1990s Stratocaster MIJ + MIM Parts-O-Caster, Pt 3.5


It's been over a year since Pt 3 in the series of posts about the Strat-O-Franken-Caster project, mostly because for the most part it's done. Good enough for rock and roll - it stays in tune, plays well, and really screams when you lay into it. And the combination of the flat top Duo Sonic pickups, mounted on a gold anodized aluminum pickguard instead of plastic, give it a unique tone that's unlike most Strats - the bridge pickup sounds very Tele like, and none of the switch positions have that thin hollow "quack" sound usually associated with a Stratocaster.

So there's been a couple changes, but nothing major:

First, I sent away for another Duo-Sonic pickup to put in the bridge position. This new one is a bit hotter than the one I had in there, always good to have a bit louder pickup near the bridge. In the photo at the top of the page, it's already been installed, and the pickup that was in the bridge slot was moved up to the neck position to replace a no-name ceramic, so now it's all Duo-Sonics, all the time. And since it's lowered for equal volume with the other two, there was enough space under the strings to put a Duo/Mustang cover on it. Why? Because it looks interesting, no other reason. I kept the middle pickup where it was  - it's on more than the others, and this particular pickup is really great sounding, so I got superstitious and didn't want to anger the tone gods.

Next, David in Massachusetts sent a Japanese made Gotoh nickel plated jack boat:


It looks much like the chrome plated Fender jack cup that was on there, except... more nickel-y. In the picture you can see the ancient ("vintage") Switchcraft jack from who knows when. Rather gnarly, dude.

I bought a really cool looking switch tip from David's eBay store:


It's a 1950s Daka Ware barrel knob in a dark red color. Actually way, way cool and uniquely different, and that's a good thing - who else has a maroon barrel knob on their Strat? Nobody.

Also changed the headstock string guide from the original bent sheet metal tree that came with the neck, to a round machined nickel one:


It's a brand new Fender brand guide, nothing special, except for the story that came with it. I went to that big box chain Walmart-of-music-stores place (won't say the name but it rhymes with Guitar Center) and asked the guy in the accessories department if they had one of the vintage style round guides. He said yeah sure, and took it down from the wall, but before handing it to me, he asked, "So what kind of Telecaster are you puttin' it on?" Uh, actually I'm going to install it on a Stratocaster. "Bad idea! I wouldn't recommend that!" Whoa. Any reason why not? "It's gonna really screw up your tuning, man!" Really. I thought all the mid '50s Strats had these same round string guides.

He looked at me, shaking his head and smiling with the pitying look that only the truly sanctimonious have. "I don't think so. Who told you that?" Well, actually, I've played a couple old Strats. "They were probably fakes! Anyway, it's the wrong part for a Strat, you don't wanna do that." Oh, okay. Well, in that case, I'll just get this anyway, and put it on my Tele.

After I paid for the guide, he finally handed it to me and said, rather smugly, "You'll be glad you didn't put that on a Strat, you'da been sorry!"

The world is full of experts lately. No matter, I got the round string guide, and I should have gotten it for free, after all that. And have I had any tuning problems since installing it on my FrankenStrat? No, and I never thought I would.

I've been thinking about getting a Strat-sized lipstick pickup for awhile, mostly because its chromeness would look great against the background of a gold anodized pickguard. Found one on eBay, and it turned out to be kind of a difficult install. The good news is that it fit in the slot, barely:


The bad news was the mounting screw arrangement. The pickup mounting tabs were drilled and threaded for the smaller size that's used for humbuckers, and that's what kind of screws were included. Not only were they too long to fit in the body's pickup cavities, but the heads were so small they slid right through the larger holes in the Strat pickguard, which is a regular spec Fender-brand part. I had to re-tap the pickup to accept Fender sized screws, and luckily the local hardware store had some flat heads in the correct gauge and length, although in unplated steel. I would have preferred slotted nickel oval heads, but can't have everything, at least locally, that same day.

This lipstick pickup sounded good enough, although not as good as the ones in my old Danelectros. However, it was way underpowered, and no way was there going to be any balanced multi-pickup combo positions.


Oh well, kept it in there for a couple weeks, trying to get used to it, and justifying it staying with the fact that it looked great. But one day I swapped the lipstick back out for the other Duo-Sonic pickup, and sold it on craigslist in a couple hours, for $10. Guy who bought it was ecstatic, going to put it into an old Roy Rogers small acoustic that someone else had already messed up with a few holes in the top. Overall, the lipstick was an interesting experiment, too bad it didn't work out.

