In this debut episode of From The Shed, Kyle Chamberlain modifies two nightstands in order to build a custom guitar amp cabinet called a JamStack.
Monthly Archives: May 2011
I like the blues. Sometimes I like the grubbiest, dirtiest, acoustic blues around.
When I first moved to Winnipeg in 2007 I had left all my gear back in Brandon. After one weekend of no music I knew I had to get my hands on a cheap guitar. In a pawn-shop music store downtown I found this sad looking acoustic guitar for $20.00. How could I go wrong?
The guitar served it’s purpose and gave me the opportunity to write licks while staying with family. Once I did move into my own place the guitar became a decoration; first above my bar and then in a window. I began thinking of ways to have a fine-tuned dirty acoustic sound, but not have a need for a specific amp or any pedals.
I decided that giving this old acoustic a Humbucker and a distortion pedal was the way to do it.
Another project of mine left me with a bridge pick-up from a Les Paul copy, and after much trial and error I found two items in my scrap box to use: The brace from an electrical light box and a rubber gasket for a toilet seal. Mounting the Humbucker in the sound hole, now it was on to the built in distortion pedal.
Complete with a 9v battery compartment to power the Behringer Tube Overdrive board installed beneath the surface, this guitar is still a good acoustic. But where it really shines is in the control it offers for shaping your sound. Now with three knobs; Drive, Tone, and Level, this is the perfect dirty acoustic blues guitar around. The gasket works great to reduce feedback, yet allows the guitar to still resonates with the vibration of the strings. Being able to increase the gain yourself, it works fine to play clean acoustic, allowing for shaping with a single tone control.
I got my hands on this Telecaster copy from the early 90’s. It was a gift from a fan who hoped, “It would got to a good home where someone might play it once in a while.”.
There was no doubt that this guitar had seen a few owners and that it had been a starter model once upon a time. With a fairly straight neck and no initial investment I decided that this guitar would become a personal project.
I began by removing all the hardware and electronics, sanding down through seven layers of hell, and shopping for higher quality replacement parts.
Finding the original sunburst on the back, I left some of the finish for cosmetic and sentimental purposes. I used deck stain (left over from a home renovation project), Hanging the body off a guitar stand with a coat hanger hooked through a hole for the neck bolts.
I used a block of wood and some wood filler to close-up the hole in the front face where the tremolo had been. Using the original pick-guard and jack/control plate as templates, I cut out aluminum from old ductwork to use as the replacements. Painting the pick-guard black and sanding it for color and texture was more challenging than I can describe. There are more than a dozen coats of paint, which ends up adding character as well as contrast compared to the jack/control plate that I left simple as sanded aluminum.
Here was my eBay shopping list:
- Stock Stratocaster Boat-Jack
- Two heavy chrome knobs
- Gibson Les Paul style bridge-saddles & hard tailpiece
- Grover mini-locking tuners
- Wilkinson Vintage single coil bridge pickup
- Oversized strap buttons & screws
- Fender tweed guitar strap
- Frankenstein pin
- Frankenstein coin
While waiting on everything to come in the mail I stopped in at the local hardware store and picked up a five inch bolt since the guitar was originally a zero-nut style of headstock.
When the hardware arrived from eBay I was ready. I had already drawn up the schematics and wiring diagrams, so that was my first chore. I began by retrofitting the boat-jack onto the face of the guitar and sanding the heck out of the knobs. To make things even more challenging, I decided I wanted the boat-jack to be slightly recessed.
Once that was done, it was time to cut & place the pickups. I decided on One Volume / One Tone too keep it simple; the Wilkinson Vintage up front and a stock Ibanez INFS1 middle pickup (from a friend) in the bridge position. A three-way switch wired neck / both / bridge and the boat-jack complete the circuit.
Once the bridge and tailpiece were added it began to look like a guitar again. For adventures sake, I scalloped the last few frets and made the neck plate recessed.
With the Grover’s already installed, there were only a few cosmetic additions to the guitar and it’s case before it was complete.
Now dubbed Frankenstein, this guitar performs great considering. I keep it in open G tuning and use it a lot for slide work. Keeping the intonation set correctly is a constant battle. Generally I give it a good work out and simply compensate as best I can – much easier when playing slide.
The tones I get from Frank are pretty basic: weak & twangy or strong & dirty. What this guitar lacks in versatility it makes up for with character and clarity. Even through the thickest fuzz or distortion, the Wilkinson Vintage provides a crisp attack, which again works great for slide.