Reverb replacement for the Fat Boy

Sunday, August 10th, 2014
You can take the "boi" out of "boing..."

Not working to spec

A few months ago, I noticed that the Accutronics 1BB2A1B reverb on my mighty Carlsbro Fat Boy suddenly started to sound terrible.  I just replaced it yesterday.

Yeah, you read that correctly.  I noticed this a few months ago, and only did something about it in the last 24 hours. If this gear belonged to anyone else I know, I would have been all over them to fix it. In fact, I probably would have dragged it home and fixed it. But this is MY gear, so I’ve been playing trucker music for months with no reverb.   Yay me!

While this is a simple repair, there is very little information out there about how to actually get the parts you need and do it.  I’m filling this post with search engine bait, so if you found it, that worked.


The big fail

The failure itself was pretty simple:  One of the wires that holds the spring mounts broke off, and it did so inside a mounting piece that is soldered in place.  A better person that I could probably fix this, but it is extremely fine and fiddly work, and I am pretty constantly reminded that I am not a better person than I.


The bigger problem

The main problem is that the stock reverb tank in the Carlsbro Fat Boy is a 1BB2A1B. That becomes a pain in the butt for the handy lazy person, because searching for 1BB2A1B and your amp name or “replacement” gives you pretty much no useful results on the major search engines.  Neither does “reverb spring repair” by the way. Lots of links for people who will replace your ‘verb for money, but you probably don’t need that.

Hopefully, your search now leads you here.


Reverb codes, briefly

Spring reverbs are a rare kind of product, in that there is a standard numbering system for identifying pretty much everything about them, and everyone in the industry uses it.

Apparently, that kind of standardisation is easy to do with physical objects made in different parts of the world over decades, but pretty much IMPOSSIBLE to do in software.  But I digress…

You can find a key for the reverb numbering system all over the place. Here’s one with information about Accutronics reverbs at the top, and the numbering system at the bottom. Seeing as most of the reverbs that come stock in amps are Accutronics, that’s a good place to start.

The chart tells you this about my 1BB2A1B tank:
1 – It’s Type 1, which means it has two springs and is short (9″)
B – Input impedance is 150 ohms*
B –  Output impedance is 2250 ohms*
2 – Medium decay time (1.75 to 3.0 secs)
A – Input and output are both grounded*
1 – No lock
B – Mounts horizontally, with the open side down

I liked how it sounded, but truth to tell, it’s a pretty cheap-ass tank.  Short, two-spring verbs can be kinda theeen.  Doesn’t matter though, because pretty much no-one makes this exact tank any more.  You’ll be hard-pressed to find any Type 1 tanks from anyone.


Getting tanked

My tank was an Accutronics, so I went to the Accutronics site.  I couldn’t find any info there about a 1BB2A1B, and I knew that some of the specs of my old tank needed to be matched on whatever new one I bought.  I was most concerned about the input and output impedance and grounding, which is why I marked them with an “*.”

I ended up calling one of their distributors, CE Distribution.  CE is a distribution company, but they run a few places that sell to end-users. They have the same support for all of them, including Antique Electronic Supply.  I talked to Sam on the phone, and he’s awesome.


A steady guide in some celestial voice

I’m not going to get into the What Kinda Reverb You Want and Why discussion here. This post is already way too long to start talking subjectives.

The important things when choosing a replacement:

  • The input and output impedance must either match your old tank exactly, or you must nerd out and learn what happens when they don’t
    (hint: avoid having to do that)
  • Same goes for the grounding
  • Check the size of the tank versus the space you need to install it in. Remember that you have to plug the thing in, so if you don’t have AT LEAST 1.5″ clear in front of the plugs when the tank is installed, you’ll have to plug it in BEFORE you mount it
    (hint: avoid having to do that)
  • For something that can be a big part of your sound, reverb tanks are pretty cheap

I couldn’t find anything by Accutronics that would drop right in, so I got a MOD 4BB2A1B to replace my 1BB2A1B.  Pretty much the same tank as the 1BB2A1B, but 17″ long, which is accomplished by doubling the springs lengthwise.  All the electronic specs line up, which is the important part if you want to be simple about things.


Installing a horizontal spring reverb tank

There never seem to be instructions for this anywhere, and most searches for it just point to to reverb tank reviews that say useful things like “installation was easy!”  or “installation is easy!”  Search is horrible now.

