So this sucked

At about 8:30pm on Tuesday 3/8/2022, I was viciously attacked by this coat hanger. I don’t care if this coat hanger has an alibi or tries to shift the blame elsewhere, I will always know that this little fucker did it maliciously and with forethought. This coat hanger should be in prison.

Thinking back, I should have known something was wrong. When I first opened the door to the hotel room, I heard that sound that you hear in those Friday the 13th movies when Jason is in cold, slow pursuit and could pounce at any moment. Sort of a tch, tch, tch, ack, ack, ack sound, but very quiet and with a lot of reverb. Yeah, I should have known shit was going to get real.

But, I slept one night in the room before going to a store to work with one of my employees a bit and all went well. I guess that must be why I allowed myself to let my guard down. I’ll sure remember in the future to be vigilant. I would have been then if only I had known what was to come…

What you see in the photo above is a pretty standard wooden coat hanger that you see in lots of hotels. Usually these are connected to the rod by tiny little heads that go inside the bar and can be removed by sliding them to a certain spot with a larger opening. That was not the case at this hotel. Those wooden hangers had a large, circular head that went all around the pole used to suspend the hanger, AND -and hugely important to the narrative- they did not have the ability to swivel from side to side. Add to that a wall that is only about 2 inches behind the hanger and it is a recipe for disaster. In the image above, the hanger on the left is pushed as far back as it possibly can be without hitting a wall. The total travel of the hanger was perhaps two inches. That’s not a lot of give. After that, it turns into a fixed block of wood sticking out of a wall.

After staying in the room for more than 24 hours, at about 8:30pm on Tuesday, the hanger attacked! I was near Brigham City, UT and it was very cold outside. I’d been wearing my work clothes along with a jacket so I could slip outside to smoke from time to time, but decided around 8:30pm that I’d made my last smoke run and was ready to get into my chilling out clothes while winding down to go to sleep. I reached down to grab my laundry bag, which was in my suitcase below this vicious predator, when the hanger suddenly went on the attack. It hit me right in my left eyebrow (or at least that’s the only place I felt it hit) and it felt like things feel when they hit you pretty hard but then stop. You know, it was like a sharp smack with a sharp pain and then it was pretty much over. It looked just about like this in the mirror twenty minutes later: just a smallish cut with a little clot of blood forming in the eyebrow. I didn’t tend to it because I was about to go to sleep. I shut down my computer and called it a night.

I awoke only when my alarm went off at 4:30am on Wednesday 3/9. It was the strangest thing that I awoke just seconds before my alarm went off, but because my nose (specifically my left nostril) was bleeding -which is unusual. I’m trying to keep from posting too much of my mug here, so you’ll have to imagine that. I think you can still see a bit of dried blood just below the nostril here, but either way it doesn’t really matter. The eye had definitely changed in the hours I had spent sleeping. There is a red spot above the eyebrow and near the hairline which I had not seen the night before, there is some pretty clear swelling both above and below the eye, my nose also has some swelling on the side, and you can clearly see some bruising starting to form on the bottom of the eye. Add to that that my eye wouldn’t open any further than you can see here and you can probably see why I was concerned.

I texted my boss and told him that I probably wouldn’t be going to work that day because I needed to figure out what the holy hell had happened to my eye. I decided to get back into bed and watch some TV, since I figured the urgent care places wouldn’t open until 8 or 9. But I got back up at about 7am and my eye looked like this at that point. Swelling about the same, but more bruising coming in on the top and the bottom. While you can’t really tell from the picture, the soft tissue above the eyebrow is swollen pretty significantly as well. I still can’t open the eye beyond what you can see here and I have pretty limited vision. The limited vision being near vision. The eye not affected by this is the one I had Lasik surgery on and it now has exceptional distance vision, but it’s blurry as hell right in front of me. I can see a little bit out of the injured eye (though it doesn’t look like it) but it’s no clearer than the Lasiked eye.

It was about 9am before I found a place that could see me right away about the eye problem. It was an emergency room. Evidently there isn’t an urgent care anywhere in Brigham City, UT that can take walk-ins. I could have gotten an appointment for 3rd of April, but this felt a bit more pressing than that.

It was snowing this morning and the windshield of my rental car was all iced up. I started the car and left it to thaw the windshield while I packed the bags in my room and checked out. The windshield still had some ice on it as I started driving, but since I couldn’t see anything closer than about 5 feet of me anyway, it didn’t seem like much of an issue. Hell, I couldn’t read the speedometer or even see the map I had brought up on google to guide me to the hospital. I had to rely solely on the voice prompts to get me from the hotel to the hospital. They checked me in, got me to the back in about 5 minutes, and my eye looked about like this at just about 9am on Wednesday 3/9.

I was viewed by several specialists at the hospital. The first person I saw (aside from the triage nurse) was a woman who immediately identified that I’d most likely fractured an orbital bone. She further identified that I had sustained subconjunctival hemorrhages (that will be apparent in later photos). She ordered a CT scan as well as an ophthalmologist’s examination of the eye.

After some time, the CT scan confirmed that I had fractured my left medial orbit. The ophthalmologist obviously confirmed the subconjunctival hemorrhage, but could not tell whether any of the abrasions on the lens of my eye (yup, did that, too) had actually completely penetrated the surface. The small fracture had ruptured a blood vessel (which is why it swelled so badly) and it was very close to my sinuses -which was why my nose bled.

