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Body Blank

Here’s a little insight into how I build and prepare a body blank for my electric guitars.

This particular build is from New Zealand Black Beech and a strip of Puriri.

The Black Beech board was about 1000 x 180 x 50mm. I spent half an hour cutting one edge square on the table saw, then flattening out a minor bow, and both edges on the jointer. Getting both sides flat and even is easy with a thicknesses. Then it was a matter of cross cutting it into two even boards.
The three blocks of wood all need to be planed, jointed, and thicknessed to the same height. The flat right angles will hopefully ensure that the three sections will adhere strongly to each other.

You’d think that such large, hefty chunks of wood would need some sort of special wood glue. Nope. Selleys Exterior PVA does the trick. And only enough to spread evenly across the surface of the entire join.
You could quite easily use your finger to spread the glue out, but given the amount of joins I do, I’ve simply glued two bits of scrap MDF on top of each other. The small bit on top provides a bit of a handle, while the larger bit flexes enough to spread the glue evenly. And afterwards, I put it down, and any left over glue on it is soaked into the MDF and provides a glazed layer of plastic that only helps spread the next layer of glue. Bonus!

This is how the body blank will end up looking. Obviously the body shape will be drawn onto it and cut out with a bandsaw or jigsaw. But for now, I take a mental snapshot of what it will look like. I love the contrast that these two woods provide, as well as the grain of the Beech. Simply stunning.

I’ve made up a bit of a jig that goes into my Black & Decker Workmate bench that doubles as a table clamp. The jig provides a solid force along the length of the body blank that provides even pressure to the join. This ensures it glues, even, and doesn’t slide around in the early stages of drying.

Here you can see the three pieces of wood are squeezed together, with their joining edges completely flat. Only the jig is warping under the pressure of the clamping forces. I am looking at upgrading the jig so that the mounting points onto the workbench fit through the bench holes. At this stage, it’s solely relying on two bolts that go through, but obviously have some play in the oversized holes, allowing for the jig to flex a little more than I’d prefer.
As PVA glue acts as a lubricant before it dries solid, it’s relatively important to ensure that the joins don’t move about while it is drying. With all the pressure coming from the sides, there is a chance that the boards will squeeze the middle strip upwards and out. A simple bit of wood clamped over the top of the joins keeps the boards from popping upwards. Hopefully it doesn’t glue to the body blank with any overflow!

Leave it to dry for 24 hours, and it’s ready to start cutting out tomorrow when I get home from work.
Best to do body blanks during the week, so that the 24 hour drying time doesn’t chew up your weekend and click here to find more tools!

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Guitar Body Sizes

Over the last couple of weeks, I have been looking into building my first solid body electric guitar. If it’s one thing I’ve learned, preparation is the key. Now I am at the stage where I’m looking to purchase some native timbers in order to make some guitars with a New Zealand flavour and quality.
My first guitar I intend to be a Rimu one, as it has beautiful qualities.
However, I am forever forgetting the sizes of wood that I need for the build. I have the neck sorted, with needing about 700mm lengths (90x700x25). These get laminated together with a piece of hardwood in between them. However; the body keeps slipping my mind, and so I pulled together all the images of different guitar measurements and compiled them into one easy reference chart.
Hopefully you find it as useful as I do.
EDIT: Apologies for the earlier heading “Guitar TONEWOOD Sizes”. As I was incredibly naive when I made this, I was ignorant to the meaning of tonewood when talking guitars, and in particular, electric guitars.

How to Build Your Own Pedalboard

As a guitarist one of the things you eventually get into is effects pedals. For many years I used the programmable multi effects units and never needed a board. I upgraded to start building a collection of the good reliable and hard working Boss Pedals – also it’s a kind of the best wah pedal for the money. For a while I only ever used two, and so setting them up with a tuner never took long. However, I decided that it was time to make a more permanent setup. So here’s a bit of a guide as to how I did it.