On the Fat Boy, and most amps with the ‘verb installed flat across the bottom of the amp with the open side down, installation is really easy! LAWL.  It’s nice to have instructions though. You should read all the way through them first.


  1. Open up your amp
    (hint: I dunno, look it up if you need to!)
  2. Look at the input and output jacks to the reverb. Note what colour each is.  Write it down.  I SAID WRITE IT DOWN!
  3. Undo the input jack
  4. Seriously!  There is NO colour-code standard for input and output.  LAST CHANCE TO WRITE IT DOWN
  5. Undo the output jack
  6. Remove the screws holding the tank in place, and keep them
  7. Remove the tank

NOTE! If you are inside a combo amp, your reverb tank is under a big ol’ magnet.  That magnet is going to grab the tank.  This is annoying.  You can’t stop it.


NOTE! Remember when I mentioned the big ol’ magnet?  Dude!  It was like, three lines ago!   That magnet’s going to want to grab the new tank too.  If the tank is painted, the magnet will scratch the paint.  It WILL.  I highly recommend that you hook up the new tank outside the amp FIRST, make sure it works, and then install it.  No-one wants to take back a scratched tank.

  1. Connect the inputs and outputs.
    SEE?  TOLD YA TO WRITE IT DOWN!  The magnet-wrasslin’ makes you forget
  2. Test that the reverb works
  3. (netdud only) Take out the piece of foam they put under the springs for shipping, stop swearing, and test again
  4. Turn off the amp, disconnect the reverb
  5. Make sure you have squishy grommets in the screwholes you are going to use, so the tank is physically isolated from the cabinet
  6. Wrestle new tank into place, scratching it on the magnet at least once
  7. Make sure you have room to plug in your input/output jacks
  8. Screw the tank in place (Heh.  I said “in place…”)
  9. Hook up the tank
  10. Test
  11. Close up your amp and play!




Thursday, August 7th, 2014

Mushroom Brush#MushroomBrush

Automatically broken

Thursday, July 10th, 2014

ATTN: People who make video softwareses!
I know you all read my posts, so I thought I would mention this here.I know it makes you feel cool to just use the names of Chip Jewelry for output settings, but some of us actually want to know what those settings mean.

Seeing as you require me to put in the resolution, framerate, aspect, etc. in order to IMPORT, you can assume that I will want to know what those numbers are for EXPORT.

If audio software worked like this, you’d have presets like:

  • I have mpenge disks on my turntable spindle
  • “Audiophile” who likes vinyl (ironic)
  • “Audiophile” who likes vinyl (old)
  • “Audiophile” who likes vinyl (clean-shaven)
  • “Audiophile” who likes vinyl (bearded)
  • “Audiophile” who likes vinyl (because pictures on the cover!)
  • Liquid metal cables and blue felt pen on the CD
  • Metal guy (80’s)
  • Metal guy (90’s)
  • Metal guy (00’s)
  • Compressed all to ratshit, like on the radio
  • Streaming
  • Leave my shit alone and just render a .wav file (hidden deep in settings)

The llama never gets a break

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014
Rock it!

It was before your time

The llama’s ass will continue to get whipped!

You know, I used to despise AOL, but now I don’t. Now I see them as the corporate auto-Robin-Hood that they truly have been.

Thanks to their unique combination of cash reserves, hubris and goofiness, AOL have managed to absorb the difference between the grotesque over-valuation of several pieces of tech (WinAmp, Netscape, etc.), and the actual value of those same assets. They bought those things for the stupid, Facebook-level IPO messiah price, screwed up and starved the productive side of things in a vain search for profitability commensurate with their unrealistic investment, and refused to let go.

The end result: The tech ends up functional, freed of its greedhead investors, with only those who truly care about what it does left and providing the (usually simple) functionality that made it worthwhile in the first place.

And they’ve done it the old-fashioned way–by taking HUGE losses!

Yay market! Thanks AOL!

Why they come in boxes

Friday, December 20th, 2013
Does not come with wafers

Does not come with wafers.

Just opened up a brand-new Lenovo laptop running Win7 to set up for someone who just bought it. I do this kind of thing for people.

If you are planning to do this yourself, try this: When you buy the laptop, ask the person selling it if you can just go ahead and open it right there in the store and try it out.

Not the demo on the shelf, the new computer you just bought.

