An End User Manifesto

Yes, I’ve been away for a while. I have been happily playing with the cute little blonde beauty. She has a Korg PX5D and an Epiphone Valve Junior Combo Amp to play with. Boy she sure sounds great.

The new toy around the household came about when we noticed that our phones were due for upgrades. My wife has a BlackJack II and I had a Propel Pro which was an insurance replacement for my broken BJ-II.

The Propel Pro had WiFi capabilities and I used it to the max. But I didn’t have to because I was grandfathered into my service provider’s old “All You Can Eat” data plan. My wife is on a lesser plan and she keeps tabs on her usage.

Anyway when it was time to upgrade the phones we did a lot of looking around. The choices are pretty much the following. Stay with the good ol’ Windows Mobile platform and upgrade from Windows Mobile 6.x to 7. This would include both phones having touch and WiFi capabilities. Woo Hoo!

Another joy would be to leave behind such a proprietary architecture that Samsung has with their own special connector that they’ve tried to squeeze too many functions into. I am greatly please that the new standard is some form of generic USB for power and data and a standard 3.5 mm jack for audio. Phew it sure took the industry a long time to get here.

Well it turns out that Windows Mobile 7 has turned it’s back on the Red Herring Active Sync. Well all I can say is that I had been using Active Sync since my HTC Star-100 Windows phone up to my Propel Pro with 2 BJ-IIs in between and never had a problem with either wired or Bluetooth syncing. It worked well for us.

Now the new Windows Mobile version 7 has no direct syncing except for multimedia via the Zune Desktop Application. That leaves our two copies of Outlook 2003 out cold and dry and all of the contact info contained in there. What to do? After searching through the Windows Mobile forums, it turns out that a new Windows Mobile 7 user must activate a Windows Live account and then upload all of their Outlook info to some far, far away and distant cloud server operated at O-dark thirty by someone who was never born or raised in this country and they have access to all of that information without you ever knowing otherwise.

Yes, I’ve heard that corporations such as Microsoft and Apple and Google are notably trustworthy corporations and they would never…blah, blah, blah. That’s just like over a quarter million Veterans records that were compromised by someone who has been in the security business over 200 years, the good ol’ US of A and the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Hey you got a bridge that doesn’t cross a river you want to sell me as well? Maybe I’m in that market as well.

Excuse me but hasn’t anyone read the news? Cloud computing is 1000’s time more risky than your own PC locked away behind your own front door managed by someone you know pretty darn well, YOU.

So I don’t get it. Just because Microsoft has finally come out with a phone with enough eye candy to woo some iPhone users away that that is enough reason to trust them with all the info I have about all of my family and friends tucked away in Outlook!

Then first there was the iPhone.

Yes with an iPhone you have to have an iTunes account but you do not have to send your precious data to Apples servers if you don’t want to. And as far as iTunes goes, if you compare it on an Apple Mac and a well equipped Windows PC it still works better on the Mac. As far as I can tell Apple apps belong on Apples and Windows apps belong on Windows machines.

But you can never pull the battery on an iPhone when it freezes or locks up. Yes you can hope that plugging it in to the USB cable will force it to come back to reality but that doesn’t always work. And there is no keyboard. Virtual keyboards require two hands and are prone to lots of fat finger mistakes in an order of multitudes greater than a real keyboard.

And yes I’m just as seduced by all the touchy feely warm fuzzies as the next person.

The final choice is to bow down and serve the great beast of Google-Android and continually pay homage to the double standard of them telling the world to not be evil while they find ways to profit off of every move you make on the Internet by selling that information to the highest bidder. Hmmm isn’t that the definition of Phishing? Go figure.

I say, if it is presented as cute and cuddly then beware. The little Android bot is not so innocent as he looks. Behind that cute little green skin lurks one of the most sinister marketing demons that the world has ever known. OK maybe that is a little harsh when you take Mark Z. from Facebook into the mix. I do happen to know Android users who do not use Gmail other than to authenticate their phone on the Android App Store.

Anyway you have it you are in bed with a devil, whether Microsoft, Apple or Google. We had almost given up hope. Maybe we would get the Ipaq Glisten which has most of the other industry standards except it was still a clunky version of Windows Mobile 6.x. But at least it was semi touch, full WiFi and had standard jacks. Yeah still a clunky phone at best.

What to do and where to go?

