Monday, October 29, 2012

Exotic Wood

This place is, without exaggeration, the coolest lumber/hardware store I've ever been to, and I've been to a lot of lumber yards in my 70+ years.  The interior is beyond imagination.  Every part of this store is finished in the finest of wood, and fixture.

Finding a source for exotic wood in small quantities, at affordable prices, is not an easily accomplished task.  But, the other day a friend was telling me about a lumber yard nearby that 'has everything' a guy would want, including exotic wood.

The place turned out to be Keim Lumber Company located in the heart of Ohio Amish country at Charm, Ohio.  It's only 50 miles from me, which is a short distance considering the wide-open spaces of central Ohio.

Keim Lumber is promoted to be more than 100 years old, and it probably is, but you wouldn't know it from the magnificent building and surrounding property, which includes a kiln, lumber storage, and other parts of the facility, not to mention there is a restaurant on the upper level inside the main building.  The displays are massive and go on forever . . . including the area of most interest to me.

After gawking around for the first few minutes to get my bearings, I headed for the information desk to ask directions to the purported 'exotic wood' section.  This young Amish guy (everyone working there is Amish) behind the desk said, "Let me show you. Is there anything in particular you're interested in?"  I said, "Ya, wood for guitar fingerboards."  He said, "You've come to the right place.  We have ready-cut fingerboard stock, acoustic body stock, and electric guitar blanks, and in standard wood choices and many different exotic woods as well.  And, we also have small pieces of every wood type for those craft projects."

Without boring you with further details, I'll just say that I've been back to the store several times, to quench my thirst for rosewood, cocobola, leopardwood, coconut palm, zebrawood, and numerous other varieties.  And, the great thing about this is that it's available close to home at reasonable prices . . . except for ebony . . . and, that costs a fortune.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Stella At The Swap Meet

This morning was the required trek to the monthly swap meet . . .  rainy, cold, and generally not a good day for a  swap.  But, lo-and-behold, I ventured in to see a regular swapper who always shows up with musical instruments, and what did he have, a Stella guitar in incredibly good condition.  We haggled a while about price and I finally walked out with this little jewel.  It's in great condition with no fret ware, no backside scuffs, a little wear on the lower bout, original tuners needed to be oiled is all, original strings need to be replaced, and it needs a thorough cleaning and polishing.  Action is about 1/8th inch at the twelfth fret, neck is straight, body is solid, with none of the expected problems with a guitar fifty plus years old.  Take a look at this fare maiden that plays really well.


Thursday, October 25, 2012

What In Hell Is A Pickup Winder?

This morning I got a message from Jeri, the wife of my old friend Joe.  After reading my latest blog post, she didn't understand what a pickup winder is.

I explained, first of all, that it is not a Saturday night get-acquainted line at a Miles City watering hole for the purpose of satisfying one's thirst for companionship, thus pickup, as in the opposite sex . . . oh, goodness, did I say sex? . . . see, how confused a person can become, when discussing a pickup.

Perhaps I should have written a better explanation.  So, here goes.

Wikipedia -- A magnetic pickup consists of a permanent magnet with a core of material such as alnico or ceramic, wrapped with a coil of several thousand turns of fine enameled copper wire. The pickup is most often mounted on the body of the instrument, but can be attached to the bridge, neck and/or pickguard, as on many electro-acoustic archtop jazz guitars and string basses. The vibration of the nearby soft-magnetic strings modulates the magnetic flux linking the coil, thereby inducing an alternating current through the coil of wire. This signal is then carried to amplification or recording equipment via a cable. There may also be an internal preamplifier stage between the pickup and cable. More generally, the pickup operation can be described using the concept of a magnetic circuit, in which the motion of the string varies the magnetic reluctance in the circuit created by the permanent magnet.

A 'pickup winder' is the mechanism which wraps the magnet wire around the posts to create the 'pickup'.

OK, Jeri, still confused?  Stay away from the watering hole, until further notice!

Guitar Pickup Winder

The recent trip to Mississippi Delta Blues country has raised serious havoc with my guitar building.  My free time has been centered around creating a pickup coil winder from the almost antique portable Singer Model 99 sewing machine that Roger Berry gave me.

There is no way to describe Roger, you gotta meet him to fully understand the kind of man he is.  I don't really know Rog well, but I have developed very keen instincts over the years, and my instincts tell me he is one very kind, sincere, and generous fella.  Roger is the only person I know, outside of my wife, who actually lives the credo, "It is better to give, than to receive."  And, he is at the ready to provide people with abundance, thus the treasures he insisted I accept, without allowing me to pay him for anything.

So, with all this said, Roger, I hope you like what I have done with a few of the gifts and ideas you shared with me.

After studying the pickup coil winder that Roger uses for his creations, I had a fair idea where to begin, but I didn't want to copy what Rog had done.  So, I set out on a path that included finding an antique treadle sewing table on which my little creature could rest, and to design some of the options to complete the project.

