I like trying to get things to grow. Never really been that great at it, but enjoy it's kind of cool putting something in the ground, giving it a while, and then watching it grow into something either pretty to look at or good to eat.
So, looking at the spring weather patterns here in FWTX I planted my little patio garden about a month, maybe 6 weeks ago. Some of them seem to be coming along pretty well. Some of them not so much.
In one planter, the front planter in the first pic below, I have carrots. I forget what variety, but they're supposed to be made so that they will grow in containers. They're supposed to be 4" - 5" long. At the moment, I'm thinking about pulling them up and putting something else there before it gets to far along in the spring. I think I planted 4 rows of 8 of them using the square-foot method. I honestly can't remember because so few of them have come up at this point. If I don't go ahead and turn this one over and plant something else, I'm sure I will by summer.
The planter in the middle of both pics is leaf lettuce (the light green) and arugula (the dark green). It's actually over planted. It kind of was barely getting along, it came a good couple of rains and in the space of a week was going like gang busters. This week my project for that planter is to pick enough of it out that I can pull a couple of the plants up to thin it out. Looking at how that planter is going right now, I'm not sure I can eat enough salad to keep up with this one.
The planter in the front of the second pic is just flowers. I don't remember what kind of flowers I planted beyond thinking that I liked the way they looked. I planted 2 of each kind in hopes of 1 of each actually coming up. 2 of one of them came up pretty well and seem to be doing ok over on one end. On the other end, only 1 came up. At least the 2nd hasn't sprouted yet. The ones in the middle only recently pushed through, so I'm not sure what to think of them yet. At some point, at least against what I was reading when I planted them, I'll need to pull up 1 of each so they don't overcrowd each other.
So far, except for the carrots, I can't say it's going too much different than I had hoped. Just need to get the one planter thinned out this week.
In other news, since it's finally warming up again, I got the telescope all dusted off and ready to go yesterday. Probably pull it out and do some gazing this coming weekend. I know that the moon will be almost full. I need to see what else is going to be out that I can look at.
I like guitars. For the first 15 or so years of my guitar playing life, I only had 2 guitars. Well, 3, but really only played 2 of them. They were both acoustics. A steel string and a classical. I also had a travel guitar for part of that time, but that was kind of a novelty, and it didn't get played very often at all.
Then I bought my first electric. I had it for a couple of years. Bought it off eBay from a guy across town. Never really bonded with it, but usually kept it sitting out on the stand instead of the others just because I thought it looked cool. Shortly after I bought it, I took myself to the local GC, and I bought myself an amp. Knew even less about amps than I did electric guitars, and I ended up with an amp that has since been relegated to the workbench in the garage so that I have something that I can test a guitar on when I'm working on it just to be sure that all the electronics are working.
I thought the electric guitar and amp sitting next to each other in the living room looked really cool. You know how it is. Bachelor chic. Single guy decor. When I joined the ranks of the matrimonially inclined, I was pretty quickly told that they were no longer welcome sitting out in the living room.
I was content with the guitars I had. They covered everything I needed them to do. And, in fact, when I played out, I only ever used one specific guitar...the Martin...because it had a pickup in it, and I could plug it in or mic it, and it just was (and still is) a workhorse of a guitar. That was also back when finances were beyond tight. There was seldom anything extra, and when there was, it generally went to stuff that I actually needed and not guitars or gear. I had also not really discovered the world of gear at that point.
Somewhere in the middle of all that, I had spotted the electric guitar at a little guitar shop in East Texas that I wanted instead of the one that I had. I wasn't yet seeing the girl that I ended up marrying, but I had driven over to East Texas a couple of times to visit her with some friends. So I decided one weekend when I was visiting her to take my electric to that little shop and see what kind of deal I could swing for the one that I had seen hanging on their wall. Because the shop didn't do their due diligence, they thought the guitar I was trading was a much nicer guitar than it was (it was the very bottom end, import Parker that they thought was the bottom end MIA version...a difference on the used market of about $600 at the time). So when the guy came out and made a production of telling me that they were going to give me a super deal and trade me straight up for the guitar on the wall (which, at what they should've been paying me was going to be about 50% off the price of the one I wanted), I figured I was going to take the money and run.
