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Topics - Tony Raven

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Guitar Care, Repair, Modification & Lutherie / buying a used guitar
« on: December 25, 2011, 01:10:51 PM »
In the past few years, I've finally started making enough from my day-job that I can afford to indulge my guitar addiction a little. Having dealt with a few pawnshops, & regular citizens cleaning out the garage or attic, I'm starting to feel like a mugger. [8D] Well, here's a few things I've found to happen -- maybe you can get a better deal yourself, but try not to abuse the power, okay? [;)]

First: noisy pots. If a common potentiometer sits unused for months (sometimes days, like one amp I own), the resistive oxide often picks up dust -- at a guess, it even makes its own crud, reacting with moisture & other stuff in the air. I tried out an amp in a pawnshop, & forgot to exercise the knobs before firing it up, so when I touched the Gain knob there was a loud pop from the speakers. Startled, I barked out ack!! then laughed at myself for being a doofus. But the guy behind the counter heard the conversation, saw me shaking my head, & dropped $50 off the asking price without me saying a word to him. So, before you test anything out, turn down the amp's main Volume knob (if only out of self-defense!!), then casually make all sorts of horrible crunching & grinding noises by turning knobs. A surprising number of sellers don't know Thing One about musical instruments -- to them, if it SOUNDS broken, then the gnomes living inside must be angry & should be sent away ASAP. [:o)]

Rarely do I need to replace such a pot. A shot of contact cleaner or dielectric grease into the pot can almost always fixes it. Until then, just remember to work the knobs through their full rotation for a literal minute, scraping the crud off, & that generally works a treat.

This one may make you laugh, but it's true: loose knobs. Even in some very good music stores, they hang used guitars up where the nuts on the pots have loosened, so of course some kid has cranked 'em around & shorted out (even broken) the wiring. A surprising proportion of guitar owners have never ventured into the guts of an axe, so (again) the gnomes are seen as cranky, & you can often ask for a price cut to take home a broken guitar that needs nothing more than ten minutes with a soldering iron. Much the same happens with a loose output jack or switch.

Input jacks on many amps are a similar problem, because the jack is mounted directly to the circuit board, so if the nut falls off, repeated use will crack the jack loose -- ta-daa, a non-working amplifier. Buy it for parts, resolder the pads, put on a new nut, & it's fine. Even if the jack is wired in, someone who tightens the nut with a pliers will often twist the jack around, causing various shorts; I got a broken Crate for $65 due to this (the EV speaker is worth at least that much). You might spend an hour tearing it down & reassembling it, but the repair itself takes a minute.

Then there's the busted nut. Snapped into two or three pieces, or outer lands broken off, too high, worn... if you can replace a nut, you've got another negotiating point.

Ditto for high action or bowed neck. If you say something like It sure looks nice, but I dunno, it's kinda hard to play... you can probably get that price down further. Ten minutes with fret files or an Allen wrench, & you're set.

Anyone got similar negotiating points they've found?

Show Us Your Washburn / XB-400 -- meet the twins
« on: December 25, 2011, 12:24:38 PM »
What can I say? They keep showing up for under $150...

Yeah, a previous owner yanked some frets out.

Per my comments in another forum, the thin natural clearcoat seems to be much more forgiving than the VERY pretty color options (which chip something fierce), minimizing many gouges, looking cool & workmanlike, & will be a whole lot easier to refinish if I go that route:

Show Us Your Washburn / D46CESPK
« on: December 25, 2011, 12:11:14 PM »
Both solid & flashy -- a thousand (or so) inlay chips & a quarter-mile of binding:

Bought it a bit more than a year ago, & I've babied the heck outta it -- still smells a little of white glue.

In 2010, I found myself shopping for a piezo system for my hard-worked Alvarez. Then it dawned on me that, for the cost involved, plus the work, I might just as well consider a whole new guitar.

Then I happened to be browsing amps at a tiny music store, & on the wall was a lovely Washburn D46SP, new. I think they were asking $400. While not as loud as my Alvarez, I quite liked the tone, & between the spalted-maple top & the inlay work, I was enchanted -- I'd just moved from Santa Fe the year previous, & the inlay colors (bits of faded-looking blue & red wood) & vaguely zia/Hopi rosette evoked nostalgia. As I hung it up, I clearly remember thinking, Too bad it doesn't have a piezo, & maybe a cutaway. As a hardened axe-shopper, I've rarely felt so badly about passing up yet another guitar.

Naturally, I got obsessed. [:D] After some digging-about on the Web, throwing out a few random keywords, I stumbled over the D46CESPK, being closed out by a major dealer.

(An aside about marketing. Shouldn't this lovely instrument have had some sort of name?? Sure, I like to geek-out on jargon more than normal human beings, but c'mon here!! A VIN number just ain't sexy. Even my black Alvarez 5019 was dubbed the Midnight Special.)

Anyway, after some thrashing around, I think I got the code:

C -- cutaway
E -- electronics package
S -- Southwest series
P -- spalted maple top
K -- hardshell case

Is there somewhere on the Washburn website that explains the code for this & similar models?

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