Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Let's Review StewMade Guitars of 2008 and 100th Post.

Well this ends the year and this marks my 100th blog entry! Wow, only 100? It seems like more for some reason.

I'm so ready for a "Do Over" in 2009. 2008 marks a year of a series of unfortunate events. Rather than imagining Baby New Year passing by Father Time 2008, I imagine a teenage New Year thug kicking the crap out of 2008. I want to thank Switch to Plan B and Epic Beat for being there for me, just to listen to me, while I worked through many issues that came up this year. Not to mention Epic's patience with me while dealing with my hand issues for worship services.

So rather than rehash out a year in review for me, I would rather reflect on what was accomplished in the StewMade shop. I set out to build about 3 guitars this year and with hopes of squeezing out maybe an additional one. Turns out it was a different combination of the three.


The 70's Muscle Car Guitar. Really happy with this one. I got the vibe I was after. It really sounded nice and was very comfortable to play. Unfortunately, the guy who bought my last two guitars bought this one as well. He seems to be buying up all of my guitars rather than letting me send out my babies into the world to be enjoyed by all. I think secretly he was hired by Fender to purchase my guitars and destroy them upon delivery (LOL).

I keep getting hits on this blog regarding the Muscle Car Guitar so I might build about two next year. I'll probably still go with Sublime Green and possibly Plum Crazy. I dunno.


Mark's J-5 Signature Bass. Really nice bass and my first 5 string build. This wins the "eye candy" award for Stewmade this year. The wood grain just popped off of the guitar and just looks stunning when stage lights hit it.

I took a leap of faith and used a local guy, Carey Nordstrand from Yucaipa. He uses a scatter wound technique and I guess has a machine that simulates the hand tension winding process. Many feel that this process is what really makes a pickup stand out more, in a good way. There is much talk that the reason why early Fender pickups sound so good is because they were hand guided onto the pickup bobbin (spool) in a random (scatter) fashion. The tension was also "felt" as the pickup is being wound, something modern winding machines lack; the human factor. I subscribe to this theory only because I've compared the two and there is a noticable difference, to my ears.

Anyway, I was really impressed by the tone of these pickups. Relatively quiet yet had that great classic J bass growl. I would really like to include another bass for 2009.


Fall Leaves Guitar. This guitar was made a bit late to capitalize on the fall season. I had this guitar body that was to be another Beach Scene Guitar. The body had been lying around, getting in the way of things. I couldn't come up with a third beach design when I was curious if I could maybe carve something other than surfboards and tide pools. Plus I'm such a sucker for the fall season and have always wanted to build something that just made you feel like it was fall.

So with the same "what the heck" ambition, I sketched out some leaves and started cutting. Once I started, I realized I was in for some major work. I couldn't just stop, I had to finish what I started. I studied countless images of leaves; the way they curled up at the ends without compromising the construction of the guitar.

This guitar was not planned out until the last minute. But now that it's done, I think I got it close to what I pictured. So far I've faced much criticism on my choice of colors and wood choices. But I guess that comes along with any art form.

The guitar is lightweight and I used my friend Tommy to finish the neck for me this time. I was very impressed. The neck is a satin finish which feels really smooth and friction free.

Also, I choose pickups by Jason Lollar; "Blondes". Let me explain for you folks who are now wondering why "blondes" (WARNING, HEAVY ELECTRONIC GEEK CONTENT! SCROLL PAST THIS PARAGRAPH IF NECESSARY). Jason, like Carey, makes his pickups hand scatter wound. But Jason voices each of his pickups with the amplifier in mind. During Fender guitars Strat history, there were different amp coverings in relation to the time the amplifiers were manufactured; early 50's tweed amps, early 60's blonde tolex/vinyl amps, and the mid 60's black tolex amps (also known as blackface amps due to the color of the amp's black control panel). So Jason matches the output and specs according to what the guitars were being played through at that time. If all there was available to play in the late 50's was a tweed Fender Bassman amp, then your guitars of that same era didn't have much bass response since you got that tonal aspect from the amplifier. So theoretically, if you play a real 1956 Strat through one of today's modern amplifiers, it would sound a little on the thin, treble side. So if I typically play through a very bassy sounding amp, then Jason would recommend using the Tweed or Blonde pickups. But if I have a '65 Fender Deluxe or Twin amp, then the Blackface pickups would sound better based on the amp voicing. Dig?

Under Construction!
As far as the Orange Crate Guitar is concerned, I'll be working on this pretty heavily to meet my Spring '09 deadline. I hit a road block in one element regarding weight and stability. But I think I worked it out. And yes, this will even smell like oranges when I'm done. HA! What other guitar manufactured today can say that?!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Confusing December!

