Two Wheels - Six Strings

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

Friday, November 21, 2014

The Strange Tale Of an Odd Guitar

In 1958, The Gibson Guitar Company produced two jet-age designs which, though not originally popular, have since become iconic models. The Flying Vee certainly was inspired by the swept-wing, pointy-nosed new jet airplanes which were just beginning to appear in the skies, and the shape of the Explorer looks like a cartoon expression of a hotrod car speeding by.


My beat-up 1985 Vee, which is currently at a friend's house, awaiting a refinishing job...


 Gibson Explorer (photo from Wikipedia). The prototype was called the "Futura".

There was a third design patented by Gibson, at the same time as these two futuristic models, which came to be called the Moderne. The Moderne had a body shape which incorporated elements from both the Flying Vee and the Explorer, along with a strange headstock shape sometimes referred to as the "Gumby head" shape. Patent drawings were produced, and a patent was awarded for the design, but the guitar apparently never went into production.  

Although there were rumors that a few were shipped, this has never been proven. A small number of prototypes were apparently produced, but disappeared. Periodically, a supposed 1958 Moderne will show up, but most have been debunked as fakes. Billy Gibbons, of ZZ Top, has what is purported to be a factory prototype Moderne, with a Les Paul headstock on the neck.

Reverend Billy's "prototype"
 (Photo from the web. I can't find attribution)

In the 1970s, the Japanese guitar company, Ibanez, produced models based on the Vee, Explorer and Moderne.

This Ibanez catalog shot shows their version, which was (apparently) closely based upon the guitar that Billy Gibbons has.

In 1982, Gibson finally produced a version of the Moderne, as a "reissue". Keep in mind, this was a reissue of a guitar which had never been produced...

Later, there was an Epiphone version produced in Korea. Both the Gibson and Epiphone versions were limited editions (as have been later runs, from Gibson) and, along with the Ibanez, considerably outside of my price range.

Since I got my Flying Vee, I have been more and more interested in the other two models, as well. Eventually, I hope to come across a rough Explorer, which I can afford, just as I did with the Vee. I know, however, that I will never find an affordable Moderne. Even a beater will remain outside of my comfort zone, pricewise.

So, I broke my self-imposed prohibition on Gibson copies, and started shopping for a decent copy of the Moderne. Most are still pretty pricy (I don't want a cheap-sounding guitar, so I have my standards). I figured it would take a while to find one, in my price range, and I was right. I've been looking for about 4 months.

Then, out of the blue, a Dillion copy, the Deluxe DMOD-59 V, appeared on eBay. It was brand-new, direct from Dillion, for about half of the advertised list price. So, taking advantage of the 12 months same as cash deal from PayPal, I bought it, on Monday. It arrived, today.


After unpacking it, and tuning it up, I checked the intonation. It was spot-on, right out of the box! So, I adjusted the action to suit me, raised the pickups, a bit, in relation to the strings, and adjusted the individual pole pieces to suit my ears. I had read that the stock Wilkinson humbuckers were decent pickups, and I have to agree. (The guitar is manufactured in Korea, probably in the same factory which builds the Epiphones. But, all of the hardware and electronics are Wilkinson, which is a British aftermarket guitar parts company.

The maple neck is nice and fat, very similar in size and shape to the neck on my circa 1948 Gibson ES-125. I will probably take some 0000 steel wool to the glossy finish, to improve the tactile proerties of the finish. Or, maybe I'll just wear it off, playing the guitar, like I did the maple neck on my Gibson S-1 (which I no longer have)...



The headstock is a close approximation of the Gibson "Gumby" version. Oddly, the two tuners closest to the neck are reversed. I assume that this is to produce a straight run for the strings, without two more string guides. Anyway, I know that they did it on purpose, because all of the photos on the Dillion website show the same configuration.


The body is made of Carolina White Pine, the same tree from which they made the masts of many sailing ships, including the USS Constitution. It has a tone very similar to the poplar body of my Flying Vee. In other words, it has a slightly brighter tone than Cooper (my mahogany slab-bodied Les Paul Special), but still sounds great through my amp. I am well pleased with the playability and sound, even with the factory strings.