This should be no problem.  Batteries aren’t the temperamental pains they used to be—you can, in most cases, just take the thing out of the box, plug it in, and start it up.  Most stores have wi-fi all over the place.  You should be able to fire up your new machine, get online, get to know it a bit, and start enjoying computing fun, You could even do your registration.

You’d think that would be pretty cool.  You’d think that would actually help sell computers. But of course, that isn’t what happens at all

What happens, with Windows machines anyway, is that you will spend the first hour with your new laptop wading through the crap adware the manufacturer included, saying “No” to all the “Do you want to activate/buy this thing you’ve never heard of?” dialogs, downloading updates, having the machine do a bunch of stuff without knowing what it is, and wondering why the thing is so slow.

Hint: It will quite slow until it has been running and online for at least half an hour, and then restarted at least once.

Normally, you HAVE to do all this crap when you get home. At that point, you are excited about your machine, then surprised, then annoyed, then frustrated, but you’ve already bought the damn thing, so you just eat your lemons.

It seems odd that your first day or so with your spanky new computer is going to be the worst time you spend with it until it either gets bogged down with cruft or malware, or the fan dies.

If you spent your first few minutes on a new laptop in a store, there’s pretty much no way you would leave with the machine. And if you were watching someone else go through this, you probably wouldn’t want to buy the machine in the first place.

At this point, if you have owned a computer and paid any attention at all to it, you might be thinking “Yes.  This is exactly what happens. That’s just how it is.  SO?”

Well, after 30-odd years of consumer computing, it is just incredible that this is how it is.

I am conversational

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013
The good life, with chowder

Home of the New England Chevaliers!

Me:  The letter is supposed to end up here in Omaha.

USPS Customer Service rep:  You all are in Omaha?  It says it might be heading for Bellevue.

Me: That’s sort of a suburb of Omaha.  Is there a sorting facility there or something?

USPS CSR:  Wait–where is Omaha? It says here “NE.”

Me: That is Nebraska.  “NE” is Nebraska.

USPS CSR:  Oh!  I thought it was for “New England.”   I thought Nebraska was “NEB.”

Me: Ah!  It’s all starting to make sense.

Not currently in Denmark

Monday, December 9th, 2013
A picture of an elk

I said “whelk!” Stupid auto-correct!

I just saw this.

What kind of world do we live in where it takes a threat to the entire planet to get famous people to pose naked with dead fish?

When I was a kid, people were much more caring. Why, all it would take is a mugging or a minor flood and the street would be lined with A-listers, covered in haddock!

On one particularly cold December morning, my mom was distracted by a flock of whelk, and overcooked the breakfast bacon—we prefer it a bit less crisp.

Within minutes, the entire cast of a local production of “Mourning Becomes Electra” was in our front room, starkers, fondling everything from a carp to a mollusk I still haven’t identified.

THOSE were the days. Kudos to these folks for taking a stand. A naked, fishy, not-very-widely-seen stand, the point of which is completely unclear, but a stand nonetheless.

It’s so hard to swim cross the mainstream

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

HOORAH!  Ubuntu is now a sure-nuff mainstream operating system!  Here’s a transcript of a conversation I had with it just the other day.  I couldn’t figure out why it felt so familiar, but then I realised that it’s the same conversation I’ve had with the more popular operating systems.

a picture

Find one in every car

netdud: Hello Ubuntu computer I use for three things! I would like to do one of those things now.

Computer: This version of Ubuntu is no longer supported

netdud: Hey, good to know. Anyway, if we could just do the thing

You should totally upgrade.

Yeah. I don’t really use this machine for anything but those three things, and it doesn’t see the outside world, so it really doesn’t matter

We’ve got a whole bunch of stuff that’s new and doesn’t look anything like the version you’re using. You totally want that!

No. I don’t. Can I just do the thing…

Computer: We’ve cloud got cloud the cloud cloud services cloud TOTALLY cloud integrated cloud into cloud the operating system.

netdud: That sounds horrible.

Computer: We’ve got the awesome Unity interface, for people who can’t use computers, and don’t want to buy a tablet that does much.

netdud: Oh right! Took me a couple of hours to get that utter toss off this machine last time. No. Not interested

Computer: Your version isn’t safe.

netdud: What?

Computer: Yeah–the version you’re using right now, if you keep using it, uh, all kinds of bad things are going to go unpatched.

netdud: BS

Computer: I’m totally SRS! Also, cloud!

netdud: FINE. I just want to do my one thing!

