Sunday, February 19, 2017

New Orange Day

Well, hunting season has come and gone.  But that's okay.  Because that's when the sales start.  Or at least they should.  But I digress.  Let's talk about something that is needed out hunting.  Orange.

No, not that kind of orange.  I'm talking about a hunting vest in blaze orange.  Since hunters don't want to be shot by other hunters we wear blaze orange.  By rule, we are supposed to wear 144 inches of orange, so that means a ball cap is just fine.  However most of us wear vests. 

When I was 14 years old my Grandparents bought me a reversible camo/blaze orange vest.  I have worn that vest every hunting season for the past (mumble, mumble) years.  However, it was starting to wear out.  It had rips, holes and tears in it.  The color had also faded quite a bit.  So it was time to search for a new vest. 

A few months ago I found the perfect vest.  Here it is:

This is the Redhead Upland Field Vest.  It's tough as nails, and has a lot of handy pockets.  I wanted a vest with lots of pockets so I could load it up with supplies, instead of loading my jacket up.  In Florida it gets so hot, even in November, that you don't actually need to wear a jacket.  But this past hunting season the temperature was all over the place.  Sometimes I wore my super heavy jacket.  Other times I wore a light jacket.  So to keep from having to move all my gear, a vest with lots of pockets was necessary.

I was waiting for the vest to go on sale, but it never did.  I searched for it on the Bass Pro Shops website, and it was gone.  So I called Bass Pro Shops Brandon, and they said they hadn't received any new shipments of it.  They expected that it was going to be discontinued.  So I bit the bullet, and bought one of the last ones today at the Brandon store. 

I didn't get it on sale, but at least I got it.  I'll admit that no other vest really had my interest the way the Redhead vest did.  I'll admit the Browning vest was similar to it, and had heavier fabric, but it also cost $30 more.  The good news is that this vest will last me the rest of my hunting days.  So I'll look at it like a good investment. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Look What Followed Me Home From The Orlando Guitar Expo

My previous post told about my trip to the Orlando Guitar Expo.  Here's the link:

So here's what happened next.  I took the Carvin VTX-100 amp to be repaired.  It basically just needed a good cleaning.  From looking at the amp it seems that it may have set unplayed for quite a few years. 

Here are the pictures and the story.

If you notice, the amp has two completely separate sections.  Seriously, you and your friend can plug into different inputs and have completely separate controls.  That means independent volume, gain, reverb, and EQ's.  That's pretty insane.

What is also strange about this amp is that it has a solid state pre-amp, but a tube power section.  It also has a tube phase inverter.  So go figure that one out. 

The big question is, "how does it sound?"  The guy who sold it to me described it as Fender Blackface Twin Reverb meets a 5150.  I thought that was a bit of a stretch.  Due to the oddball 6CA7 tubes it definitely has an "American Fender" sound.  However, it's more like an early 80's sound.  That makes sense, since it was made in 1980.

The clean sound is very full and robust.  It's not weak like so many clean channels I've heard.  The distortion is a bit odd.  It's supposed to be more of a sustainer than a distortion.  Again, one of the odder points of this amp.  Distortion is a very personal thing so some players are going to be okay with this, and some are going to hate it. 

If you think of the Marshall JCM 800's that were put out during the early 1980's, the American versions were shipped with 6550 tubes (a more "American" sound than the "British" EL-34's.)  This Carvin amp has 6CA7 tubes which are a more "American" version of the EL-34. 

The tubes in this amp are rare Sylvania Made in the USA 6CA7's.  They are giant coke bottle tubes.  My point being it is in the same vein of the JCM 800.  However, it doesn't have near the gain of the famous Marshall.  Here's a picture of the tubes.

The one thing I have always said is that, the last link in the chain of your sound is the speaker.  And I have to give these MagnaLab speakers credit.  They are darker sounding, like Eminence Speakers instead of the brighter British sounding Celestions.  These bring the bass.  I mean, they really bring the bass.  Since these speakers are darker you really have to turn this amp up to balance out the sound. 

Since I play inside with other people in the house. I can't really turn my amps up.  I have always gotten away with playing brighter amps since they tend to sound better at lower volumes.  However, this amp is very difficult to get an decent sound of unless you turn it up to a volume that will annoy other people. 

Honestly, I am going to have to take this amp outside so that I can actually turn it up and see what it sounds like.  Since it is a darker amp, I've found I've had good luck playing bright single coil pickups through it.  I have one guitar with P-90's and that sounded really good too.  I haven't gotten to test it out with hot pickups, but I'll get around to is this weekend. 