We can break that all down to what the ophthalmologist said to get to why it sucked so bad. What he said, in layman’s terms, is that I, in a hospital 13 hours from home, had just learned that I could not be guaranteed that I could safely fly back home. If the lens of the eye was completely penetrated, it would have been bad. So I had ahead of me a 13 hour drive home (in non-snowy conditions and for a person with 100% vision).

What I’m skimming over here is that no one at the hospital believed that this coat hanger attacked me. The woman who coordinated this whole thing said that the type of trauma I experienced was usually only seen where auto airbags are deployed or when being hit by a projectile in a contact sport (think hockey pucks and line-drive baseballs). She just didn’t believe that this coat hanger was able to wait in ambush and hit me with that kind of force. I fear for her children while in hotel rooms…

She also sent my prescription for antibiotics (to avoid infections in case the sinuses broke through to the eye) to the Walmart in Maricopa, AZ instead of the one right across the street. So it took me a good half an hour after getting there to fill the prescription.

I ultimately did get on the road to home. Due to snow and limited vision, I only made it about a third of the way through the journey before stopping at a hotel. The eye looked pretty bad still, and I held my eyes wide open in surprise to be able to show as much of the reddening of the sclera as possible.

This is what the eye looked like when I rolled out at 6am the next morning to make it home. Yeah, it wasn’t great. I was actually starting to get a bit of the vision back in it and the drive Thursday wouldn’t have been so bad if it hadn’t been so painfully long. I left the hotel at 6am and didn’t arrive home until 3pm. So 9 hours, but an hour or more of that was because I had to return the rental car in phoenix, take the shuttle the airport, then take the tram from the airport to the parking lot to retrieve my actual car. This was really one of the longer days of my life. I never got tired during the process though, owing mostly to the fact that it hurt so fucking bad that I wasn’t able to think about anything except the pain. I did take some ibuprofen once when I got home, but I was hoping that would help with the swelling more than for concern of pain.

This is what the eye looked like at its absolute worst. This was on Friday morning as I was beginning my day with conference calls to my team and my boss. You can see the bruise so clearly following the eye socket that it’s almost mesmerizing. You can also see that nearly the entire sclera of the eye is firmly colored red. It also looks like the eye is closer to green than brown. The swelling is pretty goddam intense, and in this closer view, you can even see the bruising and swelling near the nose that I had mentioned earlier without being able to substantiate. If I haven’t yet mentioned it, this hurt like hell.

As it turns out, that first Friday 3/9 was the worst that it got. By Saturday it started to hurt less, but it still looked like this, so I wore my sunglasses inside whenever we went somewhere.

By happenstance, the wife had arranged for us to go to the Renaissance festival that Sunday with some of her friends. I didn’t take any pictures of the eyes that day, but it had started to reduce pretty dramatically. I still wore sunglasses though.

Monday 3/14 was the next day I took a picture and I took this one only because 1) the bruising seems to have spread to the other eye -you can see it on the corner near the nose as well as below the eye, and 2) I was getting pretty concerned that while the dark purple below the eye was dissipating pretty well, the purple between my eyebrow and eyelid seemed to be neatly painted with a plum marker just that morning. It seemed like that portion of it wasn’t getting much better.

The pain and swelling subsided greatly as the week went on and by Friday it didn’t look or feel nearly as bad.

This is what it looked like on Friday 3/18 and was the last picture I took. The bruising above the eye has finally started to dissipate and the bruising below the eye is almost gone. The other eye still has traces of the bruise, but they can hardly be seen without looking for them. The one thing you can’t really see is that the eyeball itself is still pretty red on the outside of the face (if I looked toward my nose you would see it) but when compared to a couple of weeks ago, it’s nothing.

Let my trauma be a cautionary tale to you: Watch out for wooden coat hangers. They’re wily bastards hell-bent on destroying the human race… One eye at a time…

Music is universal, but not generational…

I know that I have I have 100% been ‘That Guy’ in relation to this particular subject.

The music I heard when I was between about 12 and 18 years old rules the Goddam world. Nothing before or since has ever even come close to it. I would swear that on a bible! Every other person that lives on planet earth would swear the same, but based on the music they listen to. For at least a decade, I thought that those who didn’t appreciate my music simply hadn’t heard my music. If they had heard it, I reasoned, they would fucking love it. … Not so much.

The image below shows some other guy (with a youtube channel) reaching that same realization:

He’s way into it, she’s doing her best to force her frown the other way (and not making it happen). She just doesn’t like this music. In her mind, this probably isn’t even music; it’s more like the noise they play in elevators to ensure that there is no silence between floors. She is 100% disinterested, and would much rather be doing anything else. Music has changed a great deal in the last 30 years. She wasn’t alive for most of those 30 years, but her dad was. He still believes that a Metallica song from 1988 is the pinnacle of music for all time and can never be bested (in fairness, I agree with that guy) but his daughter just doesn’t care about the song.

