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  • Bruce H. McIntosh
    Visit my work homepage
    Last revised Jan 04, 2021

    Some of you may know me
    And many of you won't
    I am just a player in the band

    Guitar stuff - Guitar Gallery

    The Family Portrait,as of May 29,2013

    Front row:
    • Koontz & Thurston/John Sprung Black Telecaster
    • Ibanez ART-420
    • 1978 Gibson "The Paul" (aka "The Walnut Wonder")
    • Jay Turser JT-134QMTsemi-hollow

    Back row:
    • Martin Shennandoah D-2832
    • Dad's no-name classical

    Here's a closer look at the Black Telecaster. The overall concept was insipred by a set of Teles with dual humbuckers that Roger Griffin built of Schecter parts for Pete Townshend in the late 70s and 80s,when he was tired of lugging irreplacable old Les Pauls all over creation. The Strat neck concept was courtesy Steve Morse's renowned four-pickup "Franeknstein Telecaster". There's a relief on the back to make it more comfortable to play sitting down.

    I ordered the body on layaway after seeing an amazing flame maple Strat neck at John Sprung's old American Guitar Center shop on Viers Mill Road in Wheaton,MD. He had Koontz & Thurston build and finish the body,mated it to the neck,and set it on a stand in the shop while I paid off the layaway. While it sat he had several people ask if it was for sale. Once it was paid off and I got it in my hot little hands I started in on the wiring. There's a DiMarzio SuperII neck pickup and a Duncan SH-4 JB bridge pickup. I'll describe the rest of the wiring below.

    It's had a bit of a hard life,replete with knocked-over guitar stands,belt buckles,watch band buckles,at least one night in a leaking car trunk,a neck replacement resulting from a hideous,uncorrectable S-bend in the original neck,and,well,25 years of being my "daily driver" so to speak. Oh,and it could stand some fret work. One of these days.

    Since everyone who sees it asks... the knobs read,top to bottom (right to left in the picture): volume,neck tone,bridge tone; the switches,in the same order: neck PU in/out of phase with bridge PU,neck PU coil cut,bridge PU coils in/out of phase,bridge PU coils in series/parallel. I blame Donald Brosnac for the inspiration for the mad-hatter wiring setup.

    I'd always wanted something to scratch the "Les Paul itch" after losing track of my cheap white Hondo. Well,this more than fit the bill. It's light weight and comfortable. The fit and finish are first rate,and the spalted figuring on the top is stunning. It has active pickups,of which I grow ever less fond as the years go by. But regardless my minor disenchantment with the pickups (for which I compensate by tweaking the setup on the effects board),the ART has displaced the Black Telecaster as my main guitar. It plays SOOO nicely. I'd had visions of doing all sorts of things like ripping the active setup out and putting in some Wilde L-90s or my favored Duncan Jazz/JB combo,and adding a hex pickup for guitar synth,but since I've caught the guitar building bug I decided to leave this one stock,at least for the time being.

    My Christmas present to myself in 2012 was something I've hungered to own ever since I encountered one at Milano Music in Mesa,AZ in 1984. The Paul was Gibson's attempt at the time to come up with a solid,competent basic guitar that didn't hurt the wallet like a "real" Les Paul did. The first couple of years they were solid walnut; starting in 1980 they changed to mahogany. I don't know where I first heard the early The Paul called "Walnut Wonder",but I've wanted one forever. Now I've got one!

    According to an online serial number decoder,this was a very early 1978 production example.

    That explains the two-piece body. Later examples were 3- (or more-) piece bodies,I guess as Gibby ran out of wider slabs of walnut. Eventually the guitar came to be made of solid mahogany,and later was rebranded a "Firebrand" with the logo branded into the headstock. I'm not sure,but I think this was eventually the genesis of the Les Paul Studio models,but don't quote me on that.

    The semi-hollowbody looked pretty sweet hanging there in the rack at the shop,and I've been pretty happy with it. It does have a couple of minor ailments - the G string buzzes some once in a while (either a goofy nut slot, a high fret, or something with the tailpiece, hence that bit of velcro),and the volume control for the neck pickup's a tad inconveniently placed for pinky volume swells. I've gotten a stop tailpiece that I might install eventually,and someday when I get up my courage I'll level and redress the frets to see if that squashes the intermittent buzzing. I was thinking about replacing the pickups with the classic combo of Duncan Jazz and JB,but now that I'm building guitars I think I'll leave this one alone. It sounds nice enough as it is. I'd considered swapping the pickup selector and neck volume around,a la what Phil Keaggy did on his Yamaha SA-2000,but again,I think I'll just leave well enough alone.

    And now,on to the acoustics. The Martin Shennandoahs were a short-lived experiment,wedged in between the inexpensive made-in-Korea plywood Sigmas and the genuine article,made in the USA Martins. The top is solid spruce,the back and sides laminated rosewood. The bits were roughed out in Korea,then shipped to Nazareth,PA and assembled at the Martin factory. It came equipped with the original Fishman Thinline transducer,which sounds pretty good through the PA. Martin eventually discontinued the Shennandoahs,due to some combination of high production costs,and lost sales of full-up USA Martins - these things were really nice guitars for the money.

    John Sprung sold me this example used in 1984. The original purchaser must've hit money issues,'cause the owner's card from Martin,postmarked a few weeks before I bought it,was still in the case.

    Nowadays,the old guy mostly stays in his case in the hall closet. I've gotten a "good enough" acoustic tone from the GT-8 so I don't feel much urge to lug the big case back and forth to church any more.

    And lastly,we come to the little Kenneth H. McIntosh Memorial Classical Guitar. Dad bought this for $10 off a guy on a street corner in some or other Italian city back in the 1950s when he was in the Navy. It's maybe worth that today. It doesn't sound all that good,the tuning machines slip like crazy,the nut is a pressed piece of corrugated metal(!) and the neck is a proverbial baseball bat. But I still remember being 5 years old and thinking how cool it was when Dad got it down and ran through some of the tunes he knew.

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