Tuesday, February 28, 2012

'Sweet Tater Pan''

I have this nasty habit of plowing around through my wife's silverware whenever I need a special piece of hardware for a guitar.  I've gotten away with 'borrowing' a spoon or two for tail stocks to hold strings, and the cake server I used for the tail stock on my bass 'Gutshaker' almost got me a hospital stay.

I didn't want to push my luck, so I made a visit to my favorite secondhand store in Delaware to see what they had in the form of silver plates or bowls that would work for a guitar body, and I found an honest-to-gawd Rogers silver plated serving bowl that is beautiful . . . for four bucks . . . I'm happy, my wife's ecstatic, and my doctor's missing the opportunity for a payday.

The 'Sweet Tater Pan' is a semi-hollow body, neck-through, four-string electro/acoustic with walnut neck, maple fretboard, silver plated serving bowl body, laminated poplar and maple upper body, paint can lid resonator, and walnut tail stock.

This was really a pretty simple build.  The most labor intensive part was shaping the upper body resonator enclosure.  I chose to make a circular, 3/4" wide, ring out of poplar, which is covered with a sheet of maple.  The edges were rounded over for a smooth appearance and feel.   Once this piece was finished, the pan was attached with small screws, to complete the body of the guitar.

I chose a rounded shape for the headstock to compliment the the body, and incorporated into the design a Montana centennial quarter I found by accident in my pocket.  Just a little item to personalize the guitar, since I'm a native Montanan.

Instead of using the usual hardware for sound holes, I chose to design and cut a matched set of 'f'' holes into the surface.  The circular paint can lid works well for a resonator, and it's readily available at the local paint store.  The 'club'-shaped bridge biscuit is made from Spanish cedar and maple with enclosed Piezo transducer pickup, and it floats on the lid.  The final artistic touch is the wood burned vine surrounding the resonator and sound holes.  The nut and saddle are Corian.

Sound resonates very well when played acoustically.  I expected the tone to be a bit 'tinney', but it is smooth and solid.  And, it is really sweet kicked through an amp, thus the name.

Monday, February 27, 2012

All A Fella Needs to Know About Having Stones

Passing a kidney stone is not quite as simple as the old kidney dropping them by the sack full.

Leading up to my birthday, I celebrated last weekend with a great dinner with my son and family, topped that off viewing a superb stage presentation by the Peking Acrobats.  Life was good.

Then things started going to hell in a hand basket..

Monday last (my birthday) no less, I commenced to feel sharp pains in my lower abdomen, not my back where kidney pain is supposed to originate.  Being the anti-sawbones guy that I am, I suffered through what I thought was minor indigestion.   It persisted throughout the night and into the next day.   I had had enough of the deal, so off we went to the hospital emergency room for treatment.

Have you ever been to an emergency room?  No?  Well, do yourself a favor and call your rancher buddy and have him shoot you, it will be less painful!

We arrived Tuesday at the ER at eleven o'clock (p.m.) and I was whisked in right away for an EKG and blood work.  Wow, this is going to be good.  But, that's where things started to break down (not my kidney stones, though).  After being sent back to the waiting area, where kids were screaming, parents whining, sick folks moaning, and waiting patients bitching (why do they call them patients?  (There is nothing patient about most of them.)  I waited, and waited, and waited.  Finally, after several hours, the pain subsided, and I said to hell with it, and left the ER.  We got home at three in the morning.

I didn't realize this is the nature of kidney stones.  They move just enough to fool you into thinking that things are improving, when all of a sudden, they stop the journey and all hell breaks loose, again, and again, and again.

This persisted until six o'clock Wednesday evening, when I once again headed for the ER.  This time I waited to be seen -- at midnight, no less.  More kids, parents, sick folks, and 'patients'.  Finally, I saw a doctor, and after enough poking, probing, Xrays, and CT scans, he decided I had a 4mm kidney stone (isn't that a comfortable looking little critter?) lodged in the plumbing and that it would pass at some point.  He juiced me up with an injection of Morphine, and sent me home (at five in the morning) with a saddlebag full of other stuff, from Flomax to Hydrocodone.  As long as I stayed medicated, I was good to go the four-hundred meters, but the stone, she did not pass.

Fortunately, I had a regular Dr. appointment on Friday morning.  I went in feeling as shitty as I did Monday, and my sawbones took one look, called his urology buddy and within a couple hours I was back in the hospital being prepped for surgery.

A nurse told me to undress completely and put on the gown she tossed at me.  Geez, that was a hoot!  She said,  "the ties go in the back".  Well, it was a little small and my ass was well exposed whenever I stood to walk, but that's probably better than if I'd have tied it in front.  So much for maintaining dignity in the hospital.

