working in an IT department is that we have tons of spare, cheap keyboards just sitting around. Something to be resolved on Monday.

I'm also reminded of a psychological phenomenon, mainly because I have spent a lot of time searching through random websites to find an "x" lurking within. It has something to do with chunking in that it is impossible to look at printed text and only see letters. Our brains are just too smart for us. It's an evolutionary advantage to be sure, because think of how much harder we would have to work if our brains didn't automatically chunk letters together into coherent words. But it does make it difficult to look at a screen full of words and pick out the "x".

So there's my psychology degree earning it's keep.

Kind of feeding off of my last post, I've been thinking a lot about sound. Over the last week (and I was just really close to saying "O'er", since that would be way easier...), my thoughts have gone everywhere from just buying an SM57 to record everything, to scores of microphones for every conceivable application, to making sound-dampening pads and turning my room into a studio (but where would the bed go?), to quitting my job and going back to school for sound engineering, to also quitting my job and taking up pro-audio installation. And my dad knows a guy in the biz...

I tend to have a problem with day-dreaming at work.

And of course, since my life-goal is not to be an IT technician for the rest of my life, maybe my next job will be somewhere in that area. And since I plan on being a low-paid worship leader, the more skillz I can bring to the job, the better. And this post is pretty random. I guess my head is just all o'er the place tonight.

Sunday, September 20

A little light recording...

I've always been fascinated with recording equipment. It all started when I got to my Newman center in college. I wanted to get into music (this was before I played guitar and way before I even thought I could lead worship), and we had a soundboard that no one else could tame. So I took some time to learn it, and inside of six months, I knew the sound system inside and out. And it was a pretty good little sound system, but then our building burned down and we had to scramble to get by. So who got the call?

So I had a lot of on-the-job training as a sound guy, and now I need some stuff for my very own. I guess I'm getting recording equipment so that I can record my own stuff, but who knows how far it will go or how much work Ill be putting into it. As of right now, I got a small interface and a copy of ProTools to put on my computer, and I'm working on learning the in's and out's, but my first goal is to pick up a few microphones. Specifically, I need something to put in front of my electric, and something for vocals. Any suggestions?

This is another journey, more different from the guitar one, so you can follow me as I slowly build a sweet recording studio out of nothing!

Wednesday, September 16

The Parts-o-caster: Part VI - Finishing Touches!

Here we go folks. The moment you (or, at least, I) have all been waiting for; the majority of the work is done, so now it's time to screw in the last few bits and plug this baby in to see if it's as soulful as it is in my head, unless of course, what's in my head is all that matters. Which may be the case.

Here, I'm installing those cool knobs that started this whole thing off. Standard volume/tone knobs just kind of get pushed on, using friction to stay secure. Not that they need much more than that, since there's not a lot of force being applied to those knobs. At least, not along an axis that would cause the knob to pop off. But these knobs have a tiny screw in them that just needs to be tightened.

I turned the pots to the fully "closed" position, or the position that they'd be at 0, if these were standard knobs, and lined the knob up so that it was pointing straight towards the pickups. Pictures make a whole lot more sense. Then, I tightened the screw, and there you have it.

The switch tip gets pushed on, and that one is pretty self explanatory.

Then I screwed on the strap buttons. Strap locks are supposed to be cool. These aren't Strap locks. I've never used them, but I may someday because my guitars always seem to fall off of their straps right when I'm not paying any attention. None of my guitars have made it all the way to the floor yet, knock on wood...

Then, I screwed in the string tree. My neck came with two, but some reading confirmed that the second one does basically nothing good, so I went without it, just putting on the one over the B and high E strings.

And speaking of strings, the next step is to string 'er up. Ernie Ball 9's, simply because I don't know any better.

Lastly, I screw in the tremolo arm, and booyah. I've never owned a guitar with a working tremolo system (though it's well-documented that what the tremolo system on a Stratocaster is doing is not, in fact, tremolo, but Vibrato), so I'm excited to add this whole new dimension to my playing. Or, I could just block it if I don't ever end up using it.

