Thursday, December 27, 2007

Guitars For Vets

While doing the Email today I got a letter from Steve Benford of Benford Guitars and Guitars 4 Vets fame. Those of you who have been following the saga of the Guitars for Vets Airborne Eagle guitar auction may have noticed that it didn't reach it's reserve of $3000. Perhaps we haven't gotten the word out like we should have. Perhaps folks were saving for Christmas. Perhaps some people think this guitars is a cool wall hanger and not a real guitar. I don't know why the guitar didn't reach it's reserve but I can tell you that the guitar is made from 100% top materials. I know for a fact that the pickups are worth $180 because I sell them for that much all day long without a cover at all much less a custom cover. The carved guitar body is a one of a kind made by a master craftsman and artist. So if you had any worries about the guitar let them go... In fact why don't you go listen to Benford play this thing a little and then decide.

And we all know the cause is worth while.

So... with all this new information let's see what Steve has to say today...

Ahoy, and Happy Holidays G4V supporters.
The story Fox 6 News did on Guitars For Vets aired this past Sunday on the 9pm News. We have had an overwhelming response from the story. For those of you who missed it or are out of our broadcasting area, here is a link to the story on Fox's website.;jsessionid=702ACAB2A5EF379F250698A0E72FAA77?contentId=5302146&version=1&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=VSTY&pageId=1.1.1&sflg=1
Please pass this link along to whoever you can. I am unsure how long it will be active. We are getting a copy of the story and will either have it on the G4V site or You Tube it. Probably both.
Also, a quick reminder about the Airborne Eagle guitar raffle. Tickets are available and moving quickly. The sale will be limited to 300 to buy one today!
Those of you in the Milwaukee area on New Years eve are invited to The Coast downtown Milwaukee. My band will be playing 2 sets. We are excited to have special guest vocalist Annie Fox on board. She will tickle the ivorys a bit as well.
Thanks ans happy holidays!

Wow! How cool is that?! So if you didn't have the cash to shell out $3000 for this killer one of a kind bit o playable art now you can just grab a few raffle tickets and have as good a chance as anyone else! Come on... the tickets are only $10 each and they even take PayPal. You'll piss that much away renting DVDs this week end. Tis the season... give a little back to those who have give a lot for you.

We get letters! (another brick in the Wal...)

I took most of this week off to be with family and enjoy Christmas. No web work other than this little bit I did over at Six String Bliss showing how to replace your pickups.

Wow! I'm behind on my Email!! I'll be sitting down today to write to folks who have had questions this week. I have a few letters about the "Wal" Music Man bass pickup I'm working on. I'll be answering those. I got a guy who wants to know about a 13 string bass pickup. Some Neo Jazz questions. A sad story about how one of my Piper Tele pickup was killed in a freak Christmas accident. One crazy luthier that is wanting to work with me on designing his own pickups for some very unique guitars.

I better get busy!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Scarab Single String Pickups ( Back where we started...)

As I mentioned in an earlier post I didn't start out trying to be a pickup maker. I just wanted to make guitars and basses. The first bass 100% original instrument I ever built was the 5 string DragonFly bass. A vitality part of this basses design was a pickup system that would allow me to switch each strings out put independently.

This meant that I needed a small pickup for each string but one one was selling them at the time. Determined to see the project through to the end I started looking for information on making my own pickups. Back then there wasn't a lot of information out there on h
ow to design or make pickups. I didn't' know where to get parts or what parts would work best so I had to feel my way around in the dark.