I figured that, when I walked in with the guitar, I had told him the model number, and it was right there on the headstock too, so it was his own fault if he didn't know what it was. Then again, date of manufacture on the one I wanted was about 18 months before, so maybe it had been hanging on their wall for too long, and they just figured they'd get rid of it and try their luck with something else. Maybe they thought they were the ones getting the steal of a deal.
I still think the store guy thought he had the nicer Parker, though, because they had a used one sitting over as soon as you walked in the door like a trophy. It had the usual Parker price tag on it, and he kept talking about how it was going to be nice to have 2 Parkers in the store at once. Problem was, the one I was trading would only sell for about 30% of the price they had on the other one. Like I said, take the money, or rather the guitar that I wanted, and run. Depending on your perspective, I didn't pay anything for the guitar I left with. It was a straight up trade.
It was what has come to be known on the market as a Fender Splattercaster. A MIM Standard Strat with a splatter paint job.
Fast forward a few years. I had a better paying job. I was married. She also had a job. Finances were a little more free. I had not only realized that different electrics sounded different (there was a time that I thought they all sounded the same - I was an extreme acoustic snob), but I had discovered all the periphery gear that gets sold around guitars. So I slowly started acquiring pedals and amps and even more (and nicer) guitars.
Every guitar that I bought, I bought for a purpose. I had always really liked the look of a 335, so for our first Christmas together, my new wife found a 335-clone on a bargain closeout price, and bought it for me. Then I got a really good bonus at work so I picked up a Les Paul because, since my primary electric was a Strat, it seemed to be the opposite electric. That's when things started to free up a bit and GAS started to kick into high gear.
Since then I've managed to get representation of all the major body types of electrics (at least the ones that I like - except an SG, and someday I still need to find the perfect one of those). I've also got more amps than some studios I've seen, a closet full of pedals, and lots of other associated gear. In truth, when we moved into our current house, one of the major considerations was the music room and the fact that it really, really needed a walk-in closet so all the guitars would fit.
Out of all the gear I've got, I've gotten it all to play. Basically anyways. I've got one guitar that I bought recently for the sole reason that I like the look of it. One of these days, I'm going to hang it on the wall as an art piece. But that doesn't meant that it will never be played.
I've got some nice gear that someday may actually be worth more than I paid for it. It may not be. I'm thinking specifically of a couple of anniversary edition guitars that I've got. They'll never finance my retirement (they're not babied - I play them), but someday I might at least be able to get my money back on them. There are a couple of pedals I have because they're unique that I bought with the thought in the back of my mind that maybe someday I'd get a return on them because of the fact that they're unique and they (at least as of now) haven't really been mass marketed. One of them, I could already do that to. Watching Reverb, mine's in good condition, and it looks like I could get about 50% more from it than I paid. But I like the pedal, don't really want to part with it at the moment, and it gets played. So, when I do decide to get rid of it, it's going to look used. So it may end up being worthless. But, when the rubber meets the road, I buy gear to play it. Gear is never an investment.
I feel like I should repeat that. Gear is NEVER an investment.
That said, I occasionally pull out the guitar and amp blue books and hit reverb (or where ever) so that I can see how much it would cost to replace my gear if anything happened to it. It's an insurance thing. Oddly enough, tonight in doing that audit, it appears that most of my gear has either held steady at used prices I paid or depreciated as expected when bought new. Except for one guitar. The one that I didn't pay anything for. The one that I could never get rid of because I bought it to try and impress a girl that I wasn't yet dating. The one that, since all of my guitars are named, happens to be named after that girl...who a few weeks later bought a stuffed animal and named it after me because I had told her the new guitar's name. BTW, she eventually married me.
