Jay Scott Guitar

Private guitar and bass lessons, jam camps, guitar building and repairs in West Chester, PA

Swamp Ash Live, CUTS 2019!

This show was the musical highlight of our summer! On August 4, we appeared with Trout Fishing In America at Upper Merion Township’s long-running Concerts Under The Stars series, with Jesse Lundy from Point Entertainment handling the booking end of things. Pleasant Valley Sound’s Jordan and Bill made it all sound great. It makes it easy to play! And we got to hang a bit with Kathy O’Connell from ‘XPN’s Kids Corner, who had nice things to say about our band.

I snapped the photo of Ezra and Keith from the side of the stage. These two have been at this for 40 years! They have always had amazing chemistry, plus they play cool stuff and write interesting songs. Really nice people, and they make a great racket with just two guys!

I lifted the photo of us from the Point Entertainment FB page. We had an excellent time, and were glad to be part of the festivities. Thanks, everybody!

A Black Swamp Ash HB Tele!

This is the second guitar I’ve built for this customer. The first was a rosewood board Tele with an obeche body and Duncan Vintage Stack pickups. This time he had the black-and-white color scheme, a maple neck, and humbuckers on his list. Further, he requested a black gloss finish that let the ash grain show, and a stained neck color with a satin finish.

The body is from Clearfork, and the neck is from Allparts. I had to rout the body for humbuckers, so I used the Gotoh humbucker bridge with individual brass saddles. Most of the other parts are Fender. There’s an electrosocket holding the jack, and two 500K CTS solid shaft pots. I flipped the plate as I generally do. As always, I made a bone nut with his preferred string spacing.

I stained the body black with Behlen stain, and used TransTint vintage maple for the neck. The finish is Tru-Oil, also as usual, with a final wax coat for the body. The neck was rubbed out with 0000 steel wool, and has a great dry feel as a result.

The pickups are from Electric City, and are the Electric Flag set with an F-spaced bridge, and short-leg bridge plates on both pickups. At this writing, Electric City seems to have gone out of business, and I’m very sorry to hear it. Bill Megela, the owner and maker of these amazing pickups, is a great guy. I don’t have any details, but hope he is well. My customer was lucky to get these!

I can report the new owner is very happy with this guitar. It sounds and plays great! Excellent parts and careful work will get you there every time.

Fender Vibro-Champ Modded, Part 1!

I bought this amp in great cosmetic shape back in the 80’s. The electronics were a mess, though, and it took some reading and researching to get it working right, even though it’s a simple circuit. I am by no means an expert, but I can read a schematic, solder well, use a voltmeter, and avoid getting shocked.

It served as a guinea pig for a few different preamp circuits, with varying degrees of success, and then I put it away for a long time. Along the way, I cut the baffle for a 10″ speaker, since the original speaker was too small to sound good to me. It’s a 1967 amp, but strictly player-grade, since it had been “serviced” at least a couple of times in the past by someone who really had no clue, and original parts had been swapped out.

I settled on the Naylor 10 because I had it, but that meant finding a new output transformer. The Naylor is an 8-ohm speaker, but the original Fender speaker is 4 ohms, and that mismatch is not a great idea. Fortunately, Classic Tone makes a Champ OT with selectable 8- or 4-ohm speaker taps, and it’s a direct replacement for the old transformer.

Next up was to install a modern grounded power cord, especially since the old plug had mostly crumbled away, and the removal of the dreaded Fender “death cap”. At least I was less likely to kill myself or start a fire now, so that was a useful session on the bench.

So, what did I want the amp to do? At one time, I had a stock preamp circuit wired up. While the clean tones were nice, the breakup was raspy and not at all what I like. I had removed the vibrato circuit because that freed up the second 12AX7, so it seemed like the best choice was a third gain stage. I wanted to hear the amp break up more quickly, with a smoother transition into breakup, and a lot more breakup than the stock circuit could ever provide.

I had gathered together a lot of printed schematics and tube amp books, but the internet has made available all sorts of stuff that was kept secret for years. Marshall and Fender, Trainwreck and Dumble, just about anyone who ever designed and built an important amp has had at least some of their circuits and secrets revealed. In part 2, I’ll show you what I found, and what problems I had to solve along the way.

Happy 2019, And More Guitar Building!

