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darrenking
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01/09/2020 3:49 pm  

I'm having my own personal Newport Folk Festival moment, bought about by walking past a lump of 40mm thick Khaya every day for the last 4 months! Time to go electric! 

I found a plank of Claro walnut that I have owned for 25 years and sliced it down the middle to give me a lovely book matched capping for the Khaya and have stuck them together. The shape is based on, go on guess, yes, the outline of the Maccaferri guitars which have become a bit on an obsession I have to admit. I think it actually looks pretty good and, despite having been scaled and squashed slightly, it is still recognisable. Plenty of opportunity to upset purists in the Gypsy Jazz world with this one! There are a few cracks and defects to be filled but the worst will be machined out for the neck pick up so I'm not too concerned at this stage. The first image is of the walnut wetted to shown the grain.

 Now this is where I become totally out of my depth and I appeal to my electric brethren for advice and guidance. I already have a Mexican Tele, which I love to bits, so I would like this guitar to sound, or have the ability to sound, different. I have got to have one of the the 6 position Freeway switches (thanks for the tip Bill) and I want to have two pickups. The question is which ones? I saw John L's (I think it was John) recommendation for Iron Gear but I am open to suggestions. I guess that I would probably want some thing capable of sounding a bit jazzy rather than heavy rock but other than that I have no idea where to start. Help please!

IMG 1490
IMG 1498

 


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tv1
 tv1
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01/09/2020 6:07 pm  

I already have a Mexican Tele, which I love to bits, so I would like this guitar to sound, or have the ability to sound, different. I have got to have one of the the 6 position Freeway switches (thanks for the tip Bill) and I want to have two pickups. The question is which ones?

To my mind - and my ears - there's a lot of snake oil associated with pickups.

You can buy perfectly decent pickups from ~£30/unit, or you can spend £300/unit. 

The latter, naturally, have been wound on the thighs of virgin mermaids, using the original pickup winder that was found (in a skip outside) the first Gibson [insert brand of your choice] factory, to a recipie that was known only to the original winder (or the person who found it on Google), and these pickups are only available if you're happy to send your money, in cash, to a PO Box and wait 3 years.

Iron Gear are great value for money, and they have a range of different units from lower output (jazzy) through to all out metal.

Then you get into the mainsteam brands - Seymour Duncan, Dimarzio, et al - but remember that 20% of the purchase price goes on the materials, 40% goes on Corporate overheads and 40% on branding, endorsements, etc.  Cost ~£50-£100/unit.

UK Boutique-y producers include Oil City (tends to be rocky-focused), Mojo, Bulldog, Creamery (and more besides - but I have positive personal experience of all of those).  Less money spent on the Corporate overheads, but more cost of production (UK, handwound rather than Chinese production line).  Expect ~£100/unit.

Bareknuckle Pickups are now pricier still, but they do have a cheaper "Bootcamp" range.  They're good, but could I really tell them apart in a blind test (no, I couldn't).

After strings, pickups are probably the easier part of a guitar to change.  OK, after strings and knobs.  

I'd suggest taking a look at the Iron Gear site, see if there's anything there that you think would do the job, and buy them.  Fit them, and try them out.  If you don't like them, you've not wasted a whole lot, and you'll have a better idea of what you didn't like and therefore what you really do want.

Though, tbh, if you want jazzy because you'll be playing jazz, it doesn't really matter which pickups you use or what they sound like ...

 

 

 

 

... no-one will be listening

?

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tv1
 tv1
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01/09/2020 6:10 pm  

PS

If you're planning on using the Freeway switch, make sure you get 4-wire HBs.  That way you can wire the different tap/phase options.  If you get standard 2-wire pickups, most of the freeway positions won't be used!

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Boo
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01/09/2020 9:45 pm  

I would try the Iron Gear Alchemist single coil P90 in humbucker format for the neck pickup and put a standard Rolling Mill in the bridge (not the overwound version). 
It probably was me that has mentioned Iron Gear before, I’m always telling people to try them. I think they are excellent for the price and are on par with a lot of higher priced pickups (in my opinion). I’ve just bought a new set for a heavy metal guitar I’m building and these are hot, too hot for what you need @darrenking. ????? Seriously though Darren, at just over £30 each, you won’t be disappointed. 

They are both available with chrome or gold covers, beautiful. 

Alchemist - http://www.irongear.co.uk/irongear_pickups_004.htm

Rolling Mill - http://www.irongear.co.uk/irongear_pickups_011.htm

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Boo
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01/09/2020 9:49 pm  

These are my new Iron Gear Metal Machine humbuckers ??????????????