And yes, she sounds gorgeous. Not my playing, mind you. That's still pretty atrocious. But have you ever played a guitar that you couldn't fail to make good tone on? Merely possessing this guitar has given me the drive to do scales everyday in an effort to get better, and this is from a guitarist who learned chords three years ago and almost nothing since. Which is equally atrocious.

And so, work done, here are the obligatory glamor shots!

Finished and in the case.

Aww, the whole family!

My cool, artsy shot.

And finally, the finished product!

Sunday, September 13

Drink Spotlight: The Aviation

So for my birthday, my sister got me a gift card to my favorite store in the St. Louis area. Called Lukas Liquor, this place has everything. Well, okay, not everything. But it does have the largest variety of spirits and beer (and probably wine, but I will confess my complete wine ignorance) that I have ever seen, and it is always expanding.

Case in point: used to be the only bitters in town were good old Angostura Aromatic. Even the gigantic liquor superstore that is forty-five minutes from my house only carried Angostura. About a year ago, I went in just to browse, and I saw another bottle sitting next to the Angostura; the much regarded Antoine Peychaud had joined in on the fun. Then, last time I was in, I wandered by the bitters section, and noticed that it is now a whole section, with Fee's (chocolate, rhubarb, celery, mint, the whole gang), as well as Angostura Orange and all sorts of others. It is a good time to be a cocktail enthusiast!

Well, I needed a good way to spend this gift card, when I stumbled upon this:

Creme de Violette. Once so rare and valuable that only the seven richest kings of Europe had access to it(I think. At the very least, I'd never seen a bottle.), now sitting on a shelf in my favorite store, ten bottles deep. With a sticker that says "New Product!". So what was I supposed to do?

And so, whenever I find a new bottle of something delicious at my favorite store, I immediately think of any drink I can that uses the obscure and hard-to-find ingredient. In this case, only one jumped out to me, and that was specifically because it's probably the best cocktail for showcasing this particular spirit.

The Aviation has been around since men first learned how to fly. The roaring 20's were known for flapper dresses and incredible prosperity as we as a country had industrialized and had not yet had WWI to bring us down. There were parties, and there were cocktails. And, while I may idealize drinking pre-1980, this was certainly a good time for the cocktail.

The Aviation:
  • 2 oz. gin
  • 1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1/4 oz. Maraschino Liqueur
  • 1/4 oz. Creme de Violette
Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a Maraschino cherry.

I'd made the Aviation once before, when I didn't have any Creme de Violette (as some say is possible), but I was not impressed. It is an extremely different drink when made properly. Maraschino Liqueur is, as you would guess, cherry flavored, and is fairly difficult to find, but was plentiful in the days before Prohibition. You see, back then, the Maraschino Cherry was simply a cherry that had been preserved in Maraschino Liqueur, which was distilled from the Maraska cherry. That's a big circle, but essentially, they needed a way to preserve cherries, so why not use a liqueur that was made from cherries?

Then, Prohibition kicked in, and not only could you not get a good drink anywhere, but it was suddenly illegal to use alcohol for anything. But children still needed their Maraschino Cherries. So, whereas bathtub-gin became a huge health risk as people distilled their own liquors to vastly inferior quality (because people needed their gin, and there was no regulation of an illegal industry), the Maraschino Cherry took a turn for the worst. The new process of preserving cherries involved using chemicals to extract all of the color and flavor from a perfectly good cherry (but in doing so, keeps the cherries firm), and then using artificial flavors and colors to put those things back, since no one wants to eat a white cherry. And that's still the way it's done today.

There has been a lot of talk about what exactly those preserving chemicals are (from formaldehyde to lye), and the Maraschino Cherry industry (which resides in Oregon, of all places) has, of course, taken the opposite position most of the time, but one thing cannot be disputed. These freak cherries are soaking A LOT of sugar. It may seem weird to hear someone who espouses the benefits of drinking to be health-conscious, but frankly, we all have way too much sugar in our diets as it is. Wherever you can cut back a little, it's probably a good thing. So I of course made my own.