My first attempt (1) was a bobbin made out of a yellow Bic pen. I melted the ends and mashed them into flanges to hold the wire and ran a set screw through it to act as a pole. Then I needed some magnet wire. I found some at my local Radio Shack. I think it was 32GA wire or something huge like that. To wind the wire onto the bobbin I used an old cassette tape recorder and just glued the bobbin to the little spinning hub and away we went. I might have gotten 200 turns on that first bobbin. When it was done I wrapped the whole thing in Scotch Tape to keep it from coming apart Then I soldered a lead to it and stuck a ceramic button magnet on the bottom. Finally I went into my studio and plugged the thing into my amp and turned it on. It buzzed like a bee hive. I plucked the E string on my Fender P bass and held the mutant pickup up to it.... it was there.... if you listened through the buzz and the hum there was a sound that was an E note. I was stoked!!! I had made a pickup!! The thing was crap and would need to be developed but I was on the right track. Over the next 6 months or so I spent ever second I could refining the design and hunting better parts. My second (2) try at making a pickup was closer to the mark I was looking for sound wise. It used 44ga wire and a small Neodymium magnet at the center of the phenolic bobbin. I potted my windings with blue nail polish as I went to kill any microphonic feedback. It sounded good but I still wanted more low end for the bass that I was getting from it and it looked bad. This led to design #3. This time I used a cover from a CD case to make the flanges for the shorter and fatter bobbin. The pole was a bigger steel screw with a wide head on it. The Neo magnet was attached to the screw under the bobbin much like a P-90 does. The new bobbin design allowed more wire to be used. This was it!! This was the sound I was looking for. Now all I had to do was make it look like something... But how? I would cast it in plastic that's how. The next few months were spent mocking up dummy pickups to get the look right . Then I started learning to make rubber molds and experimenting with casting agents. Finally I decided on black Epoxy as my casting agent and I was on my way to realizing my idea.My wife decided the new pickups looked like little bugs... like Scarabs. And thats how the(4) Scarab Single Sting pickups were born. The bass came out fine. I showed it to some people and was having fun playing it and recording with it and planning the next one....

Then the orders started coming in....

There is an MP3 called Scarabs on the sound files page of Searcy String Works of me playing this bass in a touch guitar style, something I'm not very good at, to show the string separation and clarity. It's just a sloppy demo of the G and D string running through one effects chain and the other strings running dry through an amp to show what could be done with such a rig.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Piper Special ( Tele master...)

So, have you ever wondered what the pickup on the home page of Searcy String Works is? Well, It's a Piper special. Being based in Nashville I have built a lot of Tele bridge pickups but the most popular has been the Piper special. I shipped out a lot in the last few weeks. Benford bought a few and I even shipped one to Alaska. This pickups was named after Pipes, the co host of the Six String Bliss podcast because it was built to his specs. Pipes ordered a custom Tele from Steve Benford that was going to have 4 pickups and a crazy switching system . Because a Tele bridge is grounded through the pickup it can have all sorts of problems if you get too fancy with the switching. To avoid all that we decided to ground the bridge plate separately. It's not an innovation that will revolutionize guitar building but it can be handy. The Piper Special is wound slightly hot with 42 ga wire and this batch features a vintage style string wrapped coil that looks more at home on vintage and relic guitars. I also make them in a black tape finished coil if the string ain't your thing. They are double wax potted and the Alnico 5 magnets are insulated from the bridge plate to prevent shorting. If you need one drop me a line.

Pipes: “…holy shit does it sound amazing!…I got Quality pups at a fair price and I got them from someone who puts in the extra effort to make sure they are perfect....In my book you cannot beat that”.

They are $79.99 USD.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Sometimes I build guitars... (part 1.... Black Sunshine)

I didn't start out trying to make pickups. Originally I wanted to build the worlds greatest basses and guitars but somewhere along the way the obsession to make great pickup took over. Most of my time is spent making and designing pickups now but every once in a while I build a guitar or bass.

Here's one I just a few weeks ago. The body style is one I call the DragonFly. This one is almost totally hollow. It's made from Poplar and red oak. It's very light. This one I call Black Sunshine.

The Knucklehead pickups are the last of a run of epoxy cast neodymium magnet humbuckers I made a while back. They have a very bright top end compared to an Alnico pickup. They are running through a booster preamp made by my friend and master luthier Mark Swanson. Mark builds some of the most interesting acoustic and electric guitars you are likely to see. His work has been featured in several publication and his client list includes some rather big names. If that wasn't enough it also has a Bid D Varitone switch in it. I love the Veritone that Dennis makes and this combined with the preamp gives this guitar an unbelievable amount of sounds to work with.

"Gripping the wheel his knuckles went white with desire
The wheels of his mustang exploding on the highway like a slug from a .45
True death: 400 horsepower of maximum performance piercing the night
This is black sunshine.

Finally nothing moves.
High noon.
Black top rolling below the asphalt drive
A concrete fascination scraping the edge of nothing
This is black sunshine."

Read more about this guitar and see some more pictures over at Six String Bliss.