43226072 3DD9 41F7 A837 35990D555B97
61783DDC ACDB 4AD2 8A16 AFC5BE6DEF4F

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tv1
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01/09/2020 9:53 pm  

I’m always telling people to try them. I think they are excellent for the price

Yup.  I used them on my first 2 BYOG builds, swapped out the stock pickups on various guitars in favour of Iron Gears, and recently bought another set to put into my latest build.

?

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Boo
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01/09/2020 10:01 pm  

I also have a couple of Hot Slags, always a good moment! ??????????????????? 

These can also clean up nicely when the guitar volume is reduced but still maybe too hot for Jazz. 

52AC562A 087D 4949 B054 F14685A0B38E

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Boo
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01/09/2020 10:15 pm  

@darrenking I forgot to reply to you when you told me about your experience at that business convention. I can’t stand the way some people are, why they have to be that rude and bad mannered is just beyond me. There is absolutely not need for that, what a bunch of ignorant snobs (now I’m being rude). It makes me want to use alternative materials even more now! I think we should all put our heads together, innovate, build and tour the national convention circuit. Stick it to ‘em! ?????

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Bill Flude
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01/09/2020 11:29 pm  

Lots of options - pickups in series is an option - my Tele has two single coil pickups and a 4 position switch  - the fourth position gives both pickups in series and in phase - very different than the normal both pickups in parallel sound - louder and fuller.  

Also like the series out of phase position on my Firebird.

 

Measure once........
Measure again.........
Sod it - make tea!


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darrenking
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02/09/2020 6:11 pm  

Iron Gear Alchemist and Rolling Mill it is then, thanks John. (are you sending me that drawing by the way?)

On reflection, I am going for a three way toggle for this one to keep the wiring simple and maybe the next twin humbucker build can get the freeway switch. Lots of electrics diagrams to compare at some point.

I did the initial machining of the main body shape last night on the router. First I cut a mask for the vacuum bed the size of the blank as this helps prevent anything moving on the vacuum table. The first rough cut was done with a three flute 12mm up cut spiral hogging cutter (the big serrated edge thing) which cut +1.5mm from the final outline in 12mm deep steps followed by a two flute down cut spiral 12.7mm cutter which trimmed to the exact finished shape in a single pass. This helps reduce the appearance of circumferential machining lines and and saves on sanding time later. This cut went within 1.5mm of the machine bed so the guitar was left attached to the waste and was removed using a small bearing guided cutter in the cordless Makita router, (cracking bit of kit BTW, more powerful that you might think for a cordless tool), and then the edge was sanded a bit just to make it look nice.

Once the hardware has arrived I can machine all the other openings and after that put a small round over on the front a bit of a lock-down-belly cut away on the back.

Not sure about the neck/fretboard. I'm tempted to use either khaya for the neck, to match the main body, or walnut to (kind of) match the capping. I don't have any pretty, light coloured wood that I could use for a fretboard, and there is so much going on with that walnut capping, that I think just plain ebony will keep it looking classy. The last thing I want is for it to end up looking the kind of cheap guitar you might find hanging around outside some sleazy jazz club in the wrong end of Soho!! (eh! TV101010101!) ? Actually, I'm not sure that there is a wrong end of Soho these days!

IMG 1504
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Boo
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02/09/2020 8:16 pm  

Wow! Nice routing and fantastic router bits. Yes I will send the drawing Darren as soon as I get a chance. It’s been a bit mad here last few days, my mother-in-law died a couple of weeks ago and we had the funeral yesterday. I’ll see if I can get it in the post to you tomorrow maybe. 

The woods you have for this build look really nice, love em! I thought you would have routed the pickup and control cavities before routing the body shape, it’s a lot easier but I’m sure you have the technology.

 

I’m looking forward to seeing you progress with this build and it’s a nice choice of pickups! “Nice!” (Louis Balfour, Presenter of Jazz Club, The Fast Show) ? 

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Deej
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02/09/2020 10:04 pm  

I’ve used iron gear on a few builds, always great performers...hot slag in the superstrat but I’ve found the Rolling mill and blues engines the best. I have mixed the rolling mill and blues engine with the RM extra wound in the bridge the BE in the neck and I get a great mix of tones.

 

it will be interesting to hear how the Alchemist and Rolling Mill goes.

I have too many guitars...said no one in the world..ever!


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darrenking
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03/09/2020 12:02 am  

@johnnierox-boo Hi John, sorry to hear that. No rush for the drawing, just whenever you get a chance.

The walnut capping was a veneer log core which was about 9” in diameter. I bought a bunch of them over 20 years ago at about 100% saturation (you could almost wring them out!) and they then sat on my patio in Borehamwood for 8 years before being moved to my Letchworth workshop. It’s funny, although she never said anything, after they’d gone I think my wife really missed being able to look at them when she was in the garden!! The khaya was from Sykes Timber in the Midlands. I have nothing but good things to say about these guys and, in an age when it is increasingly difficult to select timber yourself due to H&S, they bent over backwards to ensure I got what I needed. They didn’t even mind me firing up my chainsaw in their car park to make it fit in the back of the car!