Simple process, from what I can tell. Take as many Bing cherries as you can fit into a jar, and then add Maraschino Liqueur. Wait at least a few weeks. I also made Brandied cherries and cherries that were a mix of Brandy and Maraschino Liqueur, just to find the best way, because Maraschino Liqueur is not cheap. And so that's what you see sitting in the bottom of this cocktail.

That was a lot about cherries. The drink itself? Very tasty. Also, very different from pretty much any cocktail I've ever had. The two liqueurs are very aromatic, almost perfumed, and they combine nicely with the gin. Which, in this case, was Tanqueray. One of my family's quirks is that they are very frugal (my Grandma was one of nine, and she herself had ten children), but for some reason, no one will drink any gin other than Tanqueray. So as a result, it's the house gin. Lucky me!

Friday, September 11

The Parts-o-caster: Part V - Electronics

Ok, a quick confession. I did not completely hand-build this Strat. The most important part where I took a "shortcut" was in ordering the pickups and electronics. At the outset of this project, I had approximately 0 experience in soldering. I wasn't about to buy individual pickups, tone pots, wire, etc., and wire them all up. Sure, I could follow wiring diagrams, but if something went wrong, I'd be completely lost and probably very discouraged. So I found this website, Picker's Parts. The coolest thing about them is that I could custom-order a pre-wired pickguard to be however I wanted. And since I was looking for a late 60's sound, their default "Nico's Vintage" pickup was exactly what I was looking for. I chose the slightly upgraded 5-way switch (American), and a short time later, I had the most important part of my new guitar.

Here are the pickups and electronics, removed from the pickguard. I had a lot of relicing to do, so I had to remove them. What I will say is that the pickguard itself was easily the most frustrating, work-intensive part of the whole process, as you'll see. After having soaked the pickup covers in tea for several days, I found that they had actually swelled a little. I was able to jam them over the pickups, but getting them into the pickguard itself required some quick filing.

After finally getting the pickups into the pickguard, I tried to put the tone pots and the switch in. Lo and behold, those holes were a little small, too. A bit more filing...

So then I put the tone pots and the switch in, doing the requisite screwing and wrenching. But then, what should I notice, but that the holes pre-drilled onto the body did not sync up perfectly with the holes in the pickguard. And, what's more, having gotten the guts onto the pickguard and trying to get everything to fit together, the body's neck joint wasn't exactly to Fender specs. After about an hour of filing, fitting, and more filing, I finally was able to shape the pickguard's neck pocket so that it would fit. Unfortunately, this left the area of the pickguard around the neck looking rather ragged and amateur. And then, on top of that, I still had some more holes to drill to attach the pickguard.

My advice, and something I would not hesitate to do if I built a second guitar, is to pick out a body that doesn't have any holes drilled in it yet. Sure, it will take you a little longer to drill the 20-ish holes required to get your guitar together, but it will save you a lot of time trying to get the pickguard to work. Incidentally, the pickguard I have is also the modern, 11-screw variant, and I would definitely go for the 8-screw, vintage style pickguard, if only for continuity's sake. Either way, the more wood that is in your guitar, the better.

Next, we need to do a little soldering. The standard wiring for a Strat has three wires going from the pickguard to other parts of the guitar: a hot and ground wire going to the input jack, and an additional ground wire going to the tremolo assembly, and thus, every metal part of the guitar. Up first, the tremolo ground.

Two long screws secure the tremolo spring plate to the guitar. Later, once the tremolo springs are on the guitar, the depth of these screws will dictate the height of the bridge, but for now, a close-enough approach is all that's needed. With that in place, I ran one grounding wire (black is ground, white is hot) through the guitar and soldered it to the plate.

That done, I attached the trem springs to the hooks, stretching them a little. They weren't anywhere near as tight as they would be with strings on, and again, the screws will need to be adjusted once you get some tension on the springs, but this is the first step.