I am WAY behind on site updates, but doing better this year is one of my resolutions. In my last post, I described the move to my new West Chester location, and six months on, I’m really happy to be here! My students, repair customers, jam campers, and builders appreciate the easy parking and the extra room we’re enjoying in both the studio and the shop. All is well!

The guitar you see here is made of Tasmanian blackwood, from Australia. It’s the companion to the silky oak Tele we built last May. My client, an Oz native and frequent visitor there, wanted to build two guitars from local timbers. The bodies were cut to final shape by Larry Robinson at Clearfork, and then the endless sanding began. My client…let’s call him “G”…has built a few guitars with me, and so my main contributions were wiring and setup. We did critical hole drilling on my drill press, but sanding and finishing were beautifully done by him. The finish is Tru-Oil, and there’s no stain on the body, which has amazing grain and color. Apparently blackwood is not black. Who knew?

The neck is from Allparts, and is fitted with the bone nut we made in the shop, and a set of Gotoh thumbwheel-style locking tuners. The bridge is a Wilkinson VSVG, which not only works great but has slightly narrower string spacing (2 1/8″). Pickups are the Seymour Duncan Classic Stack Plus set. We didn’t do anything tricky with the wiring. Once again: gather good parts, well chosen, and assemble them carefully, and you will get a great guitar. G is a happy guy, and so am I!

If this sounds like fun to you, please get in touch to discuss your project. I’m at jayscottguitar@gmail.com. Thanks! There are lots of earlier posts and articles to read here on the site if you want more information right now.

I’ve Moved To A New Location! Still In Beautiful West Chester, PA!

First, some eye candy! Needs a couple of finishing touches, but it came out PRETTY.

So, after many years of association with West Chester Music, I was offered an opportunity for more space, and the ability to separate my lesson studio from my workshop. The new location also has a parking lot, better access to the building, and no more stairs to climb!

NO MORE HIGH STREET NIGHTMARE PARKING! NO MORE WAITING OUTSIDE TO BE LET INTO THE BUILDING!

I’m two blocks away on S. Matlack Street. I started teaching in the new studio on June 30, and it’s all rave reviews so far. My shop will be up and running in a week or so.

I’m easy to reach. Send me an e-mail at jayscottguitar@gmail.com, and I will get right back to you. Thanks! I’m a little excited.

Guitar Building: Alder Strat With Humbuckers, Part 2

This guitar sounded great unfinished, but the unsanded body was a little tough on my right arm, so…LOTS of sanding, two grain raises, MORE sanding, and plenty of RED stain seemed to be the next steps. This is the same red I used to dye my Bigsby Tele, but that body was pine, so I didn’t know how the alder would take it.

I laid dye on until I began to see the blotchiness (uh-oh) that you can see in the second photo above. I wasn’t sure what the Tru-Oil would do with that, but I trust its ability to clarify and deepen colors, so crossed my fingers and wiped on six coats. I like to apply two thin coats and then carefully scuff sand with 2000 grit sandpaper. Repeat until happy. I really like the color! Alder’s grain is generally unremarkable, but this looks good to me.

The Wilkinson VSVG is my favorite more-or-less vintage-style bridge, and the pickups are Voodoo ’59s from Peter Florance, the Mad Winder of Honesdale, PA! The pots are 500K, one volume and one tone, and the tuners are Gotoh locking tuners with the thumbscrews on the back. The neck is from Allparts, as you’ll see, and I made a nice bone nut for it.

I’ll post another photo for the big reveal, but this guitar came out really well. Plays and looks great, and sounds huge!

Guitar Building: Dyed And Tru-Oiled Boards

These are the maple (on top) and pine boards I wrote about recently. The sections on the far left are not dyed. Since the first post, I taped off the upper half of each section, and wiped on four thin coats of Tru-Oil, which is what I usually use as a topcoat. These boards do a good job of showing the famous T-O “grain pop”, and also the pale amber tone it adds. In the case of the blue dye, you can see how it takes on a greenish cast, while the purple goes a little brown. The unfinished, amber, orange, and red sections each got more intense.

I have built guitars using each of these colors, and the samples give you a pretty good idea of what to expect with these combinations of wood and materials. Check out the Homestead site for more colors and information: http://homesteadfinishingproducts.com/transtint-liquid-dyes/

Fun stuff, and great products!