Computer: OK! I’ll just sort out all the stuff you don’t need–

netdud: HEY! WHAT? No! Just leave stuff alone and change the OS crap you need

Computer: Uninstalling GNOME files, removing My SQL…

netdud: What the WHAT? GET OUTTA THERE!

Computer: Download complete. Installing the upgrades. About 6 hours remaining.

netdud: WHAAT?

Computer: About three hours remaining

netdud: OK. That’s better. I guess. For an OS I need to do THREE THINGS

Computer: About five hours remaining.

netdud: Oh. We’re doing that, are we?

Computer: About three hours remaining.

netdud: Whatever

Computer: Unable to delete the directory containing the thing that we are replacing with another thing that does the same thing but has a new name you won’t remember. So I’m just going to leave that directory full of old junk for you. I’m sure you’ll enjoy nothing more than reading all the log files for this six hour install, so of course you will find all the directories I left like this.

netdud: Yeah. I love doing stuff like that. You’ve got my number there.

Computer: Moving obsolete conf file [XXX] out of the way.

netdud: Did you REALLY just say that?

Computer: Moving obsolete conf file [XXy] out of the way.

netdud: What the hell does that even MEAN? Did you go to “Bad command or file name” University or something?

Computer: Moving obsolete conf file [XyX] out of the way.

netdud: Again?

Computer: I’m going to fill the screen with those. You can read all about it later in the log file I guess.

netdud: Sorry–missed that. Just decided it was a good time to get a drink

Computer: About 1 hour and 27 minutes remaining.

netdud: I just wanted to..

Computer: Now I’m replacing a whole shit-ton of packages like GREP and Chrome and fonts that you already had, but I just stopped updating them because you didn’t upgrade the entire OS.

netdud: Yeah. Woulda sucked to just get those a bit at a time, in the background. On a machine that runs 24/7.

Computer: About three hours remaining.

netdud: It’s like I don’t even know you any more, dude.

Computer: I’m installing the Wifis and Bluetooth support. Yes, I DO still have the list of hardware currently on the machine, but I didn’t look at it. Just installing stuff. That’s what I do.

netdud: This box doesn’t even have… Nevermind

Computer: Also replacing the eleventy-billion printer drivers we installed with the last upgrade with eleventy billion printer drivers which are not ALL the same as the last ones, just in case you suddenly want to use eleventy-billion printers right after this upgrade.

netdud: That’s awesome! Thanks! But the driver that worked perfectly with the one printer I actually use, that’ll still work fine, right? Because that’s one of the three things that I…

Computer: About one hour and twenty minutes remaining.

netdud: Why am I excited that this is suddenly going to take on a stupid amount of time, instead of a ridiculously stupid amount of time?

Computer: Moving on–remember that package you tried, and then found out that the project was discontinued, and that it didn’t work anyway? I just replaced it with the point release you didn’t bother upgrading to because it was discontinued.

netdud: Thank you for that. As I recall, that package wasn’t part of the distribution

Computer: Just one of the services we do on upgrade.

netdud: Oh, I can see your point–that’s just the sort of thing you SHOULD add to a 1.5 gig, four-hour automatic upgrade. I’d hate to go through all this and find out I’m a version behind on software you don’t support and doesn’t work. What would my friends say when I try to tell them how user-friendly Ubuntu is?

Computer: I’m replacing the LAME codec right now. The old one was working fine, but there’s a new one.

netdud: Why are you doing that?

Computer: Because I’m going alphabetically.

netdud: Good plan. And I mean, what are the chances that someone would have a problem with the awesome sound subsystem on Linux, and have to do some bodgy junk to get it running? You should TOTALLY screw around with the stuff and set it up in a nice generic way to use a sound card I don’t have installed, and move all my codecs somewhere exciting.

Computer: Updating your version of OpenOffice.

netdud: Really? Why? What does that have with the operating system?

Computer: We include it WITH the operating system!

netdud: Yeah, but that means I already HAVE it. Why are you including a new install of the fattest piece of bloatware on the entire system with an OS upgrade?

Computer: Same amount of time remaining as the last four times you looked, even though the list of things I am doing keeps changing.

netdud: I’m going to bed. Check on you in the morning.

