Two Wheels - Six Strings

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

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Rock and Roll Lifestyle Is Going To Kill Me - Part 1

I've missed blogging.

Since 1996, I've been pretty consistent with it. It is an actual "web log" for me, a journal online, where I can go back and see what I was doing two years ago, or what the weather was like a year ago, or whatever. Not so much for the past year.

So, this is the first of a few "catch-up" posts I'll be making, periodically. They are going to ramble, and they may be deadly dull, but I need to document some things for my own sake. So, bear with me.

The title of the post is something I've been saying a lot, over the past year or so. I find that the band has taken over most of what I used to think of as my "free time", although there really is no such thing. Before the band, I drew comic books, rode my bicycle almost daily, and got a lot of reading done, amongst other things. Now, not so much.

Granted, I had slowed down my cycling due to the fact that I had developed Achilles Tendinitis in my right ankle, five or six years ago. But, that just meant I was riding to work 3 days out of five, rather than 5 out of five. Once the band started ramping up, my frequency of bicycling began a slow but steady decline. Getting up at 4:15, riding to work, then riding home and getting cleaned up for band practice is a bit of a hassle. So, I started making the commute on the motorbike on band practice days.

Then, as I was getting out of the routine of bike commuting, I began to feel like the hassle of changing clothes 3 or 4 times a day was a bit too much, and I started leaning toward the motorcycle even on non-practice days.

Right now, I can only think of one bicycle commute within the last three months!

Along with the inactivity, of course, has come a decrease in fitness and an increase in weight. I'm not particularly happy about that. I am back up to the weight/fitness level I was at when I moved to Colorado, 26 years ago. I had always told myself I would never let myself go like that again. Yet, here I am.

So, after my upcoming vacation trip to see family in PA, I am going to have to figure out how to get back in the groove. It doesn't help that I really love riding the motorbike to work. I may have to forego the commute and focus on getting some mountain biking in, or riding for my errands more. I'm not sure.

Plus, right before Christmas, I fell off of my bike on some ice and whacked my knee to the point that I could barely walk for a week, and limped for a month and a half...

I don't know that I would be in the particular spot I am in now if that had not happened, but I had slowed down quite a bit compared to years past, already.

All I am sure of is that I don't want to turn into that old fat guy who "used to do a lot of bike riding".

Sadly, I have some really nice bikes sitting idle:

And those are only three of 7 or 8 I have sitting around gathering dust.

More later...


Monday, June 11, 2018

Got My New (Old) Computer

I received my refurbished MacBook, today, and I'm busily setting things up and getting everything the way I like it. For instance, I synced it to my phone, so that pictures download from the phone to the Mac, automatically (which should save some time).

Here's a picture I took in order to test that feature out:

Just a quick snap of the dog. Seems to take awhile for the new pics to show up. I'll have to explore options on that.

Anyway, it's nice to have a computer I can actually use (fingers crossed that I haven't jinxed myself!)


Monday, June 04, 2018

Back On the Blog

In every life, some mistakes are made. On of those, for me, happened about a year ago when my MacBook died. I replaced it with a PC laptop, loaded with Windows10.

I hate it.

Every time I try to use the damn thing, it has to reset (often it takes 20 to 30 minutes to boot up). Then, as i am using it, every app I use does the same thing. I'll be typing along on Blogger, or in Word, and the thing just freezes up and gives me the "Please Wait" message for five minutes. It's so bad that I haven't even opened the sucker up in weeks.

I would blog from my phone, but for some reason Blogger doesn't work with the iOS, any more. I can't load pictures, and the text won't post after I type it.

I am typing this on my Kindle Fire, using a Bluetooth keyboard and mouse. It's like a tiny little laptop, and it will work for now.

In the meantime, I ordered a refurbished MacBook, today. When it arrives, I hope to get back to regular posting. I miss posting, and I don't like missing my record of what's going on in my life. I do use this blog as a "web-log", and search back to see what was happening in the past ... when I went on vacation, when I bought a certain bike, etc.

So, I am back. I hope, if you are reading this, that this is good news...


Friday, April 13, 2018

My Version Of the Gibson S-1

My first "good" electric guitar was a 1979 Gibson S-1, which my uncle purchased for me at the annual Employee Sale at the Nashville plant.

This is not my actual guitar, but  photo of an identical version that I pulled from the internet. If it's yours, let me know and I will credit you.
You can see from the picture that it was a really good-looking guitar, even with an unusual build for a Gibson. It had a Les Paul style slab body (mahogany, in this instance, though the early models were maple), and a maple bolt-on Flying V style neck. The pickups were designed by Bill Lawrence (a Gibson employee at the time), and basically emulated the sounds of the Fender Telecaster (lead pickup only), and the Stratocaster in other combinations.
I loved the look and feel of the guitar, but I never liked the sound . This is, by the way, the same problem I have with actual Fenders. In other people's hands they sound great, but I just can't really get anything out of them without using effects pedals. 