The girl tries to smile whenever he stops the music to look over to her, but she clearly just wants it to be over:

There are two worst parts to this. The first is that the promotional image which was placed on the start screen is one where they were both smiling. This did not happen during the song. The girl was equally confused and irritated for the entirety of the song. The next worse part is that he made he watch another Metallica video. She seems stoked on it?

I’m pretty sure she just pretended to like it so that the pain would stop. And she wasn’t doing a great job of liking it. The dude in the video was pretty sure she was liking it though!

Some people like the color blue, others like the color red. If you try to tell someone that likes the color blue that red is the best color, they aren’t going to change their mind. Music seems to be the same. Your taste, style, and influence for what you like was probably determined about the time of your birth. No amount of people forcing other types of music on you is likely to change that.

If you weren’t in your formative years in 1988, you’re probably not going to appreciate the music of 1988, regardless of how objectively awesome it is.

Return to Oregon – 24 years later

In October of 1993, I pulled up stakes and got the fuck out of Oregon. My father had died on Christmas Eve of 1990, and I really tried to soldier on up there, but it just wasn’t in the cards. Without going into too many details… Suffice it to say that once my long term girlfriend dumped me (we’d been dating for about 4 years, which was over 20% of my life up to that point) and I found myself homeless, jobless, aimless, and with a number of legal and fiscal issues pressing -and in a way that would likely have resulted in a fair amount of jail time- my feet were hot to move! All that is not even getting into the fact that my circle of friends were even more homeless, jobless, and aimless than me. So I hopped on a bus with GTFO as my only destination.

Once I got to sunny Arizona, I hammered out the legal and fiscal issues which had caused all the concerns. It took me several years to do so -since I was only earning minimum wage or a scrape above it- but I did ultimately get this all resolved paid off. The entire story is detailed in one of my pages linked to on the right, but it was written a hell of a long time ago, back when this was all fresh in my memory. I wouldn’t recommend reading it, but it’s there if you are bored and what to see what the writing of an angry and raging alcoholic looks like.

It was right around the year 1995 that I had paid all I could pay to make the issues go away. The Oregon courts no longer had any issue with me, but the Oregon DMV was still holding a grudge (I had my license revoked in Oregon at the age of 16 for driving without a license or insurance). They carried that grudge until about the year 2000. It was 2001 when I was finally able to get a legal, clean driver’s license again. Which, not-coincidentally, was the year I married my wife.

With a clean slate in Oregon since 2001, I’ve had a number of chances and reasons to go back for a visit. I never did. Like the battered woman that runs from the abusive husband, I just didn’t feel any need or desire to go back.

What was funny was that the things I thought I would miss: friends, family, and etc. were not an issue. I’m still in contact with the friends and family I care about through social media. The ones I don’t care about have faded to memory just like friends slowly faded from the memory of your parents without social media to keep them together.

The one thing I really, truly missed was … Abby’s Pizza.

The Abby’s pizza on Stephens street was such a huge part of my childhood that I literally don’t go a day without thinking about some aspect of it. You got to watch them make your pizza. You got free balloons. They had those old, thick wooden chairs that really hurt your ass. And the pizza was amazing! Growing up in Roseburg in the 70s, there weren’t any Dominos, or Pizza Huts, or Papa John’s. If you wanted Pizza, it was Abby’s or pretty much nothing. They did later open a Round Table pizza, which was pretty good. Also a Firehouse Pizza in the old firehouse, which was also pretty good. But, aside from those, it was Abby’s or nothing.

I didn’t realize just how much I missed Abby’s pizza until I started planning for my trip this week -in 2018. The first thing I did was book my flights, obviously. The second thing I did was book my hotel rooms, obviously. The third thing I did was to look up Abby’s pizza locations to make sure that I would be able to eat it again while I was up here.

My flight landed in Portland on Monday and I had to drive to Boardman, OR (no Abby’s). Tuesday I drove to Prosser, WA (no Abby’s). But today brought me to Yakima, WA where there is an Abby’s! I’ve been anticipating this pizza for 24 goddam years.

How was it? Well, the box is way different, but it has the same guy from the balloons of my youth smiling on it. The box was the wrong color, too. But it was familiar enough to recognize. I smiled when I saw the little guy on the box. Why? Nostalgia. 24 years later and he still looks enough like the original that I was able to immediately recognize him. It further reminded me of how I told Dad that I was looking for work every day when all I actually did was go to the Abby’s pizza in Winston every day to fill out another application and ask if they were hiring. Why? Because my uncle Randy had told me that employees got all the pizza for free -as much as they could eat. I ultimately got the job at the Abby’s in Winston (the pizza was not free for employees). It was my first job and I made it damn near a year. Pretty good for a sixteen-year-old whose father died during that period.

As for the pizza…

Long before I got to my hotel room I knew what the pizza was going to be: half Lunguicia, half Beef and Onion. My brothers, dad, mom, stepmom, and stepsister always had different ideas of their favorite pizza. That usually involved the “Abby’s special” which was a not-quite-eveerything-on-it version of an everything-on-it pizza. Or the “Skinny special” which was Canadian bacon and Tomatoes (for no damn reason other than that it was the favorite of one of the two founders). Other popular ones among my family were the “Taco pizza” and, of course, good old Pepperoni (back in the day, Abby’s piled that shit high. Don’t know if they still do, but it was impressive back in the 70s and early 80s).