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Helpful and intersting links related to this Blog…

The Carvin Website

http://www.carvinguitars.com/

The Tone Wood and Color guide

http://www.carvinguitars.com/colorwoodguide/

The Bolt Plus page

http://www.carvinguitars.com/catalog/guitars/index.php?model=boltplus

The Kit page

http://www.carvinguitars.com/kits/

The Bolt Plus Kit page

http://www.carvinguitars.com/catalog/guitars/index.php?model=gk1p

NOTE:  I chose Swamp Ash over Alder because the Swamp Ash has a more dramatic grain and that is the only reason.  I have met a and visited with a custome wood door carver who specializes and absolutely loves Alder.  I looked real closely at his finish results and went with the Swamp Ash because the grain of the Alder is so tight and fine.

The Carvin Channel

http://www.carvinchannel.com

The Factory Tour video

http://www.carvinchannel.com/play.php?vid=111

Making the CT6 video

http://www.carvinchannel.com/play.php?vid=107

Formby’s Tongue Oil Finish

http://www.formbys.com/products/tung_oil.cfm

MinWax Tongue Oil Finish

http://www.minwax.com/products/specialty_products/tung_oil_finish.html

3M Sanding and abrasivee pads

http://solutions.3m.com/wps/portal/3M/en_US/Manufacturing/Industry/Product-Catalog/Online-Catalog/?PC_7_RJH9U5230GE3E02LECFTDQGLE0_nid=QB5P4TK607beSQSFJR0R56gl

Water Slide Decal Paper for Inkjet Printers

http://www.decalpaper.com/product-p/tryc.htm

Sperzel Guitar Machine Head Tuners

http://www.sperzel.com/Models_Colors.asp

NOTE: When you search for Gotoh Guitar Hardware you get a lot of other supplier sites, for the most part they are all good.  Which is to say that Carvin isn’t the end of guitar kit making, they are just my choice.  The real goal is to have fun, learn something, and enjoy the results.  I hope you do too.

Elixir Guitar Strings

http://www.elixirstrings.com/products/product_electric.html

Searching the net for what I have done to my guitar produces a lot of unrelated results and nothing like what I did.  Having said that I hope that my posts will start something and the process and techniques will be improved to provide a greater range of results and a
better quality of finish.  Please let me know if any of you are trying this finish technique and let me know how it came out.  I am really interested in improvements and changes.

Thank you.  -Zil

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Meeting the Mail Order Bride

Upon opening the box I found a piece of wood that looked like an unmixed can of wood tone paints, kind of like it was partially stirred.  At first I wasn’t sure I liked the grain but it eventually grew on me.  My original intentions involved a straight grained piece where I was going to use a wire brush to relieve some of the softer grain material to cause the grain to stand out in relief.  I had even gone to the local home improvement store to find a piece of Ash to experiment with.  Of course silly me expected one of those big Blue and White or Orange home improvement stores to carry something as domestic as Ash.  Boy was I wrong.  Not only do they not carry Ash they only carry what you would use in your back yard or bathroom and nothing else.  I ended up going to a privately owned lumber company that specialized in exotic plywoods and hardwoods.

The contents also included a Hard Rock Maple neck with an Ebony fret board and medium frets.  There were also the pickups, controls, and hard tail bridge from Gotoh and the metal inserts for through the body stringing and the Sperzel Locking tuners.  All of the parts each showed high quality and craftsmanship.  This is definitely not a low end guitar kit.

The Goodies

Both the body and neck are precision CNC milled from solid stock with no gluing or joining of multiple pieces.  The neck pocket is straight and even, the control cavity is huge and spacious enough to add any aftermarket controls or electronics I might like to install.  I understand that the fretboard is precisions ground in a wet grinding process to a ± .003” tolerance.

While waiting for the kit to arrive I had bought a 6” X 12” piece of ash to take home and experiment with.  I also bought a pint of Formby’s Tongue Oil finish and some varying grits of 3M nylon abrasive pads.  I had already bought two different coarseness wire brushes.  The grains of this sample of Ash were straight and parallel and when I brushed the surface and end grain I got the results that I had anticipated, a piece of driftwood with a fresh finish.  I sanded it and then applied 4 coats of Formby’s on it and thought this would make a killer guitar finish.  I wanted the guitar to be something that you wanted to hold and caress as well as play.