Probably, there's just one more mod, and that's putting in a brand new Japanese Gotoh vintage-style trem bridge, and then that's it, I'm done. Until I think of something else.

*               *               *

If you want, check out the other posts on the build of this Parts-O-Caster: Pt 1, Pt 2, and Pt 3, and maybe also some of my other guitars. And if you have some extra time, head over to the Topics field in the right sidebar, where there's more guitar related stuff.




What Does The President Do?



Getting back to one of the points raised in yesterday's post, maybe I should have been clearer about why so many people are scared shitless right now. It's kind of like a political version of the old fable about the five blind men and the elephant - we tend to perceive the nature of a wider existential threat through the prism of what matters most to each of us.

Set aside for the moment that the cause of such a high level of fear right now is because we elected someone who promised us fear, who ran a campaign based on fear. Instead let's look into some of the concerns that many are having, and what the implications and near term causal effects of a Trump presidency may be. 

Just for starters, and all based on the actual campaign rhetoric and behavior of our new President-elect (and there's lots more - it's almost overwhelming to think about the mass chaos that this elephant has brought with it):

- Immigrant families are worried that they will have their lives uprooted if they get rounded up and deported.
- Muslims are worried that they will be required to register for and be placed on a national watch list.
- Gay and lesbian couples, and their families, are worried that their marriages will be declared void, and their rights as citizens taken away.
- People of color, especially Latinos and Blacks (and I fall under this category also), are worried that they will have to live under the threat of a nationwide "Profile, Stop, and Frisk" policing policy.
- Women are worried that they will have their reproductive rights and the ability to make their own health care decisions taken away from them.
- Many women are worried about living in a society where half the population feels that sexism, misogyny and sexually predatory behavior is normal and tolerable, as exemplified by the president-elect's behavior.
- Older people are worried that their hard earned over a lifetime senior benefits, such as Medicare and Social Security, will be taken away and replaced by new systems that provide much less economic security.
- People in general are worried that a bellicose international posture will result in new wars.
- Young men of draft age are worried that those new wars will be of a magnitude that for the first time since the 1970s, the national military conscription draft will be called up.
- Those who believe the scientific truth of the threat of global climate change are worried that nothing will be done to prevent catastrophic weather events, rising sea levels, and world wide average temperature shifts in the near future.
- Everyone who recognized the very real probability that the President-elect has severe mental and personality disorders, as well as autocratic tendencies, are worried that his equally sociopathic cronies will work to erode the rule of law and enable the rise of an authoritarian state.
- Those in most socio-economic categories are worried that new tax codes will drastically reduce taxes on the very wealthy, and shift the burden onto everyone else.
- Anyone dependent on the social safety net for basic needs, such as mobility services for the disabled, special needs education and school lunch programs, the very poor on food stamps, mental health and crisis prevention services - the list goes on and on - are all worried that funding for those programs will be cut off or drastically rolled back, due to tax cuts.
- All of us who value, and visit, public spaces, parks, national parks and forests and wilderness areas, are worried about the possibility of mass privatization of public land.
- And there's more, lots more...

You Did Vote, Didn't You?

To all of you who are genuinely worried about any or all of this, I'd like to say: Thank you for voting, and at least trying to make sure that the worst wouldn't happen. To any of you who happened to vote for the candidate who promised to disrupt all of our lives, including your own, congratulations, and may you enjoy it. And to those who either didn't vote, for whatever reason, or voted for a third party candidate as a form of protest, or to "follow your conscience", I don't know what to say. Except that everyone who was paying attention, and who worked hard to make you aware of what was going on and what the stakes were, are now feeling - what? Disgust, dismay, disappointment, and next we'll just skip the "E" words and go straight to "F". Not that most of you would ever admit it now, anyway.

Well, time to lighten up. Except for the fact that most of us are soon going to be noticeably poorer, I fearlessly predict that there won't be too very much chaos and there won't be a total downfall of democracy. At least, it won't be total. Maybe dented a bit, but maybe we can get that fixed, after this dark interlude is over, if and when we make it to the other side. Hey, there's going to be a whole lot of hurt, and a whole lot of pain for many of us, but basically we're going to be okay. We're America, we've been though bad shit before, and we always survive.