I played through a number of Skull Full Of Blues songs, and the guitar works very well for our music. The next thing I'll do is string it up with my usual strings, and use it at our next practice. Come to our next show, and you'll probably see and hear this particular axe. 

So, there you go. I now have a copy of a reissue of a non-production model of a 1958 Gibson guitar. 

Weird...

x

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Wotta Week

I have ridden my bicycles, exclusively, for the past week, and it has been fun, but a bit exhausting. Not only have the cold temps (below zero in the morning, not too far above, in the afternoon), but all of the clothes-changing wears me out (mentally, at least).

I mentioned, a while back, that I wear 25 to 27 different items of clothing, to ride in this kind of weather:

1 helmet
1 balaclava
1 bandanna
2 shirts
4 arm warmers
2 glove liners
2 gloves
1 pair of bike shorts
2 leg warmers
4 socks
1 pair of wool pants
2 shoes
2 shoe covers
1 vest
1 jacket
__
27 items

(Sometimes I wear one set of arm warmers and a fleece jacket, rather than the vest, and that cuts the count to 25.)

I put all of that on, ride to work, then take all of that off and dress for work. At the end of the day, I take off my work clothes, put all of the bike clothes back on, and ride home. Once I am home, I take off all of the bike clothes, shower, then dress in normal clothes until bedtime. I undress one more time, to go to bed.

That's eight different times that I either dress or undress. Every. Damn. Day.

It's a bit complicated, but necessary in order to stay warm. That is probably one major reason why I like to commute on the fixed-gear mountain bike, with studded tires, so much. The bike is as simple as my clothing is complicated.

With no shifters, derailleurs and associated cabling, the fixed-gear bike is pared down to basics (even with the two brakes that I run on mine). I basically just have to put air in the tires every 7 or 8 days, and adjust the occasional bearing every few months.

People ask me why I don't ride the fat bike, instead of the fixie. When there is actual snow on the roads, the fat bike is awesome. But, the combination of warmish roads, during the first snowfall, along with the bitterly cold temperatures, resulted in the roads having quite a bit of ice on them, sometimes under snow, sometimes not.

The wide tires are great on snow, but no better than any other tire on ice. Hence, the studded tires come out. Plus, the fixed-gear drivetrain allows me to slow down, or even stop, without hitting the brakes. This tends to reduce the slips and slides at stop signs.

It looks like I will be commuting a few more days, on this bike. We have a slow warmup coming, but I don't think that the roads will be motorcycle-friendly for a while.

x

Saturday, November 15, 2014

This Just In

I hate this freaking weather!


Monday, November 10, 2014

How's The Weather, There?

It's forty degrees colder here, than it was at this time, last night. And, it was 35 degrees colder on the way home than it was when I rode to work, this morning. It dropped from 51 degrees to 16 degrees, during the day, and it started snowing.

I suspend my prohibition of selfie photos, occasionally, and more often than not it's in order to show the ice build-up on my beard...

I hit some pretty slick icy spots, on the way home, and the temperatures are only supposed to go colder, overnight. So, when I got home, I decided to set the fixed-gear mountain bike up with studded tires. I have a set of wheels, with the tires already on them, so all I have to do is swap out the wheels, and adjust the brakes. Then, of course, I need lights, etc.

 When I went to remove the frame bag from the fat bike, this icicle was sealing the velcro strap down.

I just thought that this particular ice buildup was odd-looking..

After about twenty minutes of work, I had the bike ready for tomorrow's commute. I could have done this, yesterday; I knew that the weather was coming in. But, I went for a bike ride with my buddy Chris, from work. We met up at Kipling and Floridia, rode down to Morrison Road, through Morrison, and to the Red Rocks Amphitheater (climbing 800 feet in 1.9 miles). We then looped down the far side, hitting speeds of 35+ mph, at times, and came back into Morrison on the county road. After a beer at the Morrison Inn, we rode back to the trucks and hit Moe's for some bbq.