And, because of that, I always played through a variety of effects with that guitar and virtually always through an Electro Harmonix Big Muff distortion. 

A few years after I divorced, I sold the guitar (which I had modified with two humbuckers in an attempt to get a more traditional Gibson sound). I never missed the sound of the S-1, but I did miss the styling.

Recently, I decided to stop gigging with my black Les Paul Special, which I call "Cooper", because I had cracked the neck, again, during some stage antics. To that end, I bought a copy of a Gibson LP Junior double-cut (there is a whole other blog post...), and I decided to build a guitar which would look like my old S-1, but sound more like Cooper.

So, I started searching for a bolt-neck Les Paul copy with a slab body to start with. After about three months, this popped up on eBay:

 It's a Korean Hondo, from the early 1980s; just what I was looking for. The seller was in Kansas (quick ship time), and had a reasonable Buy It Now, so I pulled the trigger.

 Gibson used this "pancake" method to build bodies in the mid 70s.

 The neck from this guitar ended up on the skateboard guitar I recently built. I t was a nice neck, just had the wrong shape of headstock for this project.

The body is almost identical to my S-1, in looks and feel.

Once I had the guitar in hand, I ordered up a P-94 style pickup, a Les Paul Junior pick guard and a maple bolt-on Flying V neck. I had a trapeze tailpiece to match the layout on Cooper, as well.

The results were just what I wanted:

All of the things I liked about the S-1 are here, along with a sound almost exactly the same as Cooper's. I call it the S-2 Junior...

This guitar, the LP Jr copy (again, more about that, later) and my Flying V are my three main guitars, at this point. Many of my other guitars will probably go on sale, soon, as I hate to have them hanging around gathering dust!


Monday, February 19, 2018

President's Day Weekend Guitar Projects - Part 1

I was pretty busy over the President's Day weekend. I made some progress on a guitar for my buddy Jesse, and finished up a project for myself.

I am fixing up an old Teisco-built Silvertone for Jesse. This is a guitar I bought on eBay, a few years back, and ended up very disappointed. I was under the impression that I was buying a playable guitar, but what I received was someone else's project which had gone bad. Still, I wanted it badly enough that I didn't demand a refund/return, but I just set it aside as a future project.

Recently, I showed it to Jesse, and he decided he would like to add it to his collection of old Japanese axes. So, I got to work on it, Friday.

First, I removed the godawful mismatched junk tuners that came with it...

Then, I plugged all of the screw holes,

 and touched up the paint on the back of the head stock.

 After I installed new tuners, I turned to the wiring.

The pick guard and pickups that are on the guitar are not original, nor is the paint. When this guitar left the factory, it had 4 pickups, and was painted red. Someone in the past spray-painted the guitar black, and grafted on a two-pickup pick guard, which almost (but not quite) fit.

Inside, there was some of the worst wiring I have ever encountered in a guitar. The pots were corroded...

the rocker switches for the neck pickup were wired backward...

and numerous connections were just twisted together and taped. Other connections had big globs of solder on them, which I had to remove and replace.

Three hours after I started working on the wiring, I had both pickups and all of the switches working. The corroded pots were replaced with new 500k pots, and I trimmed the pick guard so that it fit between the neck and the bridge.

That night, I took it to Jesse so that he could play it a bit and see if he wanted to modify anything before we do the finish work. He wants a tortoise shell pick guard, for sure, but I want to make sure that he is happy with the pickups before I start cutting a new guard.

Once it is complete, I will post pictures of final build on the old Teisco.

Next up, Back To The Future! (I created an approximation of a guitar I once owned...)


Friday, January 05, 2018

New EDC Knife

I have carried pocket knives for the last 50 years. I got my first one for a nickle, at a flea-market in Nashville (and I still have it), when I was six. In school, I sneaked them in, and ended up getting a special "hall pass" to carry one in high school, because I got tired of sneaking around. I was able to convince the principal that I was responsible enough to carry a knife without misusing it. Teachers regularly came to me to cut packages open, etc.

A good knife is one of the most useful tools you can own, and I just can't seem to get through a day without using mine. The only time you will see me intentionally without a knife in my pocket is if I'm flying, attending court, or in some other setting where they are prohibited.

But, my Every-Day-Carry pocket load is a bit of a challenge, sometimes. In addition to my knife, I regularly carry:
nail clipper (another multi-use tool)
change (sometimes)

So, I prefer a small knife, to save pocket space, and one which can be opened with one hand. For quite awhile I carried assisted-opening folders with pocket clips. But, I found that the clips wore the fabric of my pants, and the knife would catch the edge of my hand as I reached in my pocket for my keys.