The Out To Lunch Presidency

This guy who we elected President isn't some kind of evil genius, as many people think. In reality, he's something like an idiot savant, who's incredibly good at one or two things, like self promotion and competition, but basically finds it hard to put one thought in front of the other. Good thing he's rich enough to hire a staff to do his thinking (and dressing, and scheduling) for him. No way he's the New Hitler. More like the New Reagan, who was well known during his time as President for being totally out of the loop on everything going on around him, and slept through national security briefings. Reagan was a borderline Alzheimer's case who still had the ability to turn on the lights inside his head long enough to give a speech or do a photo op, up until the last days of his presidency, when he kind of drifted away.

Trump has given every indication that he doesn't really want to handle the very tough job that being President of the United States is. Back before the Republican Convention, when the hunt for  someone to run as his vice presidential candidate was on, he reached out to Gov John Kasich of Ohio, and gave him the offer of the century, the possibility of being "the most powerful vice president in history". In the Trump campaign's scenario, the "vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy", essentially being the president, and Trump would "be in charge of making America great again”.

The Trump campaign didn't seriously believe he was going to win the election, and did no planning for the eventuality of a win, and are only now putting together a transition team. A few days after the election, his team was still clueless enough to think that all they had to do was show up at the White House, and it would be totally staffed, ready for them to move in. Recently, Trump has announced that he would be living at the White House only part time, and requested national security clearances for his children, who many expect will actually run the show.  He still goes on late night Twitter rants, and expresses the wish to keep having rallies, presumably to continue getting his accustomed psychic recharge. This doesn't sound like someone who was actively planning on being the new Dictator of America.

What Does The Future Hold?

So what does the future hold, and What Does The President Do? Good question, and at this point, my crystal ball is as dependable as anyone else's. No one really knows, so here goes:

A wall will be built. There's already something of a wall, between California and Baja, kind of like a solid steel fence that runs along the border. Remember, the Trump presidency, like his candidacy, will just be a media shit show, with the prime focus on optics, and not actual policy or results. So there will be a great 7 to 9 day media sensation surrounding a big concrete wall being built along a few miles of the border with Mexico, it won't be completed and will accomplish nothing, and all the reporters will go home and all of the Trumpistas will be happy.

There will be a few deportations of immigrant families, all well documented by the media, and that will be that. Nothing like the mass deportations that were promised to a drooling white nationalist Trump voter base, but enough to keep them, once again, complacent and happy. The truth is, and the Republican business elite knows this well, that our economy has come to depend upon a large workforce who are willing to work for sub-minimum wage, who demand no health care and retirement benefits, and don't dare to speak back to their bosses. The illegals will stay, as a permanent sub class, as they always have been.

The Muslim watch list isn't going to happen, but there will be a ton of talk and an active push for it; even for right wing America, absolute curtailment of liberty is going too far. The down side is that all of the media attention is only going to further incite the crazies on the right; expect some isolated violent acts and some mosque vandalizing, but that's it. That's even too much, really, but now that we know, post election, the true extent of racism in this country, it's the best we can hope for.

Nationwide profile, stop and frisk? As any one of us of color already knows, that's the way it rolls, right now, it is the way it is, national policy or no policy. As with other things, expect a lot of bullshit talk, and media demonization, but things won't change, for better or for worse. It's bad enough as it is.

For the main part, same sex marriage won't be threatened, too much. The rabid right wing Christian fundamentalists (how it pains me, who used to be a Sunday school teacher, to write those words) will always need to have something to react and push back against, and may even convince some of the more backward Southern state legislatures to enact local restrictions. There has to be some issue where the Trump presidency wants to at least appear conciliatory, and this will be it. However, if, as some are speculating, Trump resigns or gets impeached within a year, and Pence, a well known homophobe, becomes President, that's another story.

War. There will be war. With who, or why, who cares? It must have been very dull this past decade for everyone who thrives on the excitement that a run up to a war brings. So what if we wake up a few mornings later and wonder what we've done, and who is this stranger in bed with us? This country loves war, or at least the promise of one, and the whole Iraq experience will have taught us nothing. A broader point is that war is immensely profitable; for some people, nobody you or I know. Hopefully it will be a limited war, and not too expensive, without too many casualties.

On the national security front in general, wiser heads will prevail - remember, Trump will be an essentially absentee president, and in any case, he probably knows he doesn't have a clue what's going on, no matter his bluster. Expect a few well written speeches, and visits to the White House by Russian President For Life Putin, but NATO stands, and China is still at least a decade away from building the military required for their planned Pan-Asia takeover. By then, hopefully, we'll have someone in charge that does have a clue.