Lastly, we have the other two wires to attach. On the advice of more of the internets, I twisted the two remaining wires together to get a natural shielding effect to cut back on a little hum inherent in single-coil guitars, and fed them through the hole going to the jack.

A quick word on hum in a single-coil guitar. A lot of people go to the trouble to put a lot of shielding on the cavity of the guitar, maybe use humbuckers, and pretty much do whatever they can to eliminate the hum. But I believe that an important part of the vintage sound that I'm going for is that hum. I twisted the wires because I figured that it made sense to do that little thing, something that likely would have been done in constructing vintage guitars anyway. In the end, this guitar with or without twisted wires was really not all that noisy, as it's coils aren't terribly hot in comparison with some pickups available.

Quick soldering, white to the tip, black to the sleeve, and we're done. Someone online said that it doesn't matter which wire goes with which part of the jack. They are very wrong. I actually miswired the jack at first, and when I went to plug things in, all I got was a horribly un-grounded sound. Nothing but noise. In fact, I think that the picture I have is the miswired first attempt. But a little more soldering work, and things are clean and clear!

Two screws securing the jack plate to the guitar, and we're 95% done!

Tuesday, September 8

The Parts-o-caster: Part IV - Body

Having done all of that strenuous work on the neck, it's time for some body work!

Here, we have the body all by itself. It's a little deceiving with the flash, as the blue sunburst is a lot more subtle under natural lighting. Regardless, it really is beautiful. Originally I was looking at a natural finish, but I stumbled upon this one and it took me back to a blue-burst Strat I saw when I was shopping for my first electric guitar. I like that this isn't a super-common finish, and that it really works with the other colors in this project.

The body itself is Alder. Though I looked at a lot of other woods, I wanted a classic sound, and it definitely delivered.

So to start, I first assembled the bridge. It's a standard, modern-style floating tremolo, and the first step was to put the bridge saddles onto the bridge plate. That's just a simple matter of threading the screw through the holes and sliding on the springs, followed by the saddles. Intonation will be adjusted later by adjusting these screws, but I just gave them a ballpark depth.

Next, I attached the bridge to the body itself by screwing in the six screws along the front. Following the advice of a lot of people when it came to actually making the tremolo work and do so stably, I tightened down the screws on the end, leaving about 1/8 of an inch of play in each of the other ones. This gives the bridge some room to move so that the tremolo can do it's job, but it also gives the bridge the needed stability to keep things in tune. But we'll come back to the rest of the tremolo assembly a little later on...

The only other major bit of work to be done to the body is attaching the neck. It's a very, very simple process. The neck and body are both of the 4-bolt variety, so there was no extra drilling or hole-filling to do. The body's neck pocket had "Mickey Mouse ears", meaning that it was routed with rounded corners, a lot like the ears on that famous rodent. What's good about that is that it accepts pretty much any after-market neck that you could want. What's bad is that it makes getting a tight fit pretty much impossible, which means that you lose a little sustain and tone. But apart from making my own body, I don't really see a good way around this.

And so, I simply fit the neck into the pocket, flipped the whole thing over and bolted the neck plate to the body. Again, I was careful to tighten the bolts pretty evenly so as not to warp anything, and voila!

Next post, the guts.

Monday, September 7

Drink Spotlight: Mojito

Sorry for the brief lack of posts, Sept. 3rd was my birthday and I took a little trip back to the alma mater to celebrate. So I think I'll start back up with my first drink post!

There's a lot more to making a good drink than looking in a book or searching the internet. Sure, you can do that. But you'll often end up with almost as many different recipes as you have sources. Not only that, in even the most sacred of drink sources, some drinks just don't work as originally conceived, either because modern tastes have evolved, or because, let's face it, nobody bats 1,000.

With that in mind, I give you the Drink Spotlight. These posts represent drinks that I've tested and tuned, in most cases using the utmost care to preserve the wealth of historical information and, most importantly, to bring you an accurate and delicious drink. Up first, the Mojito.