For sure, if I was routing by hand, I would have kept the body blank untrimmed until I’d finished the cavities but on the CNC (cheating, I know!) it’s not such a big deal. When I do come to rout the cavities (pick ups et al due to arrive by the weekend) I’ll machine out another vacuum bed mask from 3mm melamine faced MDF for the outer shape and this then keeps the body held firmly in place and also registers everything. Normally with any part being machined on both sides I would leave the perimeter untrimmed when machining the first side and have the final trim cut out as the last path in the machining program for the second side. Depending on how big the component is I can either cut all the way through, leave small tabs to hold it in place, or leave it attached all the way around with a thin layer that can be cleared with a small hand router after it comes off the CNC, as I did in this case.

Besides, I like to do some things in stages so that I can get to pick up the pieces and look at them as I go along as it can help shape decisions for the next phase of construction.

More pics to follow shortly


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tv1
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03/09/2020 8:15 am  

It's pretty impressive what can be done with the right kit - and the knowledge to be able to use the kit correctly!

I have kit envy @darrenking!

 

hanging around outside some sleazy jazz club in the wrong end of Soho!! (eh! TV101010101!)

?

Last time I was in Soho, it was quite disappointing.  All cleaned up and tidied away - coffee shops, sandwich shops, take-out lunch shops, chain restaurants, trendy new offices

... not like back in the 70s when I first wandered around the area, wondering what the hell was behind all those blacked out windows and nondescript doors with "ladies" stood outside ... ahhhh ... youth!

 

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Boo
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03/09/2020 9:17 am  

@darrenking That is some pretty nifty kit you have Darren, I also have kit envy like @TV1010101 

I’ll give Sykes Timber a look too. Thanks. 

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darrenking
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03/09/2020 11:58 am  

One of the things I want to offer, and I think this would work quite well if Mark can supply the body (or neck) blanks, is to offer a bespoke machining service to guitar makers. This could be just be for sets of MDF or perspex templates from your own drawings, as I am discussing with John, or it could be to machine a full body with all the cavities and drillings. I have seen a few members contemplating taking their guitar making at least semi-professional and I think that being able to have their own body designs CNC machined (to be finished by hand) could be an interesting option. I understand that the sweat, dust and noise is part of the fun for many of us but, in my experience (not necessarily in guitar making), unless you have an established name, or brand, it is difficult to find customers willing to pay for the 'toil' element of a build much over and above the cost of a high quality factory produced item.

Thoughts?


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tv1
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03/09/2020 12:23 pm  

I think you'd find quite a market in the UK for someone able to provide decent quality and accurate templates.

Not just for bodies/necks but for all the ancilliary templates too - pickup cavities, control cavities & covers, neck pockets, headstocks, et al.

Sure, we can make them ourselves, but sometimes guitar-making seems to involve almost as much time in making templates and jigs as it does in actually making the guitar.  I'd rather spend more time using the templates to make the guitars than making the templates!  Having an opportunity to buy some of those bits, and not from StewMac with all the associated costs, could be an attractive option.

On the body designs, guess there'll be a time/cost consideration for you.  I imagine that running off another set of LP (etc) templates would be quite straightforward and not too costly.  But setting up to create a one-off design for a hobby builder might be a more expensive proposition?

Count me interested.

And in the boxes too!

?

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darrenking
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03/09/2020 1:28 pm  

It very much depends on the format that people can supply the drawings. If I can get enough people using Graphics (at about £20 per license - astonishing value!) then there is relatively little programming that I need to do to that before I can actually load it on the router and machine it. If I'm sent a hand drawn paper plan then there is clearly more involved but not ridiculous. It's smoothing our lumps and bumps that actually takes the time. Onscreen it is quite easy to see where the is an uncomfortable transition between arcs and deciding which part needs adjustment is the trick.

I can also print full sized paper drawings at up to 600mm wide ???mm so this could also be offered as an option.


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Robin
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03/09/2020 8:37 pm  

@darrenking  I'd be interested in a full size paper print. Iv'e been drawing my next guitar using SolidWorks, but I only have an A4 printer. Can you work from a dxf file, or what would be best for you.


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darrenking
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03/09/2020 9:42 pm  

Hi Robin,

you should be able to  NCG export from Solid Works as a pdf, which is ideal. Just put a 1000mm x 100 mm rectangle on the plan somewhere so that I can check that nothing has been scaled oddly in translation. You should be able to PM me with an attachment. Give it a go and I’ll let you know if it has everything I need.

Cheers

Darren

darren


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