President Obama made the point that Trump wasn't stable enough to be in charge of the nuclear codes, and that's an unsettling thought. Hold that thought.

Reproductive rights: same as marriage equality - the radical Christian right wing needs an on-going but illusory threat to their existence in order to sustain the vitriol that keeps them funded. So look for another media shit show, a lot of hue and cry on the news shows, a couple congressional committees wasting a ton of money, and besides Planned Parenthood being completely defunded, not a whole lot of change will actually happen.

Climate change, the EPA, wilderness and public spaces, clean water and air guidelines? Republicans always want to roll it all back, and give it all way. They're going to start doing it again, and we have to be vigilant and do what we can to minimize the total harm. Donate to the Sierra Club and other natural conservation groups, so they can keep funding the ongoing legal fight.

Social Security and Medicare. It's a real hoot to think about all those dumb ass Baby Boomers who are totally in bed with a political party who openly says they're going to eliminate senior benefits. Not even waiting until after the inauguration, House speaker Ryan, with the assurance of a presidential signing, announced his planned elimination of Medicare. The fight is on, and may Grandma, and all the stupid Boomers, not starve or die of cancer until it's resolved.

As for the upcoming tax realignment, as well as privatizing Social Security and Medicare, in case you haven't noticed, the Republican mode of governance is as a kleptocracy: "Kleptocracy (from Greek: κλεπτοκρατία, klépto- thieves + -kratos rule, literally "rule by thieves") is a government with corrupt rulers (kleptocrats) that use their power to exploit the people and natural resources of their own territory in order to extend their personal wealth and political power." And they now have total power, complete control of all branches of government. And they have as their leader, one of the greediest men ever to go into politics, probably the most money hungry ever in our nation's history, who also admires the head of the world's premier openly kleptocratic government, Russia. And he, along with his cronies and his family, are going to bleed us dry. Considering that one of the members of Trump's transition team is interested in the life-extending properties of blood transfusions from younger people, that's a fitting analogy.

Keep Calm and Carry On

So relax, things won't get too very bad; what these people are really interested in is money. We're only going to get a whole lot poorer, and we'll survive that.




Autumn Days

Big Leaf Maple in Full Fall Color

Here are some fall photos, from the back yard, and around the neighborhood.

Back Yard Fence, with Autumn Blaze Maple Leaves, and a Clay New Mexico Moon
Finch Munching an Echinacea Seed Cluster
Squirrel Food




One Week Later


Usually, I approach doing a blog post sort of like writing or arranging a song - lay down a riff, and then let imagination and inspiration take over, and build the rest up from there. It's been an uninspiring week, and even now, it's tough to get started, hard to find a riff. And it's not just me; all around my town, and all over the country as well, there are a lot of otherwise happy and energetic people who find it hard to get up in the morning, difficult to eat with any real appetite, hard to sleep through the night without waking up worrying about the uncertain future. Even though I've had way more than my share of really crappy behavior thrown at me through the years due to my heritage, I can't imagine what it must feel like to be part of an immigrant or refugee family at this very moment.

For many millions of us, this is the closest that we've ever come to feeling as if we live in a time of existential crisis. And it's not that we all share just one issue or concern - almost everyone you talk to has their own point of view on how the results of the election threaten to upend any sense of security in their lives. Racial and cultural minorities, members of non-Christian religions, those with alternative sexual orientations, anyone concerned with women's reproductive rights or climate change or awareness of the fragility of the network of multi-national non-aggression treaties, all those and more - all are facing a very clouded and unknowable future.

If history is any judge, at least in recent American history, hopefully nothing too disturbing will happen. All of the socially charged and violence inciting rhetoric that came out of the President-elect's oddly shaped mouth may prove to have been merely campaign bluster, and that he really doesn't have authoritarian or dictatorial urges, and possibly, no deeply rooted convictions of any sort, besides his own desire for self-enrichment. If that's true, in the long run we'll be okay, although somewhat poorer. But in the meantime, those of his supporters who were lathered up into a fine froth of bigotry and hate are having their own brand of fun.

The Orange County, New York, Beth Shalom Cemetery was defaced a few days ago:


So far, the only connection between this incident and the Trump campaign is that it happened in "Orange" County.

The 100+ year old African-American Hopewell Baptist Church in Greenville, Mississippi was spray painted with an election campaign message, and then set ablaze:


Local authorities are investigating the incident, although it is being assumed that this was the work of "just some teenagers letting off steam". Sources in the area say that if it had been adults who committed the crime, they would have used explosives.

