Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Another Teisco Guitar!

This one followed me home from Tennessee...

I saw it hanging in the window of a music store in Waynesboro, where my nephews and I had driven 30 miles in order to buy a set of guitar strings.  When I asked about it, the owner of the store said that it was a project that he didn't think he'd ever finish.  It was missing the the tuner for the high E string, as well as the portion of the bridge which the strings actually sit on.  Plus the (probably black/red sunburst) original finish had been removed, at some point in time, and the wood was oiled (you can see the remaining original black paint inside the cutouts).  For a collector, it was close to worthless.

Still, I couldn't turn it down at the $50.00 the store-owner quoted me when I asked if he would sell it.  He assured me that the electronics were in good shape, and I took him at his word.  I've dealt with this fellow, before, and he's always been fair and honest with me.

This is the style of guitar that, 30 years ago, we would buy for ten or fifteen dollars, just to get the neck and pickups, then we would build our own body for it.  The body is a mere 1-inch thick slab of some sort of hardwood (it has that mahogany look, but I'm no expert on woodgrain).  As you can see in the picture, above, the pickup sits on top of the body, rather than sitting in a routed-out pocket.  You can also see the replaced bridge piece which I had in my box of guitar parts.

The pickup, itself, is pretty basic.  No adjustment for height, nor any adjustment for the pole pieces is available.  This particular unit has a nice strong output.  Too bad the trim ring is cracked.

I had the missing pieces for the tuner, as well.  You can see the brass-colored gear and the yellowed plastic on the replacement tuner.

I made a bridge for it out of a report clip, while I was in Tennessee, and strung it up with the five strings we took off of Kyle's guitar (he had broken the high-E, yet again, and we replaced his strings with a heavier-gauge set).  I played it, and the tone was fantastic.  The intonation was crap, though, which was unusual for one of these guitars.  I finally noticed that this is one of the necks with a zero fret, on which the strings should rest.   Someone had installed a standard nut on the neck, which was holding the strings up off of the zero. 

After I got home, I took the nut off, and cut the slots more deeply so that the strings would rest on the zero fret.  I then installed the bridge piece, strung it up and plugged it in.  Even though it has only a single, center-mounted pickup, a pretty wide variety of tones can be had through adjusting the tone and volume pots.  It sounds great and, since I shimmed the neck, slightly, the action is low and easy. 

I had originally thought I'd put it on ebay and flip it, but this is a keeper guitar.  I'll put the guitar I traded my ROAD Amp for on the bay, instead. 

Maybe this weekend, I'll do a short video of the guitar in action and post it up.  I don't have my good amp, right now.  It quit working as I was testing the guitar (no sound, but it still has power and the tubes glow),  so I had to take it back to Guitar Center for them to send to the Fender Warranty Shop.

I have a little 10-watt Marshall practice amp I can use, though, which I bought as a back-up unit.  The guitar sounds good through it (and I haven't tried it through my 1950s Kay tube amp, yet, come to think of it).

I'll get some video, one way or another.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

A Long Long Road

I have been working on a new version of a song, "RockerArm" that I wrote almost 30 years ago.  It was based on a comment Johnny Broyles made about his car, and I always liked the lyrics.  The original music, however, not so much.  Due to some extenuating circumstances within the "band", I had to dumb it down to two chords.

So, as part of my new music project, I wanted to do a better version of this song.  After recording and erasing seven different versions, I finally came up with one I like.  I was singing the song to myself during the 24-hour mountain-bike race, and finally came up with the sound I wanted.

Go here to check it out.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Invasion of the Japanese Guitars

Warning:  Those of you familiar with my Two Wheels blog know how I can geek out about bicycles.  Be forewarned that I am fully capable of doing the same in regards to guitars.
In the past month, I have acquired three vintage 1960s Japanese electric guitars.  All three were acquired at less than the going market price, for which I am grateful.  I am not the only one who appreciates these things, it seems, and the prices are well above the $5.00 to $20.00 I paid for similar instruments back in the late 70s/early 80s.

The first guitar I got, from eBay, is this nice Teisco ET-220 (Electric Tremelo 2-pickups),  also called the Spectrum 2.  The Teisco DelRey nameplate is missing from the headstock, so I have to assume the previous owner did not know the brand, nor did the "we sell your junk on eBay" company which listed it.  I happened to see the listing, but I think the Teisco collectors must have all missed it, since I got it for less than half of what a similar model sold for in the same week.

The Spectrum guitars have cool pickups with offset treble and bass pole-pieces.  Plus, they have the nice, flower engraved, pickguards for which the Teisco DelRey is famous.

The nicely bound headstock still shows the mark from the missing nameplate.

The ET-220 arrived complete with this cool vintage strap, as well.  I have seen these go for $25.00, on their own, lately.

This is the guitar for which I traded the ROAD amp.  It was presented to me as a Teisco, and while I am sure it was built in the Tokyo Electrical Instrument and Sound Company facility, I don't know if it was branded as a Teisco.  I have never seen a Teisco E-100 with the polished aluminum pickguard, but everything else matches up.  Of course, Teisco sold guitars with many, many different brand names to different importers/department stores/music store chains in the 1960s.

This guitar has the thickest, most baseball bat-like neck I have ever seen, which is good since it has no truss rod.

This mystery guitar, which I got in between getting the other two, shares a lot of features with the E-100-type guitar, above.  But, it also has some differences.

Other than the obvious difference in body profile, and two pickups rather than one, the neck on the mystery guitar is not nearly as thick as the E-100 neck.  And, it is a semi-set neck, rather than a pure bolt-on. 

Under that 5-bolt plate are two bolts holding the neck to the body.  There also appears to be some glue involved in the joint, as well.

Click this picture for the big version, and you can see the difference in neck thicknesses and profiles between the two guitars.

The pickups are identical, between the two, as are the tailpieces.

As usual, the two rocker switches are in bad shape.  I'll probably replace them with toggle switches, since I can't find replacements for the rockers.

I can't find a picture of an exact match for this guitar, but I have found some similar ones branded as "Winston" and "Zen-On".  I suspect that the E-100 was the same, due to the polished pickguard.

I plan on trying to get this one in as good shape as the E-100.  I stuck the one string and a bridge on it, just to see if the electronics work, and the tone is great, as it sits.  I think it will make a nice player, once it's spiffed up a bit.