None of those matched my personal taste and I was often outvoted. My favorites were Linguicia (to this day I don’t know exactly what this is. It is obviously a type of sausage and has a garlic flavor, but I’ve never seen it offered anywhere other than Abby’s) and Beef and Onion. The pizza I ordered today was half and half of those two. In my picture to the left, you’ll note that I immediately gobbled down one piece of each -well before I had made it to any flat surface on which to set the box to take a picture.

The verdict: It is still way better than the major chain pizza places. But, and it is a big but, this pizza cost me about thirty bucks delivered to my hotel (pizza, tax [I am in Washington, not Oregon tonight], delivery fee, and tip). The Linguicia tastes just as amazing as I remember, but the onions on the Beef and Onion were changed from white to purple at some point, which makes it taste a bit too onion-y. Still good, but the blander white onions really made this one taste good 25 years ago and I’m sad that they went away from that. The mixture of Mozzarella and Cheddar was still pretty amazing. I’m surprised other pizza joints have stolen this idea. Mozzarella is a very mild and nearly flavorless cheese. That bit of cheddar really makes the pizza pop.

So, 24 years later, I’ve done everything I intended to do when I got back to Oregon: ate an Abby’s pizza. Hopefully when I get back here -if current patterns hold, I will be 68 at the time- I’ll be able to taste some more of this amazing Linguicia!

Dunn’s River Falls, Jamaica

I have to admit that I was absolutely ecstatic when my wife suggested this as a trip when we went to Jamaica. Mostly because I had read the fine print that she obviously ignored.

This excursion is a bus ride to the middle of nowhere, followed by trekking up a waterfall (hiking up said waterfall. About 900 feet, but straight up, and in water).

I was on board from word go. The wife, on the other hand, became less excited with every passing second. Our marriage was at it’s strongest when this photo was taken:

That photo, incidentally, was taken just before she realized that we were about to march up a waterfall.

The first stretch of the climb is pictured here:

If you’re searching for the word, I will throw it in here: terrifying. There is something about the natural beauty of waterfalls that allows you to forget that they are nature -in its purest form- flexing some muscle. When you stand at the bottom of said waterfall, knowing you have to climb it, you remember that nature has won EVERY battle against man. But, with the liberal application of Red Stripe, anything is possible.

But that’s just the one stretch, right? Nope. It got harder every time. The second run was way more vertical (and terrifying) than the first.

I had a bit of a frog in my throat before we tackled this leg of the climb. But, having been married as long as we have, Dani and I found a way to suppress those emotions. We made our way up this section of the waterfall hand-in-hand (with terror lurking in the background) but we made it.

What you don’t see in the still images is that we lost (I think) four members from our group along the way. They didn’t die or anything, but they had to bail along the climb because they simply couldn’t do it. There were some real (and not trivial) health conditions which struck the members from our group, but the group which reached the top of the falls was not the same group that started at the bottom. All I know is that the group that ultimately crested the falls was not the group we started with. But we soldiered on.

By the bridge, we had definitely lost at least four or five from our group. I don’t blame them at all. This hike was hard as fuck. The wife and I made it though, with thumbs up and bitching sun burns to prove it!

Unfortunately, the biggest (and theoretically most frightening) part of the climb was yet to come. Our group was down a few guys (who had exited safely in jump-out points along the way). We still soldiered on. This leg of the climb is, sadly, not pictured. It did, however, force me to flip on my ‘guy switch’. I took a step up the waterfall, then went back to help all the women up the waterfall, then went back to join the wife. By the end of this portion, I had at least four women reaching for my hand on every step. This was all about trying to preserve what was left of the group. We can all make it!

But, as we near the top, the cameraman asks us to pose as we fall backwards into the water. Dani is … less on board than me… Victory is in our sights, so we may as well let loose.

After about an hour on that river (waterfall) we have both helped numerous other people who also wanted to grasp the … what … knowledge that they climbed the falls.

I guess what it all comes down to is this: You either can or can’t. We made it through, and did our best to help others along the way, but not everyone is wired for success.

Big smiles and success. We beat that waterfall’s ass! And we will continue kicking ass for all of time…

Refinishing a guitar – the hardware

I posted about actually trying to strip and refinish an Ibanez G10 guitar a while back, but I recently found this post regarding the hardware I put into it was still in draft state. So here is the how and why in regards to the pickups I put in the guitar. They cost more than the guitar did.

When I was refinishing that G10, I realized (shortly after the first coat of blue -you know, well before it started to look really cool) that it wouldn’t matter how awesome it looked if it didn’t sound great. The stock humbuckers really sounded pretty good as far as stock humbuckers go. I wouldn’t call them ‘meaty’ but there was definitely some well-designed, whey-and-soy-based-product there which simulated meat fairly well. They sounded resoundingly okay, but okay wasn’t good enough. Now that I have a guitar that I’ve taken down to bare wood, I figure a good part of my soul lives in it, so it needs to properly capture my emotions. Stock pickups just don’t do that.