PC282326

So I guess since the weather is just now getting colder, our maples and liquid amber trees are just starting to turn fall colors. Yet in the distance, there is evidence of large amounts of snow in our mountains. Just seems kind of strange to see this late in December. Usually this time of year, all the leaves have turned color and fallen.

PC282323

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas: Presents Over in 30 Minutes!

Allison has finally passed out from Christmas joy. Our new kitten looks on as Allison snoozes.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Yet Another Look Alike Sighting.

I guess now I know what I'll look like in about 10 years. This is the Italian football manager and professional player Fabio Capello. I say it's the glasses that does it. It's weird looking to the future. Thanks for the comparison YouTube viewers.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Another Unsung Hero of Christmas.

Sure you've heard stories of those who were overlooked. The 5th Beatle, the reindeer with the red nose. But did you ever hear the story about the 4th wise man?

There once was a wise man from India. His name was Paruhm Pa'Pumpum. He was visiting that night in the West end of Jerusalem, the night of the Christ child's birth. Paruhm could not help but to notice the very bright star in the East.

In Paruhm's amazement at this star, three wise men carrying gifts passed him. He asked the three men, where they were going with such fine gifts. "We were told by King Herod that the King of the Jews has been born this night, in Bethlehem. We were told that we shall find the child if we follow the star."

Paruhm wanted to join the wise men, but they stopped him. "What can you possibly give the King?" they asked. "I have my drum to play" said Paruhm Pa'Pumpum.

"We have gold, frankincense and myrrh as our gifts. Drums are too loud for such a small child. You shall be a disturbance" the men said. "And besides, there is only room for each of us on our three camels." This refusal saddened Paruhm.

Shortly after the men left Paruhm Pa'Pumpum, a group of angels appeared. After some confusion as to whether or not the star turned into three separate angels, Paruhm realised that the angels were sent to give him a message. "You too are to come and worship a saviour, he is Christ the Lord. Come" they told him.

So Paruhm traveled by foot by the light of the star all they way to Bethlehem. By that time, the three wise men had already visited the small child lying in the manger among lambs and oxen. Paruhm was overwhelmed with joy when he viewed the small baby. Although he had nothing that could compare with the precious metals and oils that the three wise men offered, Paruhm offered to play a song on his drum. "Shall I play for Him?" said Paruhm Pa'Pumpum. Mary nodded yes and he played his best for Him. The Baby Jesus smiled at Paruhm while he played his drum like he'd never played before.

It's sad how unsung heroes of yore often fall by the wayside. An attempt to acknowledge Paruhm was written in a song around 1958. But because of the powers to keep this historic person hidden from the history books, it was rewritten to hide his name within the song. Disguised as a drum rhythm, Paruhm's name is still unknown and has yet to recognized by the world.


Ok, actually this story was inspired by a student at work. We were listening to Christmas music when "The Little Drummer Boy" came on. The student laughed and told us that when he was a small boy, he wanted to know who Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum was. His mother never told him. He never knew the song was sounding out a drum rhythm. So I started thinking, wouldn't it be strange if there was actually a fourth wise man that never made it into the history books. I just thought I'd write a funny fictional story about this idea. Of course I kept imagining the voice of Khalil, for Paruhm. (The caterpillar from "Jonah, The Movie" from Veggie Tales).

Guitar Plans for 2009.

Working on them at the moment. I may be introducing some main stream guitars, a signature series for an un-named musician. I'll be finishing up the "Fall Leaves" guitar (a little late) and the Orange Crate guitar.

As far as goofy one-offs, I'm working on an idea that's sort of left field; The 70's Appliance Guitar. Yeah, stew on that for awhile. It should look really nasty when it's finished. If your imagination takes you to where you think I'm going, then you've already got the concept. Possibly due out in March or April of '09. I can't decide on a Jazzmaster style or Strat style. Most likely Jazzmaster style since there's more body color shown on that. I'm having to order the color special from Dupont.

More ideas to come.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Reflections of 4 Decades.

Today, on my 44th birthday, I'm lying in bed reflecting on the past 4 decades of my life (deep, I know!).

1968: I'm turning 4 years old on this date and living with my Mom in an apartment in Rialto, CA. At that time, I was totally unaware of what I mother struggled through in order to make a life for me. This being a short year after the divorce of my parents, I still don't ever remember feeling down or unhappy. I remember my grandmother's fiancé dying in a helicopter crash that year, but still not really having any real feelings of life struggles or anything like that.

One thing I do remember, was when I attended a Christian Day Care/Pre-school. It was a church that doubled as a nursery school and kindergarten. Besides sprinkling playground sand on my head and groovin' on the feeling when I'd massage it around my scalp (me an Quintin), I remember looking up to the San Bernardino Mountains and actually believing that was Heaven. I would stare at the mountain crest and imaging people walking around with sheep and wearing biblical robes and sandals. In those days it was so clear you could actually see the pine trees at the tops of the mountain from Rialto.