1. Research

The first thing I did was have a look at all the different types of pedalboard out there. Holeyboard was one design I liked in terms of attaching pedals to the board. These designs I also liked in terms of their style and finish. I also saw the DIY boards made from IKEA Gorm shelves. So I decided to make something that was a mix of these.

2. Get all that you’ll need.

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Here’s the things I used:

  • lengths of wood – enough for 4 lengths of 600mm approx + extras
  • moulding – for edges
  • wood stain
  • wood glue
  • wood screws
  • polyurethane
  • cable ties
  • drill with drill bits and screwdriver heads
  • countersink drill bit
  • measuring tape / ruler
  • handsaw

3. Layout

The first thing to do with layout was to actually list down the pedals I wanted to put on the board. Then get them written down in order. Ordering your pedals has got some freedom to it, in that everyone’s preferences are different, and you should make your pedals in an order that you like and that you want. As a general guideline however, I found these pages helpful.

After that I drew them in the general layout with the general shape and layout I wanted for my board. I find by drawing it out, I had a better understanding of the spacings I’d need and an idea for the board itself.

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Get all your pedals laid out in the order you want. Then work out how long the pedalboard needs to be to fit all your pedals on. Don’t forget to include space for your patch cables to fit as well.

To help with this, there is this website – Pedalboard Planner, which has set sized pedal boards with the matching pedal size laid on top. Very cool tool.

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During this process I also took into account some pedal expansion, where I may wish to add on some more pedals at a later stage. On the top row, I can compact the three pedals and fit four along the top. Likewise the bottom row can be moved closer to each other, and allow room (hopefully) for a wah-wah pedal as well.

4. Make the cuts

 

Once you’ve measured up, it’s time to cut the wood. Make sure you’ve measured twice , so you only have to cut once! When hand-sawing, let the saw do the work, and keep 90 degrees to the wood so you have a cut straight.

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5. Spacing Check

It was about now that once I’d made all the cuts I’d better check that there was enough space for the pedals and a little riser for the back pedals as well.

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Better to be safe than sorry, and gave me an idea as to how spaced the wood lengths need to be.

5a. Riser

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Using the off cut from the riser, I found centre, then made a mark 10mm either side of it to create an even angle. This would allow the riser to tilt slightly forward when assembled. I made sure I checked the height of the risers (plus the top of it) to make sure that it cleared the height of the pedals in front. After all, the purpose for having the riser is so that you don’t accidentally knock the knobs on the front pedals of course.

 

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After playing around I decided to have these risers on the edges of the board, rather than ‘indented’ as per the photo above. Either option works, just comes down to personal preference.

6. Moulding

This is essentially an optional step as you could make a pedalboard without this; but I think you’ll agree it looks a lot better with it.

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Measure (twice; three times a charm) and cut this on 45 degree angles, so that they meet flush in the corners. The measurements should be taken from the inside of the 90 degree right angle of the wood. It’s difficult to then get the cuts right, but take your time and it will all come together. Double, triple check before you cut.

7. Bracing

Using some off cuts from an earlier project, I cut my back bracing runners to length and laid them on the back of my 4 lengths that would make up the board. These add strength to the board and keeps the spaces nice and even. It also takes the pressure off the mouldings to hold the boards You’ll notice that I have used some scrap pieces of wood that are all the same width to create spacer guides. This ensures that all the boards are evenly spaced and will stay that way as you do the work. Once in place, I drilled some pilot holes for the screws; one in the centre (approx) of each board. Do this for both runners.

 

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At this stage I also counter-sunk these drill holes, though this is optional. You do want the screws to be flush with the wood, and spending a little extra time with a counter sink was better than risking splitting the wood and having to start all over again.

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8. Glue (But not really…)

This is where I made my first mistake of getting too far ahead of myself. In the photos you can see that I glue and then attach the bracing to the boards using the woodscrews. However, once I’d done this, I realised that actually – it was going to be easier to stain all the wood BEFORE I constructed it. Just meant I wasn’t going to have to push and prod at the corners and gaps with a paintbrush.

