Two Wheels - Six Strings

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

Monday, November 06, 2017

Semi-Hollow Tabletop Guitar is Complete!

Yesterday, I decided to finish the semi-hollow tabletop guitar and see how it plays. I didn't even think to take pictures as I was working, since I was kinda solving problems as I went.

My original plan was to install a Les Paul Jr.  pickguard that I had ordered for one of my guitars. It turned out to be the wrong variant for the guitar I have, so I figured it would be nice to get some use out of it.  With the pickguard in place, I planned to cut a hole in the guitar top, and mount the volume pot and output jack to the top of the guitar. The pickguard would cover the hole and the channel I cut for the wiring. 

Unfortunately, the depth of the guitar body didn't allow for inserting the fittings and sliding them to the mounting holes. So, I had to come up with an alternate plan.

I cut the top, and trimmed the pickguard to allow for mounting the pot and jack directly to the pickguard, itself. It was a little bit different from the original plan, but worked out nicely, all the same.

I mounted the Gretsch-style toaster humbucker in the lead position, and strung the guitar with Ernie Ball Slinkys. The electric tone is, as expected, somewhat more trebly than the solid body tabletop guitar I originally built. Oddly, the acoustic tone is, as well. I expected the semi-hollow body to produce a deeper acoustic tone.

My theory is that the strings are affecting the tone. I put Fat Bottom/Skinny Top strings on the other guitar, and I think that the thicker strings on the bass-end mellow the acoustic tone out, somewhat.

Regardless, I played the thing for about an hour after I got the intonation in good shape, and it is a fun little guitar to play. I reminds me very much of the old Japanese guitars that I played all the time in college.

I'm thinking that I should sell one or other of the tabletops. I don't really need both. It's kind of a "Sophie's Choice" situation, trying to figure out which one to let go of, though...


Friday, October 27, 2017

The Semi-Hollow Tabletop Guitar Build Progress

If you watch my Instagram or Facebook feed, you have seen most of these photos, already. But, I want to go into a bit more detail about the build, and gather the photos into one place. So, here we go...

Awhile back, I saw a guitar on the Antebellum Instruments blog, and decided that I had to have one like it. So, I built my own version.

 I used my old Truetone parlor slide guitar's body as a template, traced it onto the top of a vintage end table I had bought at the thrift store, and cut out with my jigsaw. Once it was sanded, I treated it with Cherry-tint Danish Oil, installed a P-90 at an angle to match the manufacturer's stamp on the underside of the top (which I used as the top of the guitar because I liked the stamp and the row of staples), and installed a neck I had bought for a project, which never got built, last year. The tailpiece is from a junk Harmony, and the bridge came from the same defunct project as the neck. The tuners were just in my general guitar parts bin; part of a batch I bought when I first started building cigar box guitars.

When it was done, I had used up some of my surplus parts, and I ended up with a guitar which sounds surprisingly good as an acoustic. It's great for sitting in the porch swing and playing, or for working up new songs. Plugged in, it sounds like an amplified acoustic, on the clean channel, and gets nicely raunchy if you add a bit of gain to the amp signal.

Having "gone to school" on that build, I wanted to refine my technique by building another, similar, guitar. But, I didn't want another of the same version, so I decided to build a semi-hollow version using as many surplus parts as possible, and buying the fewest parts necessary.

I did end up buying a bridge and tailpiece, just because the ones I had lying about didn't suit me. Those two items cost me about $12.50, together, so it didn't add a lot of cost to the built, but I think they added a lot of value.

For this version, I used an old Epiphone Les Paul Junior single-cutaway body as my template, traced onto another thrift store table. I flipped it to produce what is, essentially, the body size and shape of an early-60s double-cut Melody Maker, like Joan Jett famously plays.

I then traced a second outline about a half-inch inside the original outline. Once I had cut the shape out, I cut along the inner line to produce the sides of the guitar.

The end result gave me sides I could glue the top and back to, without having to use purfling. My goal was to keep it simple, as if it was built by a Mississippi farmhand, in the barn. Professional luthiery was not my goal.

Once I had the sides cut out, I sanded the finish off of the wood, so that the TiteBond wood glue would penetrate. Then, I cut the top and back panels from some furniture-grade 1/8" plywood I had bought 3 or 4 years ago, using a cardboard template of the same shape as the side piece, but slightly larger, so that it would overlap.

I glued the back on, clamped it up, and set it aside for a few days to let the glue cure.