So on with an interesting part of the amp.

The footswitch is really odd.  It actually has two cords attached to it.  One for the channel switching and one for the reverb.  That also presents a bit of a problem.  If the footswitch decides to crap out, I have to do everything in my power to make sure it works. 

Here's something that I couldn't find on the internet.

I found pictures of the round magnet speakers, but I couldn't find a picture of these square magnet MagnaLab speakers.  As I said earlier these things are loud.  I will give them credit.  They are extremely well made.  They are very powerful and once they are turned up they balance very nicely. 

This amp sounds like something that Zakk Wylde would like.  I know he would use his own distortion pedal to get the kind of gain he wanted, but I think this would be an amp he would really like.  It has a very strong bass with full mid-range and the highs are not too piercing and not too muddy. 

I am glad they put the model number on the back of the amp or I never would have figured out what model it was.  Okay, I would have found out eventually, but it was only made one year, and the only info I could find about it was from the Carvin Museum.

Now that I have the amp working, I have to start playing more.  I may be playing outside, but I'll try playing more.  I'll also have to put wheels on this amp.  Seriously, it weighs 100 pounds.  So it's either wheels or I'm going to have to start weightlifting.  So, it's wheels. 

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Adrian Goes To The Guitar Expo. This Can't End Well.

So I decided to head the Orlando Guitar Expo.  I was more interested in finding parts rather than guitars.  I have plenty of guitars, but I can always use parts, books, and the oddball item to keep me occupied.

I walked through the entire expo hall, and didn't buy a thing (on the first walkthrough.)  What I did do is look at a lot of guitars.  It was mostly the Gibson and Fender show.  None of them really interested me since I was looking for some off the wall items.

While I knew I couldn't afford any of the Gibson Guitars, a question I had about them popped into my head.  I had read about how the different 50's Les Paul's have extremely different shaped necks.  I was able to hold the neck of a 1954, 1958, and a 1960 Les Paul. 

I could really see/feel the difference.  Especially the neck of the 1960 model.  This particular 1960 Les Paul neck I held was dang near the shape of what the modern South Korean Les Paul's are.  That was a comfy guitar. 

The early models have what I would call a "cello neck."  You see, I play cello, and they have a pretty good size neck on them.  That's what the 1954 model felt like.  It was pretty dang thick.  But I will say this, after all these years those guitars still had straight necks due to the sheer thickness of the neck.

I was able to talk to a luthier who had a small one table booth in the corner.  This is the exact kind of non typical guitar I was looking for.  I will say he was very nice and let me play all of his models.  His company is called, Fool Audio Research.  Here's his website:

I had a fun time talking to him and his wife.  We had a lot in common.  But don't all of us guitar players have more than a little something in common?

I finally got a chance to strum an old Gibson L-50 archtop.  I had high hopes, but unfortunately once instruments get so old they stop getting better with age, and they start declining.  This one sounded very tinny.  So I'll keep playing some acoustic archtops until I find one that has the sound I'm looking for.  And let's be honest, I didn't have the $3,600 they were asking for the guitar.

I looked at a lot of parts, but I had to remember, since they were dealers they were asking dealer prices.  I never found anything that I could part with cash for.  In past shows they had a lot of books, but with the invention of the internet no one was really carrying books anymore. 

So I went outside to eat and clear my head.  They didn't have the A/C or fan on inside so it was getting stuffy in the building.  Everyone was complaining about it.  So it was good to get fresh air. 

After getting some lunch I talked to a dealer about an old Kustom Tuck and Roll amp.  It was in great shape.  It was a solid state amp 4X10 combo amp.  I asked if he was interested in trades or cash with a trade, and he said no.  He was clearing out all his gear, and didn't want anymore.  So he walked away from me.  I never had a dealer do that before. 

So I went back over to a guy named Jesse from Music Go Round (Dayton, Ohio.)  I saw some guitar straps I hadn't seen the first time.  So I asked about them.  It turns out they were vintage straps that cost $100 a piece.  So I asked if he had anything a little less pricey.  He did have some.  So I ended up buying three of them for $30.  Here's a picture of them.

Jesse was really pushing this Carvin VTX-100.  He described it as a Fender Blackface Twin Reverb meets a 5150.  I'm not sure about that, but I did offer to trade my Dean Hardtail for it.  I went out and got my Dean so I could run it though the amp.  That way he could see it worked, and I could see the amp worked.