If the pain of the kidney stone was not enough, the doc ran me through the whole surgical plan.  He was going to go in through my peepee with a lighted wand all the way into the kidney to take a look around and to determine what he would do next.

GAWD!  Isn't that enough?

If he could, he would remove the stone, but in any case he was going to insert a stint (a perforated wire) with curleeques on the ends, into the tube between the kidney and the bladder (where the stone had taken permanent residence) so that fluid would drain properly.  OK.  Then it dawned on me that the wire (the thing in the photo at the right) was also going in through my peepee.  MY GAWD, what next?!

Well, I hit the table and once I regained my senses and the pain was gone, I realized how bad it really hurt.  I think a person adjusts to the pain and doesn't realize after a while how intense it really is.

The stint must be removed at some point!  Oh, No!   And guess what, it went in under general anesthesia, which was painless, but he announced that it will come out in his office, while I'm awake.  But, I get a little Lydocaine squirted up there to lessen the pain.

My gawd, is this torture or treatment?!

I Miss You Buddy!

James "JD" Dalbec

| Visit Guest Book

James L. "JD" Dalbec, 72, of Great Falls, died of natural causes Wednesday, Feb. 22, at Benefis Health System.

Cremation has taken place and graveside services will take place at a later date. Schnider Funeral Home is handling arrangements.

JD was born Aug. 11, 1939, in Butte, to Vernon and Elaine (Collins) Dalbec. He attended school in Lewistown, Great Falls and Shelby. JD was a pitcher with the American Legion Baseball All-Stars and attended Brown Institute in Minneapolis, Minn. He served in the U.S. Army from 1957 - 1962.

He worked in radio in Libby, Anaconda, Shelby and Great Falls, and in TV in Great Falls. He was a sports fan and active in organizing the Steinhaus softball tournaments for Special Olym-pics.

JD is survived by his brothers, Joe (Geraldine Gunlickson) Dalbec of Miles City, and Keith (Patricia Nichols) Dalbec of Hendersonville, N.C.; sister Maryann (Greg) Axtman of Can-yon Ferry Lake; special uncle and aunt Floyd and Floy Collins of Butte; nieces Shannon of Miles City, and Kim Claasson of Boze-man; nephews Richard Pacot of Billings, Tim Dalbec of Parker, Colo., Dustin Axtman of New York City, Darak Axtman and Marchelle Springer of Bozeman, and Ashley Axtman of Missoula; eight grandnieces and nephews; and many cousins.

Memorials are suggested to Montana Highway Patrol Hope Project, PO Box 5927, Helena, MT 59604.

Condolences may be posted online at www.schniderfuneralhome.com and/or www.gftribune.com/obituaries

Sunday, February 12, 2012

CBG Tools -- Set Up Your Shop

Purists will tell you the only 'real' way to build a cigar box guitar is with hand tools.  Progressive builders like  the speed associated with the use of power tools.  And, then there are the moderates like me, who think a combination is the way to go.  It is really up to the person creating the instrument, and in my opinion there is no right or wrong way, which conforms to the 'no rules' approach to our hobby.

My shop is small, so a tool combination fits my environment well, especially since it is a materials storage and assembly area as well.  I've found that bigger isn't necessarily better.  I'll share with you the list of tools I find suitable to my builds.  It's not all inclusive, because it isn't necessary to list every screwdriver, clamp, pliers or cutter, or special tool . . . those items come as the result of individual creation and imagination.  So, let's get started.


Files and Rasps -- The basic styles for me are flat, half round, and rat tail, in a variety of sizes. I like them for shaping necks and finishing any openings I cut for sound holes, etc.  Rasps allow fast removal of material, and files work for the removal stage prior to sanding.

Sanding Blocks -- Necessary for preparing all surfaces for final finish.  And, specialty blocks made for shaping fret boards make that job a lot easier.

Chisels -- Come in handy when shaping necks, finishing electronic part cavities and neck pockets.

Spoke Shaves and Block Planes -- Useful for shaping and leveling surfaces.  A variety of block plane styles are available for rough work or final preparation, and spoke shaves work well for dressing the back of a neck.

Hand Saws -- I often use hand saws in my builds.  A back saw and miter box for trimming pieces to the proper length.  An Xacto saw for fine work that larger saws just do not accommodate.  A special fret saw for cutting the slots in the fretboard.  And, a coping saw for the fine opening in the top for sound holes.

Knives -- There are a number of occasions when a knife will do the job another instrument just cannot do, such as cutting cardboard templates.  A utility knife, various Xacto blades, and my pocket knife come in handy on my bench.

Screwdrivers -- Don't forget to arm yourself with a variety of screwdrivers, both large and small, and of various point styles.  You'll need the variety for everything from tuners to tailpieces.

