Thumbscrews are useful for things you want to take apart/adjust by hand, such as guitar pedals, cases, clamps, and microphone stands.
I often find myself wanting a thumbscrew for something that didn’t come with them, but I’m too impatient to order one or visit the hardware store, especially when I have a bunch of perfectly-good matching machine screws around the house. So why not make them?
Ugh, drilling holes in old acoustic archtops, right?
Unfortunately, for adding an output jack there are not a lot of good solutions. In the past, I have super-glued them under pickguards, which works fine for the casual cross-legged sit-‘n’-play but it isn’t the most stable thing when you’re standing. So what can be done?
Lee Jeffriess spread the word that I might be the guy to reproduce obscure pickup covers, and sure enough I got a request for a new one, this time for the Fender 1000 Pedal Steel.
These guitars have “jazzmaster” style pickups in the 8-string format. The client reported they were a perfect fit and after some polishing using a plastic buffing compound they might be able to fool Leo himself. The above shows 3 covers with the original. Not telling which is which 🙂
Remind me to go on walks more often. I was passing by one of my favorite ephemera shops Stuff Modern and remembered they have a real convenient (and well decorated!) bathroom upstairs that I needed to use.
So I popped in, and stumbled upon this:
It’s an Ampro 12″ speaker cabinet with a glorious art deco metal faceplate. The grill cloth behind the faceplate is unscarred. The back of the cabinet is removable and latched on like a sewing machine case. The handle is spring-loaded and automatically stows itself down when not in use. It was $119 and looked as “like-new” as anything from the ’40s possibly can.
Thankfully, the days of carrying around a gigantic binder full of your set list charts is over. Like many gigging musicians these days, I use an older iPad running iReal Pro for reading basic chord charts. (I know, I know, purists might take issue with this idea. If you are one of them, can skip this post and continue shaking your fist in another direction.)
I find that full-size music stands are a bit “loud” on stage when all you’re looking at is a 10″ x 7″ rectangle. Plus, as you all probably know by now, minimalism: it’s my thing. We’re still a ways off from reading music charts off of cloud-connected ocular implants, so I came up with this guy:
The stand base is the ubiquitous Hamilton two-section folding stand, a classic of jr. high school band rooms. Notice that (perhaps intentionally) “music” does not precede the word “stand” in the product listing. Their flimsy top sections weren’t the best at holding up actual sheet music. Memories of overstuffed binders somersaulting off of them are now flooding back.
When I first met Lee Jeffriess, he was playing bass in a Hawaiian swing band that I perform with called the Alcatraz Islanders. What I didn’t know at the time is that he was a steel guitar legend and a former member of the fantastic Big Sandy and the Fly-Rite Boys during some of their best years.
Go ahead and put this on while you’re reading this, why don’t you?
As I got into steel guitar playing myself and combed through the Steel Guitar Forum for tips on this unforgiving instrument, it soon became clear that not only was Lee a monster player, he was the authority on all things vintage steel. That included history, technique, gear, recordings, and other minutiae like tone capacitor values. Many informative threads ended with something to the effect of, “That’s what I think anyway, but Lee Jeffriess would know for sure.”
So when Mr. Jeffriess, knowing I’ve been getting into this 3D design thing, asked if I could make a pickup cover for Fender Stringmaster T8 pickups, I knew that there was absolutely no other way to get them. A quick googling pointed me to aforementioned Steel Guitar Forums, which confirmed this. Ironically, you can still get modern reproductions the pickups themselves… just not the covers!
A banjo-playing colleague came across one of my AT bridge mounts and liked it, but found that the fit was quite loose on thin-string gauges, which are common on banjos. We went back and forth a bit trying to adjust the clearance gap, but at such tight tolerances, results were mixed.
It then occurred to me to make a more universal adjustable model. I had some M3 threaded inserts left over from a previous project so I simply separated the halves of the string clamp sections and made it so they attach to each other and tighten down with a thumbscrew. Now any gauge of string should work, including bass strings if you’re feeling lucky!
First, a digression: one of the first things you notice while getting into 3D printing is that it is far from the magic “replicator” of Star Trek, capable of spitting out molecularly-correct cups-of-joe every time. It takes a lot of research, tweaking, and stalking nerdy fellows on YouTube to figure out how to get acceptable quality prints, and even then your stuff will look pretty rough. It’s the nature of the medium… this machine is essentially a hot-glue gun on motors.
As such, I roll my eyes a bit at people who use their 3D printer primarily for making infantile decorative figurines or props. Do you really want to use up all that material, time, electricity, and post-processing hours to produce more useless plastic crap around your house? If this is the trend, future civilizations will no doubt stare in complete bewilderment at landfills full of multi-colored Baby Groots long after we’re gone.
Aww, I know, that’s mean.
Good for you if that’s your bag, but I keep my designs functional and fully understand this stuff is not “production-ready”. They just can’t have the polish necessary to survive the scrutiny of an Amazon review. So 3D printing, to me, is good for small-run niche problem-solving where looks don’t matter.
Once in a while, though, I cook up some design and when I’ve put it all together, I’m surprised that it actually looks good and is functional beyond my expectations.
In this case, it was yet another mounting project for Audio Technica instrument microphones, which I use a lot for acoustic guitar (specifically, the Pro 70 or 831b lavalier models). I found myself wanting something that would point the mic to a sound hole or neck position with a gooseneck arm, “DPA-style“. I’ve heard some bad things about the clamping mechanisms on the DPA mounting hardware, so I thought about other ways to attach to a guitar. Why not suction cups? It worked for Nerf!
Being a working musician, city-slicker, and general disliker of ridiculously loud music, big heavy amps are not my thing. While it would be a great honor to someday be featured on the venerable Rigs of Dad, for now I’ll save my back. My chosen tube amp to date is the classic 10″ Fender Princeton Reverb. Light enough to carry with one arm, and enough power to get me to the Tone-Zone®.
However, one problem I have with smaller combo amps is that they can be difficult to hear in live situations. Amps placed on the floor simply aren’t pointing in the right direction to be heard by someone standing on stage. Sometimes I’ll hike my amp up on a chair, but that also takes up a lot of space and is unsightly. What I need is some tilt-back assembly, which would allow an amp to point upward at an angle.
I love DeArmond archtop pickups! DeArmond “Monkey-on-a-stick” pressure rod mounting brackets are my preferred removable way to mount them, but nobody reissues them. So I made one from scratch using some swell modern tech. Available at my online store.
Update 5/8/2019:I now offer replacement top plates and thumbscrews for original vintage monkey-on-a-stick. See my store.
Update 6/3/2018: Due to popular demand, I now only make these with a metal top plate. The bottom baseplate is still 3D printed silver-colored PLA, but the metal top plate results in a more all-chrome look for you purists 🙂
Unlike the drill-happy current day, back in the good old ’30s and ’40s it was unthinkable to put holes in that pretty handmade archtop of yours. After all, who knew if this silly fad of guitar “electrification” was going to last? And what if you wanted to pass that pristine acoustic archtop on to your grandchildren? Trad jazz and swing was surely due to make a comeback in about 75 years.