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But keep this in mind – AFTER you stain it, and you’re ready to put it together, glue the wood before you use the screws. It will mean a stronger bond and will help it last longer, especially with all the stamping that you’ll put it through!

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9. Attach the moulding

Once you have glues on the bracing, it’s time to glue on the moulding to the edges. (Once again, stain the wood before you do this!)

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Make sure you line up the 45 degree cuts that you’ve made with the corners of your board. It will also be important to drill into the edge of the wooden boards. I found that to drill into the bottom of the moulding would mean my woodscrews would come out the top. So I put a woodscrew into the sides of the boards. I even got darker bronze coloured screws to make it look pimping.

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As part of the bracing support and the moulding for the horizontal mouldings, it will be necessary to make a couple of cuts in the wood to wrap around the runners.

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10. Base board done

So that should be it for the base board now. Here’s what mine looks like, with the top shown above, and the bottom shown below. (And now magically the staining I “did earlier” has finally come out in the photos!)

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And the bottom of the base with the bracing runners.

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11. Back row riser

You can now add the top of the riser to the sides supports ready to go onto the base board. Attach initially with wood glue, and then drill four pilot holes with countersinking. Tighten up the woodscrews and you’re ready to go!

 

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If you are going to polyurethane or varnish your board, now would be the time I suggest that you do it.

12. Place riser on the base board.

Figure out where you want to place the riser. Take into account the placement of your pedals at the outset and stay true to that. Changing plans now may stuff up the placement and spacing of your pedals.

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Place the riser on, and using sight and alignment, drill some pilot holes from the baseboard through to the riser. Add some glue, and then fasten the woodscrews from the bottom.

13. Cable tie holes

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From here, you could go about adding velcro tape to the board and your pedals and you’d be done. But I like the idea from holeyboard – not in the sense that I’m going to add lots of holes in a repeating pattern to serve most sized pedals, but in the sense that there’s nothing stopping me adding more holes later on if I need them. I placed each pedal in the place that I wanted them on the board, and then using a pencil, made a little mark where the cable ties would be coming from each side of the pedal. When I drilled the holes, I measured the hole that a cable tie (370mm) would fit through (snuggly at 4.8mm) and then drilled them slightly on the ‘inside’ of those pencil marks so that the holes are marginally covered by the pedal, but will still allow for the cable tie to fit through.

14. Insert cable ties

Now it’s time to attach your pedals. Slide in the cable ties from the bottom. The holes should be big enough to allow the length through, but should get stuck at the latch head. For this reason, insert it from the bottom so that the head is on the bottom of the pedal board.

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At this stage you probably want to connect up all your pedals with patch cables first, check that the cable ties are in the right spot, check that the pedals are spaced right before tightening up the ties.

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As you go, attach the daisy chain and the patch leads. Don’t tighten up the cable ties until you’re 100% happy. And even if you’re not 100% happy, it’s easy enough to replace them anyway! No velcro to peel off, no wear and tear on your pedals, leaving them pristine to sell on to the next musician.

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15. Non-slip Rubber Feet

Get a pack of these for a few dollars down at the hardware store. Just stick them on the bottom of the risers – even cover up your woodscrews like I did. And that’s it. Done, a homemade pedal board ready for you to shred out some masterful riffs.

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Best of luck!

Don’t forget to share this with fellow musicians when they ask about your pimping new board!

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Alesis Multimix8 USB2.0 FX

Today we purchased and installed our new mixer – an Alesis Multimix8 USB2.0 FX. Purchased from the Rockshop, it comes with the warranty that our previous mixer didn’t come with due to it’s second hand nature.
The main feature that we went for the Alesis Multimix USB 2.0 is because of it’s ability to send each channel separately to the recording software.
Previously if we recorded more than one track at a time, it had to be recorded into one single track. This doesn’t work terribly well for the way we play or record, and so hopefully the Alesis provides much needed freedom in our recording.