Ayman Mohyeldin passes on an email received by journalist Hannah Allam from a Senate staffer:


And in the hills of West Virginia, two local dignitaries in Clay County are happy to give fashion advice to the First Lady, and the First Lady elect:


The original Facebook post was deleted, and a hilarious "apology" post went up instead:


My local correspondent, an expert in Southern culture, assures me that these are just a couple of high spirited Virginia belles, and we shouldn't take too much offense, since "that's just the way they talk down there."

Here are the two First Ladies:


Over the past eight years, Michelle Obama has become a familiar face to everyone in America. On the other hand, so far no one knows what Mrs Trump actually looks like.

*               *               *

As of this writing, no one has yet lost their lives in any of the various practical jokes, hi-jinks, church fires, and mob beatings done by America's new winners; hopefully, there won't be any. It's kind of depressing to think that the fate and future of our (already) great country has been decided by the kinds of people that leave really nasty comments on YouTube and Twitter.

In the 227 years of the history of the Presidency of the United States of America, every one of the prior holders of the office have been, no matter how you may feel about their politics and policies, all of them gentlemen. This year, a man who is the epitome of ostentatious vulgarity, nothing like a gentleman, has been elevated into power with the help of his minion Vulgarian hordes. I don't think those hordes are going to let us, or him, forget that fact any time soon.



Trek + Bridgestone Ugly Town Bike Pt 2


It's another beautiful day in western Oregon. Yesterday, it was dark and dreary, and raining crazy cats and drippy dogs all day, a lot. And even that was beautiful; it keeps the air and sky clear.

It's been just about a year since Part 1 about this mongrel Ugly Town Bike, a combo of a 1st gen Trek mountain bike main frame, and a Tom Ritchey designed Bridgestone MB-1 fork. Not a whole lot has changed on it since, except for the handlebars and the tires. Since this bike has recently become my go-to daily rider, I swapped out the humongous Continental Town and Country 26x1.9 bullet-proof pothole floaters for a pair of Sheng Shin 26x1.5 skin walls, which I got at Paul's Bikes' Alder St store a few years ago and never used.


These Sheng Shins have a nice evenly round cross section, with no shoulders and only a hint of tread, and they roll fast and corner smooth. Plus, light colored skin walls look vintage-y cool. Damn, I wish I would have bought 5 pair; never seen them since.

You may notice that I still haven't gotten around to getting the frame and fork painted. It would be a good idea to get that done, but it would mean tearing the bike down, and I'm having fun riding it. The B-Stone MB-1 fork is bare metal right now, and interestingly, even though it's really humid here, there's not a hint of rust on it. Might be the high manganese steel alloy, possibly, or maybe I'm just lucky.

The other change with the bike is a lower rise bar setup:


The Nitto North Road bars I had on previously were really great feeling, high quality, and looked 1930s European touristy, but the almost but not quite flat profile of these new bars is stylish in a whole different way. Acquired in a trade, I have no idea what these handlebars are called, or who made them; if you have any idea, let me know.

A plus with these bars is that since they're lower rise than the tourist bars, the stem can be raised in order to get to my preferred equal bar and saddle height riding stance. A taller stem has an interesting look in itself, for some reason. Maybe it's because more shiny metal is showing?


Since it's getting into the long rainy season here in the Willamette Valley, the next step is putting on a pair of fenders, or mud guards to you Brits. But not today; the sun is shining, the streets are almost dry, and I'm going for a ride.


1959 Danelectro Double Cutaway, and Accurately Setting the Intonation


In my initial post in this series, I summarized this guitar as: "1959 Danelectro. A gift from my brother Jonsan, I have no idea what its model name is. Made in Neptune, New Jersey. The body has a pine frame with black painted Masonite pressboard top and back, and sides covered in textured white vinyl tape. Poplar neck with double non-adjustable steel flat-bar truss rods, Brazilian rosewood fingerboard, and aluminum nut and side markers. Kluson tuners. All original. Any brand of regular light electric strings, .010 to .046."

As a quick run down on this Dano, that's a pretty good description, and it just begins to touch on how basically really strange old Danelectros are. And how much different are they from other guitars? Let's start with the neck:


Yeah, that's an aluminum nut, and it's never going to wear out, unless you use diamond coated strings. As you can see, it's attached with a screw, into the really thick slab Brazilian rosewood fingerboard. In the 1950s, Brazilian rosewood was the only rosewood being used, back before the Amazon rain forest was almost totally wiped out, both of old growth trees, and the indigenous population, but that's another story.