I began playing guitar in about 1989. I started to get good at it somewhere around 1991. That is not to say that I woke up one day and had the skill to play, but more to say that Metallica’s Black album dropped on August 12, 1991. That album made learning to play the guitar easy. Easy, fun-to-play, crunchy riffs came one after another. Start to play with Enter Sandman, learn to double-pick with Holier than Thou, get a feel for weird time signatures with My Friend of Misery, all the while playing some fairly simple guitar licks. The next thing you know, the bizarre 7/5 time of The Four Horsemen’ (or the parent song, Megadeth’s Mechanix -though I have to admit the Metallica version is far better in sound, scope and lyric) doesn’t seem quite so bizarre. Oh my, how that album changed me.

Metallica, at that time, played on a multitude of instruments, but Kirk and James played ESP guitars fairly exclusively. They also used EMG pickups fairly exclusively. I’ve always wanted to have a set of EMG pickups in my guitar to see if I could emulate their sound. So, when it came time to choose the pickups to put in my still-in-restoration guitar, I obviously chose the John Petrucci signature series DiMarzio pickups.

This surprised even me.

Why the about face? I have no doubt that any higher-end pickup can handle some crunchy distortion with ease. I usually can’t tell a difference between major manufacturer pickups when it comes to the low-end grind. They’re deep, they’re meaty, and every major manufacturer can do it. While I’m sure that the same can be said for the clean tone coming from the neck pickup, I can also say that someone like John Petrucci probably has a bit more direct experience with the equipment than an in-your-face metal band.

I watched Dozens of youtube videos featuring the Petrucci signature set, the Dave Mustaine signature set, and the James Hetfield signature set (I never liked the way Kirk’s guitar sounded, so I didn’t look at those). What it ultimately came down to, for me at least, was two things. One was the amount of sustain that -literally any idiot- can get out of the Petrucci pickups. The same was not evidenced in a ridiculous amount of time watching videos for the other two pickup sets. The other was the artificial harmonics. If you’ve ever wondered why Jake E lee could hit a pinch harmonic at any point on any string, while you struggled to hit one on the seventh fret, the pickups are why. The Megadeth and Metallica sets of pickups were so focused on crunch that they seemed to miss part of the high end of the spectrum (at least in the dozens of videos I watched). The first thirty seconds of Dream Theater’s song ‘Pull Me Under’ kind of illustrates what I mean.

I think what ultimately sold me on the Petrucci pickups, though, was this video of Petrucci using them:

While I hate to urge you to skip past portions of his performance … If you jump in at about 6:30 you will see everything I mentioned above: amazing sustain, crunchy low-end distortion, pinch harmonics -literally anywhere on the string- and brilliant and bright clean tone…

Basically, if I can’t make it sound good with this set of pickups, I need to put the instrument down and move on. Which I may need to do. My results with the same pickups have not been as the video above suggests. However, I can nail a pinch harmonic nearly anywhere on the neck. Often even if that was not my intention. I’m damn happy with the choice. Jamaica — Fraud

Update 4/24/17

After making this post and sending a link to the company with this post, links to my social media posts, and my review on Tripadvisor (where I am slowly becoming an actual voice… level 4 reviewer with over 10,000 reviews read) they relented. They sent me an apology email this morning as well as a refund. That’s great. But they were still relentless cunts through the entire process so the reviews on all sites will stand. Stop jerking around your customers, assholes!

Original post 4/23/17:

VIP Attractions is evidently an airport service offered to those who arrive in (and depart from) Montgo Bay and Kingston, Jamaica. It is purported to be a ‘rush service’ through customs on arrival, and a bar to sit in while you wait for departure.

All of that may be true, but I wouldn’t know. I paid for the service, but never got to experience it. The company (linked above) absolutely refused to give me a refund.

I requested a refund about a week before my trip. The above-linked company said they could issue a refund if I filled out an ‘authorization to charge’ form for my credit card. I believe they did this under the assumption that I simply wouldn’t fill it out. But I did fill it out. Even down to figuring out how to digitally apply my signature and entering all other information, but approving them to ‘charge’ my credit card “-$160.00.

Less than five minutes later, I got a response from the above-stated company. The response said that they ‘couldn’t issue a refund because I had booked the service through MT vacations”. I have never heard of a company named ‘MT Vacations’, and have certainly never booked a third-party reservation through any company -especially one named ‘MT Vacations’.

I booked this service directly through the above-listed company. A fact I can prove with my credit card statement:

Do you notice how it says ‘VIP Attractions’ and doesn’t say anything about ‘MT Vacations’? I certainly noticed it.

Since VIP Attractions lied about my reservation in every conceivable way, and refused my refund request in every conceivable way, I can only assume the whole site is a fraudulent attempt to steal your credit card information.

Avoid this site AT ALL COSTS!

My first full guitar build: Semi-hollow body

So, after some promising but lackluster results with my attempt to refinish a damaged Ibanez G10 guitar I figured why not go whole hog and do one from the ground up? To add a ton to the degree of complexity, I decided to go with a semi-hollow body guitar for full build number one. To further add to the difficulty, I chose to dye the wood grain rather than paint over it. Because seriously, when you’re learning to ski, are you going to learn more on the Bunny Slopes or on K12? (and kudos to anyone who got that reference without clicking the link.