Links

Information

  • Eight-channel mixer with mic, line, and guitar-level inputs
  • 24-bit, 96 kHz 10×2 USB interface for single-cable recording and playback with your Mac or PC
  • XLR inputs with gain trim, switchable high-pass filters, and 48V phantom power
  • 1/4-inch line-level inputs for instruments and high-impedance guitar input for direct-connecting guitars
  • Powerful EQ: three-band with sweepable parametric mids on channels 1 and 2, three-band on 3 and 4, two-band on 5 – 8
  • Built-in DSP effects with footswitch bypass control and Aux buss for external processing
  • Multicolor LED metering for visual level feedback
  • Main and headphone outputs with independent level controls
  • Optional 16-bit depth and 44.1 or 48 kHz resolutions via USB
  • Includes Cubase LE software for tracking and editing on your Mac or PC
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Adding Stereo Speakers

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For the last couple of weeks I’ve been focused on my music and in particular my studio set up. After rebuilding an old organ to make it a MIDI keyboard and computer desk, it was time to find some more permanent speakers or studio monitors.
Sound wise, I do have to balance out the tone with some standard songs so that once I record I can get a flat, consistent sound from them.
But here they are, installed by drilling a couple of centred holes, adding in some screws to the wall and hanging them up.

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David Crowder Band – Give Us Rest – Review

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David Crowder Band – Give Us Rest (or A Requiem Mass In C [The Happiest of All Keys])

A long drawn out title for an album, but considering this is said to be their last studio album, I guess they can call it what ever they want. It is a 2 disc set, with both discs complimenting each other.

The album builds on their previous two – Remedy and Church Music. It uses the techno funk sounds, but at the same time, reverts back to a very traditional type of hymn in terms of the music. Things like choral voices, organs, and repeated chants are all balanced features of the album. There is a real sense of reprise throughout the tracks, especially where 10 of the 34 songs are under 2 minutes in length, with 7 tracks simply called “Sequence” and a number.

Within all of these shorter tracks, there are some real hits. Not in the sense of the first time you hear them you’re blown away, but in the sense that they creep into your mind and are easy to pick up.  Tracks like the title track “Oh Great God, Give Us Rest”, and “After All (Holy)” are two of the anthem type songs. The second disc is a lot more complete, and also features some more traditional numbers, such as “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms” and “Because He Lives”, digging into their country roots to inspire them.

All in all, it is a very comprehensive collection of hymns and tunes. For me, none are hits like “Remedy”, “How He Loves”, “The Glory of it All”, but as an entire album, it is a definite artwork when you look at it with a wider angle.

★★★★☆  – 4 Stars

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Sad Clown, Lilac Wine, Mary Oh Mary, Some Day

Recording

Today we spent time doing a bit of recording with the new setup at the studio.
We worked on 4 songs, getting some of the vocal mixes done. Over the past few weeks I have worked on “Sad Clown” and “Lilac Wine” myself, with Stu joining me to work on the negro spiritual songs “Mary Oh Mary” and “Some Day”. Today we put some harmonies together and mixed those into the songs.
The next stage is adding some additional instrument voicing into the mix and finalising the projects.

Lilac Wine

Lilac Wine is a beautiful song I first heard on Jeff Buckley’s “Grace” album. It touched something deep inside. I’m not sure if it was because of the haunting voice, or the fact that I don’t drink, and wine made of lilac seems just as absurd; but I love the song and so figured I would record my own version of it.

The New

This is the new site for Haven Grove Studio. I hope you like it.
It has come about because of a few changes to the server and my WordPress set up. I am hoping that it will still serve the same purpose as before.
If you have any suggestions for the site, then please let me know.

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iTunes: Get it to do what you want it to do.

So a while back now I was frustrated with iTunes. I was frustrated at it’s insistance to monopolise my music collection by organsing it for me, but without allowing me to choose just how it is organised.