Here's a shot of the heel end of the neck:


You can see how thick that rosewood 'board is here. Under the slab, are the exposed ends of the two steel bar trussrods. They're totally not adjustable, and under most conditions, they never need it, being way stronger than any other trussrod design out there. I've seen old Danos with heavy gauge flat wound jazz strings, and no warpo, no worries. With my preferred 10-46 round wounds, the neck should be good for a couple lifetimes.

* Update: This Dano now has a GHS Gilmour 10.5 - 50 set on it. After I put the heavier strings on, I expected the neck to bow a bit under the increased tension, and was prepared to go back to the 10 - 46 set, since there is no truss rod adjustment. But what actually happened was strange: after the string change (and I only replaced them one at a time, to reduce the chance of neck flex), the action got a bit lower, rather than higher as expected - and there were a few buzzing notes in the middle of the fingerboard. I didn't reset the bridge, and let the guitar sit. After three or four days, the strings came back up, and the action is now where it was before, and hasn't changed for the past two months. It doesn't make sense, can't explain it, it's like magic. Or genius engineering.

Here are the tuning machines:


No idea what brand these tuners are - maybe Kluson? They were a major provider of machines for many makers back in the day, so maybe. They're now 57 years old, and still work fine, no issues. A drop or two of Tri-Flo every once in a while, and maybe they also will last another 100 years.

Down at the other end:


The neck is attached with three of the strange looking screws that you only see on old Danelectros - wide round heads, small Phillips slots. Why only three? No idea, but it works.

Let's move the camera a bit:


This Dano came with two cheesy looking, white plastic shove-in-hole style acoustic guitar end pins. They also did what they were supposed to do, no problem. Except, once at a jam, I set the guitar leaning against the amp, tail end down, and that end pin cracked off. Bummer. Next day, drilled the remains of the end pin out, stuck a dowel in the hole, and installed a regular nickel plated strap pin. While I was at it, I pulled the pin out of the heel - see the hole left behind, above - and put another nickel button on the left horn:


Okay, I guess I lied when I said this guitar was all original. I put on a couple strap buttons, big deal; I don't care, I'm never gonna sell it anyway. The Dano hangs a lot better now, and no big fat plastic end pin stuck on the heel means better access to the upper octave.

Here's something cool, the back control cover "plate":


This may just be the piece of Masonite that fell out when a circle was cut out of the back, I don't know, looks like it. In a stroke of genius el-cheapo engineering, the way in which it attaches to the back is simply a small screw threading into a rectangular piece of Masonite - when you tighten the screw, it pulls the other piece up against the inside of the guitar, and thus bringing the round cover down flush with the back:


In this picture, you can see what the other, non-finished side of Masonite looks like. Don't ask me what Masonite is, I don't know, but it's one of those 1950s "Space Age" materials like Bakelite, Plexiglass, and Naugahyde, that was supposed to make our lives zoom into the 21st century and help us evolve into higher consciousness. "Better Living Through Chemistry!" - that's a real ad slogan from back then. Too bad - here we are actually in the 21st century, and we never zoomed anywhere; we're still stuck here on planet Earth, and still trying hard to kill each other.

Now, let's look inside the control cavity:


Lots to see here. In the bottom of the frame, you can see part of the pine frame that actually is the body - imagine a guitar shaped slab of wood, that's been cut again and hollowed out on the inside, leaving a thick outline. Onto that, the top and back Masonite pieces are glued, and voila - instant guitar, more or less.

At the top of the picture is the block that the bridge is screwed into, which also keeps the back and top from sympathetically vibrating into howling "wolf tone" mechanical feedback, just as a sound post dowel does inside a violin. To the right of that, is another wooden block, doing much the same thing. These blocks also strengthen the whole body - since they are well glued to both top and back, which are in turn glued to the pine frame, the whole assemblage becomes one fairly rigid unit.

This is only a single pickup guitar, but it has three basic variable tones, thanks to the control layout, using a SPDT center-off switch, two pots, two caps, and a resistor. In the center switch position, the tone control is disabled. Flip the switch one way, and the tone pot is the familiar, progressive high-cut control. Flipped the other way, you can control varying levels of low-cut - cool! And great when you want to get that sharp, razor thin skankin' tone that really cuts through the mix with a Reggae band.