So I ordered up a kit and set to finishing it. The body looked like this coming out of the box:
The front had a beautiful grain that I figured I’d be able to finish without much of an issue. Seriously, it looked like I could just throw some blonde (or an equally light-colored) stain on it, lacquer it, and call it a day. That wasn’t my intention though. I bought this specifically to build for my oldest brother, Dennis, for Christmas. The guitar he is currently playing is a semi-hollow body one that I bought for him when I was about sixteen, and that is a damn long time ago. It is showing signs of age, and I thought he might like an upgrade. I was initially pleased with how good the grain on this one looked, because I figured it would be pretty damn easy.


The front of the guitar was a beautiful piece of wood in a butterfly cut, which made for a wonderful grain and some awesome symmetry. The back, on the other hand, looked like this. Since it is a sort of hybrid of acoustic and electric, the front appears to look more acoustic, while the back looks like an electric. That means that it is made of some nasty-ass basswood. More than that, the thought appeared to be ‘fuck the grain, just glue some shit together’. At least that’s what it looks like. I assure you that it looks every bit as bad as this photo (and probably worse). That was disappointing.

But since I figured I’d be able to get an easy home run out of the front, I started finishing the back first. I figured I couldn’t paint it, since I was only going to be dying the front, which meant I’d have to dye the back as well. This turned out to be a PROCESS.

I have to admit that after laying down the first coat of dye (I should mention that I’m using Keda Dyes for the entire finish. Mixed more or less as suggested) I was skeptical that I’d be able to pull this build off. After the first coat (which is still wet in the photo) it looked more or less like I’d taken a magic marker and ran it over the back a bunch of times. I think that may be my way of saying that I thought it looked pretty shitty. You can totally click through that image to see it in larger scale, though I wouldn’t suggest it.

But, after sanding back the black and laying down a coat of dark blue, it started to come around:

Those pictures were taken at the same time but from different angles and with different lighting. The dye was still a bit wet at the time, but I found it odd that one angle showed it a deep blue while the other angle hinted at it being almost purple.

Once it dried, the back began to give off a more even color regardless of the direction of the light. I sanded it back once more, dyed it once more (dark blue) and then layered it with about three coats of spray lacquer. The final result looked like this:

Not exactly the color I was hoping for, but there are enough interesting things going on in the cheap, basswood grain that it still looks totally finished (scroll up a couple photos to that first image of the back if you don’t believe me). The back came out pretty darn good.

Once I’d caressed the ass of this guitar to the point that I was happy, I had to start working the front. That was not such an easy process. I first thought I was going to do a sunburst pattern. Yeah, not so much. Here is the result of the first coat of stain toward that:

You’ll no doubt note the exceptional attention to detail as the dark blue around the edges very gradually fades to the light blue in the center. It’s like a gradient that’s using the full 256 million color capability of modern computers. Goddam seamless is what it was. A perfect sunburst pattern, but done in blue!

Yeah, even I wasn’t believing that bullshit and I tried really hard to believe it. To be fair, I knew it would be pretty stark with the first passing and I would lightly sand it back. I’d then cover it with lighter coats of just the light blue until it got to the point where the transition was seamless. I think I could have pulled that off, but I had to give up on the idea because … At the bottom of the photo (if you were holding the guitar to be playing it, it would be just above the top ‘F hole’. There are several areas the dye just wouldn’t penetrate. My assumption is that there was some sort of glue or solvent still present that the dye simply couldn’t touch. Regardless of why, I knew I couldn’t continue with the sunburst finish.

So I sanded the whole thing back. Not to bare wood, but enough that the light and dark blue no longer appeared to be separate colors. It took a lot of sanding, and I don’t have photos of it along that particular path, but once I’d sanded it back a reasonable amount, I layered the entire front in dark blue. And here is the result:


I put about a dozen arrows on that image to highlight the flaws, but they in no way point to ALL the flaws. The thing was fucked even after sanding it back and laying down a new coat of dye. It was just that bad (which is all my fault for not sanding enough in the first place. The surface looked so good to begin with that I started with 220 grit and worked my may to 600 grit. I never considered that I might need a coarse sanding).

The next step was unquestionably the most difficult part (mentally) of the entire process. I had to admit that I was never going to finish the project without basically starting over. I put some 90 grit paper on my orbital sander and, with a tear of regret, destroyed my masterpiece. I took care to sand heavily in the problem areas, but tried to go light in the unaffected areas. I also made sure to leave areas of blue amidst the fully sanded area with the hopes that the contrast would pay off later. After an hour or so (the first half with 90 grit, then 20 minutes with 150 grit, and another 10 with 300 grit) this is what I had:

While I’m not going to take the time to highlight every one of the problem areas again, you will note that I sanded all of the problem areas back to bare wood (a few of which I did highlight. Bear in mind that I was using wood DYE so there was no way to get it back to bare wood). Anyways, here is a photo pointing out a few areas I sanded back to wood while leaving other areas a much darker blue:

I want to note that I spent a lot of time making sure this sanding phase left light and dark areas. It was only when I had to sand the whole thing back that I decided I was going to call the project “Blue Velvet”. I hoped that leaving enough light and dark areas would allow me to pull off that effect in the end.

The good news is that my sanding worked out great. Here it is after a couple coats of dark blue dye and a bit of time to dry:

That is a pretty accurate photo of its state at the time. Probably the most accurate photo of any yet posted. The waves of color came out really well, but there was no … what? Pop? Luster? Sheen? I don’t know. It just lacked something.