The next time I had a chance to work on it, 5 days later, I took the remains of the tabletop and cut the center block for the semi-hollow construction out of that piece. Once the finish was sanded off, it gave me a center block the same thickness as the sides, making it a simple proposition to glue the top on.

Once the glue was on, I clamped the edges, and weighted the center to facilitate the bond between the center block and the top and back panels. A few days later, I pulled the clamps and began working the edges of the plywood back to be flush with the sides.

After some experimenting, I found that the wood rasp was the easiest and most effective tool to use for cutting back the edges. After about an hour, I had the rough shape and I was ready to start sanding.

Just as I had done with the solid version, I sanded everything with a pretty coarse sandpaper (80 grit), to leave a certain "rustic" look to the wood.

In the meantime, I removed the paint from the neck of the same Epiphone LP Jr. whose body had served as a template for the semi-hollow.

Once the paint was off of the neck, I got out the Dark Walnut Danish Oil and applied it to the body.

I will be staining the back of the neck after I finish sanding the back of the headstock.

I stained the front of the headstock, just to see how it was going to look with the body. I am very pleased with the look. Danish Oil lends the guitar a weathered, somewhat "vintage" look which will improve as the guitar is played. The Danish Oil will wear down in places where a player comes into contact with it, and that will lend a bit of character to the guitar.

I had to put  little wood putty on the back of the headstock. Once it has cured so that I can sand, I will stain the back of the neck, and start assembly. I am still contemplating how to cover the wiring and mount the Volume pot and output jack.

Who knows...? I might have the guitar finished, this weekend. Then again, it might be another couple of weeks, depending on how much free time I end up with.

Once this one is complete, I have to figure out which one I like the best, semi-hollow or solid, and sell the other. I have too many guitars as it it. I can't keep everything I build. Plus, I like to pass them along and see what other people accomplish with them.



My internet service is down, right now, so I can't use my computer to post. Blogger doesn't work very well with iOS, now, and I can't post pictures. So, I will do my normal Friday post tomorrow, most likely, unless my internet service comes back online sooner than I expect. 


Friday, October 20, 2017

Under The Weather

Twelve days ago, my throat began to get a little sore. Since then, I have been down with what my doctor referred to as a "respiratory infection", including a violent and painful cough. For awhile, I was sleeping 14 to 16 hours a day, and running a fever. Then, I went through a few days where I had absolutely no appetite, despite the fact that my stomach was growling from hunger.

Yesterday, I actually ate lunch and dinner, for the first time since Sunday before last.

I've taken my belt up a notch, as a result of all this ... so, I've got that going for me. But, I don't have much to report. Thus, this is going to be a short post.

Stay tuned. Maybe life will get back to what passes for normal, in the next little bit. Until then, as they say in Japan, "See you later!"


Friday, October 13, 2017

Reconfigured the Funk Bike

I've had the Funk set up with 700x35c tires and fenders for quite a while, as I have used it as my main commuter bike for the past 3 or 4 years. A few months ago, I changed out the Albatross bars for some Velo Orange Klunker bars, thinking that the upright position might suit me a little better. Unfortunately, it did not. I think it was due more to the narrowness of the bars, more than anything else. I'm hoping to eventually build a bike on which they will be more appropriate.

Last week there was a 50 mile gravel ride down in Monument, Colorado, and I thought it would be a good ride to participate in. Danny Mac was up for it as well, so I decided to reconfigure the Funk to more of the original version of the bike; a mixed-terrain all-rounder.

So, I swapped the 35c tires for 29x2.3" CST tires, removed the fenders (they won't fit with the bigger meats), and replaced the Klunker bar with a Surly Open Bar.

The Brooks saddle and Carradice bag got swapped back from the Faux Surly, and I was ready to roll.

I love those wide (666mm) Open bars. I have one on the 1x1 and my camping bike, and it's great when I need to really torque it up a hill. But, width aside, the angle it sets my wrists at is very natural for me, and makes the ride more comfortable, no matter what kind of ride it is,

Danny ended up being unable to make the ride, so I got everything ready on Friday night and went to bed planning on doing a solo jaunt. Saturday morning arrived, and I found myself dealing with a very low amount of enthusiasm for driving down by myself and riding by myself, so I ended up bagging it.

I kinda beat myself up, a bit, for not going until, on Sunday afternoon, my throat started getting sore and I started feeling feverish. I'm thinking, now, that part of my low enthusiasm might have been that I was beginning to get to sick.

I rode the 1x1 down to Kaladi on Monday (Columbus Day is a State holiday), in the snow, not realizing that I was actually pretty sick. I was thinking mild head cold, but it was apparently something else. It was a pretty unhappy ride back to the house, that day.

