This is the second time I've written this post -- the first time blogger did a fun little switcheroo with an identically titled duplicate draft and tricked me into deleting the whole thing. If it seems badly written and confused, it's probably because I was too fed up to write it any better.
This is the last of my interminable posts about the battered Ibanez EX370 that I found in a bin. So, the story so far. I found a guitar with a busted neck. I tried to fix said neck and busted it worse. Time passed, I got married. I made new neck, glued it together and fretted it. All that remained for me to do was paint it and set it up.
I was a little nervous going into this last stage. On the one hand, I knew it was be pretty damn difficult to irredeemably wreck the guitar at this stage, but on the other, there was the issue of my rather checkered record when it comes to refinishing guitars. I lack the patience, equipment, and time to make a good job of it. I still try, but I usually cock it up. Going into this project I had tried refinishing a guitar three times and buggered it up... well, three times.
This time I was determined
to do everything by the book. I sanded the neck until it was as smooth as a
greased-up teflon baby, then liberally smeared it with sanding sealer. A few days later I repeated the process and left it to dry. The paint I was going to use was some matt clear lacquer I had left over from another project (I say left over – it's more that I never wanted it in the first place. I made the mistake of placing an order with Montana Cans, who are a bunch of complete fucking shysters. Go with MTN Nottingham if you're looking for spray paint -- it's good paint and they won't try and rip you off.).
While it was entirely not what I wanted for the other project, the matt lacquer was ideal for sealing up the neck. I don't like the feel of gloss lacquered or oiled necks -- too sticky under my thumb -- but I knew that if I didn't put something fairly heavy-duty on it the neck would be coated in finger-skank before I'd played my first riff. I took advantage of a late summer warm spell to get to work in my spray booth (the end of the garden) with the neck placed my my special painting cradle (I dangled the neck from the branch of a tree using a hook made out of a bent coathanger).
Much to my annoyance, I discovered that it was very good paint. I
hate to give a good review to such a staggeringly unethical company* but
I have to say it went on nicely, dried quickly and gave a good finish. The neck was
finished within three days. I didn't take any pictures during this
stage for some reason, but there wasn't really a whole lot to see.
Once the finish was completely dry I put my maker's mark on the headstock. Since
Kristen did about half the work, I figured I should give her half the
name, even if Hollingmore does sound like a 1950s kitchen appliance
company. I'd intended to do the lettering with one of my chunky italic pens, but it
wouldn't stick to the finish so I had to use a sharpie. Suffice to
say, calligraphy isn't easy with a sharpie marker. It's supposed to be
based on a 16th century Flemish alphabet that I can do quite well with a
pen, but with a sharpie, on a awkwardly shaped block of wood, the
results aren't so hot.
With that done I wired in the old pickups from my brother's guitar
(see this post for how they came to be not in his guitar). Again, no pictures of this stage. I can practically do with blindfolded now (although I still periodically burn myself on the soldering iron) so it didn't strike me as novel enough to photograph.
At this point, when I was just a few meters from the finish
line. It all went to shit. Well, not all of it exactly, but an important
bit. You see, when I strung it up the first time I didn't really bother
with all the rigmarole that goes with setting up a Floyd Rose tremolo –
I just ran the strings through the machine-screw holes in the back of
the saddle-blocks and left it at that. As long time readers would know,
I'm really emphatically not a fan of the FR. What happened next has made
me even less of a fan.
To attach a string properly you need to wedge it between a little
square block of metal an the saddle-block, then tighten the whole thing
up with a set screw. I did this to the first string with no problem, but
when I tried to do it to the second on the string pinged out when I
tried to tune it up. I put it back in and tightened it about a half-turn
more than I'd tightened it before. This caused the saddle-block to
shatter like a piece of porcelain.
Now, in all fairness, this isn't exactly the fault of the Floyd Rose
design. ‘Original’ FR tremolos (as in ones actually made by the
company) are made from machined steel, and you'd need a colossal amount
of force to break them. The fact that this one broke is mostly down to
it being a cheap-ass die-cast licence made copy. Still, you can make a Fender tremolo from the cheapest materials possible and it still
works just fine – I know, I've played an Encore strat copy.
Still. I was annoyed. I had no spare saddles and I definitely
couldn't fix the broken one. After a great deal of rummaging around on
eBay I managed to find a replacement set, but they were £30 and were
probably no better made than the ones that were already there. I really
didn't want to spend money improving a piece of hardware that I consider
to be fundamentally flawed, and that I'd never use, but at the same
time I really didn't have any other choice. After about a week of
procrastinating I bought the new saddles and string it up. This time it
went without problems, and while the saddles are a noticeably different
colour to the old ones (new gold finish vs extremely worn gold finish)
they seem to work fine.
I tweaked the action a little, adjusted the intonation (which takes
fucking ages) and declared it finished. I then took pictures to prove
It sounds nice, and plays well. I think I might make a few
more very minor adjustments to it at some point (the nut could do with
being filed down about 0.5mm and the fretwork is ever-so-slightly buzzy
on the top-e with the action down really low) but they're not really a
priority. For now I'm just going to keep it in playable condition and,
well, play it.
Perhaps I'll make a serious effort to learn some jazz guitar, just
because the idea of playing jazz on something with pointy horns and a
Floyd Rose tickles me.
whole German Montana vs Spanish Montana (MTN Color) affair is a
fascinating story that I need to tell on here one day. Suffice to say it
reads like a ‘big-business vs the little man’ story from a left-leaning
children's TV show.