Tweed Case Wrap Up

In keeping with my intention to construct individually singular builds for my Signature Series guitars, I’ve made certain that the cases are unique to each guitar as well. The Crow, inspired in part by travelling musicians and the escapades depicted in Kerouac’s On the Road, will receive a lacquered, woven-cloth covered hard case. The covering, which is often erroneously refered to as tweed, is actually a twill material familiar to guitarists as the finish used by Fender on their 1950s amplifiers and guitar cases. My reference was a 1940s suitcase that I found in a junk shop in New Hampshire.

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The modern material supplied by the manufacturer was not an acceptable reproduction, so I went about lacquering it myself. I wanted the patina of age and experience that would be a fitting companion to the guitar itself.

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The final touch was to add a hygrometer to monitor the humidity within the case. The gauge was inserted into the case pocket from the outside, which required a pair of pass-throughs to allow the interior air to reach the sampling point on the back of the hygrometer. I used brass grommets to match the rest of the case hardware.

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Here a setting tool is used to crimp the grommet onto the pocket lid. This connects the main chamber of the case to the pocket.

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I combed through my leather selection to find a remnant to use for the case pocket’s pull tab. I’d entertained making the pull something crow or bird-themed, but rejected the idea as too cute and just went with a utilitarian pull tab of brown leather to match the case trim.

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Once trimmed to size and burnished to match, I punched a hole and fastened the pull to the pocket door flap with a brass rivet.

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After the gauge was sealed to the outside with silicone I could insert the pocket into the case. The orientation is such that it can be read easily when the case stands on its end or side.

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Now it was just a matter of fitting everything and screwing the mounting blocks into the case. The inside is finished with red velvet plush and the back of the gauge is covered except for another brass grommet.

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The entire idea is to allow the interior humidity and temperature to be read from the outside. This is particularly useful when the instrument is in a rack with other guitars.

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For an all analog solution, I think it turned out quite well. After living with the results for a few days, it has become so normal to check the readings that I can’t imagine not having it there. The Crow’s nest is ready.

Tweed Case Buildup and Keb’

There’s been a lot going on since my last post. Hurricane Irene gave us a good scare but fortunately we escaped with very little damage. Some of our neighbors weren’t so lucky. Most of the work here involved strapping stuff down—moving and waterproofing things. The ramp up and wind down were more stressful than the storm itself. A few downed tree limbs and a general mess outdoors was the extent of it as we dodged the bullet.

After months of back and forth with the manufacturer, the case husk for the Crow arrived. Despite my sending samples for the vintage antique tweed, the color and finsih were not to my liking. I had paid for an entire hide of smooth, dark brown leather for the trim to match the antique suitcase—fortunately that was perfect.

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Because I’d already tested a lacquering process for the samples, I knew that I could get the tweed right. It was just a matter of taking the case apart and antiquing it. The next step was to mix up the lacquer tint.

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The color I wanted simulated decades of darkening and discoloration from use. The recipie included yellow, red, brown and a hint of violet all mixed into a thin base of lacquer. The application would be done with a two inch brush in order for me to work it into the weave.

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Even though the tint was strong, I wanted to use multiple coats in order to replicate the uneven weathering of the original. This gives it a more authentic look and feel.

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I’ll get the last coat on this morning before I head down to Infinity Hall to meet up with my old friend Keb’ Mo’. He’s taping a PBS concert tonight, and I had a small part in hooking him up with the gig. We’re gonna be talking guitars and catching up. There are some new ideas on the boil—can’t wait to see what we come up with.

 

Crow Wing Spread in Guitar Player

With about fifteen minutes to kill before our pizza was ready for pick up, my wife and I ducked into Barnes & Noble. Carla headed directly for the photography magazines while I hovered over a copy of Vintage Motorcycles. Eventually, I made my way to the music section and opened up a copy of the latest Guitar Player.

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The main subject was dedicated to fuzz boxes so I was curious and hoping to see some coverage of my good friend Analogman. Before I got to the effects-pedal article I found something that stopped me dead and brought a smile to my face.

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Wow! Just wow. There she was, spread out over two full pages—Rick Whittey’s epic shot of the Crow perched on a tree branch. Now, of course I knew that the editors had the shot, but I wasn’t prepared for this. Even when you pour yourself into a project like I do, you’re still happy when people “get it” and this told me that they did.

I rounded the corner of the aisle where Carla was standing and flashed the spread just to see her beautiful smile.

Thanks guys.

 

Crow Debut in Guitar Aficiondo

Many thanks to the great people at Guitar Aficionado for featuring The Crow in the new (July/August issue). The Rick Whittey photo sessions were rewarded handsomely with super-fine printing and a full page size—right up front in the book.

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Writer Adam Perlmutter’s words capture the essence of the build, nailing philosophy and circumstance behind it all. Somehow it is both perfect and pretentious at the same time. I even managed to slip in the word “schmuck” when talking about marketing guys—although it actually might have been something stronger.

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Go ahead, buy the issue and brush up on your wine and cheese repertoire while perusing photos of Kirk Hammett’s crib in Hawaii. If you’re feeling oh-so-rebellious—steal it.

 

Signature Finish Guitar Hardware

I just received my first pieces of variegated nickel hardware from Dwight at TonePros. We’ve been batting ideas around for over a year, and it’s finally coming together. Based upon the traditional TOM vintage bridge, the alloys have been massaged and the finish is unique as well.

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Of special interest are the tailpiece anchors. Machined from 1018 steel as per original vintage correct specs, they couple and ring out with a clarity that you don’t get from the cast pieces—or even brass for that matter. They are also the correct “long” length.

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The matching tuner hardware is awesome as well. They are vintage Kluson type machines, but with a few important differences. First, the tolerances are to a more modern specification that wasn’t in the originals. Second, they are locked down from the top with a nut to secure them to the headstock. I individually fit each tuner, starting with an undersize hole. This increases stability and couples the string vibration to the head of the guitar. Here’s the test fit on a dummy neck.

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I hand sand and buff each of the keys to eliminate any molding seams—this gives them a friendly feel like an old guitar. Then they are hand painted for a vintage patina. Then they are polished and fine-scuffed for a satin touch. I can’t wait to get these into the latest build. Thanks to Dwight and his crew for making this a reality.