Saturday, 26 January 2013

Say hello to "Amber"

After waiting a week to let the body totally cure off today was guitar assembly and set up time!!!  And here is the final result...  I've christened her "Amber" after the colour used on the body. 

Let me take you through the assembly...

Here was the work shop dining room table as I was preparing to start about 9am Saturday morning.

First job was soldering all the various components together on the body.  I didn't fix anything down at this point in case there were any hassles.


I soldered on the jacksocket - so I could then do a "tap test" (tapping a screwdriver on the pickups whilst the guitar is plugged into an amp to ensure the electrics are generally ok)  Then I attached everything to the body.  I drilled necessary holes for the scratchplate and control plate and screwed them, the bridge and the jack socket into position.

Then to the final major bit.  Attaching the neck.  This neck/body combination had been "mated" by the kit supplier so that was easy just align the neck and fasten the four screws, with a little candle wax to help lubricate them.

Having now got the neck fixed it finally really does look and feel like a proper guitar.

On with stringing and setting it up.  Sorry I was so "in the zone" concentrating I didn't take any photos but essentially, set the neck relief, I went for about .012" at the 8th fret measured with a capo on 1st fret and fretting at the 21st with the other hand measured on the bass side 6th string.  Then to the nut which was not surprisingly pre-cut a little too high.  I have some nut files, an extravagent expense I know but Mrs F bought them as a present a few years ago and frankly if you have the money they are worth it, nut work can be a worry since if you make a mistake you really can't correct it only replace the nut and start again!  I gently lowered each slot to about .008" measured on first fret whilst freting at the 3rd.  Although to be honest more of this was by eye, i.e. just slowly working down until I was ok with it.  Then set the action, about 4/64" at the 17th fret on both sides.  Finally I set the intonation.  All done a bit of a play and then recheck everything it feels pretty nice to play and is as "in tune" as any guitar is likely to ever be across the board.  This picture is just before the intonation setting as the saddles are as the bridge arrived.

And so all finished just in time for 3pm cup of tea!  I've plugged her in and ... sounds like a T'caster should I'd say.  Overall really, really pleased and proud with the result.  I went for a kit with an Ash body as I wanted a natural finish and like Ash for that and the colour has ended pretty much bang on for what I wanted. Actually if someone had shown me this picture at the start I'd have said "Yes that is what I want something just like that".   I might do an audio/video demo some time soon so stay tuned for that.

Special thanks to DIY Guitar Shop who supplied the kit, Wudtone for the Amber finish, Vanson Guitars for the pickups, scratchplate, strap locks and other bits, CH Guitars and Stewmac for tools and my little local ironmongers Johnson's of Rainham where I should shop more often than going to the big DIY chain along the road, they supplied the Danish Oil, Wirewool and other sundries!

Friday, 25 January 2013

Dressing for -26°C

This is apparently how you have to dress for -26°C (about -15°F).  There was a biting wind that day too adding a few extra degrees to how it felt.

Rumour has it that Son-of-Furtheron is buried in there somewhere!

He and his crowd are in one of the last of the accommodation blocks in the town so the walk is about 15 - 20 mins to get to the university this is him ready for the walk back at the end of the day.

Here is a panorama he created of the walk...  

Please DON'T STEAL THIS - it is my son's work please respect that.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

Guitar build update

So how is the guitar build going?  I know you've been constantly asking yourself that haven't you?   ... Oh well...

Right - I've been using the really good Wudtone Amber stain on the body.  I liked the look of the finish you get - very natural etc. and very easy for an amateur home builder like me to use as no spraying, no special equipment etc. just need some gloves and some old rags to apply it.  You don't even have to apply grain filler before you start to finish as it takes care of some of that too.  Neat product.  However it takes a while, you need to put on a few base coats, I did four and then some top coats, I did three.  Between each you need at least a day or two for it to cure.  I learnt two things.  As ever when it says ventilated area it means it, I got a couple of killer headaches when doing this in the shed with the door closed.  DOH!  Also don't use a t-shirt, I did on the first two coats and realised it soaked too much into the cloth.  So and old pair of cotton pj bottoms were cut up and I found that to be excellent for the job.

Anyhow - after 5 base coats and 3 top coats here she is.

Have to say I'm really happy - this is so close to what I'd hoped it would turn out like I'd have to give it a full 10/10!

Advice from Wudtone is to leave it a full week to fully cure before assembly.  Which I will now do but I couldn't resist a quick test assembly with the neck and scratchplate.  I bought a white three ply one last week from Vanson guitars on eBay, they supplied the Wilkson Pickups and strap locks I have now for it to.  Good fast service and reasonably priced products for someone like me at the lower end of custom building.  I think the white is definitely better on the Amber body than the black one that came with the kit.  I did go to and fro a bit but once I laid it out like this there is no contest, white it will be.