Looking at what they seem to sell for when they hit the market, since I wasn't out of pocket for the guitar, if I factor in what the guitar I traded would have fairly sold for, that Splattercaster has doubled in value since I bought it. Of course I'd have to go dig the original pickguard and back plate out of the box in the closet and put them back on, but it just kind of made me laugh. As far as collectibility, it's just a MIM Standard Strat with an odd paint job. If you listen to the cork-sniffers, it's a run of the mill MIM so it can only be worthless, good for nothing, and will never amount to anything. I wonder if they could tell me what guitar they have that has doubled in value. I bet they can't.
Funny how that works out sometimes.
So last week I talked about how I have been upgrading the Gretsch 5120 the last couple of weeks. This week, I'll tell you what all I did and throw in some pics.
The big thing was that I have heard the Ray Butts pups, and decided that I wanted those in the guitar instead of the stock Gretschbuckers that have been in it since I bought it. I found out that to put those pups in it, I was going to have to make major modifications to the guitar. So I set out to try and figure out what that was going to take.
The first thing that I'll mention is, if you think you might want to work on your 5120, there are a couple of things that you are totally going to want to do.
First, if your bridge isn't pinned (which, unless you pinned it, it's not), get yourself some painter's tape, and tape the edges of the bridge. That way you know where to put it back when you get done. Or at least it will give you a much better place from which to start to get it put back in the right spot.
Second, see all the life support tubeing coming out of the holes in that first pic? 1/4" aquarium tubing is your friend. I've cussed and spent countless hours being frustrated on a couple of semihollow guitars I've got that I worked on in the past using the "let them just fall out and try to get them back in" method as well as the method where you tie some string around the pots. Neither one has been really successful for me. A while back, I saw someone on a forum I frequent mention the aquarium tubing, and it was an absolute lifesaver this go around. It wouldn't fit the pup switch, but it did the pots. The tubing plus a 1/4" plug attached to the end of a coat hanger for the output jack, and you're pretty much set. You're on your own for that pickup switch though.
Oh - and let me add the following disclaimer right here, right now.
I am by no means a luthier, trained or otherwise. Everything that you read here is what I did to my guitar. My woodworking skills are limited, and everything I do is pretty much trial and error and making it up as I go. So use what I did with not just a grain of salt but instead the whole dang shaker of it. Also, by the time all is said and done, although I have added several hundred dollars worth of parts to the guitar, I fully understand that the work that I have done has probably severely devalued the guitar, and I could never get my money back out of it, and that was never the goal. The goal was/is to make the guitar a better sounding, better playing instrument that will encourage me to play it. So, if you decide you need to mod your instrument, proceed at your own risk.
I started trying to find pics of the guts of a "real" Gretsch online, and they were amazingly difficult to find. The few that I did come across basically looked like the pickup holes had more wood and bracing inside the hole for the pickup.
Now I should stop here and mention that the Filtertron pickups don't mount like regular pickups. All of the pickups I have ever swapped out of guitars (at least humbuckers) have had little tabs on either side where the pickup is attached to the pickup ring and you have to try to get the screw through the spring. Once you get the pickup setup in the pickup ring, then you attach the pickup ring (and, thus, the pickup) to the guitar.
This isn't how a Filtertron works. It attaches directly to the guitar using that extra bracing that is inside the pickup routs. Notice the difference in the two pups below. The regular bucker has those little tabs. The Filtertron has the screw holes on the edge casing. Where the regular bucker has the screw/spring thing for height adjustment, the Filtertron doesn't. For height, you have to shim it inside cavity using foam rubber or something.
So the first thing to do was to get the bracing added to the inside. I wasn't sure the size of the bracing on the inside, so I probably went the most difficult direction possible for this part. I had some paint stirrers that I started gluing together until I got what I felt was probably the right thickness. Then I started measuring the inside of the guitar (as best I could) and looking at the pickup routs to try and see where the bracing should go and how far out it needed to come. Then I broke out the wood glue and clamps and started making the changes that I think needed to be done.
