4.04.2018

The Wurlitzer Organ Sampler Mod

   The dust was the craziest I have ever seen, layers as thick as craft felt came up with the vacuum detailer. The Craigslist pictures were horrible and I am guessing this is why there were no takers. It could also be the fact that these old analog gems weigh several hundred pounds, and are awkward to move at best. I committed and hauled away my new grimy prize, an old Wurlitzer organ with a built-in Orbit II synthesizer as a bonus.
   These home entertainment centers were significant investments when they were new, and I worked on the assumption that it had to be serviceable and the workings completely accessible. Once the back and top of the cabinet had been removed, I found tall hex bolts that release the chassis and each level then pivots up like a car hood.
   Soon I was starring at a beautiful array of electronic glory, I would never be able to decode the tangle of multicolored wire harnesses. There are also massive, exposed capacitors on the amp head that scream, "instant death!" I stayed true to the mission, cleaned up the filth and got out of there ASAP. A couple keys were dead, but I was able to repair the broken actuators with toothpicks and super glue.

Wurlitzer Model 4270 with Boss SP-202 Mod
  
   Now to the meat of this mod, this particular model 4270 also had a built-in tape recorder. Unfortunately the heads were so fouled that it only made horrendous, scratchy blasts through the speakers. At the very least I needed to disconnect this unit to keep my kids from driving me nuts. As you may know, little boys love this sort of loud nuisance to rankle their parents.
   With all the layers opened up before me, I was further intrigued to see the internal sound ran through RCA inputs on the amplifier. My subconscious went to work and I soon came up with an interesting idea for a swap out. I was able to try several effects pedals patched in line to the amp. There were many options at this point, but I kept coming back to an old Boss SP-202 sampler laying around unused. I also noticed the tape deck had a similar foot print as the sampler, and there was room for a power supply to run off the internal outlet. With minimal work, I got the old Dr. Sample to fit and run cleanly into the amp.
   Now the kids' favorite part is to make loops and other goofy sounds with their Wurly. In a modern twist, the sound signal runs through the sampler, much in the same way as the original tape deck functioned. The exploratory cleaning also revealed a headphone jack on the underside of the keybed. This allows me to run a standard cable to my guitar rig for loads of additional hijinks. As unwieldy as these instruments are, they still deserve our attention and the respect of a proper home.

2.07.2018

A Break In The Clouds

   I have spent a good deal of my adulthood waiting to die, wanting to die or planning my death. It is hard to explain to a healthy person with normal brain chemistry. I have a disease, and it is ostracized by the general public, much like shaming a child for contracting measles.
   I am lumped in with schizophrenics, and other, much more severe psychotic disorders. It is true that bipolar disorder is a spectrum illness, and there are individuals that hallucinate, experience violent mood swings and lose touch with reality. I am somewhere in the middle, very grounded to this life, but still suicidal, still very miserable.
   The thing to know about bipolars is that we have a rather short shelf-life. We tend to fight the disease for as long as we can stand it, until one day all is lost, and it becomes too much. Van Gogh, Cobain, Williams, and countless other brilliant minds simply could not outrun the heavy absence of serotonin, any longer.
Lone Crow Illustration   I admit that I have purposely straddled a line when publishing this blog in the past. Just skimming the surface of my mental illness, still timid of public reaction, scared of being deserted by neighbors and recent acquaintances.
   This is not paranoia, I have been honest with close friends in the past, and watched as they retreated, themselves not capable of empathy. Most are unable to acknowledge their own pain and frailty and my openness must instill sheer terror. Why would one show their personal weakness? Well, in an attempt at bonding and self-revelation, it might help explain one's own perspective with life's struggles. 
   The truth is mental illness is everywhere, common in every class of human society. It is not just homeless bums or delinquent youth, or even catatonic elderly in state asylums. It is also rich housewives, proud individuals, alcoholics, community leaders, and even first responders. It may not be that happiness is elusive, it might be that misery is more pervasive. With a little openess, you will pause and reflect on your loved ones who are struggling. Stand with us, so that science will find us. The only way for truth to be seen, is to bring it out in the light.

10.12.2017

The Squire Jaguar Bridge Hack

Custom Squire Fiesta Red Jaguar
Custom Squire Jaguar
   Squire made this Frankenstein model in an attempt to look like it had been living on the wall of a smoke laden music store for decades. Fender later came out with their own Pawn Shop Series which had a similar aesthetic. It does look old, but the amalgamation of parts turned out to be a bummer. The Toronado bridge they chose looks interesting and dated, however it is impossible to set intonation.
   I had waffled over purchasing this Fiesta Red Jaguar for several years, there were a few other details that had kept me from pulling the trigger as well. Instead of waiting any longer and possibly missing out, I trusted my gut, and decided to take on the challenge and solve those handful of quirky problems myself.
   My longtime quest has been the search for a lightweight replacement for my Les Paul. It has been hard to replicate that heavy mahogany sound. Thanks to the searing tone of the Duncan designed humbucker set, I now have it.
   I already owned a custom Jagmaster from the same Vintage Modified series, and it had been my number one for the last five years. The Jagmaster fell short of my tone desires because of it's tremelo, and even with the trem blocked into a hardtail, it was thin on treble sustain. Since I adored everything else about my Jagmaster, I wanted to essentially create a clone, starting with this basic Jaguar and its solid body.
   In order to test the guitar's potential and expedite this project, I opted for a top-load StewMac bridge (I was not ready to drill through body ferrules, yet.) I properly located the placement of the new bridge and carefully shaved the original pickguard to fit.
   Another problem that I noted was the toggle switch location, I needed to move it to the lower horn which left a hole in the pickguard. I found a glossy black, automotive hole plug that did the job well enough. While the strings were off, I wanted to go ahead and simplify the electronics. I was not a fan of the huge, double stacked knobs sticking out and I did not need their individual controls. I admit that at this point in my playing, I just want the basics, which ironically is the antithesis of a loaded Fender Jaguar. I found a Semour Duncan schematic and wired one volume pot, and one tone pot to the three-way toggle switch. Perfect!
   Sometimes you have to make what you want in life, if your skills permit. I have watched the different iterations of Jags over the years and none of them have included all the items on my wishlist. I would not have had the nerve to mess with a more valuable model, but these Squire's are a great starting point for project guitars. With a few modifications and a good setup, they can be brought into the realm of their much more expensive cousins.

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