Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Les Paul Junior Double Cut

Lesley West, Johnny Thunders, Keith Richards, Billie Joe Armstrong ... just a few of the players who are associated with the Les Paul Junior, with the double cutaway body. I've even seen pictures of a young Pete Townsend thrashing one of these.

To me, this is the best-looking body Gibson ever came up with. Not quite symmetrical, but close, the cutaways allow better access to the upper frets than the single cutaway of the traditional Les Paul. A solid mahogany slab of wood makes up the body, with no extraneous decorations or frippery added. It was, originally, the entry-level model of the Les Paul line, so the austere look allowed for a lower price.

A few years ago, I bought one of these (a model from the early 2000's which was a Guitar Center Exclusive) from a guy on eBay. I rarely buy a guitar which I haven't held in my hands prior to purchase, but I was wanting the guitar, badly, and there were none to be had on the local scene.

The guitar arrived, in perfect shape, just as described, but I really wanted to send it back. The paint (the famous shiny Gibson lacquer) did not suit, especially on the neck where it stuck to my skin and made it a chore to move up and down the fret board, and the P-100 pickups (a humbucking version of the P-90) just sounded awful.

But, I really wanted this guitar, so I stripped the finish off of the neck (along with the resale value), and swapped the neck pickup for an actual P-90. It was playable, and I used it for slide, but it still didn't suit.

As it arrived...

I found myself still looking at Jr. DC's on eBay, and other sites, lusting after the examples with either nitrocellulose paint jobs, or the transparent cherry finish. I even entertained the notion of buying a less expensive import model, just to get the look and sound I wanted. But, I had an actual American Gibson hanging on the wall, so that seemed a little stupid...
So, this past Friday evening, I decided to fix that problem, once and for all. I pulled the guitar off of the wall, and started removing the paint ( a tedious, 10-hour process over the course of 2 nights). Then, once the paint was off, I started sanding.

Yesterday, as I worked on bikes in the driveway, I alternated my time with finish sanding and, eventually, applying a cherry Swedish Oil finish.

The light spot at the end of the neck is a maple strip which covers the truss rod. Why Gibson put maple there, I have no idea. The other two light spots are filler, where the wood chipped out as I removed the mounting post inserts for the bridge.

The back looks pretty nice. You can see the seams of the 3-piece body, if you look, but the grains are pretty well matched, and it the seams are not obvious in real life.

Once the finish had dried enough to be handled, I reassembled the guitar so that I could play it at practice, last night. As I did so, I discarded the original P-100 which was still in the bridge position, and replaced it with a Mighty Mite P90 I had purchased last year, for another project. The other project can wait, in order to get this one complete!

So, here is the final assembly. The new bridge pickup is a huge improvement, and the tone of the guitar is more pleasing to me on both pickups, now that the wood is no longer buried under a sixteenth of an inch of lacquer.

The Les Paul Corner of the living room is much more pleasing to me, now!

I suspect that the Junior is going to get a lot more playing time, in the future, than it has in the past.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Clutch Lever Repair On The Scrambler

Back in 2012, I broke the clutch lever on the Scrambler, while riding on a trail which really was beyond the abilities of either the bike or myself. (On that same ride, also broke the two front pegs, the shift lever and my foot, in the midst of 7 separate crashes!)

Rather than buy the rather expensive factory replacement for the lever, I ordered some CNC machined levers for the bike, from an eBay seller. I noticed, as I installed the levers, that the pivot hole on the clutch lever was larger in diameter than the bolt which ran through it. After installation, it worked fine, so I forgot about it.

Five years and 20,000 miles later, I noticed that the play in the lever seemed to be increasing. Today, I removed the lever and checked the pivot. Sure enough, the steel bolt was wearing into the softer aluminum of the lever.

So, I looked through the shop building and found an old Suntour cantilever brake arm with a steel bushing in the pivot arm. I pressed it out, and test-fitted it to the lever. It was slightly oversize, so I cut a slot in it with my Dremel, compressed it with a pair of pliers, and got it started into the pivot hole of the lever. Once started, it installed easily with a couple of gentle taps with a hammer.

You can see the gap between the steel and aluminum, where the wear was occurring. The bushing should prevent any further wear.

It's the small victories that make life worth living.


Saturday, January 28, 2017

Travelling Light

From here...  here.

I flew to Western PA, on the 17th, to have an after-the-fact Christmas visit with my family, out there. I simply didn't feel like flying during the heavy Christmas flying season, and just delayed it for a few weeks.

Even without the holiday madness at the airport, I still wasn't particularly looking forward to flying. Last year, at the Pittsburgh airport, I had waited for almost an hour at the baggage claim before my bag finally appeared, and I didn't want a repeat of that.

So, I decided to skip the baggage pickup altogether, and I shipped my clothes and Christmas gifts to my sister's house, via FedEx. I didn't even take a carry-on bag with me.  It was great!

It was very liberating to just walk onto the plane and sit down, fly, and walk directly out of the airport to get picked up, without wresting a bag around in the plane or standing around waiting on bags at the end.