This looks like a bike-commute type of week. I am working tomorrow, even though it's a holiday, and the roads are going to be too slick for the motorbike. My legs can use the miles...

x

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Fine-Tuning

I rode the blue fat bike to work, on Friday, and I was impressed with how well it rides. I made really good time, and felt mostly good about how the bike was set up. A few things, which need to be addressed, presented themselves, however.

1. The seat position was a little off. I need to move it back, slightly.

2. I think I will end up installing some Ergon grips. The round Yeti grips are not that comfortable, to me.

3. The middle chain ring on the Vuelta crankset is apparently shot. Even though I never had any problem with it, on the red Mongoose, the chain skipped over the teeth whenever I torqued on the cranks. I ended up riding with the chain on the big ring (or the small ring, to climb), to avoid problems.

Today, I pulled the bike out and double checked what was happening. Since I wasn't actually commuting, I could spend some time testing the drive train. Eventually, it became obvious that the chain ring was going to have to be replaced. I didn't really want to spend any money on the repair, so I started looking through my parts boxes, hoping to find a 4-bole chain ring which would fit the crank-arm.

Eventually, I came up with a Shimano XT crankset, which has the Octalink interface between the crank and the bottom bracket spindle. I have the crank, but not the matching bottom bracket. Luckily, though, the chain rings have the same 4-bolt pattern as the Vuelta crank, on the bike.


So, I replaced the cheap, steel, rings on the Vuelta crank with the much higher-quality Shimano rings (and chain ring bolts).  It was nice to save the $100+ replacement cost, by finding these in the slush pile...


Another thing I found was a front fender, designed for a suspension fork, which mounts by means of this bracket.


The fender, itself, is a two-piece affair, where each half bolts to either end of the bracket.


The bracket then mounts to the fork steerer by way of a star nut (which I found on another, similar, fender, in a box of spare parts). I will mount this to the fork of the Dolomite, then fashion fender halves appropriate to the tire width. I'll post pictures, when it's done.

I will probably upgrade the rear hub, eventually, to get rid of the thread-on freewheel and use a cassette cogset. Yes, I found a hub in my parts, also, which was left over from another project.

I really should inventory my parts, someday...

x

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Fat Tire Commuter

When I bought the Mongoose Dolomite, a while back, I justified it by planning to use it as my fattie commuter. That way, I can set it up with lights, rack, fenders, etc, and not weigh down the titanium fat bike, which can remain in trail-riding trim.

I still haven't come up with any fenders, but I decided, as I rode the Funk home, today, to get Big Blue on the road. So, when I got home, I pulled up to the shop building, and started prepping the Dolomite for commuter duty.


 I transferred the frame bag over from the Hargadon. It carries the pump, spare tube, patch kit and 15mm wrench (for the axle nuts). My rain glasses will also ride in there, ready to wear, in case of precip.


The cable lock (in case i stop at the grocery store, on the way home), and a few other must-haves ride in here. Lunch, etc, will go in there, as well. The bungee allows for carrying overflow, like all of the extra clothes I wear, on cold mornings, which are too warm in the afternoon, sometimes.

 Lights! The closer light is one from a pack of three, that I got at Big Lots for $10.00. It has low beam, high beam, and flashing mode.  I've used these lights on a few bikes, and I am really impressed with them. The 10 LEDs put out a lot of light (and the price is right!). The other light is an Ace Hardware buy, which fits perfectly in my CatEye mount. That one only has on-off, but it throws a ton of light. Between the two of them, I have less than $30.00 in the lights. Compare that to any good "bike-shop" bike light...

A CatEye flasher on the back of the rack, along with a Knog as backup, will probably be augmented, later, with another large flasher. I like to light up my bike like an emergency vehicle, for the commute.

Ready to roll...

x

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Another Hero Gone

Jack Bruce, bassist for Cream, passed away, yesterday.

Not only a fantastic bass player, Bruce virtually defined the sound of white blues singers, for my generation.

I don't know what else to say.  I hate seeing my heroes fall away.

x