This is from the Carvin Museum website:

It kind of surprised me that it was that crunchy even at low settings.  (Looking back, I should have been worried.)  However, I had never played a Carvin before.  Also, it sounded pretty awesome.  The reverb was having trouble working, but I suspected it was the footswitch. 

The one thing that surprised me was that the speakers were huge.  They were something I had never heard of before.  Magna Lab speakers.  And the weird part was that they had giant square magnets.  I will say, the sound that came out of the speakers was that super creamy and smooth distortion that we all crave. 

So we agreed to a trade.  We also agreed as part of the deal I could buy two very old Dimarzio Super Distortion pickups for a discounted price of $20 total. 

Here's the pictures.

As you can see, the pickups were in bad shape.  But I thought they might be good for an oddball project.

Then came the tough part.  To get the amp to the car.  Here's the problem.  This amp is heavier than my Sunn Alpha 212-R.  So I would carry it 100 yards, rest, carry it another 100 yard, rest, and repeat a bunch of times. 

I did make it to the car eventually.  Let's fast forward to when I got home.  I plugged my guitar into the amp, and all I hear is a buzzing noise.  I unplugged the footswitch, same noise.  I unplugged my guitar just to make sure it wasn't my guitar or cable, and I still heard the same buzzing.  I turned the sound down all the way with nothing plugged into it, and still .... buzzing. 

So I wasn't a happy camper at all.  I looked at the back of the amp.  I saw that the 12AX7 tube they had in there should actually be a 12AT7.  Although the power tubes were old Sylvania's that were made in the USA.  So that was a surprise.  I hate to think what those things are worth depending upon condition.  As old as they are I suppose they might have very little life left in them.  But this all leads to one thing.

I am going to have to have Diversified Audio look at it.  That's right.  Off to the repair shop.  The one tube definitely needs replaced.  I suspect one of the tube sockets needs re-soldered.  I have a feeling that the reverb isn't working due to the cord.  Namely where the jack of the cord meets the reverb pan. 

As old as this amp is I'm sure there are a bunch of capacitors and resistors that need replaced.  In fact, it may need a whole new solder job.  So you can see where all this is going.  You start adding all of these up, and I'm worried that I may be looking at a $400 bill.  So this trade isn't looking so good now right? 

So I went out in the workshop to test the pickups.  The first one was pretty rusted and corroded.  However, it read the correct range for a Dimarzio Super Distortion.  I put my test leads on the other pickup, and only one of the coils worked.  The funny thing, it read 5.5 K ohms so I don't know exactly what pickup it might be.  It's too weak for a Super Distortion.  Since it's so old I'll have to go through Dimarzio's old pickup directory. 

So here's the damage.

$30 for three straps.  That's fair.
$20 for two pickups in bad shape.  Both were supposed to work, so I'm not too happy.
One Dean Hardtail with Dean hardshell case for a Carvin VTX-100.  I was happy.  Then I wasn't.  So we'll see what the future holds.  If it needs a minimal amount of work, then I might be okay.  If the bill climbs to $400 then I won't be happy at all.  Stay tuned for another blog.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Quilted and Birdseyed? It Does Exist!!!

So I am always on the quest for tone, but in between then I am always on the look for more tools, parts, and wood.  And boy did I find some.  It seems that Pete from Viable Lumber had a maple tree from California dumped on his doorstep.  When they cut it they found this:

That's right.  It the exclusive curly maple.  But that's not all there is!  A birdseye pattern made it in there too!

This is a pretty good chunk of wood.  This particular piece was about four inches thick.  Here's some more wood goodness.

I know you can't tell from this picture, but that piece is more than three feet across.  (Dang near four.)  The length of this is right around eight feet. 

You can see the parts where the tree branches split, but there is still enough space to cut out a one piece maple top.  And you could easily get a rough 1 inch to make a smooth 3/4 inch top.  That way you can put an arch on it, and it will be a solid curly maple top.

Some of you might say, "Hey, I've seen Epiphone guitars that have tops like that.  Why is this so special?"  Well, my answer is this.  What is actually on the really nice Epiphone guitars is a mahogany body with a plain maple top.  Then they put a paper veneer over that maple top so it looks like it is curly maple.  The pattern you are seeing is actually printed out on a big roll.  It's not wood, it's paper. 