Guitar Building: An Alder “Strat” With Humbuckers

This is a nice two-piece alder body, with some interesting figure, perfect weight, and very nice resonance. It acts like it wants to be a guitar! I wanted a Strat-style with two humbuckers and a traditional whammy, and I wanted try out Peter Florance’s Voodoo ’59 pickups.

First job was to rout the body with my little DeWalt router and one of the new, thicker (and much improved) Stew-Mac templates. I used the screw holes to secure the template, instead of two-sided tape. No problems here. I wanted short-leg baseplates on these pickups, and Peter hooked me up. I installed the Wilkinson VSVG bridge (my favorite) and put together the three-ply pick guard with just volume and tone controls. The neck got a set of Gotoh locking tuners with the thumbscrews, since these have been working very well on my Bigsby Tele.

The weather (this was early this year) wouldn’t let me sand outside, much less finish, and I had a feeling this guitar would sound really good. I decided to go ahead and assemble it with the rough, unsanded body and play it that way for awhile. You can see the result in the last photo, warts and all.

Sure enough, it sounds and plays great! I love Peter’s pickups in this guitar. They balance exceptionally well and sound beautiful and responsive in all three positions. The neck in particular has wonderful clarity and plenty of fullness without being boomy. Great sound from either pickup played through a clean amp or with any of my pedals. Big fun!

If you’ve seen my band Swamp Ash lately, you know this guitar has taken over the number one spot. I did eventually take it apart again and sand the body, dye it RED, and topcoat it with Tru-Oil. I’ll show you all that in the next builder post. Thanks for reading! Comments are always welcome.

Guitar Building: The Silky Oak Tele Is A Stunner!

The body is the star on this guitar! Not that the other parts aren’t great, but this Australian timber, called silky oak, is gorgeous stuff, and sounds good, too. The finish is just a few coats of Tru-Oil, with no grain filling or stain. We used Duncan vintage stack pickups, which do a very nice job of delivering Tele tone without the single-coil noise. You’re also looking at a Joe Barden bridge, always a good choice for the twang, and a flipped bridge plate for easy access to the volume control.

It’s another cool guitar, to be followed shortly by a Tasmanian blackwood Strat. These woods are new to me. This body is about five pounds, and I always feel I hear a different sound with a bit of extra weight. The tone is a little more pointed, and holds together really well with a lot of gain from the pedals and amp.

Guitar Building: Dye Samples on Two Kinds of Wood

Yesterday was beautiful outside, warm and not too windy, so I thought I’d work up these dye samples for a color comparison on curly maple (the top one) and clear pine. What you see here is two applications of each color, with no clear coat applied after. I use the Homestead liquid concentrate (also available from Stew-Mac under the Color Tone label), and dilute it with distilled water. My highly unscientific method is to mix the concentrate with the water until the solution is opaque against the sun, or a 100W lightbulb if I’m in the basement. It’s working OK so far. Using water instead of alcohol for dilution gives you more time to work with the color before it dries.

You see purple, blue, red, orange, amber, and the bare wood here. The first application soaked in and appeared too pale for my liking. After it dried, I wiped on a second coat and got the result in the photo. More coats can build up more color, or you can mix an even more concentrated solution if you want. I’ve used all these colors on my guitars, and these samples do a great job of showing you what to expect.

Pine tends to appear blotchy if you don’t spread the dye quickly. I like foam brushes for the job. With a little practice you’ll soak up enough dye to work with, and you can lay it on fast. The figure in the maple does what it wants, in a different way. I hadn’t dyed maple before, so was a little surprised by how it took the dye. I imagine that with practice you can “read” the figure and anticipate the result. I was having fun shooting in the dark here!

Alder, being naturally a very light brown, will still be browner (warmer) when dyed. And there’s a lot of color variety in different pieces of pine, which will also affect the result. I’m about to use the amber dye on a swamp ash Strat body, and expect the result will look pretty much like what you see here. For a really vivid example of how unpredictably the dye can interact with the wood and the Tru-Oil, check out my previous post on the blue humbucker Esquire. I love how it turned out, but it was a real surprise to me. Love those happy accidents.

My next step will be to divide the color blocks in half (they’re about 5″ by 4″) and apply 3 or 4 coats of Tru-Oil to one side, so that I can show you and my builders what it does to both the color and the appearance of the grain (the famous T-O “pop”). Stay tuned!