Some wires and a couple of planks: building my own guitar from a kit of parts

After a few weeks spent scratching around the dark web for second hand parts, I finally reached critical mass for a project to build my own electric guitar.

This was a not a project in the style of Brian May, who carved his own guitar body and made all the parts, including the electronics, himself. The result of that garden shed activity became a distinctive part of Queen’s sound, as the tone from that instrument was unique.

In my case I’ve kept to the marked footpath, gathering the correct parts to put together an early 2000s Fender Telecaster. The only deviation from the plan is the pickups. Here I’ve gone high-tech by guitar standards, opting for an active pair made by EMG. They were available in red too, which I thought would be a nice touch.

As I bumbled along I took some photos to record the progression from jumble of parts to the finished article.

I was more than a little daunted at the outset, but shouldn’t have been. The process itself is pretty straightforward. The bit that bothered me more than any other was the need to drill holes in a pristine, metallic red guitar body in order to secure the pick guard. This task lay in the distance. There were several steps to follow first.

On the way I had to prepare my existing Telecaster for sale, with very mixed feelings. The Baja Telecaster is a classic, with (in my view) sublimely melodic pickups and first-rate production quality. It’s a beauty, and wonderful to play. But my first in, first out policy had forced my hand and I couldn’t justify keeping two guitars of the same type. It’s gone now, to a significantly better guitarist than I am, which is some consolation.

The first step was rather enjoyable. If you’re a gardener you might recognise the roll of copper tape as a pesticide-free slug and snail repellent. The usefulness of the metal in combating squidgy animals is actually debatable but this is a post about guitars, not slugs.

The copper tape in this case is effective, but as a electrical shield against radio frequency (RF) interference rather than slugs. The idea here is that the metal-shielded control cavities in the guitar prevent the ingress of RF, which ends up amplified as clearly audible unwanted noise. Yuk.

My injured younger daughter thoughtfully decided to keep me company, albeit in a passive iPad-hypnotised capacity. She was entertained by my contortions as I twisted and shaped the sticky (and sharp) copper tape to fit the spaces neatly.

Once I was up and running the instrument began to take shape. The red pickups were chosen for the same reason that prompted me to line the guitar body with copper shielding: RF interference.

Our home is phenomenally noisy, from an electrical perspective. There are several wifi routers, a couple of dozen Philips Hue lights, two smart home hubs, a clutch of mobile phones and another 30+ wired and wireless network devices.

The icing on the cake is the powerline networking. If you’ve not come across this before, this is technology that injects a network signal into the mains wiring in a household. Powerline adapters plugged in around the house pick up the signal and pass it to wifi routers to get internet access to every corner of the household.

This should be unobtrusive but isn’t. I can hear it through the hifi, and through the amps. It’s irritating but since internet access is required to make a house function these days, it’s not going away.

So, my answer to the RF problem was these fetching red pickups, made in California by EMG. They’re ‘active’ pickups, which means a battery concealed inside the guitar powers a small amplifier that boosts the signal before it leaves the guitar. This powerful signal is far less susceptible to RF interference than the puny current generated by the usual passive pickups and thus gives a clear, strong tone.

These pickups incorporated the latest version of EMG’s amplifier circuit and I was looking forward to hearing them.

Alongside the high-tech pickups was more mundane wiring, and components like the jack socket that required nimble, flexible fingers. I got there in the end.

The neck is a fine piece of work. After a lot of searching I found what I was looking for – a used maple and dark rosewood neck with only minor wear to the stainless steel frets.

The neck was sent from Italy – to the wrong address. The delivery agent in Italy had run a search on the first line of our address and picked the first postcode that appeared. As the first line of my address is not unique the postcode was for a flat in Westminster, a few minutes’ walk from Baker Street station.

I’d quite like a W1 address again – I lived a couple of minutes from Baker Street station when I moved to London for my first proper job at the professional services behemoth KPMG. Spookily, the upscale recipient of the guitar part lived around the corner from my old flat.

After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing (the seller’s nerves were strained by the experience: as he told me, ‘I’m a musician, not a tradesman!’) the neck finally arrived.

The finished product looked very good, apart from the battery issue. Try as I might, I just couldn’t fit it inside the body. I decided to stop where I was, congratulate myself on getting that far, and pay a visit to my local – 22 minutes away! – branch of guitarguitar, a wonderful cave of beautiful musical artistry.

Naturally, I was very reluctant to make the journey. Ha, as if!

My limping injured daughter went with me as the new red guitar was expertly set up. It was lots of fun. She told me that she would like a Gibson SG (as played by – well, everyone) as her next guitar.

Next guitar? I’m not sure I’m setting a good example. 😳

From a land where axes are for chops, not chopping

Giving my daughter’s guitar the once over.

I am as attached to guitars as my wife is to fashion.