I believe this will be my method for air travel, from now on...


Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Nice, Chilly Commute

Wintertime commuting can be an adventure. Breath freezes in my mustache and beard, eyelashes freeze together, and icy roads present some hazards, as well (mostly dodging cars whose drivers forget that ice can be slick, sometimes).

Today was a good winter commute day.

As I rode home, the temperature was hovering around 5 degrees F, with a windchill in the neighborhood of 24 below, according to the TV news. It was a bit chilly, but I was well-dressed for it (one of the few times I am ever well-dressed), with the exception of my socks. I could have used just a little more warmth on the toes.

The snow was coming down as fine little flakes, and I actually had a tailwind, so the ride was actually pretty pleasant. It's supposed to get colder, overnight, so tomorrow's ride promises to be a little more of an adventure.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Another solo NYD Ride

For quite a few years I have made a habit of ringing in the New Year by taking a bicycle ride, if possible. I've missed a few because of travel or illness, but I have made a ride on most Jan.-1's since the mid 90s.

For many years, I would invite people to join me, first by personally asking friends and bike shop customers, later by email. In the early years, I would have quite a few people (8-15) show up, and we would take a nice long ride around town.

In 2008, Danny Mac, Rich and Brian showed up for a snowy, sub-10-degree ride.

In 2009, Mark, Brian and Carl (of the blog getinlost) rode with me in mid-50s temps.

Carl showed up again, in 2010, along with Mark and a fellow named Tom (who worked at a local bike co-op), and while the temps were in the 40s, the roads around town were snow-packed.

Tom joined my nephew, Kyle, and me in 2011 for another snow-pack ride.

In 2012, I simply rode to the coffee shop and back. Temps were mild, roads were dry, but nobody was interested in a ride. I spent the warmest part of the day changing shocks out on the Scrambler.

In 2013, I didn't even ride on NYD. I was still recovering from Achilles Tendonitis, and biking was not an easy or frequent thing for me, that winter.

In 2014, I took a solo ride on the Mongoose Beast fat tire bike which I had converted to multiple speeds, and disc brakes. I ended up calling Mark, while I was out, and hooked up for a short ride with him.

2015 was the infamous rib-breaker ride. Not my best day on a bike.

Last year ... I was out of town and I didn't get a ride in. Oh, well...

Today, the roads were clear, and the sun was out, so I took a short 10-mile ride which took me to Kaladi, on the final leg, where I had coffee and a scone. It was a nice ride, though it seemed a little more difficult than it should have. Since I had the flu, a couple of weeks ago, I haven't ridden the bike enough to mention.

I stopped on the low-water bridge over Cherry Creek, behind the mall, to say hello to a few mallards.

Another NYD tradition...

Here's hoping that a nice ride, today, bodes well for the coming year!

Happy New Year, everyone!


Monday, December 26, 2016

Post-Christmas Post

I hope that everyone had a good Christmas. I decided to stay in Denver for the holidays, this year, and seeing the news about airport madness here and other places make me glad that I did.

I spent the day on Christmas Eve at Fermaentra, sipping a couple of beers and working on an art project that I want to maintain some momentum on.  Christmas Day was awesome. I called my family, first off, then went over to the Clicks' for breakfast, then on to the Max house for dinner.

I didn't get home until 1:00 AM!

Here's a short little bit of test footage from the art project (an animated music video):

It's shaky because I "filmed" it with the time-lapse feature on the cell phone.  It's a lot of work, but fun!


Saturday, December 17, 2016

Flu-bie Doobie Doo

I have been under the weather for the better part of the week. Monday afternoon, the annoying cough and itchy throat I had experienced for a couple of days welcomed a fever and extreme fatigue into the mix. I slept from 7:30, Monday night, to 1:00 Tuesday afternoon, and I slept 16 to 18 hours a day until yesterday, when I cut waaaay back to 12 hours.

Today was the first day I woke up feeling human, which was convenient since I had about 6 inches of (thankfully, powdery) snow to shovel off of the walk and drive. It was a little cool out, but it warmed up nicely by the time I went out to shovel...

It warmed up from 1 degree above zero (F) to 2 degrees above zero! I took advantage of the balmy temps to shovel, and let the van warm up before driving to Kaladi for my first coffee in 5(!) days.

(As a side note, the Dodge wouldn't even turn over since, I assume, I haven't driven it enough lately to keep the battery charged. This is one of the many reasons that I do not want two cars at once!)

I posted this photo of The Chick Magnet on FB, this morning, after I got to the coffee shop. This was my first drive in any significant amount of snow, and it went really well. While it's not quite as easy as driving in 4wd, the studded tires do make it a lot easier than normal tires do.

It's looking more and more like the Dodge is going to go away, and the Astro Van is going to stick around. It's a handy vehicle for me, and I am oddly fond of it, already. Of course, like any used vehicle, it could go completely south on me, at any time. That's why I am waiting just a bit longer before I make the final decision.