When I saw the grain of the body of my new guitar kit I saw no parallel grain.  I had to step back and rethink my plans.  I still wanted to use a tongue oil finish because it is a more natural display of the wood.  But I wasn’t sure about wire brushing this thing.  The more I looked at the grain and compared it to my sample piece I could see that the cell structure looked the same and that there would be softer fibers that the brush would remove leaving the harder fibers.  I elected to proceed with the brush.

The front of the raw neck and body

On my sample I used a 4” medium coarse brush to get the cutting started and finished with a 3” fine brush which came out pretty well needing only a light amount of sanding.  When I started with the coarse brush on the back of the guitar body I was horrified!  It looked like a bear had gotten a hold of it and mauled it to death, YUCK!  Even the fine brush caused deep gouges.

The Sample of Cabinet Grade Ash

I dropped back to only the fine brush and used it to trace the pattern of the grain.  But I saw that I had a lot of sanding to do to get the gouges smoothed out.

The tools of destruction

While shopping for a small shop vacuum for my boss at Sears I found a 3” abrasive flap wheel with a fine grit emery cloth.  I got it to speed up the sanding process and this wheel actually rescued me from the terrible gouges the wire wheel had left.  Later I found out that the Ash that is used for cabinet making (the sample I had gotten) is actually a land grown tree or the part of the Swamp Ash tree that grows above the waterline.  The guitar body I had ordered is the part of the aquatic form of the tree that grows below the waterline and is more porous and softer than the cabinet grade wood.  Duh!  No wonder the wire brush was so much more aggressive on the guitar body than the sample piece.

Applying a little elbow grease to the finish

Well since I only got to work on it during the weekends, it took 4 weekends to get the sanding process to where the surface was silky smooth and desirable to touch.  I used a white or fine 3M Scotchbrite pad in between coats of Formby’s to keep that velvety smooth touch after drying.  I used the same pad on the Hard Rock Maple neck as well.  When both the neck and body were finished they both had a surface that begged to be touched and caressed.

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So back to ordering the first love…I think

So back to ordering the first love…I think.  I went onto the Carvin website and…well actually you might accuse me of living on the Carvin website.  When you pick a model there is a “Build this guitar” link near the right side that opens up an interactive pop-up.  From here you actually go into choosing all of the options that are available for that particular model.  If you get confused there isn’t a quick get out of the mire button.  If you close the popup it will remember how far you went.  I usually just click through to the finish then hit the empty button before closing the pop-up guitar builder.  Before you go off into actually building your guitar you might want to check out the other links that tell you about tone woods and colors.  If you go into the guitar parts area there is a neck builder that goes through the same option choices that are available for any type of neck.

One point of note: I want to ring Carvin’s bell on is that there is no upgrade price or extra cost for a left handed model.  I think that would be a deal breaker for any of the other outfits that offer custom built guitars.  Most of the others want to make you pay with your left arm just to have a left handed model.  The same goes for fretless bass necks as well.  At Carvin, no charge, every where else you have to start offering choice body parts to have it you way.

Ok so I have to admit I think I have been to the builder pop-up for every model and have chosen and re-chosen just about every option available on the Carvin site.  Yep I’ve had a blast spending lots of Internet time there.  I will also admit that I have been in the picture gallery of ever model as well, ya just can’t ever get enough material to drool over.  And yes the Carvin Channel site has a place where customers are allowed to post pictures of their own precious works of musical wooden art.

So I bailed on ordering through the website and opted to speak to a real person instead.  To Carvin’s credit when you call their 800 number you get a real Carvin employee working right there at Carvin in San Diego, California.  The person I got was a pretty cool dude that seemed to know his stuff.  The order taker at Carvin will actually uses the exact same website and use the same pop-up guitar builder that you use.  We talked about a lot of options and I told him that I didn’t want the Strat version with the Wilkinson tremolo because first the guitar doesn’t come with a nut clamp or locking tuners and either is an upgrade option that you pay more for and a trem without some way of securing the strings just doesn’t make sense.  And second, I want to experiment with different tuning schemes and going through a trem setup with every tuning change will make you forget why you wanted to tune to something different.  So I told the guy I didn’t want a Bolt-T (the Strat style with the Wilkinson) and that I wanted a Bolt-P (a Paul style that comes with Sperzel locking tuners for the same price as the Bolt-T) with dual humbuckers.  I did want to pay the upgrade to change the body wood from Alder to Swam Ash.  I also ordered a hat and a strap as well.