The nice thing about ‘vintage’ Strats is the value they keep as they age. Even a middle-of-the-road model from a non-vintage year, like this one, would fetch on eBay more than it originally cost. Granted, it’s hardly a relic and no, Eric Clapton didn’t play it, touch it or even look at it. But at least its value won’t approach zero as time goes by, though it might be eroded by inflation.

If anyone does have a guitar once owned by Clappers, Jeff Beck, Jimi H or Jimmy P(age), then by all means, feel free to donate it to me. I promise I’ll look after it. 😊🎸👍

#guitar #guitarist #guitaristsofinstagram #fender #stratocaster

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Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be

We were watching the first film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy from Peter Jackson’s ‘rubber Orc’ period, before computer graphics removed the need to glue latex prosthetics onto extras.

The lone Ranger. Tonto not pictured.

Daughter 1 piped up, “It’s really good – for something that’s more than 11 years old.”

I’d better not tell her it was released an epoch earlier in 2001, before recorded time (the first iPhone).

#retro #analogue #cinemascope #keystonekops

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Every day, and in every way, we’re getting better and better

Oh dear, my poor little girl.

Her spectacular accident on the last day of our holiday has cast a long shadow. The angular tricksiness of the break and the hospital’s reluctance to get heavy with the leg has resulted in a long layoff: weeks of tentative and slow recovery, in the hope that The Leg sees reason and knits together tidily. I’ve had to compile a dossier of evidence to satisfy her school that she’s not still skiing down a mountain somewhere. And the fact that my posts here have been brief since that time is a clue that yours truly has been carer #1 up to now.

Oh, the effort it took to get to this point.

The first couple of weeks were spent confined almost completely to the sofa. Movement was minimal and uncomfortable. The last week has seen a marked uptick in my daughter’s customary artsiness. Bored with her enforced confinement she’s started hopping around the house, easing herself up the stairs one at a time to see her bedroom (she and I are based on the ground floor to keep most movement on the level) and play her guitar – or, more precisely, plug her guitar into the girls’ mini Marshall stack and let rip.

The downside, from my daughter’s perspective, is that her increased mobility means there’s little excuse not to tackle a bit of schoolwork.

So, here she is, deep in thought over comprehension homework about Mesolithic man. The Leg is propped up, a little awkwardly, on the adjacent chair.

#quiettime #homework #brokenleg #poorthing

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A parting on the left is now a parting on the right…

Returning from more than three decades away from the Labour fold, Derek Hatton (left) must have been surprised to discover his place had been taken by his stunt double Keir Starmer (right).

Degsy does doubles.

Could they be, in any way, related?

#separatedatbirth #stuntdouble #lookalike #militant #brexit #brexshit

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It’s the cottage industry that everyone wants to get in on

Fairies might not frolic at the bottom of your garden, but you could still stumble upon a pot of gold.

It’s a garage, Mr Planning Officer. No, really.

A low rise dwelling takes shape in a neighbouring street.

Our neighbourhood has many streets where the gardens are decidedly old school. They’re very long, big enough to allow for a patio and lawn with space left over at the end to rise prize radishes, giant marrows and massed ranks of rhubarb. The home I grew up in was the same, though our vegetable patch was never that productive, yielding some giant cooking apples and a few pies’ worth of stringy rhubarb.

But that was another era. These days the most desirable use of generous garden space is for planting magical money trees. If your garden backs onto a rear alley or path then your luck is in. Where proud homeowners might once have advertised veneration of their car(s) with a garage extension, these days such a waste of space would attract only ridicule. The thing to do now is to get an application for planning permission in sharpish, plonk a portable toilet onto your lawn and get the builders in.

I’d do exactly the same, given half a chance.

#construction #gardenshed #goldmine #planningpermission

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Not so much a cup of good cheer, as a Nebuchadnezzar 🍾🥂

Congratulations, then, to Kane Tanaka, now the world’s oldest human. She attributes her longevity to an active mind, and grindcore.

This is the bit where the guitar solo kicks in.

She is shown here listening to the classic track ‘Forced Gender Reassignment’ by the ever-popular band Cattle Decapitation.

Update: I’d always thought a Nebuchadnezzar was the biggest, hence the post title. She does of course deserve a Melchizedek. I think Aldi stocks them.

#longevity #grindcore #thrashmetal

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This word-mash is all that’s left of a once coherent story. Sometimes AI and grammatical nuance pass like ships in the night.

Amazingly, I still get the general message.

Shape wars! Combat goes geometric in Afghanistan, as polygons collide over an air field, overseen by Johnny. Thankfully, while people run for cover we’re assured that the operators of the airfield won’t be out of pocket, which might not their top priority.

Meanwhile, the prez is living it up in the ‘province of the rich’.

Oh, auto-translate, with this balls you are really spoiling us.

#lostintranslation #colemanballs #geometry

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Hospital car parks, eh? Arrive with a child to carry and the only space is miles from the entrance.