Computer: I’m going to change some config files, and I need you to tell I can replace them. Or you can tell me to keep the old ones. I’m not going to tell you if the old ones might have a different effect after the upgrade.

netdud: Hang on–let me see the two files

Computer: I can let you compare the two by dropping them in a big long vertical window with codes in front to show what each file says.

netdud: Can I see them side-by-side?

Computer: Don’t be ridiculous! What good would that do?

netdud: Uh, let’s keep the old ones

Computer: I will accept that with an off-putting ease, making you wonder why I didn’t just keep the old one as a matter of course. But you will pay, stupid. You will pay.

netdud: I’m really sleepy. I’m going to bed

Computer: Hang on–I want to show you how I am testing for the right audio drivers by saying that things are failing, and then test a bunch of drivers that have brand names not even remotely related to this machine.

netdud: Wait–I’ve never even owned a Dell laptop!

Computer: I don’t blame you–that driver is teh fail!

netdud: Cool, thought you were losing your mind.

Computer: I’ve installed the HP Crudsucker 760 driver, it’s totes wikkid!

netdud: That’s a laptop! This machine is an old desktop!

Computer: So that should have the sound squared away. I’m just going to tell you there are 24 minutes remaining for the next 24 minutes.

netdud: All the hope in me has died. I feel strangely free.

Computer: I’m going to leave a sentence that ends with the word “completed” on the screen, and but the fans are all going to come on like mad and the drive light is going to stay lit for the next three minutes straight. Everything’s fine though.

netdud: So sleepy

Computer: Hey–you want this old config file? Looks like the only difference between it and the new one is that the old one is set up to run headless.

netdud: Yeah–this machine only runs headless.

Computer: Y’don’t say. Wow. If I knew that before I started, there’d be no need to keep stopping and waiting for you to compare conf files and click yes.

Gosh, that would really be something.

Computer:  Hey!  Why don’t you go to bed and I’ll just sit here with this dialogue box waiting for your input and the drive light and all the fans going full blast.

netdud:  No, I’ll sit up here with you. I’ve suddenly got a bunch of reading to do about unpopular Linux distros..

Excerpt from “The Future and History of netdud”

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

Don’t leave home without them

” Once again, netdud found himself transported back in time.  This time it was the medieval times or whatever.  People were all like, “Yo dawg, you’re a demon and stuff!” and one really big knight guy rushed at him, pulling his halberd from its sheath and brandishing it all menacingly and looking really tough.

netdud  pointed at the sky and said “Holy crap dude, is that a biplane?”

The knight dude was all like “I’m not falling for that!  Planes haven’t even been invented, so I don’t know what they are!”  But while he was talking, netdud punched him really super hard and knocked him out.

“People of Medievalia!  I am from the future and you should make me your king!  Because BEHOLD!” netdud bellowed, and from inside his coat took out a bag of hotdog buns.

“Notice how the buns are all still connected, yet they are all sliced!  EVEN THE ONES IN THE MIDDLE!”

“That’s freaking neat! ”  The peasants all yelled “But that still doesn’t make you not a demon!”

“No, I’m a nice guy!”  said netdud “Here!  Watch!”

And with that, he grabbed a passing minstrel’s lute and played “Eruption”  perfectly, note-for-note, including the kinda screw-up stumbly thing in the tapping part.

“You’re right–you’re awesome!” everyone yelled and made netdud the king.

netdud thought to himself “Man, all those people who made fun of me for learning how to be a wicked lute player and always carrying a bag of hotdog buns can suck it!”


Guitar repair/mod – The Black Squier

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

My friend Richard has had a lot of music gear, and much of it has been pretty interesting. A lot of it has been so interesting that, when he’s decided to sell it, I’ve bought it.

I played guitar in Richard’s band for a couple of years. After decades of playing bass, it was my first band being The Electric Guitar Player—or even AN Electric Guitar Player—and it was a lot fun.

One day I was poking around Richard’s tidy pile of stuff when I happened upon a black Strat with a black neck and fretboard and white pickups. A tuxedo. I asked Richard what it was, and he said that it was just a cheap Strat he had put together to match his Tele. He has (had?) an extremely nice Tele with a tuxedo color scheme. I tuned up the Strat and tried playing it, and found that the action was really high, and a couple of the frets were really chewed up.

At some point, Richard found the original neck, which made my geeky eyes bug out. This was an old E-series Squier Strat.