In the first pic, you'll see the the clamps holding the bracing in while the glue initially started drying. Note that, to keep from damaging the guitar, you need to be sure that you're using some kind of non-marring clamp. You'll also see that I clamped opposite sides of the guitar each time. There was a specific reason I was doing it this way, although I don't remember at the moment why. I think it had to do with getting the brace and the clamp in and positioned to get it glued...it was easier to get everything in on opposite sides. But I honestly don't remember right off.
Once I got the bracing in, you'll see in the next pic how the wood extends a good inch or more into the pickup cavity. That was the ultimate goal here, to get the pickup bracing so that the pickup had somewhere to attach. Also, you can barely see in the second pick the holes that have been filled where the original pickup rings were attached. To fill those, I used some highly specialized dowels that seem to fit just about perfectly. These dowels are available at your local supermarket. They're just toothpicks.
Once I got the bracing in, I could go to work on getting the pups added.
Now, since I wasn't sure how this was going to work to begin with, I really didn't want to spend a lot of money on pups if I wasn't really sure I was going to be able to put them in. So, I initially hit Reverb looking for some cheap Filtertron pups. For something like this, I would usually have hit GFS because I think they are the best source for inexpensive pickups (I've actually got them in several guitars - try the Mean 90s...best P90 pup around imho), but all of their Filtertron-style pups have the regular humbucker mount. And that was what I didn't want.
So I found some pups made by a company called FrankenTone. They had an actual Filtertron looking pup for about the price of the GFS pups. So I initially bought a couple of Franken'Trons from them just so that I could see how I was going to get them into the guitar. That way, for the price of one Gretsch Filtertron (and less than a TV Jones of any variety), I could see if what I was planning was going to work. It would bug me less to lose $40 on a pup I couldn't use than it would to spend $100+ only to find out that what I was doing wasn't going to work.
So, after some careful planning and proceeding with much caution, the pups were installed. One thing that I always do when putting new pups into my guitars is to add my own type of quick connects to them. Not because I swap them out on a regular basis, but because my soldering skills totally suck monkey butt, and that way, if I burn out a pup, I don't do it every time I work on the guitar. It's more so that I only have to attach a wire to a pot once. I got the quick connects attached to the pots and to the pups and started getting everything ready to go back in the guitar.
When I started the work, I also had decided that I didn't like that the output jack was nothing more than the washer attaching the jack to the side of the guitar. It suddenly occurred to me that left a lot of room for the side of the guitar to get munched. Plugging and unplugging constantly can't be good for the guitar, and, at least in my head, it just will weaken that wood over time. So I added an output jack cover. That part was quick and easy. The biggest thing was drilling the pilot holes, but that's mostly because I'm always more than a little nervous putting new holes in my guitars.
Now I mentioned earlier that the height for the Filtertrons is adjusted by shimming the bracing. In the first pic below, you'll see what I did with that. I pulled out the ruler, and played around with the Franken'Trons and tried to figure out how high they needed to be. Then I went back to those paint stirrers, and, once again, started gluing them together until I thought they were about the right height. Then added little pieces of foam rubber until they looked right, and taped the whole concoction together.
I didn't want to glue the shim in, so they just got attached to the bracing with double-sided tape. I don't believe that they needed to be attached to never come out. I figure they just needed to be secured enough that they didn't move around. Then the pups kind of set on top of that with the ring risers and pickup rings.
Sidebar and spoiler. I've mentioned the Franken'Trons several times now. My thought was when I bought them, and is still that they are the temporary pups that I used to be sure I could make this work. I always said that I would put TV Jones Classic pups in it. Then I heard the Ray Butts pups, and decided that I wanted them instead. The Ray Butts pups are $350 a pair. I really didn't want to spend that much on pickups at the moment. The TV Jones Classics are $260 a pair. That's more than I wanted to spend on a pair of pups that I am already planning to ditch at some point before too long.
Thinking that I would still end up with the TV Jones Classics because they were less expensive than the Ray Butts, in doing some research I realized that the newer Gretsch HS Filtertrons were getting really good reviews, and I could get a pair for $144 shipped. So I put that order in a bit ago, and am waiting for them to come in. Everyone seems to have them back-ordered at the moment...seems to be a shortage of the bridge pup for them. So, as soon as the place where I ordered them gets on in, they'll be headed my way to replace the Franken'Trons that I have in there now.