And next, here's the bridge:

 
Another unique, genius, and inexpensive to build invention by Nat Daniel, the "Dan" of Danelectro. I should mention here that the big thing about Danelectro guitars and basses is that were incredibly good guitars, great playing and great sounding, but really inexpensive, and easy to afford. Genius indeed, and thanks, Nat.

The bridge is a thick, chrome plated steel plate, with four holes and six slots. One hole is countersunk on the top, through which a flat top screw runs down into the center block. Two other holes are counter bored on the bottom, half way through the plate, toward the front of the bridge. Two more flat top screws also run down into the block, and the front of the bridge plate rests upon those screws at the counter-bored holes, and the whole thing is held tightly in place by the tension of the strings. Depending on how far each of the screws are threaded down, the bridge can be set higher or lower, and the tilt angle can be varied to a fine degree:


With this arrangement, it's possible to get any kind of combination of string break over angle past the saddle and string height above the body, as well as the usual action adjustment. I once played a Danelectro that had a shim in the neck pocket to get a steeper neck-to-body angle, and the bridge plate set up high, which felt a lot like playing a Les Paul. Mine is set more or less stock, with a Fender-ish flat neck angle.

At the rear of the bridge plate are six open slots that the strings run through, trapping the ball ends. The first time you change strings on a Dano, it feels freaky, and you think the strings are going to pop out when they get tightened up - but they don't, they stay in place. Yeah, it's like some kind of magic, can't explain it. Once again: it's weird, it's different, and it works.

The fourth hole through the bridge is also a slot, running on axis in the middle of the plate; there is a smaller screw, with its head on the bottom of the bridge plate, its shaft going through the slot, and attached to the bottom of the rosewood saddle. The saddle is not screwed down tight against the plate, and it's possible to move it back and forth to set the intonation. This jazz guitar-like rosewood saddle is one of the factors in the unique tone of a Danelectro, along with the body and neck materials, the semi-hollow construction, and of course the famed soulful toned lipstick pickups.

Usually, in everyone else's Danelectro, the plate is set at an angle to the body, with the front of the bridge higher than the rear, so that the strings break cleanly over the front edge of the saddle, for notes that are clear and crisp. As an alternative, it's possible to raise the rear of the bridge higher than the front, thus making the strings lay flat over the saddle for its whole width, and creating an indistinct and really buzzy tone, reminiscent of a sitar.

However, my Dano is a bit different:


I have the bridge plate set more or less flat in relation to the top of the body, with the difference in height made up for with my Danelectro intonation innovation: simply, a low "E" string cut to length and placed between the rosewood saddle, and the strings. After tuning up to pitch, I pull and push the string around, until the intonation is right on, and it's a done deal. And unlike using an aftermarket individually adjustable saddle bridge, the original Danelectro tone is maintained, since it's still just strings sitting on top of rosewood (!).

So that's my method of accurately setting the string intonation on a vintage Danelectro - it's cheap (free, actually), it's effective, easily reversible, and doesn't mess with the original vibe of these fantastic guitars. Or their collector's value if you're into that sort of thing, which I'm not. I've been doing this to Danos for a long time, since way before there was an internet, and over the years I've shared this trick with other Danelectro players, from Colorado, to Nashville, to Bakersfield, and even Britain. Possibly, they've passed it on to others since then, and you're also welcome to it, it's my pleasure. It always feels good to give something back to the global guitar playing community.

So what's missing from this article? I've only barely mentioned the Danelectro's nicely toneful pickup, but there's already been maybe a million and a half words already written about those legendary sound transducers. Nothing much I can add to that, so I won't. Except, and I've said this before, but it's worth repeating: this is one of the very finest sounding, and playing, guitars I've ever had the pleasure of squeezing notes out of.

Okay, thanks again for visiting, see you next time; make sure to bring along a guitar, we'll open up a couple beers, and have a good long jam.

*               *               *

For more guitar stuff, you can also go to the first post in this series, "My Arsenal".

The Stratocaster in that post, which is actually a Parts-O-Franken-Caster, has three posts up so far about the build in various stages: Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3. When I get around to replacing the bridge with a new Gotoh trem, I'll update with a Part 4. Lately I've changed the neck pickup three times (did a couple dumb things), as well as replaced a couple more hardware bits with nickel ones, so I may do a Part 3.5 soon. Maybe.

Also, on the right sidebar are some topic links - click on "Guitar" for a few articles that may or may not be of interest to you.