When I began this project, I decided that I wasn’t going to finish the front with any sort of lacquer. Instead, I was going to finish it exclusively with Birchwood Casey’s Tru Oil. I arrived at that decision after reading tons of reviews and recommendations about finishing a semi-hollow guitar. Tru-Oil, they say, dries in such a way that it will add luster with each thin coat. The result of that will be that after 20 or 30 coats (and I easily put 50 coats on the front of this thing) each coat will dry differently and give the finish something approaching iridescence. Yeah, I was skeptical too. But after rubbing in a coat of Tur-Oil every half hour that I was awake over the course of two or three days, the finish really started to pop.

Here are a couple images of the final product (the dye and Tru-Oil was completely dry by the time I took these photos):

After all the time spent dying and Tru-Oil’ing this thing (it was definitely dozens of hours and probably hundreds) I was very pleased with just how well it came out. I did buy the gold pickups, gold bridge hardware, and gold knobs aftermarket (the kit came with silver accessories and different colored knobs). And trying to finesse all of those things into place through the f-holes on the guitar was extremely trying. Thankfully there are a lot of youtube videos to help you through wiring a semi-hollow guitar. What there aren’t a lot of youtube videos of is what to do when you try to finish a guitar and part of it simply won’t accept wood stain. I limped through it pretty well, but I wish I had been vain enough to video the process. I think you’d have to agree that from the photos at the top of the page to the photos on the bottom, I really nailed this one.

As a final note, The Fret Wire (the place I bought my guitar kit) featured MY GUITAR BUILD -dubbed ‘Blue Velvet’– on their website on January 2, 2017. So it may not be me blowing my own horn when I say the final product looks pretty damn good.

Refinishing a guitar – a work in progress

A few weeks back, I had the brilliant idea to try to use one of those websites to print out a ‘guitar skin’ to try to finish a guitar with some of the imagery from one of my book covers (no link to the site because the resulting image sucked so incredibly hard). Let me say here that I had absolutely zero percent confidence that it would work, and that confidence was not misplaced. Do not try any of these services for a photo-realistic image.

The image I used was one I created specifically for the project. That image was the full-sized version of this image (I am using a screen-friendly 2500×2000 version of it here, but the image sent to the manufacturer was a much less reasonable 10000×7800 @ 300dpi -which should have been suitable to print an image roughly 50×40 inches with reasonable detail):head

eyeIt turns out that they couldn’t pull off even an image even one third that size. To the right, you’ll see the eye from the above picture as rendered on the final print they sent me. This is literally the image, in 1:1 scale as printed on the ‘skin’ that they sent me. Not only is it not photo-realistic in quality, it isn’t even bad, 1996-ish, 14400 download over a sketchy connection quality. It is absolutely terrible. There are two reasons I am not mentioning the site which rendered this horrible image by name (three if you count potential lawsuits). The first is that I believe I would have received the same results from any of the guitar skin websites. The second is that the skins they sell really are pretty amazing, provided you choose from their selection of pre-made custom skins -which, while amazing, are probably rendered in about 256 colors. As mentioned previously, I knew going in that the thing was going to suck, but I rolled the dice anyway.

thewholethingSince my expectations were exceedingly low and I didn’t want to put this sticker on one of my real guitars, I trolled eBay for a couple of weeks to find a suitable victim. I ultimately purchased this Ibanez G10 (despite disliking Ibanez guitars, but for no real reason) because I got it for under 100 dollars and it had a double-locking Floyd Rose Tremolo (which itself costs more than a hundred dollars). The caveat with this guitar is that it had some horrible damage around the knobs (picture below) and at a couple of other spots on the front of the body. I didn’t think that would be much of an issue since it would be covered with the glorious ‘skin’ anyway. Note that the picture doesn’t do justice to the extent or depth of the damage: the paint was damage, the wood was damaged, it was far worse than I’d anticipated.


All of which didn’t matter since the skin sucked so bad.

ibanez1Once I realized that the guitar skin wasn’t going to work -and also having realized that the guitar actually sounded pretty good- I decided to try to finish the thing anyway. First up: get the old finish off. This is the early stage of that process, when I was using a heat gun to try to get through the clear coat. This was a laborious process which was very prone to mistakes. The correct amount of heat applied at the correct time was a difficult thing to nail down. It resulted in the spotty results you see here. And this took a very long time, for results which were … well … what you see here. After spending several hours trying to strip it with this method, achieving the results you see here, I finally gave up on that approach. My new approach was sandpaper. Sandpaper is cheap and I could throw a lot of it at the project, so, next step, sand that fucker!

In about an hour, using a 60 grit sandpaper, I got the guitar to the state you see here:

Well, I got the front of it to that state. The back and sides were still untouched:

At this point I was still thinking I could just refinish the front of the guitar and call it good enough. As my brother-in-law pointed out, though, that would have looked fucking horrible. So I resigned myself to sand down the back and the edges. Pro tip: to get to the inside curves near the neck, I emptied a 16oz Coors Light can (a number of them, actually, for unrelated reasons), refilled it with water and wrapped a piece of sandpaper around it. I used the sandpaper-wrapped aluminum can to hit a number of other places as well. Scholars may argue that I was doing so only to make sure I always had some empty cans lying around and they could be right. But, for the inside curves near the neck, the can worked perfectly:

The back was a much easier process, since it is almost completely flat, compared to the curves on the front and sides of the thing.
I thought it looked pretty darn good at that point. I also mistakenly believed that the finish was fairly smooth. It so wasn’t. What followed was a week of the most frustrating painting of my life.

