Thursday, August 4, 2016

Let's Do Something With Our Hands


Boy it's been a long time!  No, I haven't forsaken longer form writing for the 140 characters of Instagram or Twitter.  My life is just not that interesting.  In fact, after several years into the successful experiment that has been my divorce and BachelorDadHood, I fell into a comfortable rut.  A rut I felt I could only power my way out of with 750cc of vintage Japanese motorcycle engine.  I've said before that I would love to own and maintain a vintage cafe racer to zip around town on in the early mornings and late evenings, and to work on in the cool dusk of my garage.  Luckily, cooler heads prevailed.

No motorcycle.  It certainly would've spelled the death of me.

So what to do.  I was still in a rut, remember?  Clearly, I needed a hobby other than sulking at home, listening to my vinyl records, or worse, chasing tourist skirts in Waikiki (especially since I was doing that so poorly, as well).  Then I discovered it while talking with another OnceWereBachelor friend, a good friend of mine since third grade, a father of three girls, and husband to a wonderful woman who had his life tuned to such a perfect pitch that he too went searching for a hobby.  Something to keep his hands busy at night.

Three words:  DIY Electric Guitar.  Okay, I know that's more like five words, but you get the idea.

I've always thought the quintessential rock n' roll guitar was embodied by the Flying V, originally built in the heady days of Sputnik by Gibson.  I've always wanted one.  However, their versions, even the most affordable of them, are laughably expensive.  I discovered a company in Australia that will mill one (in China) to one's preferred specifications.  After many weeks waiting, it will arrive unassembled and unadorned.  A moderate amount of woodworking skill is called for, and a like amount of painterly talent and soldering fearlessness, and, as the French say: voila!



I was going for mid-century American muscle, something evocative of tailfins and checkered flags and motor oil on rain puddles.  The center ornament is from an old Chevy Impala, since GM seems to have also gone with the flag motif (to the chagrin of this dyed-in-the-wool Ford guy).

My second guitar began shortly after the V was completed.  In fact, I believe I was still wrestling with electrical issues on my V, when I found this interesting guitar kit on eBay.  Unlike most Les Pauls, this model was routed for a single pick up.  Even more interestingly, it was fitted for a single-coil P90, as opposed to the more common (and more modern) humbucker pick up.  I fell in love with its unrepentant purity and simplicity, and I resolved to build it as the ultimate Punk Rock workhorse, but adorned not with stickers and graffiti, but with the most vintage of vintage paint schemes from Gibson, the venerable Goldtop.  Like the V, it would also have an unfinished neck, for hand speed, and a stinger headstock, where the paint job forms a point on the back of the neck.  I would throw out the cheap Chinese tuning pegs for vintage, snot-green Kluson-style tuners.

Because of the single pickup, it would have much simpler electronics involving only one tone and one volume knob. And for the pinnacle of simplicity, as well as vintage fidelity, it would have a one-piece wrap-around bridge, literally half the hardware of more modern guitars (and by modern, I mean post-1954).  It will take every ounce of self-discipline in me to refrain from stickering it up.

The last DIY guitar was a little different.  I had an old stratocaster-style guitar sitting in a closet, a $30 purchase off Craigslist as part of a punk rocker costume I wore for Halloween a few years ago.  After a little tweaking, I had already made it sound above average.  I decided I wanted an homage to one of the great icons of horror comic books, a rock n roll femme fatale if ever there was one, the voluptuous, the vexatious, the venereal, Vampirella.  For this "build," all I did was learn that old craft skill from the Seventies, decoupage.  I purchased a readily available pile of old Vampirella comics from the local nerd-store, and, (in Bela Lugosi voice) "Good Evening."

And that's what I've been doing for the past six-months, at night when my son is with his mom.  I think it's been well-spent, and it's much better than wrapping myself bodily around a streetlight off the back of a motorcycle.  But don't worry, other stupidity follows, and I also feel one of those Universal Theory posts bubbling up very soon.


M.Lane said...

What a GREAT idea! It would be a laughable mess had I tried to do this. Bravo!


Ben said...

Thanks, my friend, but I find that hard to believe. Trial lawyers can do anything.