Next time, we'll probably be taking a look at a '77 Gibson Les Paul TV Special. See you then.


The Sun Just Went Down


The sun just went down, the pumpkins turned into Jack'o'Lanterns, and the wandering  spirits will soon arrive.

Halloween, Demons, and Political Kool Aid


It's October 31, and here in the U.S., that means it's Halloween. For most of us who live in a post-superstition world governed by rational thought, Halloween is a festive time, when young (and not so young) kids can get into costume, go trick or treating for candy from the neighbors, and generally have a lot of fun. For those who live in a less scientific, less logical place in their minds, Halloween is a dark and truly scary time; so much so that a surprisingly vocal part of our society has called for the abolition of this national custom. I've written about that previously, in a post entitled Angels, Demons, and Charter Schools.

There's an article in today's edition of the UK newspaper Independent that highlights a recent survey conducted in Florida by Public Policy Polling. Among other interesting points, the poll finds that "40 per cent of Donald Trump's supporters believe his White House rival Hillary Clinton is an "actual demon". "  Not a figurative demon, but an "actual" one. So, let that sink in, and while you're at it, try to remember that we're living in the 21st century. It seems that a whole lot of people have been drinking from the vat of toxic political Kool Aid.

On one level, it's amusing to think that there are so many people in our country that continue to have lives that are controlled by superstition and dread. I mean, most of us pay good money to go to a theater so we can spend a couple hours being immersed in, and being thrilled by, a filmmaker's imaginary world full of dark and sinister forces. These people, on the other hand, live in those dark spaces 24 hours a day, and they don't even have to pay for that experience.

Another entertaining question in that same poll finds that 75% of Republican voters believed that their nominee "respected women, with only nine per cent disagreeing with the idea".

But getting back to reality, if that's possible here, it's more than a little disheartening that so much of our national discourse, not to mention the important decisions affecting the future of our country and the rest of the world, is being influenced and sometimes controlled by a not inconsiderable portion of the population who believe in the existence of demons, whether or not they think those creatures are running for public office.

Remember, the election is only eight days away. Happy Halloween, and may all your nightmares be good ones!


Happy Pumpkin Day


While loading stuff into the car before going to rehearsal yesterday, I walked out to see one ray of sun, filtered between the branches of the big fir across the street, spotlighting onto the front porch. Whoa. Grabbed the camera quick, and took this shot; almost immediately, the sun was gone.

Maybe it's just a coincidence that I'd spent much of the afternoon making pumpkin pies:


Okay, maybe my pies aren't going to win any prizes for being pretty. Kind of like caveman pies. But they sure do taste pretty good. Especially with freshly whipped heavy cream, lightly sweetened, with a touch of vanilla.

It's definitely autumn here in western Oregon. I just now got in from a couple hours of raking leaves from the oaks, maples, and sweet gums around the house. Time to have a piece of pie with a cup of tea - warm food for a cool day.

Happy Pumpkin Day!


Portland Japanese Garden with a $30 Pocket Camera


At the Portland Japanese Garden yesterday, one of the docents called it "a peak day for the Garden", and she was right. After a couple weeks of rain, the sun came out for most of the day, the light was almost other-worldly for this time of year, and the maples were in full color. A great day for taking photos.

There were a lot of professionals and semi-pros wandering around with their portable studio kits - multiple giant SLR bodies and lenses and tripods jammed into huge armored back packs; ordinary civilians with humongous handheld entertainment devices ("phones"), often stuck onto hard to avoid bumping into selfie-sticks; a few younger photography enthusiasts with compact SLRs hanging from their necks; but hardly any pocket cameras, a category of digital device that seems to be going the way of the dinosaur. Yes, most newer phones are capable of taking stunning and detailed monitor-friendly images, so it's no wonder that small digital cameras are redundant for most people.


My Canon PowerShot 790 IS Digital Elph, which is an oversized name for such a little device, was probably the only older silver bodied camera in all of Portland yesterday. Bought in almost new condition for $30, this old Canon still takes decent images, even after much abuse at my hands. Essentially a disposable camera, if it dropped onto a stone, or fell into a koi pond, I would shed no tears for its passing. Small, lightweight, and able to take good enough photos for an easy to please guy like me, I'm always happy to have it stuck in a pocket when the day calls for a lot of hiking around.



All photos taken with a Canon Elph 790IS, no photoshopping. Click or tap on any picture for a larger, higher def image.