The Guitar – E-Series Squier Strat

Picture of a guitar

Tape was applied to protect the innocent

You can look up what “E-series”  means, starting here but in a nutshell, these are exceptionally well-made guitars built at the Fuji-gen factory in Japan. My friend Rob has a Fender Strat from the same period, and it is one of the best Strats I have ever played. I love the necks on these guitars. I LOVE them.

At the time, I only owned one electric guitar, so I asked Richard if I could put the original neck on the guitar and make it playable. He’d have a workable Strat, and I’d borrow it to bring along as a backup for shows. He said sure.





A lot of Strats from this period, whether Fender or Squier, came with Fender’s execrable System 1 bridge and string-locking system. This was Fender’s answer to the Floyd Rose, or more precisely, their answer to the question “How can we make a locking trem that won’t get us sued by Floyd Rose?”

The result was an epic collection of poor ideas:

  • They put a locking system BEHIND THE NUT, giving you all the rubbery crapness of a Floyd PLUS all the string-grabbing of a regular nut.
  • They built a bridge that was quite a bit higher than, well, anything without a railing.
  • They used the Floyd-like and inexcusable concept of locking the bridge pieces in place with hex nuts DIRECTLY under the strings, making setting the intonation a horror show.
  • The fine-tuners on the bridge stick way out at a 45-degree angle, so while they don’t actually get in the way, it always feels like they will.
  • That’s not a problem for long, because the fine-tuners also fall out and get lost very quickly.
  • Which is in turn OK, because they do kind of a crappy job of tuning finely.

I could go on, but I realize that I already have…

Rob’s Strat still has the System 1 bridge, but he had the lock removed from the headstock decades ago, and the bridge has been blocked in place for about 30 years. I think there are three fine-tuners left. Set up like this, the System 1 works pretty well as a hard-tail bridge.

Yep, that was irony you just read.

The upside for this guitar was that ALL of the System 1 stuff was already gone. The lock was off the headstock, and the bridge had been removed. All that was probably done when Richard had replaced the neck.

As I mentioned, the System 1 bridge is tall enough to dunk over Shaq, which meant that the necks on these guitars sit pretty high off the body. The replacement neck Richard bought didn’t sit as high, which made the action way too tall. Someone had put in a cheap-and-cheerful two-point replacement bridge to compensate for this, and the System 1 bridge was lost forever. Boo hoo.

But this created a problem when I put the original neck back on, because it sits a lot taller. Even with the bridge pieces up as high as they would go on the new bridge, the action was just barely playable without buzzing and fretting out. Things would need to be done.

Also, Richard had put a set of Fender Texas Special pickups in the guitar. I don’t like those very much.


Fixes – Bridge

Before I go on, I would like to make it clear that what I am about to describe is NOT what I would recommend to anyone. My fix here is most charitably described as “cunning but extremely silly” and I am only being that kind about it because I hold myself in such high regard. I have three things to say in my defence:

  1. I was operating under straitened circumstances, and just wanted to get the guitar working
  2. I was fine not being able to use the trem on this guitar
  3. Nothing I did was irreversible, apart from a couple of small holes in the body

It ended up sounding really good, and I can see no reason to change it, but you probably don’t want to try this at home. If you find yourself with a similar problem, you should just get $30 together and buy a better bridge. Or see the update about shimming at the end of this section.

To recap: The replacement two-point bridge was kinda crummy, and too low to be able to set the action to any sane height.

On pretty much any Strat-style trem system, the bridge ends up being a fulcrum over which you balance the tension of the springs in the back of the guitar with the tension of the strings on the front of the guitar. In this case, the fulcrum was in the wrong place, and I needed to move it and still have the system work.

The idea was to to set the bridge up higher by adjusting the height of the support posts the bridge rests against. Then I’d just block the bridge at that height.

You need to be very careful messing around with this stuff, ESPECIALLY with two-point bridges, and ESPECIALLY if the edges where the bridge sits on the support bolts are sharpened. Screw up those edges or the bolts, and you’re going to be consumed by self-loathing.

I slacked the claw off in the back of the guitar, and I detuned the strings a bit. This took some of the tension off the bridge from both sides, so I could move it around, but kept enough tension on the bridge to keep it from moving around too much.

I set all the bridge pieces so that they were about 1/4 of the way from their lowest possible position. That way, I would have room to adjust the action once the bridge was in place.

There was just enough slack that I could hold the bridge just off the support posts with one hand and do the next bit with the other. At no point was I turning the posts while the bridge was leaning against them with all the tension on it.