Squares -- Three tools that I use often are the adjustable square, the engineer square, and the adjustable bevel gauge.  They are great for marking saw cuts and for determining headstock angles.  And, you'll find a dozen other uses when you get started on a CBG.

Drill Bits -- You will find that a broad variety of bits in many sizes are necessary.  You will want a set of pilot point bits for general drill work; brad point bits for tuner openings and fretboard inlay, because they cut nearly flawless holes; Forstner bits for cutting holes that require a flat bottom and for removing wood initially from pickup and pot cavities, before dressing the openings with a chisel; and spade bits for work that does not require a precision cut -- I don't use these often, but there may be a time when you find them helpful.

Mallet -- I recommend the use of a small mallet (rubber or rawhide), whenever you are using chisels, or when you may be tapping hardware into position.  Avoid using a hammer on your delicate work for obvious reasons.

Whetstone -- It is critical that bladed tools are kept sharp, and the best way to do this is by using a large (3" x 8") fine-grade stone, which sets securely in a wood tray for protection from damage.  You can build the tray out of scraps, if the stone does not come with it.  Numerous websites explain the proper manner for sharpening various tools.

Scratch Awl -- Use a scratch awl to make a depression at the exact points where you wish to drill holes.  The small opening in the wood will act as a bit guide to assure accuracy.  Also, use the awl for marking around templates which will serve as guide lines for sawing.

French Curves -- French curves, triangles, circle templates, and straightedges, are an essential part of your tool cabinet.

Straightedges -- Straightedges in a variety of lengths, are necessary for obvious reasons.  The funky other tools will be priceless when you start applying the really cool designs floating around inside your head.

Pin Reamer -- A pin reamer is used primarily to shape the holes where strings are inserted into an acoustic guitar bridge and for the strap button, but they can also come in handy for other applications, like enlarging tuner holes, etc.

Caliper -- Using a digital Vernier Caliper is the most accurate way to measure thickness and depth of a hand carved neck.  And, there is no better way to determine accuracy for precision drilling.

Clamps -- Essential to all aspects of CBG building, and never enough of them.  My favorite is the quick grip, but I also use spring clamps in a variety of sizes.  Use them for clamping stock on the drill press platform; attaching fretboards to necks; firmly holding rough-cut necks to the bench while doing rasp and file shaping; and a variety of other times when an object must be temporarily held in place.  C-clamps can be used, but they are too awkward and bulky for me.

Third Hand -- This claw-limb assistant is a must when soldering wires.  The arms are adjustable and easy to use.  I don't use the magnifying glass, but I suppose there is something that it will come in handy for.  I can attach it to my portable guitar assembly table with a carriage bolt, washer, and wing nut, whenever I'm soldering small parts and put it away when not in use, which make it the best four bucks I've ever spent at Harbor Freight.

Vice -- There are a variety of vice shapes, makes, and descriptions out there, which can add to the confusion, but I recommend a couple which will make your life enjoyable and easy.  A basic bench mounted adjustable 4- or 6-inch metal jaw vice will do well for most metal and rough wood work, but when stabilizing guitar bodies, necks, etc., you will want something designed for that purpose, so keep that in mind.  But, the vice you will find most useful  is similar to the illustration to the right.  It has larger and more narrow jaws to accommodate the sharp file angle necessary in shaping nuts and saddles.  I found mine at Stewart-MacDonald.

Nut Files -- These are specialty tools designed to make grooves in nuts where strings ride.  They come in a variety of sizes for the purpose intended and are available at suppliers like StewMac.

Fret Tools -- These tools and materials are also specialty items designed to make the job of fretting a guitar an easy and rewarding experience.  A complete inventory of tools and parts needed in the effort is available at Stewart-MacDonald.  Pick up their catalog, or give them a call for any assistance in determining your needs.

Respirator -- You will be creating a great amount of wood dust,which is extremely dangerous to breathe, so while you're doing this, you should be wearing a respirator.  The little white cotton masks are good for preventing pollen from getting inside your lungs, but they are not adequate for dust and fumes generated in the process of woodworking.  So, invest in a good quality mask with replaceable filter inserts.  You, your family, and your doctor will be pleased.


Drill Press -- A drill press is essential for my shop.  It is not only the easiest and most accurate way to drill tuner holes,but after I added a larger platform with an adjustable fence, it became a rotary sander whenever I need to finish the edge of longer pieces or the edges of sculpted headstocks, etc.

Soldering Iron -- I use two types of soldering irons.  One is the conventional 30w wand, and the other is an adjustable wattage 'pencil' style that can also be used for wood burning images into my creations.  If you need my thoughts on soldering, please see the 'How To' post on this site.

Table Saw -- I don't use my table saw a lot, but when I need to rip a larger piece of lumber into neck stock, or cut scarf joints, it works for me.  Purists would say that hand saws are to only way to go, but for me the easy way is the best and most accurate, especially with the scarf jig I made.