The table was for sale from the back of a guy's pickup, and I didn't bother to inspect it carefully, I just loaded it up and hauled it home.  On looking it over, I discovered a really cool old Rousedale machine inside, but that will be used for another winder later, to be given to another builder . . . ala Roger Berry's generous example.

I tore the thing apart, and removed all the unnecessary stuff, so that all that was left was the table as you see it in this photo.

The lid serves perfectly for a rest for the Singer.  The adjoining fabricated mount for the revolution counter display and light dimmer switch, which controls the speed of the wheel, is tucked up tight for a very compact unit.  You'll notice a brass bar sticking out on the right near the display, which is there to control where the wire falls on the spinning pickup (PUP) bobbin, which will be attached to the wheel when ready to spin out a PUP.

The little red knob is actually a small magnet stuck to a large washer.  It serves to temporarily hold the hair-fine magnet wire used in the creation of a PUP.  Yes, it's that fine.  For you techno geeks out there, it is 43 ga. wire, so damn fine that I have to call on the assistance of my 10-year-old granddaughter Maggie to thread it through the eyelets on the bobbin.  I'm old and cain't see well.   q;-)

So, what's a bobbin, you ask.  Well, it's the foundation for the PUP, and in the world of home- wound pickup coils, it is a couple pieces of material  ---->
(wood, fiberboard, plastic, etc.) with holes drilled for metal posts to match the guitar string separation.

After the PUP is wound to the proper resistance, and soldering of lead wires is complete, and the PUP sealed, the posts are magnetized with a homemade doo-dad (bottom left), by passing the PUP back and forth through the space between the magnets on the re-purposed 'c' clamp.

Everyone does this stuff differently, but the basic concept remains the same.  For ease of use and to keep things compact, I chose to mount my idea on the table surface.

It's necessary to figure out a way to handle the magnet wire that will be transferred from a spool to the bobbin. If you're using small spools it's a little more simple than what I had to think about.

Because, I'm a tight ass and I don't like to give my money away, I looked around locally for a wire source, and stumbled onto a five-pound spool for slightly more than I'd have to pay Stewart MacDonald for a half-pound.  It's 39 ga., but the boys at StewMac told me it would work fine . . . just would need to use less wire to reach the desired resistance.

So, that's it!  Thanks to Roger, I am now in the business of creating my very own guitar pickups with the TotalRojo Mojo.

One last look.  It ain't store bought, but it works great, and I think it's pretty damn cool.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Marvelous Mississippi Delta Blues

There are times in one's life when opportunity knocks, and the result is amazing.  Recently, I had the opportunity to meet Roger Berry, a cigar box guitar maker and blues man from Hazlehurst, Mississippi.  Roger ask me to create a guitar case for him that would accommodate my 'LaGloria' guitar, which Roger wanted as well.

Hazlehurst is a small town in south-central Mississippi in the heart of Delta Blues music heaven, the birthplace of America's music, and the town where Robert Johnson was born, rich in history and very long on hospitality.

Because of a long career in newspaper and television, I've met a lot of very interesting people, but Roger Berry is one of the most sincere, likable, and generous people I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.  I only wish we had met many years ago.  But, at least we've met.   And, I know we will be friends for a good long time.  Thanks Roger for the opportunity!

I built the case, enclosed the guitar, loaded my car, and off my wife and I went to hand deliver Roger's new toys.  I could have shipped the stuff and been done with it, but something told me that I would be missing an experience of a lifetime . . . making and great new friend, and experiencing a musical adventure that cannot be explained, only enjoyed first-hand.

I cannot write about our trip, there,just isn't enough space or time, but I will add some photos and brief info, which I hope peeks your interest enough for you to explore the Blues on your own.

The case personalized with the 'RB' and the 'Maverick' logo.
You gotta be a bit of a maverick to do what we do.

The inside, complete with a collage of Delta images and 'LaGloria'.
An on-board amp to blow sound around, and a compartment for 
the little stuff completes the case.

Roger with his new gear.

Roger's shop -- Yes!, It's that clean and comfortable, and yes, it's where he creates wonderful instruments.

Juke joints where locals play outrageous blues.

Murals such as this decorate many buildings in nearly every town along highways 49 and 61,
commemorating famous area blues musicians.

Notable blues greats from 'Pinetop' Perkins to Muddy Waters played juke joints like these,
and B.B. King continues to make great music here on a regular basis.

The Poor Monkey Lounge outside Merigold, MS only has music on Thursday nights, 
and we missed it by a day.  Darn!

Ground Zero Blues Club and The Delta Blues Museum, are just two
of the many cool and interesting places in Clarkdale, MS at the 
Crossroads of highways 49 and 61.

Because blues music is so connected to the Mississippi Delta, it is easy to overlook the other venues that make the place famous -- Country, Rock 'N' Roll, Soul, Jazz, R & B, Classical, Gospel, and musical recording.

If you haven't been to the Delta, you are missing something very special.

Thanks Roger!