I've had a pretty rough week; only worked one day, and I'm headed to the doctor's office, this afternoon, due to a weird rash that developed on my wrists when I started running a fever.

But, the Funk is in good shape, and just waiting for me to be able to ride it somewhere...


Friday, October 06, 2017

Never Leave Home Without It

Wednesday, I left the house, on the Faux Surly, at 5:20 A.M., as usual on my commute to work. The morning air was crisp, and I was enjoying the ride despite a nagging fatigue which has haunted me for the last month to month-and-a-half.

As I climbed the steep hill on the north side of Leetsdale Avenue, I felt/heard my chain make a "ping" noise. I hoped that I had just imagined it, but then, it happened again. My thoughts strayed to the time that I was climbing that very grade and broke my left crank arm, which caused me to crash in a rather spectacular fashion.

        The hill I was climbing. Look at the tops of the cars on Leetsdale, and keep in mind that I am only about 50 yards past that street. It is a steep pitch...

"I hope that doesn't happen, if my chain breaks, or something...", I thought to myself.

Just then, of course, my chain broke. Luckily, I think that the anticipation of such an occurrence made me somewhat ready for the sudden lack of resistance on the pedal, and I simply coasted to the side of the road, chainless.

"Well, hell," I thought. "I wonder if the connector link gave way."

Nope. I inspected the chain, and found that it had broken about a foot away from the the connector. So, I got the multi-tool out, opened up the chain-tool portion of it (never leave home yadda-yadda) and set about repairing the chain.

Once the repair was complete (less than 5 minutes after the first "ping", I continued on my way to work.


I got to work just about on time, and went about my day, happy that I travel prepared.

That afternoon, on the way from work. I was crossing Leetsdale, once again (at the pedestrian crossing by George Washington High School), when,,, PING.

Yep. The damn chain broke, again. This time,  the link next to the connector link broke.

I usually don't run more than 8 cogs on the freehub, simply because I don't really trust the thinner chains used with 9-speed and up. Everyone pooh-poohs that, but... the Faux Surly has a 9-speed cogset and chain. And, I have never broken the same chain, twice, on any other drivetrain. Coincidence? Maybe...

But: Twice! On my commute, not on a gnarly mountain bike ride.

I have a new KMC chain on the way to replace the SRAM chain which broke (twice!). Hopefully, that will fix the problem.
At least I had my chaintool with me. Never leave home without it!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Changing Weather

The only weather more confusing than Springtime In The Rockies is Autumn In the Rockies. As of Saturday, it was warm enough that my yard snakes were swimming around in the fountain. Sunday, the weather went south, and I had a wet, cold commute on Monday morning.

Since it was raining when I left the house, I put my phone, wallet and pocket notebook in some high-tech protective pouches:

I buy them in boxes of 200 at the grocery store. 

Oddly, ZipLoc bags are touchscreen-friendly. You can actually text while the phone is in the bag.

It was not only raining, but it was also 44 degrees (F) when I rolled out. So, I was dressed for it, including my old shoe covers. I have had these for about 10 years, and I keep repairing them. I put a new zipper in one, and I have sewed up various splits and separations over the past couple of years. Apparently, there is no one making shoe covers like these, nowadays (full coverage, a walkable sole with no precut cleat hole, heavy duty neoprene and a rear zipper), or I would just buy a new pair!

Today, I rode home at 63 degrees, in a long-sleeve base layer and a sport t-shirt, shorts and no tights! Tomorrow is supposed to be warmer still.

 Messy Kitchens Are Us!

Last week, I transferred the Carradice bag from the Funk onto the Faux Surly, and I have been commuting on it. The big tires require a bit more effort for acceleration/climbing, and I hope that jump-starts my fitness, a bit. Plus, I just love this bike.

I have posted in detail about this build in the past, but some points bear repeating. It is definitely one of those "the sum is greater than the total of its parts" sort of bike. The frame came from Amazon for $139.00 (they are currently listed at $102.43), and most of the parts came from the parts bins in my shop building. (I did buy the handlebar specifically for this bike.)

The fork is from a Surly Karate Monkey. It has no clearance problems with the 27.5x3.00 tire. I could only get a 2.5" rear tire between the chainstays of the frame, though. That's why I bought my Bikes Direct 27.5+ adventure bike.

I've not been on the singletrack with the Faux Surly, yet, but I think I may fix that this weekend.

Stay tuned.