That was in May.  At that time the website was advising a delivery time of 6 to 8 weeks.  You see, Carvin doesn’t always have a bazillion guitars in the production process.  They only build what is ordered.  Actually they only process 20 to 40 guitars at any given time.  They are a small company with the bosses closely involved with the production process.  In fact one of the brothers just might be the one building your guitar.  Anyway I got an email order confirmation from the dude I had talked to and promptly filed it in a separate email folder and joyously and anxiously awaited for my second lover that is second after my wife, to arrive via the big brown truck.

I even took all of the waypoints from the big brown truck tracking website and pasted them into a mapping program so that I could watch her progress from San Diego to our home.

After about 7 weeks I emailed the dude and asked what was up and he said that production was being pushed out to 8 or 10 weeks.  So, OK, I’ve got to cool my jets for a couple more weeks.  OUCH!  Waiting is painful.  I was obsessed with getting and building my own guitar.  I fondled and wore out the couple of catalogs I still had laying around the house and spent all of my waking hours on the website.  The stress of waiting was making me crazy.  Then the BIG DAY arrived, and so did the big brown truck with a wonderful box with the Carvin logo on it!  Yippee, she has arrived, my mail order concubine has finally come home.

I lovingly gave the big brown truck driver my autograph and scurried up to our apartment and carefully and gently lay her package on the couch.  I get an appropriate utility knife and skillfully open her box.  I scan the invoice to see that it looks just like a photo copy of the email and see that there are three boxes inside.  One is long and skinny and must be the neck.  I open that one first, and the neck is gorgeous you might even say the feel of it is luscious.  If this is “rough sanding” I would love and die to see what their finish sanding is like.

Then there are two remaining boxes one for the body and the other for all of the goodies that you assemble her with to make take her from a couple of pieces of wood into a wonderful collection of musical art.  I open the larger of the two boxes which is the body and what do I find?  In it is a Strat type of body with three pickup cavities routed in it and a fourth cavity for a tremolo.  Oh no!  How can this be?  I open up the remaining box and find a fully assembled and wired plastic pick guard with three single coil pickups and a Wilkinson tremolo with all of its associated hardware.  Now don’t get me wrong this stuff is choice high quality stuff and the Swam Ash body is wonderful, but it’s a, well you know, it’s a Strat with a whammy bar.

I’m sure that some of you would kill for a setup like that, and maybe someday I would too.  But, I only have one income tax return to spend and this just isn’t what I thought I ordered.  So I promptly fire up the email and open the special folder and then click on the order confirmation message and yep, it specifies the Strat version Swamp Ash body routed out for a Wilkinson tremolo.  Oh what to do?  Do I say, OK fate has it that I’m a Strat player and forget the odd tuning thing?  Or do I attempt to chill all of the emotion and passion and call the dude up to say that this is the wrong thing?  And I failed to mention that Carvin was putting on a Kit Contest where current kit builders were to enter their final product for a reward of a $500 Carvin gift certificate and that I had designs for entering that contest.  So that sending this one back and having it replaced with the right one would completely blow me out of the competition by missing the closing date of the contest.  What to do?  Will I truly be happy with the wrong mistress lying, er standing next to my bed?

Now I must advise you that my wife is totally on-board with this wooden mistress idea.  She loves the idea of watching me fondle and massage a rough piece of wood into a beautiful dame and then even intimately running my fingers all over her as we make sweet and beautiful music together because she, that is my wife, knows just how long I have pined and longed for such a lover as this.

So my wife advises me that it is my money, my guitar and my choice that I have to live with.  So, no, I will send her back and forsake the contest for the sake of having what I have laid awake at night longing for; a beautiful piece of wood not covered by a piece of plastic so all of the richness of her grain may be viewed and handled.  Now this is the end of June and I am without; without my wood, without my love, without my guitar and without my tunes on her.

So the next day I call the dude and explain that this is the wrong woman.  He fully understands my dilemma and advises that once the wrong hussy and imposter is returned and received that he then can proceed to process the order for the right beautiful girl to be promptly produced and shipped and that I must foot the bill for returning her.  So I carefully re-package her, for I had never opened any of the inner smaller packages and promptly went off to the local big brown truck store to send her on her way.