Having experienced an explosion in popularity ever since James Bond ordered one in the otherwise unremarkable Die Another Day (and note, I LOVE 007, but Pierce Brosnan was a pretty average James Bond, aside from Goldeneye), the Mojito actually has a lot of history to it. On one hand, the combination of sugar, lime juice and rum is nearly as old as rum itself, but it was really Ernest Hemmingway who popularized the drink.

The Mojito:
  • 2 oz. white rum (typically Bacardi)
  • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 oz. simple syrup
  • mint leaves
In a Collins glass (10-12 oz.), muddle six to eight mint leaves in the simple syrup. Add the lime juice and rum, and top with crushed ice. Stir to combine and top with club soda. Garnish with lime wedge and a freshly spanked mint sprig.

More than a few notes. Muddling is something of a lost art. The Bacardi company has done a lot for this drink. Bacardi is now located in Puerto Rico, but prior to the U.S. embargo, Bacardi Rum was made in Cuba. As a result, when you want a light Cuban rum, you can't really do any better (at least, not in the U.S.) than Bacardi Superior white rum. But despite all that Bacardi has done for the Mojito, they released a commercial with a bartender, ostensibly a professional, making a Mojito in time with the music.


Mint is a plant. And, like all plants that are green, mint has chlorophyll in it. This magical chemical, the one that makes photosynthesis possible, is an incredible invention of nature. It is not, however, pleasant tasting. It is bitter.

When you muddle mint, do it ever so gently. Press the mint into the simple syrup. If you grind it like that guy in the Bacardi commercial, you'll end up with a drink that tastes strongly of mint, true, but also has a very unpleasant bitter component to it. In actuality, all you have to do to release the mint's aroma is clap it between your hands or rub it between your fingers.

Also, simple syrup. You can just use sugar, and in a few cases, it's correct to do so, but sugar doesn't dissolve well in either cold liquids or alcohol, both of which are typically involved in making a drink. But luckily for us, simple syrup is, for lack of a better term, simple to make. Take equal parts sugar and water, make the water hot and stir in the sugar until it's clear. If you make it 2:1, you have rich simple syrup. If there is one product that will be used the most in your bar, it is simple syrup, and it's so much cheaper to make yourself than to buy it at a liquor store or wherever. You can use whatever sugar you want, from Demarara to raw sugar to plain old white, granulated sugar.

Ice is a very interesting topic that I don't think gets enough press (I mean, it IS just ice, but it's a big part of any drink you make), and I'll do an ice post sometime, but for now, know that crushed ice is very, very important to this drink, as it is to most tropical or Tiki drinks.

And fresh lime juice. Use the stuff in the bottle if you absolutely must, but just remember this axiom: garbage in, garbage out.

When made properly, this drink is sweet, sour, with a hint of mint, and is extremely refreshing. It will take you a few minutes to make it properly. If you're ordering it at a bar, be careful. If they are busy, your drink won't get the love that it needs to even be decent. And if they reach for the sour mix, just leave. Nothing good will come of it.

Thursday, September 3

The Parts-o-caster: Part III - Neck Work

The fretboard. Perhaps the most important part of any guitar. Every electric I've owned (that's right, all two of them) has had a maple fretboard, despite how much I really like how rosewood looks and feels, so for this project, rosewood it is! Besides which, the darker color really lends a lot of vintage cred, as it doesn't have that bleached-white look of a new maple fretboard.

(Despite the Fender sticker from 1957, that's a new neck. I put the sticker on myself, since getting a blank neck and a sticker cost me around $120 total, whereas a genuine Fender neck from the 1950's would have run upwards of $600. And of course, if I was aging the pickup covers, I had to make it look like a '50's strat. I mean come on! Continuity! Though, in retrospect, I should have matched the headstock closer to a '69 Strat, given the pickups. But that's a few posts away...)

The biggest thing I did not do, which would have been the first step, had I had the tools, is do a complete fret leveling/crowning/polishing. The action ended up being decent, but it could have been much lower had I done this. I may still take it somewhere and get it professionally set up, but it's good for now.