So next weekend I hope to be soldering up all the components and assembling it all.  Then just set up time.  In preparation for that I have polished up the frets with wire wool and then a polish drum on a little Dremel like rotary tool - a trick I got from Crimson Guitars, a really inspirational site following a real luthier in his workshop through his builds and repairs etc.  I also have it a good drink of lemon oil on the fretboard.  Measureing the radius showed it is very flat, flatter than I first thought, about 20" so nothing like a vintage 7.25" or more modern Fender 9.5".  However I don't mind flat boards, in some ways easier to set up.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Sad news

I got a message today I was expecting but not wanting.   A friend in AA passed away today.  She was only in her late 40s unfortunately.

All I can say is she was a lady who was an inspiration to me.  When I joined AA she was relatively new around as well.  I watched her come out of her shell and she was a riot of laughter and a real pleasure to know.  She had known tragedy when she had to deal with the death of a very young grandchild a couple of years back.  Then recently she was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer and there was little chance of a reprieve or that she would get long.  Sadly she didn't.

However an inspiration - to many out there being told your small grandchild has died or that you have terminal cancer would be an excusable reason to take a drink or two or three.  Everyone would appreciate that was not unreasonable.  In both cases my friend, a recovering alcoholic like myself, didn't.  She went through both events sober to the end.

So today is sad news but also an inspiration to me.  I take strength from someone facing this and not picking up a drink.  It knocks away any excuse I might consider keeping up my sleeve as an arrested alcoholic.  There is nothing that happens that is a reasonable excuse for me to drink, because when I drink I damage myself and those around me so badly that will always outweigh whatever it is that provides that excuse.

RIP my friend Lynn.  I will miss you but even today you are nothing but a great example and true inspiration to me.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Where's the High Street going?

To hell in a hand cart...

In the last few weeks we've lost Comet, Jessops and now HMV tetters on the cliff of administration and closure.  But then like many I'm a culprit to these places demise - I buy off internet sellers.  Well actually I do buy in the High Street when I can get what I want but case in point my daughter bought me Sam Carter - No Testament for Christmas (stunning album btw - check him out!).  She went to HMV and no sign of it or of any help for the multi-pierced and studded girl who seemed to know nothing about music.  So she bought it off Amazon.  I was with my son who looked at a Blu-Ray in there - scanned the bar code and realised he could buy it off Amazon at a fraction of the cost so ordered it there and then.

The last two cameras I bought both presents for the kids were from Wex online.  Why?  Significantly cheaper than Jessops and with a better package - i.e. I could get the lens they wanted in a package at a good price.  Jessops didn't have that flexibility and again the level of knowledge in the staff sadly lacking.  I asked about that body with that lens... "Can't do that you have to buy the package and the new lens on top"... Wex - had it online for next day delivery!

In the old days (sound like my Dad now) you'd go to the shop and an expert would know more than you and help you appropriately - my wife often recounts the length of time it took me to be guided to my first SLR purchase back in my early 20s - but that Pentax lasted over 20 years of reliable service.

So now it is so much easier to do your research online so if you care about something you can be an expert as well versed as any.  Shops need to reduce costs so it strikes me sadly that too many have people who have little knowledge or interest in the products and so a vicious cycle goes on.

I'll go back to my first ever use of Amazon.  My son was about 10 so 12 - 13 years ago now.  He was doing a project on rivers and had been given The Orinoco. I went to Foyles in London (biggest bookshop in the world and all that or whatever they state...) and asked for any books on that topic suitable for his age.  Frankly total blank despite a really helpful assistant searching the microfiche (remember them?).  At home I went on Amazon and had a look - found a suitable book and not that expensive and it arrived in less than a week straight through my letter box.  I was sold on this new way of shopping.  In those 12 years or so sadly the shops on the High Street have I don't think matched that trend with an improved offering.  Maybe places with good knowledge and ability to order "direct to you sir" the exact product they have helped you select do have a place... sadly I think the opportunity for that model has slipped past.

HMV has for a while now resembled little more than a jumble sale - lots of stuff dirt cheap but little depth and breath to the stock.  Rows and rows of Bon Jovi CDs at 2 for £10 but no Sam Carter for example!  I tried to buy Black County Communions Live Over Europe on Blu Ray in their flagship Oxford St store the month it was released in... ordered it off Amazon again... I rest my case m'lud!

So Jessops, HMV - we came, we asked, you failed... good bye

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Top of the world

A couple of photos of the northern lights - my son is getting a great display as the sun has been active recently.

(Message to anyone thinking of copying these... Please respect that these are my sons work - DO NOT - copy these and use them elsewhere, thank you.)

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Live in the Living Room

I was invited by to appear on the YouTube Channel "Live in the Living Room" - where James records local musicians playing their material in his living room, it does what it says on the tin!

Anyway here is a brand new song that got its world-wide debut on James' sofa "Sense".

And this is "The Man Inside".