This is the real deal.  My Dad's friend said that the last time he checked, the price of highly figured curly maple like this was $96 a board foot.  So feel free to do the math on what this piece of wood costs.  And before you make me an offer, know this.  It's already off to the Florida Woodturning Symposium.  It might be sold even as I type this. 

I hope whoever buys this makes some great things out of it.  Since it's going to a wood-turners meeting, I'm guessing it will be made into things that can be turned on a lathe.  So bowls, plates, cups and such are all likely to be made from this lovely wood.  I wish the best for whoever purchases it. 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Squeezing the Tone, Part 2

In a previous blog post I talked about the difference of opinion when it comes to guitar capacitors.  If you have any hope of understanding what I'm talking about here, you may want to read this first.

So this is what it boils down to.  I have my guinea pig, my Epiphone Les Paul plain top honeyburst.

Now I'm going to change capacitors... again.  This time I bought an oil in paper cap AKA, the supreme mojo thing-a-ma-bob.  The oil in paper cap is supposedly the "bee's knees" of all tone caps. 

As I did say in my previous post, an oil in paper cap is a "run" capacitor.  The polyester caps are "start" capacitors.  I figured there wouldn't be any difference between poly caps, but I had to hear if oil caps really did have that secret, "mojo."

So I put a 0.022 UF oil in paper cap in the bridge tone pot.  I figured that would be where I would hear the most difference. 

I switched out the Mallory 0.022 UF poly cap for a Mallory 0.0153 UF cap for the neck tone pot.  I heard that was the key to getting the ultra super duper secret tone.  Also, it's suggested for the Eric Clapton woman tone.  Correction.  It's one of many suggestions I've read/heard/seen about achieving the woman tone.  So I went for it.

The black one is the oil in paper cap.  The yellow one is the Mallory. 

First up, the Mallory 0.0153 UF cap.

I know it's a little rough, but I've had a few pickups and a few caps in this guitar. 

Next up is the oil in paper 0.022 UF cap.

Once the solder cooled I immediately went for the sound check.  And you know how it sounded?  Exactly like it did before.  I can't say it improved the tone at all.  In all fairness I was already happy with how it sounded. 

I will give it this.  Changing the Mallory cap from 0.022 UF to 0.0153 changed the tone "a smidge" when I rolled back the tone all the way.  But then again, when do I ever do that? 

So, I'm glad I did this little experiment.  But I have to say, it didn't really change my opinion of paying a lot for "higher end" capacitors.  To me, the value is simply the value.  But I will say, I learnt quite a bit.  It answered a few questions I'd had for a while.  So I feel pretty good about that.  Now, off to play a little guitar. 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Angry Chef And The Tale Of The Tinfoil Dinner

I'll admit, I'm a bit of an angry, neurotic chef.  I talk to myself when cooking.  I am always on the move in the kitchen.  I like keeping a tight time.  I also don't take kindly to an invasion of my kitchen.  That's right.  I said, "my" kitchen.

I tell a lot of tales from my past on this blog.  After over 550 or so blogs I thought I would have told this tale.  However, today I realized that I had never written this story down.  It is the story of how I threw my own Grandmother out of my kitchen.  But first, let me start with what I was cooking.

When I was in the Boy Scouts of America we had a great recipe for the ultimate complete dinner.  It's called tinfoil dinner.  Basically, here's what you do.

Lay down some aluminum foil.  Place down some leaves of cabbage.  Place thinly cut potato slices down over the cabbage.  Add cut carrots.  Then place down some thawed out hamburger meat.  At this point you can be creative. 

You can add onions, but feel free to add whatever onions you like.  I also like to add bell peppers.  There are many types of mushrooms you can add.  Then you cover those back up with the rest of your raw hamburger.  Sidenote:  It actually works better with higher fat hamburger.  In other words, the cheap stuff.  At this point I like to add Heinz Beef Gravy (Savory Flavor.)  It's wonderful.

Then you go in reverse from there.  Add some cut carrots.  Put more thinly cut potato slices over them.  Then cover it in some more cabbage leaves.  In fact make sure you cover it completely with cabbage. 

When you are adding layers make sure to salt and pepper.  You can also be creative and use garlic salt and Italian seasonings.  If you like it spicy, by all means add your favorite spices. 

Then you wrap it up in aluminum foil, and then wrap it some more.  Why?  Because you are going to put it directly on the hot coals of an outdoor fire.  Leave it there for an hour.  You want it nice and hot.  The hamburger (and if you added gravy) juices will cook everything with a wonderful flavor. 
Since you have it in a nice fire, it will also have that nice campfire smoky flavor. 

