Friday, October 21, 2016

The Voodoo That You Do

Last year I wrote about putting wheels on one of my speaker cabinets.  It's the cabinet that I pair with my Crate Blue Voodoo.  Here's the link to it:

The Crate Blue Voodoo was the first 6L6 amp that I really liked.  I can hear the cork sniffing musicians yelling, "Then you must not have very good taste!"  I liked the Blue Voodoo for a different reason than a lot of players.  It was meant to be a metal amp, and was endorsed by punk and metal artists so that's what most people think of when they mentioned. 

I was looking for a Fender sound with bite.  Fender amps have that classic American rock sound, and I wanted that with an edge.  The Blue Voodoo can do that wonderfully, but only if you do a few things.  The first edition of the Blue Voodoo cabinet came with Celestion Vintage 30 speakers.  I'm not a fan of those speakers, but they were a great match for the Blue Voodoo.  The Blue Voodoo has a strong treble end, but lacks in mids and bass.  The Vintage 30 speakers have really fat mids so it filled out the sound. 

The big thing I keep reading on guitar forums is players asking if it sounds like a Marshall.  I wish I could yell at them, "NO!"  A majority of Marshalls use EL-34 tubes which are different than the 6L6 tubes.  Marshalls are known for the "British" sound, and 6L6 based tube amps (Fender) are known for the American rock sound. 

One of the biggest factors in adjusting the sound of a Blue Voodoo is pairing it with the right speakers.  Like I said, it has a lot of highs, but lacks mids and bass.  So I decided to pair it with an American sounding (Fender type) speaker instead of a Celestion (British) sounding speaker.  The American sounding speakers are smoother, balanced, not as bright, and have a medium breakup.  They would help me achieve my goal of having a "hot-rodded Fender" sound.

I found where Carvin was having a blow out sale on their "Vintage" speakers.  Their "Vintage" speakers were basically their version of Eminence "American" voiced speakers.  So it was exactly what I wanted.  I ordered four of them, and installed them in an old Laney cabinet.  I played a few different heads through the cabinet, and it sounded great immediately.  The Blue Voodoo paired awesomely with these speakers.  A lot of speakers need time to be broken in, but these were great right out of the box. 

But my sound wasn't perfect.  I had problems dialing in my sound.  Either the amp was too clean, and then it went straight into angry bee sound without any breakup in-between.  And that in-between is my sound.  I want it to sound like a "hot rodded" Fender.  I don't want to go into heavy metal territory.  If you ever heard Lynyrd Skynyrd live, that's the kind of sound I was going for. 

I was watching a YouTube video on things you could do to make your Fender amp sound better, and they talked about something I hadn't really heard before.  Pretty much all amps use 12AX7 pre-amp tubes.  They are the crunchiest pre-amp tubes available.  However, that doesn't mean they are musical. 

I was reading about other pre-amp tubes that could be used.  Namely, the 12AY7 had a lot less gain, and would allow a player to have a wider selection of gain.  It would also keep the amp from being too loud at lower settings.  Most players know what I mean.  On "1" the amp can barely be heard.  On "2" it's blowing out the windows.  The 12AY7 would still allow you to be loud.  You would just have to turn your amp volume up to "5" instead of "2." 

Most musicians know that feeling when the volume difference between "3" and "10" is nil.  It's annoying and doesn't help you at all.  By replacing the 12AX7s with 12AY7s you can have more useable gain and volume.  However, that's not the only benefit of the 12AY7.

The 12AY7 is also a more "musical" tube.  It has more warmth, and it's not as harsh as the 12AX7.  It's also has a "fatter" tone, something that my amp needs.  Again, since the Blue Voodoo has a lot of treble, but lacks in mids and bass, the 12AY7 is perfect.  It dials back the treble, and boosts the mids and bass.  In other words, it's balancing the amp out while helping to take out the fizziness and sterile sound that a lot of players complain about. 

So I decided to replace the tubes.  I won't go into the technical part of it, but the first pre-amp tube is the most important.  The gain comes from it while the other tubes "mirror" it.  However, the Blue Voodoo has four pre-amp tubes instead of three like most amps.  So I decided to replace the first two pre-amp tubes with 12AY7s. 

Luckily, the Blue Voodoo is easy to work on.  Just remove four screws, and the back comes off.

In go the pre-amp tubes.

Now I plug in and test her out.

I have to say, it took a bit to dial in "my tone."  On channel 2 (the gain channel,) I had to max out the bass since it was so weak.  I'm not a guy who usually uses much bass, but just to balance it I had to max it out.  I also had to boost the mids.  Luckily, I didn't have to boost them as much as I had before.  I dialed the treble back to four, and that seemed to be the right spot for it.  I put the presence knob right in the middle at 12 o'clock.  I could still get harmonics, but not be too bright.  Adjusting the EQ like that lead to a pretty balanced sound.