Band Saw and Scroll Saw -- I use each of my specialty saws all the time, and I cannot imagine trying to cut sculpted headstocks or sound holes any other way.  And, when cutting nut and saddle stock, bridges, etc., the scroll saw is the perfect.

Hand Drill -- Although I use my drill press for nearly all the basic needs, there are times when my hand drill does the job efficiently, and it is essential to my tool chest.  I like it because it is small and easy to handle, but because it will accept a 3/8" bit shank, so I'm not confined to just small bits.

Belt/Disc Sander -- My bench model works great for shaping and smoothing pieces prior to the finish step.

Planer -- The bench planer is the tool that provides the versatility to be able to custom cut stock to the thickness desired, without wasting time searching suppliers for the inevitable 'lost cause' that just isn't available in mass produced lumber for box stores, and/or neighborhood lumber stores.

Router -- I don't use my router a lot, but when I need it to open or dress cavities in a solid guitar body or to carve out a channel for a truss rod, it is necessary to have around.  And, the way I have it set up, I can use it either as handheld or table mounted.

Dremel Tool -- Because of its size and available attachments, the Dremel tool is the handiest little gadget in my tool box.  Although, I like to do most of the finish work by hand, the Dremel allows me the option to do things the easy way, if I get lazy.  The investment can be a bit pricey if you go with the 'big' model, but you can get by nicely with a basic version, and add only the attachments you will 'really' use.
Vacuum -- A broom and a dust pan will work, but the minimal investment in my ShopVac is the best use of forty bucks (on sale before Christmas at my local retailer) that I can think of . . . aside, from a couple cases of Heiniken.  It makes cleaning up a mess about as enjoyable as it can be, and it makes my wife tolerate my hobby a lot more than the days of the broom.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Neck Strap

I mentioned that when I was shopping at the secondhand store, I spied a really cool item for a neck strap.

It looks like a belt some hippy chic may have worn, before she exchanged it for cash, etc..  If so, she would have been the local moonshiners delight when she waltzed into the bar with this baby strapped around her midriff.

Not designed or nearly long enough for a guitar strap.  After polishing the chrome and stainless pieces, I added the notched leather straps at the ends, which fit securely over the buttons on the Crapocaster.  And, it's just outrageous enough to fit the theme perfectly.

The 'Whoopin' Stick''

I saw a photo several weeks ago of a bed warmer turned into a single-string instrument.  It was a pretty crude example of what I thought could be a really interesting 'allmosta guitar', so I started looking around for a similar item.  My exploration took me to Craig's List first, nothing there, so I was off to eBay, where I found several, all in England, but the cheapest was $35US, and I'm not paying thirty-five-bucks for a brass can someone sticks hot rocks in to warm the sheets . . . that's more than some hookers were getting at the Superbowl to warm a bunk . . . which the nuns from Cleveland were talking about in their quest to save young women from creepy 'ol men.  They were probably as successful in their game as the Patriots.

Browsing around a junk shop in Delaware (that's Ohio) last week, I discovered one of these nifty little things.  It is brass with a curly shaped handle, really a half-handle, in that it was only a half-inch thick and rounded on one side only . . . weird, but if you've been to England you can understand . . . they have some strange customs, like driving on the 'other' side of the road, and calling french fries 'chips' . . . geez, no wonder we won the war.  Otherwise, it was really cool looking.

I bought the thing (for two bucks --- that's $2.00).  Gawd, I love America!  Beat feet out of the place and for the next 45 minutes driving home, a plan emerged from inside my ghourd.

After unscrewing the brass can from the half-stick, I glued the stick to a walnut neck blank I use for my other guitars.

When the glue dried, I commenced to fit and shape the laminated neck to match the original design, but the headstock needed it's own treatment, which was a snap.  It took me a couple hours to shape, rasp, file, drill and sand the neck to the final stage, before a finish coat was applied.  While this was going on, I polished the can to a high gloss.

Once that was complete, I marked the nut and bridge positions, and also the 'key' fret (there are no frets) positions, secured the custom pieces to the 'new' stick, installed it in the can, complete with Piezo pickup, added strings, and voila, I gots me a real two-string 'whoop stick' tuned to open G.

These little brass cans with a stick for a neck are sometimes referred to as Lowebows or strumsticks, but I call mine a 'Whoopin' Stick', as in whoop ass, 'cause it turned out to be really fun to play and it beats hell out of fighting with a slide on a six-string.  I've discovered that I am not that guy, and I never will be.  Besides, that cool vibe should be left to the old Black guys who really know how to make a slide growl.  Us white boys just don't have what it takes.

This turned out so well, I think I'll go back for the other two warmers the guy has.  And, wait 'til you see pics of the cool thing I found for a neck strap at this store.