And so, the biggest step for getting the neck ready is getting those tuning pegs in there. I chose some vintage, nickel tuners, mainly because I didn't have a good way of relicing chrome tuners. Someone somewhere said that you can melt the chrome off and then relic the nickel below, but that seemed like a step too many, given that I was going to have to buy the tuners anyway. So, after a quick turn with a brillo pad (which I can't recommend highly enough), it's time to get them into the headstock.

I hit a snag right away, but it was not unexpected. The tuners have a collar and the tuner itself. The collar basically serves to keep the tuning peg from rubbing against the wood in the headstock. But with this neck, the collars were too small! I was prepared for something being too big, as some simple filing could fix that problem, but how should I fix something that was loose?

There were a lot of suggestions, but upon realizing that the structural integrity of the collar really wasn't all that important (the screws holding the tuners in place took all of the strain from the strings, as far as I could see), I opted for a quick, easy trick that I'd learned when making pinewood derby cars with my dad oh so many years ago. Toothpicks!

No glue, no filling holes and redrilling, no filing, no nothing. I just took half of a tooth pick, stuck the pointy side in between the collar and the headstock (picking the same point for each collar for uniformity), a few raps with a small hammer, and it was stuck tight. Now, if this were going to be under any strain at all, you would probably want more than just a miniscule amount of friction holding those pieces in there, but I trust my physics!

Break off the little bit of toothpick that's still there, and the tuning peg itself will hide the amateur carpentry.

With all of the collars in place, the next step was to get the pilot holes drilled for the tuning pegs. With any generic, Fender-ish part that you order, you have to realize that everything is going to be really close, but for the most precise work, you will need to drill. Ideally, you'll want to fill in any non-used holes, too, but I'm something of the impatient type.

I fit the tuning pegs into their respective slots, being careful to not poke the collars out of their holes, and I used a pointy instrument to make a little guide mark where each hole should go. I found something that looked like a screwdriver but with a point instead of any kind of screw-turning head, but you can use anything that is pointy and will stand up to some light tapping. A nail works pretty well. Having done that, it's on to drilling.

There's another carpenter's trick I used here to make sure I didn't drill clear out of the front of the headstock. I took some tape and wrapped the drillbit where I wanted it to stop, and then I went slowly. When the tape started brushing away the sawdust, I just backed the drillbit out, and voila. As far as where to put the tape, I just kinda eyeballed it against the screws that came with the tuning pegs.

With the holes drilled, from there it was just all about putting the tuning pegs in again (and once again, being careful to not knock the collars out) and screwing them down. And as with anything where you're using multiple screws to secure something to something else, you want to just get each screw started, and then tighten them down all at once so that they all go in smoothly and there's no torque to pull something out of alignment. The two end pegs (high and low E) both have a nice hole in them for the screws to go into, but the other ones were put in such a way that they share screws. I had a scary moment where I thought that the pegs were going to be too far apart and the middle screws weren't going to hold the pegs down, but it ended up fitting perfectly.

Also note, these aren't staggered tuning pegs. If you have tuning pegs that are staggered, then you need to keep track of which ones go where.

Next post, we get into the body of the project (Ha!).

Wednesday, September 2

Alive Again - Matt Maher

I'm not sure how many of the people reading here are aware of Matt Maher, aside from him being "the guy who wrote 'Your Grace is Enough'", but he's been writing for a while now. You may have already heard this, as it has gotten some air-time lately, but I wanted to post this here in case it's completely new to you. And the radio version is really rocking. But I love this one since it shows how much drive the song has even when you take away drums, bass, all that.

Tuesday, September 1

The Parts-o-caster: Part II - Relic-ing

Ok. Relic-ed guitars. I'm not a huge fan. I see things like this, and I think, idiots will pay for anything. Do you really want a guitar that looks like it's been run over by a truck twice, and dropped a hundred times, and had cigarettes burned into it? Why would you take a new guitar, sand the neck, strip some paint and rust the metal parts, and then charge an extra $300? I mean, I guess the obvious answer is that there is a market, but why would you pay another $300 for the same guitar, just beat up?

