Monday, January 10, 2011

30 Days of Creativity - #26

Fixing Up a "Vintage" Stereo

My daughter bought a Wards portable stereo record player at an estate sale for $20. It is very similar to the 1964 GE 300 pictured at, so I m guessing it is from the same era. We tested it and it played pretty well. Talk about fun! Hearing some of my old albums after decades (yes decades) was just fantastic.

Figure 1. Circa 1960's Wards Airline Stereophonic Record player
There is a problem. Every so often one of the channels cuts out. Sometimes it's the left, sometimes it's the right—only when playing records. The radio never has this problem. Besides that, there were some cosmetic issues.

I was able to do the following:

(1) Replaced a stripped screw in the top handle so it can actually be carried by the handle now.
(2) Glued some loose grill cloth back in place on one of the speakers.
(3) Made new foot (one was missing) out of a new rubber foot. Sawed the new foot to the proper height using a hack saw.
(4) Glued on a piece of the vinyl covered chip board that had been knocked loose from one corner.
(5) Opened the electronics bay and sprayed some electronics cleaner into the pots and switches on the outside chance that dirt was causing the intermittent channel signal loss.

Figure 2. It's solid state man!
Figures 1 and 2 show this unit after those repairs. It still cuts out once in awhile. Quickly flipping between the radio and phono modes using the front panel switch will sometimes jolt it back into normal operation. One of these days I will delve deeper into the electronics. I still think there is a good a chance a more thorough cleaning will solve the problem.

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30 Days of Creativity - #21-25

Cigar Box Guitar

Figure 1. Cigar box instrument as it was.
I brought home a cigar box guitar that needed some improvements. A friend had started it and roughly finished it, and he decided to give me a shot it. It was an unelectrified, three string instrument with a very high action suitable for slide playing (Figure 1).

I worked on it over a five-day period, and accomplished the following:

(1) Made a new nut from a piece of 1/4-inch steel rod. Filed string grooves into the rod with a jeweler's file.
(2) Reshaped and sanded the neck and headstock to make it smoother and look a little better.
(3) Reshaped the sound hole to make it look a little better.
(4) Reshaped and stabilized the steel the bridge by reinforcing it with a brass backing plate.
(5) Machined a slot in the neck to hold a pickup. I purchased the pickup used from a local music store.
(6) Installed and tested pickup. It didn't work. Further investigation revealed a broken wire inside it. I couldn't fix it so I returned it and they gave me another one. It worked.
(7) Improved the string holes in the back of the neck by using three identical nuts (the previous nuts didn't match) held in place with super glue.
(8) Made a backing plate for the tuners from  thin piece of walnut. The headstock was a little too thin to properly fasten the tuners in place. Even when tightened all the way they were loose.
(9) Stained the neck.
(10) Painted the body brown since it was kind of torn up looking and did not have an attractive cigar box look.
(11) Assembled it and strung it up.

Figure 2 shows how it looked in a state of disassembly. You can see the pickup slot in the neck. Due to the through-body design of the neck this was the only way to mount the pickup. The pickup was a used single coil (made in China).

The string holes were supported in the back with steel nuts inserted and glued into the wood. The groove between the string holes and the pickup hole is where the bridge was installed. The saddle is held in place by string tension only. It works!

This is how it turned out:

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Saturday, January 1, 2011

30 Days of Creativity - #20


When me and Colin were working on "Rotgut Highway" the other day, I had a kernal of an idea for an intro. I made recording of it (much later) with GarageBand using an acoustic guitar played through an M-Audio Audio Buddy preamp sent to the audio-in jack on an iMac. I added a drum beat just for effect.

Here it is:

It's not much but like I said, it's only an intro.

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