When I was a young teen I described this meal to my family.  They asked me to make it for them.  I had to think about it.  How would I make it at home?  So I decided to take a cookie sheet, lay down the foil on it, and do the same thing I would normally do. 

Since I didn't have a fire, I decided to cook it in the oven.  I set the oven to 500 degrees, and cooked it for an hour.  It worked out wonderfully. 

Since I decided to write this blog about the tinfoil dinner, I made sure to take pictures.  Here they are.

As you can see it is covered pretty well in foil.

Here you can see all the cabbage.  You know you did a really good job when the cabbage is just a little bit singed. 

I've pulled the cabbage away, and you can see the nice mixture of meat, potatoes, carrots, onions, etc.

And here it is on my plate.  It tastes wonderful.  It really does. 

So now that I have explained how this dish is made, I will clarify my angry chef situation.  So as you know, I am king of my domain in the kitchen.  My grandmother is queen of her domain in her kitchen.  In fact, she thought she was a great cook.  (She's not.)  Her specialty was baking bread.  (You better have water or you would choke on it.)  She thought she was creative.  (She wasn't.)

So I was asked to make tinfoil dinner for everyone when my grandparents were down to visit.  She comes into my kitchen, and starts trying to tell me what to do.  I wasn't having it. 

She started making suggestions.  Things like adding tomatoes to it.  I halfway screamed, "What?"  Then she said I should add shredded cheese.  I really did yell, "At 500 degrees for an hour????!!!!!  Do you know what that will do????"  She just looked at me like a deer in headlights.

That's when I blew my fuse.  "Out!  Get out of my kitchen!!!"  I was not having that.  There's a reason I spent most of this blog teaching how to make this dish for a reason.  I wanted to show just how hot and how long this dish needs to cook.  Tomatoes and cheese would just be destroyed in that much heat. 

Besides this is not an Italian dish.  Grandma liked to make Italian baked dishes.  Her version of "spaghetti" was made in the oven.  My Uncle Jimmy called it, "awful."  It was something he did not look forward to.   It's true, her bad cooking was the stuff of legend.  That's one reason I really blew my top. 

I was not going to be given bad advice in my kitchen while I was working hard to feed six people.  My B.S. meter just went through the roof.  So, I threw her out of my kitchen.  I don't regret it.  My grandmother would tend to push people until you stood up to her.  You had to let her know where the line was.  And I did just that. 

Now that's not to say I didn't care about my grandmother, but she could be very trying at times.  She had mood swings and a very sharp tongue.  As I became older we had come to an understanding.  And part of that was my kitchen was my territory. 

So, there are many things I want you, the reader, to take away from this.  First off, stay out of your chef's way.  Try a little tinfoil dinner now and then.  Don't add tomatoes and cheese to any dish at 500 degrees for an hour unless you want it to be goop.  And finally, you can learn some really neat things in the Boy Scouts of America. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

The Glass

One of the first philosophical questions we ask children is, "Is the glass half full or half empty?"  It's one way to simply gauge whether someone is a pessimist or an optimist. 

Another philosopher came along and said, "It's doesn't matter.  It doesn't matter if the glass is half full or half empty.  Because the glass can always be refilled." 

A person that thinks that way may be the utmost optimist on the planet.  They might also be a bit of a realist.  However, great minds like that are way smarter than myself.  I wouldn't even try to define them.  So I will move on.

Then I (Adrian) came around and destroyed the glass.  I smashed it against the wall.  Now the glass is neither half full nor half empty.  It is destroyed, and therefore can't hold any water.  It is now shards, and can not hold water anymore. 

It once was a useful thing.  It simply was something, and now it's not.  For it has been destroyed, never to be used again.  Now I, (Adrian) have no water.  I do not even have a container for water.  I have nothing.  I will never have that glass again.

The optimist will say, "You can always acquire another glass."  And that is true.  But it will never be that glass.  That glass will never be available to you again.  For it has been destroyed, and doesn't exist anymore.  It will never be within reach again.

By now the reader is pretty sure I am not talking specifically about a glass.  I am referring to people, places, things, and ideas that have been destroyed.  Today I learnt a lesson on just how long destruction lasts.

And I think to myself, "That's pretty hypocritical for a guy who entitled his blog, "Destruction for Fun and Profit."