Image. That's all it comes down to. People are obsessed with the image that they project. They want a guitar that looks like it's lived badly for 60 years when they themselves are only 16. I do firmly believe that a guitar should look the way it's been played.

That being said....I relic-ed a few parts on this project. My reasoning: Yeah, I really can't defend myself against anything that I just said. Things like pickup covers and tuning pegs, I really don't like them to be too shiny. They just don't look right. Is that an image thing? Yeah. But the psychologist in me says that, if I feel like I'm playing an old guitar, then my old, soulful guitarist inside will respond. Even if I am consciously aware that the guitar is not, in fact, as old as it claims to be. I'm doing it to trick my id, not everyone else. Is that legit?

I don't know, but what's done is done. And, to be honest, I'm really happy with the finished product. Maybe that's all that matters. Maybe I just have to bite my tongue when I see people paying a thousand dollars for a guitar that's worth maybe six hundred. Maybe.

I did look pretty heavily into this, because I didn't really feel like having to buy multiples of all of my parts in case I really screwed something up. Now, I'll pass the wisdom on to you!

To be perfectly honest, the entire color scheme of my guitar may have been completely determined by this:

That's a knob from a vintage Fender amp. And I wanted it to be my tone/volume knobs. First, it looks B.A. against a white pickguard. But other than that, not having a number to look at forces me to use my ears to dial in the tone I want, and it makes it harder for me to fall into the same set of tones every time I play. Plus John Mayer did it. Don't judge me.

But yeah, mostly it just looks cool. But not with stark white pickup covers. Oh no. The problem is that this knob is not quite white, and not quite cream, but somewhere in between. So I couldn't just order matching pickup covers. And if I were going with an off-white pickup cover, a perfectly clean neck would look weird. And with an older neck, a shiny new set of tuners would just stick out like a sore thumb...

You see? This is how it starts...

First, only because it took the longest, I had to deal with those pickup covers. A lot of people suggested soaking new pickup covers in any manner of staining things, everything from coffee and tea to soy sauce, to human, umm, excrement. Yeah. So I went with tea.

I made it really strong, but before I put the covers in, I roughed them up a little with some sandpaper. Then, I soaked them, but only half-way. After all, you only see the top of a pickup cover when it's installed. Like an iceberg. It would be weird to have them unformly "exposed to the sun", or whatever it was that I was going for by doing this. I moved them around a few times, and left them in there for something like three days, checking every few hours until I thought they were done.

Now, on to the metal parts. First, the magical aging liquid. I had to go to the darkest parts of Africa to obtain this esoteric elixir.

The goal of using Vinegar is to simulate X number of years of human sweat and grime. The thing you're actually simulating is the weak acids that are in that sweat eating away at the metal. Unless it's chrome. Chrome is very good at repelling acid. So, we take non-chrome parts and soak them in a weak acid.

Some people use Hydrochloric Acid instead of Vinegar. Some people are way more extreme than me.

Of course, the really, really important parts, like the tuners and the springs, I didn't want to soak in acid. Some said it would be okay, some said it would really hurt the guitar's playability and, essentially, destroy the very thing you're trying to build, so I decided to err on the side of caution. Will it detract from the aesthetics? Yeah, probably. But the biggest goal I have here is making a guitar I can play.

So for the tuners, I just took a brillo pad to them. It really did a good job of making them look worn, but not fake. I did the same thing with the bridge plate and bridge saddles.

As for the body and the neck, I very, very (very) carefully put some dents in them. I'm actually very careful with my guitars, so I don't want to play something that looks like I couldn't take care of it. I don't know if that makes sense. But I didn't chip any paint or make any deep gouges. I just made use of the corner of the workbench to make some little dents and dings. Nothing extreme, but it had to go with the rest of the guitar.

Next, some assembly required...