The Leg returns to fracture land to be X-rayed, assessed, re-set. This could take a while.**

😳 Tabloid paper finds its true purpose as a cast prop. #ouch #brokenleg #skiing #borovets #ski


** This was originally a real-time Instagram post, written in full expectation of a day spent in a ward heated to around 37º.

As it happened, we sat perspiring for 10 minutes or so before a consultant hummed his way through the A&E report and post-cast X-rays. There were no further X-rays and no new cast. The learned opinion was that the leg would be given another 4 weeks to come to its senses and start rebuilding itself properly, and not in its current ramshackle alignment.

I’m no medic so can only hope that this is what happens. It seems the only alternative is to reset the leg or otherwise encourage it to straighten up using special bracing. We shall see.

The icing on the cake was the departure: we’ve had a couple of weeks away from school already and I dutifully asked whether could be issued crutches and/or a wheeled chariot to get patient A around. The answer was – no. The full cast remains, with guidance to avoid putting weight on the leg and to keep it elevated when not in use.

So, I’m posting this then heading in to school to collect a chunk of homework. Oh, and I need to provide some sort of medical note to satisfy the school office administrators that patient A is not spending her days running around on a beach in Barbados.

I was glued to this space ballet for ages

The @spacex launch showed how exploration beyond earth’s borders still has the power to enthral.

When you hear the knocking, commence the docking.

Mind you, it also reminded me that, with the exception of a half-dozen Apollo missions, not a single space expedition has mustered the technology to propel puny humans to anything greater than a low earth orbit. Those neatly choreographed Apollo trips, capping a dreadful decade and serving to prove a Cold War point and lift the spirits of a dejected nation, look increasingly anomalous to me.

Kubrick provided plenty of handy cinematography tips in 2001: A Space Odyssey. See also the film Capricorn One. I think life imitated art to some extent.

#iss #space #spacex #spacexlaunch

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Fresh from Instagram: the high risk nature trail

Rounding Muggers’ Corner in my nondescript local park, before pressing on through Flashers’ Chicane. Then up a gear into Doggers’ Alley and I’m almost home.

The lights along the path are just sparse enough to incentivise fast joggers.

#nature #outdoors #totallysafe #noreally

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Fresh (almost) from Instagram: separated at birth

I see that the Indian pilot freed by Pakistan, Abhinandan Varthaman (left) is channeling the karma of demon Aussie bowler Merv Hughes (right). Could they be, in way way, related?

Merv n’ Abhi: together at last.

#separatedatbirth #lookalike #mistakenidentity #india #australia

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Fresh from Instagram: this was far less messy than I thought it would be

In honour of Prince, my daughter has opted for a purple cast.

Having watched the plasterers apply this, it was with a mixture of guilt and gloom that I viewed the second x-ray. It’s a stubborn break, and still isn’t lined up. Poor girl! ☹️

You should have seen the colours she rejected.

By the time we were done, having spent more than a half-day pinging back and forth within the A&E department (aka emergency room), we’d been checked by two doctors, one consultant paediatrician, three radiologists, three nurses, two specialist plaster-casters (though it’s not plaster anymore) and two porters: a service available to any citizen, on demand. This was also the hospital where my purple-legged daughter was born, delivered by another large team of medics.

Meet the new leg, same as the old leg.

I won’t gush, but it brought home yet again what a precious thing our health system is.

It might have seemed odd to outsiders that the UK’s health infrastructure had a prominent role in the 2012 Olympic opening ceremony, but to those whose lives it has touched it would have appeared perfectly understandable.

#brokenleg #ouch #london #borovets #ski #skiing #nhs

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Fresh from Instagram: the obligatory skiing holiday X-ray drama

I had to wince when I saw this. It was a difficult sight for a parent: a visceral lurch, almost painful.

[wince].

But I’m glad we came in: the tibia 🦴 is not set straight and will need some gentle persuasion. Very gentle, I hope. 😳

The hospital was very wise to answer my voicemail with an immediate summons to present my daughter at the accident and emergency ward.

If I didn’t have health insurance (also known as the National Health Service – aka (in the US) a devious Communist experiment ) I’d be sweating bullets by now.

The picture appeared less rosy still once I saw the second X-ray scan from the side. If you imagine someone pitching forward in skis that don’t release, you can imagine the forces at work:-

The unfortunate consequence of travelling downhill at a different speed to your skis.

My wee one is now sofa-bound, resplendent in her new cast, so heavy that she can barely move her leg.

#brokenleg #ouch #ski #skiing #borovets #london

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Fresh from Instagram: try getting across a border with these…

So this is what our baggage allowance went towards…

The tinies packed their own rucksacks for skiing this year. A unicorn snow globe, a Lego skidoo and sparkle lip gloss were clearly essential items.

#priorities #skiing #ski #children #kids

Should I try paying for lunch with the lip gloss or the unicorn?
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