Sunday, July 18, 2010

Kzoo Renew

I saw a Silvertone acoustic on Craig's List a month or so ago. I invited the seller over to see my shop and some things I had for trade bait. The Silvertone was OK, just not what I wanted or thought I'd seen in the small pic on CL.

He said that he had another guitar for sale but that it was hammered and in need of alot of attention. What he pulled out of his car next was this. A mid-late 30s Kalamazoo archtop that someone had used paint stripper on the sides , back and neck AND a wood chisel to scrape the old finish off. The top had been spared this torture, however it had issues as well.

Sometime in the 40s someone had installed an early pickup. These were primitive P90 style units and used screw-on coaxial microphone cable to connect to the amplifier. There was a nasty 3/4" x 1" hole in the side of the guitar surrounded by four 1/4" holes spaced 2" apart to hold the jack plate on. The pickup rout on the top had been patched later as well as the volume pot hole. This appeared to be a nice patch job, however the wood and finish didn't match well enough to hide it in any way.

I made him a pitiful offer for it. He said it was old but probably no good to anyone so he took my money and I sat looking at this sorry piece of music history, thinking that I'd probably just thrown $100 out the window for a chunk of ugly wood that had undoubtedly been destined to be nailed to a wall in an Applebee's somewhere in LA, or worst yet, the firewood pile at someone's home here in the valley.

I did a little research on this piece and learned that it was made by Gibson in the 30s as an entry level instrument. $30 back then, with a case for an additional $15. The Gibson name version was $50. In excellent condition these Kzoo's sell for around $1000 now. The condition of this one still had me convinced that I had paid with my heart and not my brain (again). The new "stray" sat in the case for a week or so while I worked on some other pressing projects.

I knew that the chisel marks and other harsh gouges and dents were now part of this piece. I'm not a miracle worker with re-fin's like my old man was with antique furniture. I decided to stain it as close to what was left on the top and keep a relic feel about it. I would touch up the top as best I could, I was really limited in my ability to do much more. I figured at the very least it'd be a conversation wallhanger in my livingroom.

My buddy David at Stringwalker saved the fretboard. I will not mention here what his suggestion was for this piece of firewood. He was happy that I hadn't spent too much on it. Got a new rosewood adjustable height bridge for it, some Kluson 3 on a plate tuners, made a nut, and before patching the giant hole in the side of it, installed a small piezo pickup inside under the top and an endpin jack.

Did the re-stain with some interesting but top secret stain concoctions, gave it a good top coat or two of some satin nitrocellulose lacquer. Let it cure for a couple of days in the shop before restringing it and bringing it in the house to play.

It sounds great, the neck feels fantastic, the vibe is strong with this piece. It looks great on the wall and begs to be played as you pass it. It is no longer firewood. It is worth what your heart says when you look at it, hold it and play it. No price guide can pin this one down now. It 's not a collector's piece, rather a player's piece.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Fun Suckers

Fun-Suckers and Dream-Squashers

During our lives we will encounter folks that will fall into these categories noted above. They are largely ignorant to their titles and their effect on others. A few are deliberate about it, but for the most part the rest just never take into account how broad a path they cut with their actions and words. At times we will all be guilty of being one of these people to someone else. Hopefully we learn from these episodes or reflect upon ourselves when someone else does it to us.

You will run into these folks in every part of your life. At work, sometimes at home, at your recreational activities, hobbies, etc… They whine about little things all the time, never quite satisfied with themselves or others, their equipment, their family, their job, the environment around them, the myriad of things in their world that are out of their control, the economy…you name it and it’s some kind of a problem for them. They drag this baggage into the “fun zone” and they become Fun-Suckers (sucking the fun out of something for the others around them).

I guess that at some point in our lives we decide how much of this stuff we are willing to put up with. Along with that we have to decide how much we give out as well. What’s it all truly worth to you in the grand scheme of things. Water off this duck’s back in many more things than it used to be.

Work is different, it’s essential to our survival. You will probably meet more Dream-Squashers there than anywhere else. They take the advances you’ve made it your work and try to pull the rug out from under you. Set you back to the beginning. It’s all on a big wheel. I have to bend there and do what I can. Can’t expect it to be fun, just make the best of it. Bring home the bacon and a roof over the place where you cook it.

Playing music and working on the instruments is fun. It’s a stress buster and great way to find a balance in life. It evens out the bending we do daily at work. “If it stops being fun, I’m out” is one of the things you’ll hear around me concerning the music stuff. I refuse to let something I love to do for the fun and enjoyment it brings fall victim to the Fun-Suckers and Dream-Squashers. I also try very hard to not be one of those people to others involved with me in bands or whatever. Undoubtedly there will always be those that will view me that way when I choose to protect “my fun” and draw a project to a close due to some FS/DS. That’s unavoidable I guess.

Learning from these experiences will color my future choices in this area and hopefully limit the amount of broken projects down the road. I hope all of you have success in this area as well.