Remember look to the right for a button to take you to Rock-Til-You-Drop Records where you can download the whole Man Inside album for only £2 ($3.25ish)!  Oh and there is some of my Within album available there to download for FREE!

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Son-of-Furtheron's new home

This is Son-of-Futheron's new home...

And this is the view from the front door!

Btw both of these were taken at about 3:30 in the afternoon!!!  :-)

Monday, 7 January 2013

He has arrived!

Son-of-furtheron has arrived in the land of the midnight sun - although currently it is the land of no flipping sun at all!

Rewind to last week...  Final preparations underway for his trip, huge Arctic coat bought, selection of thick hats and gloves, even some gaiter things to attach to his boats so that he can trudge through the snow without it filling up his boots, thick over trousers etc. etc.  His girlfriend had a great idea of these vacuum pack bags - you fill them up and roll them over several times to expel all the air from them through one way valves, you can then pack them in much less space than normal.  So by Friday it was all packed into a huge case and his backpack.  We had a great laugh weighing the case, as I had some scale things but he was so close to the limit (and he is of course a physicist ) he wanted a more accurate measure.  So another bright idea - use the Wii fit!  That hadn't seen light of day for months and months but after finally weighing the case - right on the limit - everyone was was back on Wii Sports.  A really fun evening along with a massive delivery order from Domino's Pizza!

Sunday we had a hearty roast lunch and headed to the airport where he met up with his fellow travellers and we waved a tearful farewell to him - well the girls were tearful.  We then got various txt messages detailing his progress.  To Oslo and a night sleeping in the terminal to then check in early, flight up to Tromso, then to Svalbard.  The last indicating all arrived safely and that he had the key to his accommodation and was in there, all in all just over 24 hours from leaving our house until he arrived.

The adventure begins!  I hope to bring occasional updates here and being the keen photographer he is once he posts anything up on Flikr I'll point you in that direction.

This evening will be just me and Mrs F and a hot pot of the left over beef!  S-o-F safely arrived, his girlfriend has battled the UK railway network to return to Wales, Daughter-of-Furtheron is off to have a meal with her boyfriend now he is back from his holiday in Egypt. So from 6 go mad on Saturday night to the pair of us at the kitchen table today.  This is what older parenting looks like I presume...

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Guitar build continues...

... or save of the week maybe! 

The guitar build continues. The neck is now finished - although I had a panic on Tuesday.  I did a second coat of Danish Oil on it but was worried it wasn't drying and read some horror stories on on-line forums about "How can I remove the sticky/gummy mess I've made with a Danish Oil finish"... oh dear.  I did something alien to me. I left well alone!  I only went to look at it today (Saturday morning) and guess what?  Success - it had dried out and felt pretty good - the look and feel I was after.  A little clean up consisting of a rub down with very fine (0000) wire wool, a light rub off with White Spirit then I polished it over with two coats of an old finishing wax I have that I'm sure was my Dad's - so at least 30 odd years old but hey it's done the job and here it is with the tuners now fitted.

It'll have to wait a while to be mated to its body as I've now applied the  third coat of the Wudtone Amber finish.  There is at least another base coat to go, maybe two and then two to three top coats.  That'll take a while longer.

If you are interested the kit came from DIY Guitar Shop who have some great other kits on offer.

I've just ordered some different pickups - you can't stop yourself customising it can you?!  Well I can't yes I've order some Wilkinson Pickups - I've heard good reports of these and have gone for the set with the slightly hotter bridge pickup that'll be a bit more like a Fender Texas Special feel - well that is what I'm hoping. Oh yes and Schaller like strap locks as well as I generally fit them to all my electric guitars.  All coming along nicely now! :-)

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Another Milestone in Life

This coming weekend Son-of-Furtheron is off to pastures new - although there is precious little pasture where he is heading!  He is off to Svalbard which is in the High Arctic - in fact it is the most northerly town of over 1,000 people in the world.  He has a great opportunity as part of his last year on his master course to go there to study the Northern Lights (or Radar Diagnostics of Space Plasmas and the Interaction of Solar Winds with the Earth's Ionosphere if you want to be technical about it!).  It will be 24 hour darkness when he gets there and for the first month!  It has recently been -20°C with a windchill taking it below -30°C.  So not a walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination.  By the time he comes home sometime in May or June it'll be a balmy -2°C and 24 hour daylight!  Frankly I think 24 hour daylight will prove more difficult to get your head and bodyclock around than the 24 hour night personally!

We're all off to Heathrow to wave him off on the first leg of the trip there - he'll fly to Oslo then take a domestic flight from there to the island itself.  I'm expecting much tears and wailing from Mrs F, his girlfriend who is staying with us and Daughter-of-Furtheron.  I'll do my best to grit my teeth and not show emotion... :-)

Once he has completed these studies he'll be quickly back to Wales to graduate and then... well we'll see, I think a PhD is his likely next course - he doesn't want to "sell his soul to a corporation".  Another big step in the Furtheron family annals and another milestone in life.