1978: Today I'm 14 and attending junior high. Strange time for me. I'm just getting into guitar playing. I'm taking lessons at a local music store once a week, handing over Molly Hatchet albums over to my instructor who effortlessly takes 3 minutes to listen to the song I want, then jots down the music for me to learn. I was amazed by this.

I'm in love with Kim Delo who was my Marcia Brady to me. First girl to actually have the nerve to call on the phone. She was nice enough to keep me interested and to keep my gifts coming (bought her some earrings for Christmas, but that was not enough to win her over as girlfriend status).

That summer, I remember learning how to water-ski with my stepfather. We got along really well during these years, unless I really blew it with school grades, which I struggled with at this time.

1988: It's been little over a year since my break up with a 4 year relationship. Now turning 24, I have just met the most amazing girl in my life, I'm living in my own apartment in Redlands, CA, and I have a steady job which I keep moving up the ladder. Longest job I've ever had (ha, one year).

But since November of '88, I can't get this girl out of my mind. I have to see her everyday. We're leaving mushy voice messages on each other's answering machines.I remember thinking at this time that I was glad to get out of my home in the mountains and be on my own. Parents were treating me decent now and not getting on my case for everything I did. At least that what I remember thinking at that age.

1998: Age 34 and I've been working at my current job for 4 years now. We've been living in our current house for 1 year now. I've been married for 8 years, have a 4 year old daughter and now earlier this year, have a new addition to the family, my daughter Libby. Allison is quite the talker and full of energy and crazy off the wall comments. This year becomes a challenge to provide equal time for both girls, making sure Allison does not feel like she's second best now that there's a new baby in the house.

Oh yeah, and I got my first Fender Custom Shop Relic this year! I'm playing occasionally with a band that's primarily made of police officers. It's good money and I really enjoy playing out in public. Lots of fundraisers and benefits which would usually equal about $150 for me that night.Had a '94 Fender Blues Deluxe amp.

At this year, it's the pivotal moment that I start considering building my own guitars and what begins as my Fender Replica building stage. It's that Custom Shop Relic that inspires me to see if I can build something similar.

2008: Tough year, probably the toughest up to date. Lots of tragedies, family, friends, work, just too numerous to mention here. This year has probably troubled me the most. This year will be an adjustment for every holiday to come. There has been no escape. It came from every direction.

My family has really been my anchor and refuse for me this year. Usually I would turn to my music to get away from everything. But with my hand issues, I've felt like that was taken away from me too. Can't spend money (which I like to do to get my mind off of stuff), can't drink (too much) because that could develop into something more serious. And going to church which used to be my second sanctuary reopens my frustration to not be apart of my ministry, playing in services.

Flip side, our home addition was finished, and that means that everyone is happy with their own rooms. No more fights over bathrooms. I've been blogging a little over a year now. It's been very therapeutic for me. It's a little known fact that after blogging about a difficult time or frustrating moment, that I feel like I've had a huge weight lifted off of me. We have a new kitten which we can't seem to name. But it's been really fun to have a cat that's fun again. We haven't experienced that since our old cat Emerson was young (died in 2006).

Building guitars doesn't seem to hurt my hands. So that's going well. I've got a whole bunch of ideas planned for 2009.But I have hope for age 44. Other than my hand and back, I'm generally healthy. I've had my flu shots (we'll see how that pans out). And my plans are to start working out, eating better....after the holidays!

Today, I'll go to church, look over a friend's new Tele, have brunch, go to Color Me Mine and relax the rest of the day...while doing some laundry.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Friday, December 5, 2008

New Obsession: Fender J. Mascis Jazzmaster



Well I blew it again and missed out on winning the auction of my old '87 Fender Strat Plus. I guess the original owner will never reunite again. So I've sold off a few Stewmade guitars to finally obsess over this gem, the Fender J. Mascis (Dinosaur Jr. fame) purple sparkle Jazzmaster. It's like the Jaguar except it's got bigger single coil pickups and is 25" scale. I've heard that the pickups are garbage on this model but that can be fixed easily with some Lollar Jazzmaster pickups. Prince would be envyous.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Muscle Car Guitar, Sublime Green; Lots of Traffic.

Ok I'm noticing a lot of hits on this site for my Muscle Car Guitar that I made earlier this summer. I ended up selling this guitar rather quickly. I can't help but to feel the need to produce more of these based on my hits regarding this guitar.

If you are interested, please contact me, even just for feedback. I'm planning on offering the other 70's Mopar colors as well; Vitamin C Orange, Plum Crazy and possibly even Viper Snakeskin Green Pearlcoat!

stew@stewmadeguitars.com

Monday, December 1, 2008

Sorry, Nothing To Blog.

I guess you feel free to comment about whatever you want for now. I'm pretty happy with this month's Shag header. I dread the month I run out of themes.