Now back to where I was...bracing and shim in and pups inside the pickup rings. Next task was to put some strings back on the guitar so that I could get the pups lined up properly. Just before doing that, since I haven't done it in a while, I did a lemon oil treatment to the fretboard. Once I got done with that, I started restringing her.
Looking at the next pic, you'll see that that is not your typical Adjusto-Matic bridge as is found on a stock 5120. A couple of years ago, I swapped that out for a Tru-Arc rocking bar bridge in brass.
Now that I have pointed out the bridge, it's back to the re-string. Everyone has their favorite brand of strings. I am no exception. I'm sure that in a blind aural test I probably couldn't hear the difference, but I use Rev Willy's Mexican Lottery Brand Fine Electric Guitar Strings in 10s. To me, I believe that they pop and twang a little more than others. When I first tried them on one of my guitars, they're the first string (on an electric) that I thought actually sounded different than every other brand I had ever played.
Once the strings were on, I could line up the pups and get the polepieces centered under the strings. Then it was time to drill the ring holes and get the pups attached.
There were 3 holes that the original B60 left. I chose to only fill one of them. I had to. 2 of them would be hidden under the B6, but the third one had to be filled in order to not have a wallowed out, too big hole for the strap button. So I filled that hole, and then placed the B6 on the guitar to try to get it placed.
Here's where I made the mistake. I got everything lined up making sure that everything was centered and on the center-line, and then had trouble getting the screw holes marked through the Bigsby. I tried my usual scribe-y marker thing, and it wouldn't go all the way through the hole. Hole punch, regular sharpie, pen, screwdriver, and nail set all had the same problem. They either wouldn't fit in the hole at all or they would go in most of the way, but not enough to actually get to the guitar. I finally managed to make the marks with a pencil. Finally got them marked, and pulled out the drill.
Problem was that, when I started drilling I didn't check the marks against the center-line first, and as I was brushing the saw dust off the guitar from drilling the first 2 holes, I realized that the marks, and, thus, my screw holes, were ever so slightly off center. Maybe a millimeter. Not much at all, but enough that it wasn't centered.
Like I said, not that anyone else will ever notice, but I do. I try to do some woodworking stuff occasionally, and I don't think I have ever gotten anything perfect. So I picked up a phrase my dad uses sometimes. "It's not perfect, but it's good enough for who it's for." It still works fine, and most folks won't notice it I don't believe. And I think it looks awesome on the guitar. So I went with the it slightly off kilter, and that's the way it's going to stay.
Once I got that on, I got her re-strung again. Then came the final piece for now. I picked up a Texas pickguard form Greasy Groove and added it too. The cutouts for the pups are just a little oversized, but I'm sure that it would've fit the Gretschbuckers just fine. Got that added on, and the guitar is once more a rockin' machine!
The only thing left at this point is to replace the Franken'Trons with the Gretsch HS Filtertrons once they come in. I've talked about putting locking tuners on the guitar some day, but didn't do it this go around because they were going to take more work than I originally wanted to put in. However, after the added effort in having to get that Bigsby installed, I should've gone ahead and done it too. I guess I'll go ahead and start researching which ones I want so I can get them ordered in.
I've got a couple of project guitars. They're the ones that I have learned the most on as far as working on guitars. I never planned on this guitar being a project guitar. I guess it's still not, but I have learned more on this one than I think I have any of the others.
Check out my shop on Reverb if you might be interested in a couple of Gretschbuckers or a Bigsby B60. As of the moment, they're still looking for a new home.
Snarf is a wannabe musician who currently resides in the great state of Texas. His wife is his favorite. If Coca Cola was alcohol, he'd be a raging alcoholic. He dislikes going to the grocery store. And he still misses his dog who was taken by cancer 2 years ago. Check out his Reverb shop and see if he has any gear he's trying to get rid of.