Now all of this sounds simple enough, for Carvin is such a small company and the amount of returns that they actually get is so small that they don’t issue return authorization numbers.  But it got real complicated real fast.  First off I, again, followed this false woman on the big brown tracking site and once she was signed for at Carvin I called the dude to verify that they had gotten her fully intact.  Well dude didn’t know who Larry was who had signed for her and that I needed to wait a couple of days for the return process to complete.  So two days later I call dude and he’s gone on vacation!  What!?!  I get a supervisor who says that he’ll look into to my situation.  The next week dude calls and asks me what’s up.  I tell him that I was wondering about getting my correct guitar kit sent off.  He sez that they can’t proceed with production until the receipt is confirmed and inventoried as complete.  I say, hey I never opened the hardware and that someone named Larry had signed for it and ain’t that good enough.  He sez he’ll look into it.

Hey, I already looked into it and it ain’t the right one and furthermore Larry has looked into it and said yep it’s there.  How many more people need to look into the damn box and say yep it’s there?

Well enough of all of that, 8-1/2 weeks later the right Carvin Bolt-Plus with a Swamp Ash body and Sperzel locking tuners arrives.  Phew what a relief!  I don’t even think the big brown truck driver knows or cares about all of the drama that has occurred in the past few months.

This is all the stuff inside

More pictures are available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/55276025@N04/sets/72157625269743134/

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Ordering the first love.

When we found out that we had a huge, that is huge for us, income tax return, we decided to take care of some pressing needs first then if there was anything left over we would order a Carvin Guitar Kit and build a guitar. From the time the tax check came to the time that I actually placed the order was about 2 months. Then I waited a couple of weeks just to make sure that everything else that needed cash had settled down and there was still enough to order the kit. The waiting to be able to order the kit was quit painful, or so I thought. This was a gloomy foreboding of the agony that was to follow.

But first I will digress…first I want to pay homage to all of the Fender Stratocastor guitarists that had made the Strat what it is today, my hat is off to you and I love your sound and music. Having said that the first time I had my hands on a Gibson Les Paul to change out the PAFs with DeMarzio’s I got a first hand glimpse of the difference in how the pickups are mounted compared to the Strat.

When you take a guitar pick and tap the pick guard on a Strat somewhere near a pickup you get a characteristic plastic sound. Well, duh! The pickups are mounted to the plastic pick guard. When you do the same thing on a Les Paul you get a tone, actually you get what ever strings happen to resonate at the frequency of the strike of the pick as you tap the guitar body near a pickup. And that is because on a Les Paul the pickups are mounted directly to the wood of the guitar body…hmmm. The Paul is actually more faithful to the original design of an acoustic guitar or violin or piano than that of a Strat. The Paul is, by design, actually more musical. But oh yes it will never have that Strat punch…

Ok, ok like I said previously I really dig the stuff from all of the Strat Monsters that are out there, but we’re talking the theory of construction here OK? And yes, there is no way a dual coil humbucker will ever have the edge that the singles have. And a single will never have the subtle finesse of a dual coil….blah, blah, blah but the conversation is fun to pursue.

So let’s get off track a little more… and talk about switches. The original Les Paul has a three way switch. You get neck, both, bridge for output. Pretty simple huh? Then someone gets smart and uses the same switch to do Neck, dual-split, bridge which creates a phantom center pickup. The original Strat had a three way of neck, center, and bridge. But someone else got even smarter and put in a 5-way that does neck, neck-center humbucker, center, center-bridge humbucker, bridge. Well you sort of get a humbucker effect out of a Strat but hey, there is a million miles of distance between the pickups and the distance looses the subtle nuances of a real Patent Applied For dual coil pickup.

Now the plot thickens…someone else got really, really smart and put a 5-way switch on a dual humbucker guitar and got the best of both worlds (strictly my own opinion here.) On a dual humbucker guitar with a 5-way switch you get: Neck-dual, Single-Neck, Neck-Bridge Split Phantom, Single-Bridge and finally Bridge-dual. Woohoo!

And oh yes, someone got over zealous and put a single between two humbuckers with a 7-way, blah, blah, blah…well I think that Steve Vai does pretty good with this arraignment.

Now that that discussion is over with, at least for now we can get back to Carvin. My first love in their catalog is their neck through basses. To see the joinery and craftsmanship is something to behold. These things are works of art. Yes there are a lot of wonderful basses that are of even greater craftsmanship but not at these prices.