I also prefer less-expensive knives. Carrying something everyday lends itself to wear and tear, loss and/or confiscation (I have forgotten I had a knife in my pocket 3 times, within the last 5 years, as I was flying somewhere. So, I had to dispose of them at the airport.)

Last year, I started carrying small fixed-blade knives with flat Kydex sheathes. These are designed to be worn around the neck, hanging from a chain or cord. I carried mine, minus the chain, in my hip pocket with my sketchbook. I liked freeing up the space in my front pocket, and it was a comfortable carry, but I found that keeping up with the sheath was something of a pain.

So, I attached the sheath to the knife with a leather cord, so that I could pull the knife out and the sheath would stay attached. I t was a workable solution, but not ideal.

The other day, I was perusing knives online, and I saw a small neck knife that I really liked the blade shape on. Looking at the specs, I realized that it was even smaller than the knife I was currently carrying, so I bought one.  Minutes later, I ran across the Kershaw Pub, a friction folder that looked ideally suited to hip pocket carry.

Naturally, I ordered up one of those, as well. I figured I would choose which one I liked best, out of the two new knives, and try carrying it for a few days to see if I liked it well enough to make it permanent. The M-Tech fixed-blade was under $10.00, and the Kershaw Pub cost a princely $16.99, so I figured I could afford to try both out.

They arrived, today, and I pulled them out to compare them with the Shadow Ops knife (also under $10.00) I've been carrying for a few months:

With the pen to give them some scale, you can see how small all three knives are. The Pub is quite a bit shorter than the other two, and about the same thickness. That is a plus for the Pub...

The knife on top is the new M-Tech fixed-blade. I particularly like the shape of the blade. The point lends itself to drilling small holes through plastic or leather (something I use my knife for more than one would think). That's a plus for the  M-Tech. The Pub is much more like a utility knife shape.

The grip on the Pub is comfortable in my hand, and I can easily open it with one hand.

Plus, there is no sheath to worry about with the Pub, and it features a handy bottle opener and flat-blade screwdriver, which allows me to remove the Gerber Claw tool from my keychain. So, I am going to carry it for a bit and see how the blade shape suits me.

Knives ... yet another thing about which I tend to geek out.


Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Christmas Blues and Bruise

On the Friday before Christmas, I was riding my new winter commuter build to the coffee shop, trying out the new gearing, when I hit a patch of particularly slick ice at about 18 mph. I hit the ground hard, left knee first (closely followed by my ribs on that side). I don't think anything broke, but the knee swelled up pretty big, and I have some bruised ribs for sure.

I hit the ground right at an intersection, and slid to the second house from the next intersection. The ice was hard enough that the bike slid as far as I did; the pedal never even dug in and slowed or stopped it. As I got up, I knew that I was hurt, but I continued on to Kaladi Brothers for my morning coffee.

I stopped on the D.U. campus and took a couple of pictures, then went to the coffee shop. As I sat, I flexed my knee, periodically, in an effort to prevent it from becoming too stiff to ride home. I didn't want to bother anyone, calling for a rescue, and i knew that it was going to be a challenge to ride, even if I kept the knee flexible. Every time I flexed the knee, the pain would make my vision start to go black, and I would feel nauseated, so i would let up and do it again, a fter a few minutes. It was a strange visit to the coffee shop...

But, it worked, and I was able to ride home, in a slow and ouchy sort of way.

I took last week off, at work, in order to recuperate. Eleven days later, the knee is still tender to the touch, and I have a limited range of motion. I can bend it to sit in a chair, or drive, but I can't make a revolution of a bike crank. (And, yes, I have been icing it and taking ibuprofen.)

Needless to say, I didn't get a lot of projects done, since I was trying to stay off of my feet, for the most part. By Thursday, I was able to bend the knee enough that I could install my new anti-gremlin bell on my motorcycle. Carol got it for me, for Christmas, to replace the one I lost when I broke the clutch cable on the Scrambler.

I used a stainless steel zip tie to hold it on. The copper wire, which held the original, is in my tool

I also got Ted's school-desk tabletop guitar finished...

All I had to do was design and cut the pickguard, and do the final setup on the bridge. It came out really nice.

By Saturday, with the help of an afternoon nap and numerous shots of Wild Turkey as we played, I was able to get through our show at Englewood Tavern with little discomfort. It was a hoot playing there, and we will be returning. I just need to arrange it.

Needless to say, no New Year's Day Bike Ride, this year. I'm hoping to be able to ride within the week. I figure that I will wait until the scab on my knee is gone to worry about the knee joint, itself. I figure it will take at least as long to heal as the skin over my kneecap will take. If it's still a problem after the scab is gone, I will call the doctor.

More, later...