Next I adjusted the volume.  I could actually put it on "3" without it taking my head off due to the decibel level.  I played with the gain, and found I could get all sorts of rock n' roll sounds.  It just depended upon how crunchy I wanted it.  I have to say, I got it right where I wanted it.  I ended up playing it so much I drove everyone from the room. 

I then tested out channel 1 (the clean channel.)  The new tubes made a huge difference on the clean channel.  When you read reviews about how the Blue Voodoo is a "sterile sounding" amp, the clean channel is where you can really notice it.  However, the 12AY7's livened up the sound as well as helping with the warmth.  I think channel one was actually helped more than channel 2 by the tube change.

I'll admit, I am considering changing the other two pre-amp tubes to 12AY7s.  I don't know if it would change the sound much, but I'll admit I am a bit curious.  But I have to look at the big picture.  I am happy that I have been able to adjust the overall sound of the Blue Voodoo to "my sound."  Although I have to admit, I don't really know of any places you can really play a 100 watt head through a 4X12 cabinet anymore.  It's all coffee shops and small clubs.  Even if I can't play out with it, I can still have fun with it around the house. 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Bad Luck Windshield, And The Best Way To Ruin A Saturday, Part 2

To understand this post a little better read Part 1.

So the good news is that my back windshield is fixed.  The repairman from Safelite Autoglass Repair was a really nice guy, and knew what he was doing.  I really recommend using them to repair your automobile.  They've done a great job for me a couple of times.

I first reported the broken windshield on a Saturday.  Since my vehicle is older, and the station-wagon model, I knew it would take a while to get the replacement glass ordered.  However, they said they would have the repairman out on Wednesday.  I couldn't complain about that.  That was actually quicker than I thought it might take. 

Here's the finished work.

I knew this windshield would be a pain in the butt due to it having the heat strips.  But I have to say, I tried them out the day after installation, and they worked just fine.  Again, I have to give many thanks to Safelite Autoglass Repair. 

Since I can't afford to buy a another car, I have been trying to keep this one in as good a shape as I possibly can.  I don't plan on breaking anymore windows, but if I do, I know who to call. 

Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Ironbark Eucalyptus Tabletop Project

I've been working on a secret project now for a couple of weeks.  There's a good reason why it has been a secret.  You see, two lovely gals I know decided to open their own hair salon.  However, they needed to keep it, "hush, hush," so they wouldn't get fired from where they were working.  They needed a desk for their salon and were experimenting with turning an old TV cabinet into the main desk. 

So they called me for help since I'm a woodworker.  They wanted to know how they could modify it so it didn't look like such a TV cabinet and more like a professional desk.  I went over there, and told them since it was made of particle board and layered wood, you couldn't really sand it, dye it, or modify it that much. 

That's when I came up with the bright idea of making a natural edge tabletop for it.  They asked, "Wouldn't that be a lot of work."  I'm like, "Naw, it's not as much as you'd think."  Of course, I was lying out my rear end because of ...... girls.  You know, us men get our fake muscles and stuff around pretty gals.  So I said with conviction and a Viking sword raised to the roof (okay, there was no sword,) that I would build an awesome natural edge tabletop to sit upon the cabinet.

So now, I had to put my woodworking skills where my mouth was.  This meant I had to run to Dad since I'd never actually built a tabletop before.  However, he has been involved in building a number of them.  So the first step was to actually get some wood.  Dad talked to his buddy Pete at Viable Lumber in St Pete.  They went through Pete's warehouse to see what kind of dried wood he had.  It turns out he had two pieces of Ironbark Eucalyptus.  Here's what they looked like when I got them.

They had actually had a few years to dry.  The bad news was that they had warped badly while drying.  So that meant I was going to have to cut them down by quite a bit to even them out.

So I brought them out on my driveway and started to work on them.

There were two different ways I could join the pieces together.  I could do it the easy way, and make the edges straight like boards, and then glue them.  Or, I could follow the natural edges of the wood, and join them like that.  However, that would be much more labor intensive.  But, it would look much nicer, and more original.  It would also allow more of the wood to be saved.  We decided to follow the natural edges and join them there.

So we rough jointed the edges, and then went to work on running the pieces through the thickness planer.  This, of course, led to other problems.  Namely, the gripping paper tore.

To make a long story short... We got the planer to working, and found out that the pieces of wood were too big to fit through it.  So we had to do all the work by hand.

Luckily, we had just bought an electric hand planner.  That way I didn't have to use tools that Noah would have had to used. 

Here's what it looked like after a bit of cutting.