I then unscrewed the posts a bit at a time, in order move the bridge up to a height at which I would be able to adjust the action to about what I would like. Then I measured how high the bridge was off the body. I’d need to put something that same height under the back of the bridge, so that the bridge would sit flat.

The something turned out to be two Singapore 20 cent pieces. I stuck them under the bridge, tightened up the claw at the back and tuned the guitar to pitch, and the bridge sat flat.

Then I tried detuning one string, to see if the others changed pitch. They didn’t, which meant the bridge was sitting pretty solidly. I then drilled two holes in the coins and screwed them in place.

From there, I could set up the action and intonation with the bridge, as normal.

Yep. Pretty hacky. It worked though.

UPDATE: Richard eventually sold me this guitar–a great deal, because he is very nice that way.

I later took the guitar in to Linda London in Lincoln, NE. She’s who I go to for frets and acoustic repairs and anything else I need a grownup to do.

The guitar needed a fret dressing, and after we talked a bit, she also shimmed the neck a bit, which has made the guitar play even better. The shimming means that I COULD probably take out my hacky coin trick and of course, I could have changed out to a better bridge long ago. But I really like how this guitar sounds the way it is, and it plays like a dream. It ain’t broke…


Fixes – Pickups

Well, I have to admit, I’m still slightly on the horns of a dilemma here, but I’ll get to that in a sec.

I tried to like the Texas Specials, really I did.

I spend about 80% of my time in the 4 (neck and middle) position on a Strat, and while this worked OK-ish with the Specials, they just sound like they are trying way too hard. And the 1 and 2 positions were shrill and over-hyped enough to have their own talk radio show. No sir, I did not like them.

I have tried a whack of pickups in this guitar. So many, in fact, that for a while I was just holding the pickguard on with gaffer tape, to save time taking it off and putting it on. I figured that I would put the screws back in when I finally had pickups in it that I liked.

I got a hold of a Fender Tex-Mex bridge pickup at some point, and tried that. It was much better in combination with the middle pickup, and less annoying (though still annoying) on its own.

It baffles me how I can like something about almost every Tele bridge pickup I hear, and pretty much nothing about every single-coil-sized Strat bridge pickup I hear.

This was all pretty frustrating, because the guitar felt great to play. I’d put some combination of pickups in it and take it with me to shows as a backup. I would even use it to practice on with no pickups in it.

One day, I stumbled onto a Fender Vintage Noiseless pickup for next-to-nothing on eBay. Because the Tex-Mex happened to be in the bridge when the Noiseless showed up, I put the Noiseless in the middle position. This is the position I use the least–my other Strat is wired so that there is no way to just have the middle pickup on its own, and I like it like that. So I was expecting to try this, say “meh” and then try the Noiseless in the neck position.

Instead, I plugged it in and LOVED it. It was nice on its own, and really nice combined with the Tex-Mex in the bridge.

I had 15 minutes before I had to get to a rehearsal, and I really wanted to try this out with a band, but I HAVE to have that 4 position—I needed a neck pickup. I ran downstairs, grabbed a random pickup off the table and slapped it in the neck position. Then I headed off to rehearsal with a screwdriver in my case, so I could adjust the pickup heights as we played.

Turns out, the Noiseless and the mystery pickup worked together ridiculously well in that 4 position. Really stunning–my version of what a “Classic” Strat sounds like. I had never even bothered trying that mystery pickup before, because it was just some cheap goofy stock pickup from my Tickle Trunk of random parts. All I know is that at some point I metered it, because it has a piece of masking tape on the bottom on which I wrote “5.83K.” In this weird guitar, it’s absolutely the right thing.

UPDATE: I eventually put another Vintage Noiseless in the bridge and I am prrrreetttyy happy with it. The 2 position now gives me a near-Tele level of bonkiness, which I like a lot. I think I’m about as happy as I’m going to be without breaking out a router. I still only use the bridge pickup with crunchy sounds. I haven’t found a single-coil-sized Strat bridge pickup that I’ve liked clean yet.

Which leads to the dilemma I mentioned earlier: I KNOW I would be happy with a P-90 in the bridge of this guitar, but the body is cut for single coils only. Even though it has zero collector value by this time, I would never sell it, and it would be easy to just revert back to single-coils anyway, I still hate the idea of cutting a guitar that does a good job of being what it was made to be. They don’t make these E-series things any more.

So I don’t know.