First off Fender is KING. Period. But they only opened the door. Gibson did some pretty awesome things when they came out with the R D Artist Series with active pickups and solid metal bridges. I remember one particular mahogany version where my boss (the owner of a music store at the time) had played an open D with the pre drive turned up and laid the bass on the floor playing through an Acoustic Bass amp. We took off for our lunch break and came back and the sustained D was still playing! From there on it was anyone’s game and you can just drool over all of the exotic boutique basses that are currently available.

Carvin did some great things with their DC series guitars with a neck through design offering various body and top overlay woods and multiple wood mixes for the neck. Their claro walnut series in both the bass and guitar are fantastic works of art but so is the price tag.

If you keep looking through their catalog like I did you will find that Carvin also offers a couple of bolt on neck guitar kits and a bass kit as well. When you look at the price tag and figure a couple of weekends of work you can build a Strat or dual humbucker guitar for about $500 and know exactly what the quality of the wood is that is under the paint job that you did. The same goes for a 4 or 5 string passive or active bass as well.

You just won’t be able to find that quality hanging on the wall of any music store or pawn shop for that price any where. And if you did it would be an off shore production line model that you have now idea of the wood that is under the paint at all.

I have to depart from Carvin for a minute to say that there are some pretty fine kits out there for about half that price and if you know your stuff you might just pull off a good looking Strat or Tel or Paul, but the bodies and necks are still from off shore factories. Also Warmoth has some excellent stuff as well but if you compare price for price the exact same guitar they will be $200 to $400 more than Carvin. Hey that’s OK if you can’t stand Carvin for some reasons have at it and please enjoy the fruits of your own labor. All in all, there are guitar kits out there for under $200 to up to an excess of $1000. Carvin comes out in the middle with quality showing in the upper end of the scale.

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It’s all in the wood…

Back in junior high I was in choir and our music teacher spent a lot of time teaching music appreciation and how to know the difference in the sound that different instruments made.  This fueled my curiosity in how sound was made on each instrument and why the sound was different even though the exact same note was being played.

Somewhere along the line our house obtained an old upright piano.  When no one was around I would take all of the removable panels off of it and do the same thing I did with my sisters Stella.  I would place my ear on various surfaces and play a key or pluck a string to hear the sound.

In my later 20’s while married to my first wife I had traded my drum set in for an acoustic guitar.  I ended up with a Takemine copy of a Martin D-35 dreadnaught.  This guitar was magical to me.  When I went to the music store to trade in the drums the store manager showed me the price range that he would allow me to trade directly for.  I went through dozens of models and none of them struck my fancy.  I had been eyeing this particular guitar that had a three piece back and was intrigued by it, and of course it was out of the price range of negotiation.  When I was holding this guitar out in front of me in a horizontal position and was talking to the sales person the guitar began to vibrate and faintly play.  This guitar was talking to me.  It responded to my voice and played back!  I just had to have this guitar.

The salesman went back to the manager and told him that the Takemine was what I wanted.  The manager got his calculator out and did some figuring and finally said that he would deal.  I walked out with the guitar, a hard case, a second set of strings and a string winder at the end of the negotiations.

I only knew a few chords at the time and was very awkward and uncoordinated in making the change from one to the other.  Most of the time I would experiment with finger picking simple melodies and try to learn what fit together musically, at least to my ears.

In my first marriage we got roped into doing the Amway thing and we felt that what I really needed was a tape player for the car so that I could listen to motivational tapes while going to and from work so that I would be more efficient in building our Amway business.  I ended up trading in the Takamine for a tape player.  That was a very sad and stupid thing to do.  It turns out that Takamine had copied the Martin version so well that C.F. Martin sued Takemine and won a court order for both damages and a cease and desist order on that particular model of guitar.  These law suits, in effect, made the Takemine model of the D-35 now a rare and highly collectable guitar.  But since I lost everything in the divorce with my first wife I still would not have ended up with that guitar any way.

Over the next several years I never had much to do with music until my second marriage.  We ended up being part of a worship band at a very contemporary church.  I ended up sharing percussion and drumming duties with another guy and that got me back into music.  I think the most fun I have ever had playing the drums had to be while in the worship band of that church.