My next job was to get rid of all that bark.  This time I had to do it the old timey way.  That being, with a hammer and a chisel. 

So now came the time to keep on planning the wood.  After I planed it evenly, I put water on the wood to see what it would look like when finished.

Then it came time to join the two pieces of wood together.  This meant we had to take a grinder to the edges and join them up as best as possible.  You know the secret to it?  Chalk.  Really, look at the pictures.  In the third picture down you can see Dad grinding the edges of the wood.

The next thing we did was flip the pieces of wood upside down, fit the wood together, and clamp it in place.  Thank goodness we have such large clamps.

On the underside we screwed in support beams.  These would help hold the wood in place while we epoxy it. 

Here's the topside of the table with once it was braced.

Next up was the epoxy.  We mixed it with the wood shavings from this very piece of wood.  We also made sure the epoxy was dark, so that it would make artistic streaks in the wood.  But you'll see that later.

After the epoxy dried it was time to sand it.  Luckily I didn't have to sand it by hand.  We had a rotary hand sander.  It made sanding so much easier.  And let me tell you, that epoxy was hard as concrete. 

As I was doing this, we flipped the table so that the underside was up.  That way, we could remove some of the bracing, and add metal braces on the ends.  I cleaned up the epoxy on the underside with the sander as well.

Now back to sanding the top.

I do want to remind my readers that this blog is the "short" version of what happened.  In-between all these photos were a lot of planning and sanding.  In fact, there were many, many hours of it. 

Now it came time to put a finish on it.  Dad decided on polyurethane due to it being easy to work with, and it being a durable finish.  Since this desk would be used every day, it needed to hold up to the rigors of a working environment.  So here's what it looked like when the first coat went on it.

Here's what the epoxy filled gaps looked like.

Pretty nifty huh?  And to fast forward, here's what the wood looked like on the final finish.

Since this was planned to be a natural edge, rustic looking tabletop, we didn't put a lot of finish on it.  It had enough to look glossy, but not too much to look shiny. 

It needed to dry for a couple of days, but after that we took it to the gal's shop to be fitted to the cabinet.  I will fast forward here, but we altered the cabinet, and fit the tabletop to it.  That took a few hours, but was well worth it.

After we had done our part, the girls had planned to have metal wrapped around the cabinet.  That way it would match the rest of the shop, and have a rustic look to it.  Here's the final product.

If you want to see the desk, or get your hair done, you can find it at Revolution Hair, Co. in Tampa, Fl. 

The good news, is that, many unsolicited comments have been given about the tabletop/desk.  Everyone loves it, and wants to touch it.  They say it has a very nice touch since it is so smooth. 

I'm glad Dad and I were able to deliver on the tabletop.  It was a harder project than I thought due to having to use hand tools instead of running it through the planer.  But in the end, the tabletop came out better than I thought it would.  The girls are extremely happy with it, so that's the important thing. 

Will I ever make another one?  Well, if I do, at I have some experience making one.  And I know what I'm in for if I decide to undertake another project.  I'm happy that I can add this project to my woodworking resume.  I think it makes me a more "well-rounded" woodworker. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Homemade White Girl Coffee: The Ultimate Guide

A while ago I wrote a blog called, "The Whitest Girl Coffee You Know."  Here's the link:

Now I am addicted to it.  But I can't go to Starbucks, and spend seven bucks on white girl coffee every day.  So I decided to experiment at home, and make my own.  Now, I have provided you all with the exact recipe I use to make the perfect white girl coffee.  Now, I can start my mornings right, without the expense of going to Starbucks.  Here's the recipe:

First off, you need a big ole' cup.  Get that water hot.  I don't care how.  Just get it hot.

Next, add a Folder's Single.

In the water it goes.

Let's grab some Splenda.  You can use syrup or sugar if you want, but know this.  If you make it like I do, it will end up being around 1,200 calories.

And let's add an insane amount.  Don't even measure it.  Just pour it from the bag.

Now, let's grab some vanilla extract.

Add one capful to the cup.

Now you mix it all up, and add some heavy whipping cream.  Okay, a LOT of heavy whipping cream.  Go crazy with that stuff.  You're turning that coffee from black to a sweet shade of mocha.  That takes a lot of cream.

This is what you should end up with.

Now grab a giant cup, and some big ole' ice cubes.  I like using big ice cubes because they last longer, and don't thin down the coffee.

Now it's time to pour the coffee cup into the ice cup.

Here's the result.

How does it taste?  Like my name should be the most white girl name possible.  Becky.  That's what it tastes like.  It tastes like a Becky. 

Please enjoy this.  Share with your white girl friends.  They will love it.  Consider it a gift from me to you.