For instance, when I first started collecting my music in mp3 format, I decided that I wanted my files named in quite a specific name. I decided on [Artist Folder] / [Artist -Album Folder] / tracknumber – artist – songtitle.mp3. This would allow me to keep the tracks in order in Explorer/Finder, and keep the albums separate so all that track 1’s didn’t get all mixed together etc.

Obviously, you can appreciate that I’ve found over the years, the best way to find anything you want on your computer, is to make sure you keep things organised in the same way regardless of what it is. Keeping all my music the same, organised in the same way is important to me. But, along came iTunes.

I still like to get the CD version of all my music. There’s something about having it in physical form that is for safe keeping I guess. So using iTunes, I have enjoyed importing my CD’s as they automatically get added to the library, it’s quick and easy, and it just works. But, whilst I can control the bit rate and the format that the CD is imported in, I can’t choose how the files are named. Likewise, Apple puts them into folders of just the album name, rather than allowing to choose how this is organised.

Until I found Doug.

Doug provides a range of scripts for one in particular Apple app. iTunes.

I immediately found what I was looking for.

File Renamer

File Renamer: http://dougscripts.com/074

File Renamer does just that. Renames your files, according to the ID3 Tags that the music files have. I set mine simply to “[track number] – [artist] – [title].mp3”. In it goes, renames the actual mp3 files, and tells you that it’s finished! All in about 3 seconds. Faster than I can do it manually!

Re-Locate Selected

Re-Locate Selected: http://dougscripts.com/477

Re-Locate Selected essentially moves the files to a new location of your choosing. iTunes by default tries to keep it all organised in your Music Folder, and then in iTunes Music, and then in their own folder structure within that. But if you try and move the files behind it’s back (not that iTunes allows you to move the files within iTunes anyway!), then it gets upset. As I keep my Music files on an external hard drive (so that it doesn’t clog up my laptop’s hard drive), this script has become very useful.
Creating a new folder and moving the files across to the External Hard drive in itself is not a difficult task. It is in fact, very easy. But, the problem then occurs when iTunes has now lost where those files are, and you then have to go through ALL of the tracks and click on “Locate” in order to re-direct the iTunes library files.

This script does away with all of that. Select the songs or album you want to move. You can choose to delete or to keep the original files (I usually choose to delete) and then it will allow you to choose the new location for it all, including the option to create New Folders in those locations. In about 10 seconds it is done, and the files are moved, and the iTunes Library references updated automatically. No more lost files when you move them outside of iTunes.

 

There are many, many more scripts that Doug has written. But for now, these two cover all the shortfalls that iTunes has. I hope you find them as useful as I have over the years.

 

How to install the scripts: (taken from dougscripts.com)

  1. Click the red download button. A .zip file will be downloaded to your “Downloads” folder.
    The .zip file should open a disk image (.dmg) file. Double-click the .dmg file to mount and display a disk image window in the Finder.
  2. Now, open a new Finder window and navigate to your[username]/Library/iTunes/Scripts/folder.
    (OS X 10.7+: Option-click the Finder’s Go menu and select “Library” to make the Library folder visible.)
    If there is no folder named “Scripts” there, create one.
  3. Select and drag the files from the disk image window into the “Scripts” folder. Scripts placed in this folder will appear in the iTunes Scripts menu.
  4. Close the disk image window and eject it from the Finder sidebar.

Note: This article was written at the time of release of iTunes 11.0 (Mac). These scripts currently work on versions 10.5 onwards, as well as 11.0. I’m sure that Doug will continue to update his scripts if they suddenly cease to work for future versions of iTunes.

The Studio: Decor

So the first major project in our new home has begun, a year after we moved in.
The studio as it has come to be known, has been in regular use, and every time it is used, I have a regular urge deep, deep down, to curl up and die. It is the most hideous salmon pink.

So, the holidays have come, and with a bit of extra time before Christmas, Ive bit the bullet, forked out for some spanish white paint, and within a day, the first coat is on.

Im looking forward to working with my sister in law on painting on a silhouette of a few guitarists to liven up the space and give it a rockstar finish.