I had first heard of Carvin when I was still single in the Navy.  The original church that my family went to had hired John England as a summer youth pastor.  He was the author of a few youth musicals and wanted to start a traveling music ministry with the high school kids.  He had bought a Carvin PA system and while I was home on a weekend from the Navy he had enlisted my skills to build a PA snake.  That was my first contact with Carvin.  That was in the early 1970’s.

A few years later someone I knew had shown me a Carvin catalog and I was immediately hooked.  I wasn’t too sure about the style of the guitars so much but I was impressed with the custom choices and possibilities that they offered.  The images of neck through guitars and basses were so seductive.  They knew how to strike at my love affair with wood.  You see I come by that honestly.  My father was a carpenter, which meant that there were always scraps of wood around to make things with.  And my step grandfather on my mom’s side was a cabinet maker.  His favorites were Ash, Oak, Poplar, Walnut and knotty Pine.

In the Carvin catalog are descriptions of tone and top woods and the characteristics of each species and what made them sound like they did.  I was delighted to have more information into how the sound was made in a guitar and what each species of wood did to contribute to that sound.

I have become a Carvin Fan Boy spending loads of time on their website, their video site called Carvin Channel and their world site called Carvin World.  I have also been on other sites which I’ll give credit to later.  I think the first luthier/guitar manufacture site I had ever been on was Alembic.  Wickersham is a distant cousin and that is another story. 

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Guitar Blogs among other things…

After being around guitars almost 40 years of my life I finally get to have an electric guitar of my own.  This isn’t the first guitar I have had my hands on or even owned, just the first electric guitar.

The first guitar I remember belonged to my sister when I was in junior high school.  She had a Stella guitar with blue steel strings that would corrode or rust at the slightest contact and had to be continually wiped off.  I remember just putting my ear to the body and stroking the open strings to hear every detail of the sound.  I had no idea of how to play the thing let alone hold it.  I was always fascinated with sound and in particular how sound was made by things that made sound like musical instruments and hifi systems.

In high school I had several friends who owned and played guitar and each one fascinated me.  The different styles and methods of construction intrigued me.  I wanted to know not just how they were made but why there were differences.  While in high school I had become involved with several youth groups in various churches and got to see and hear a lot of wonderful guitar playing which also gave me access to touch and play several great acoustic guitars.

In high school I was a drummer/percussionist and had my own Ludwig drum set.  Needless to say, I had a garage band and went through several guitarists and bassists.  I never had a keyboard player which limited the style of music that we played.  Though percussion and specifically tympani had always held my interest and desire, I always had a passion for things with strings on them.

One of my non performing garage bands had a guitarist named Gary Dunn.  Gary came to be my guitarist second after he became my sister’s boyfriend.  Gary had a Martin D-18 that he knew like the back of his hand.  Gary was self taught and didn’t know music literally but knew music by ear.  He could play a record of a group like Crosby, Stills and Nash a few times and know that they had a different tuning on their guitars and could play the exact same guitar licks that they did.  Plus Gary had personality to match.  Between his long wavy light brown hair and his beard he looked much like the Cowardly Lion on the movie The Wizard of Oz.

Somewhere Gary and my sister found a Gibson L series F-hole guitar at a flea market or yard sale that had been spray painted black and sprinkled with glitter to display as a wall hanging.  I think Gary got his dad or mom to spring for the money to buy the guitar.  They brought it to our house because my dad and I had worked on and repaired a few rifle stocks plus I had completely refinished the kitchen cabinets.

Well the ol’ Gibson needed to be stripped of that black paint so Gary and my sister went to the hardware store and got some stripper and they took it to Gary’s house to strip it in his garage.  I think that they made scrapers out of plastic coffee can lids.  They got most of the paint and glitter off and let it set overnight in the garage.  The next day they found that the stripper had caused much of the glue that held the guitar together to let go and now the guitar was a pile of guitar parts.  Gary panicked and brought the guitar to my dad and me to see what we could do with it.

We had him continue to strip and sand the last of the black paint off and my sister went to the library and got a book on building and repairing guitars.  This book was amazing in how it explained the theory of different kinds of woods and construction and bracing that is inside all acoustic stringed instruments.

Using that book we got the Gibson back together and I re-wired the pickup.  The finish we used was a gun stock recipe of varnish, linseed oil and turpentine that we cooked on the stove until it was blended at the right temperature and applied the finish with cheese cloth.  The Gibson came out beautiful!  It had an arched spruce top with maple sides and back.  Gary called it his blonde guitar.

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