5primerThis is what the guitar looks like after five coats of primer. While the image does little to show the imperfections in the paint, suffice it to say that if it looked as good in person as it does in the photo, I would have stopped right here. It did not, and I did not. I continued the priming process, which ran thusly: spray a coat of white primer, allow to dry, sand down the high spots (removing about 90% of everything I had just sprayed on), wipe it down, spray a coat of gray primer, allow to dry, sand down the high spots (removing about 90% of everything I had just sprayed on), and repeat. First layer white, second layer gray, third layer white, and on and on. I don’t know why, but the primer seemed to disappear into the same low spots in the grain like there was a vacuum sucking it in. I’m not talking about trying to hide the initial damage from the first image in this post; that was hidden easily with a bit of fake wood and one coat of primer. I’m talking about the actual wood grain not being smooth. And no matter how much primer I threw at it, I couldn’t make it go away.

I burned through -very literally- five full cans of primer during this process. This is what it looks like after the fifth can was empty and I finally enacted the ‘5-can-fuck-it’/mercy rule:

Unfortunately, even at full size, I don’t think you can see the issue with the grain coming through the paint. If it looked that smooth in person, I’d be pleased as punch.

silver So, to finish the guitar, I chose to try out something wildly different (at least for a guitar… I think) which is to use Alclad II Electric Blue to try to give it a bit of an anodized look. I decided before I started the process that I was going to try to give the final product some faux tiger-stripes in an effort to distract from the flaws in the base coat. The first step to using the alclad is to coat the guitar in their proprietary silver paint, which I did. That looks like what you see pictured here. Now, with such a shiny finish, you can definitely see some of the wood grain that was bedeviling me throughout the process. It sticks out, just as I thought it would, like the proverbial sore thumb. It looks fucking horrible. Thankfully, though, this is the base coat. I knew it wasn’t going to look great, and the results back that up. But I still had to lay down some color coat. I did that with the electric blue color mentioned above, taking care to add some thick lines every so often to give it some vague tiger-stripish looks. There was no specific method to this beyond adding them where I felt like they should be:

I started this process by lining around the edge of the guitar and the openings for the pickups and termolo with a fairly liberal line of paint. It doesn’t show much in the image, but I did so knowing that if I didn’t, it would naturally thin around any sharp edges because of paint run and my own tendency to stop before over-spraying. The result actually looks quite good, though not quite as good as the picture. It left me thinking I need to do a bit more and make the stripes a bit darker, but I ran out of paint. I ordered more paint to continue (and I also need to paint inside the opening for the tremolo and touch up the edges around some other openings) but it looks pretty okay. It will be a couple of days before I can take another crack at it, but on a scale of 1-100 on results, I’d say I’m at about a 71 right now.

After waiting an impossibly long three days for my additional paint to arrive (I ordered a second bottle of Alclad II Electric Blue and a bottle of a slightly darker Alclad II Cobalt Blue -which doesn’t exist on Amazon) I finally got to give this thing another coat. I really like the way the very dark cobalt paint is interacting with the lighter electric blue:


If you click the thumb above to see the full resolution image, you will see a lot of the wood grain that I simply wasn’t able to hide. And again, I’m sure it could have been hidden with the proper amount of time/sanding/patience, but I possess none of those. I mean really, if anyone is looking that closely at my guitar, it must be because I am playing so spectacularly that they have decided to perform some impromptu fellatio. If that is the case, they will be so deeply mired in the regret of their actions that they will be exceedingly unlikely to notice the wood grain through the paint.

The image is a fair representation of the actual color and look of the current paint, though. At the top right, there are a couple of lines of paint that look like they might still be wet; that is what they actually look like. They are absolutely dry, but they look wet. That is the only thing about the current state of the paint that I’m disappointed with.

For those of you keeping track at home (and I’ll admit that is probably a very narrow audience; even I wasn’t keeping track and just had to do some napkin math to come up with these numbers) the amount of paint on this guitar body right now is: 5 cans of primer at 12oz each, 1oz of Alclad Silver Candy Primer, 1.5oz of Alclad II Electric Blue and about a half an ounce of the Alclad Cobalt Blue which doesn’t exist on Amazon. Bearing in mind that a lot of the primer was ultimately sanded off, I think it’s still fair to say that the paint alone added a good quite a bit of weight to the guitar (discounting, of course, that a spray can of primer is probably two ounces of pigment and ten ounces of shit that evaporates. And I sanded most of it off anyway. Not to mention that I stripped the old finish completely off. The old finish had some fairly weighty epoxy like clear coat that probably far exceeded the amount that I added).

clear and dullThe next step was clear coat. The clear coat I chose to use in this case was Alclad II Klear Koat matte. I chose matte because I didn’t want it to end with a mirror-like finish which, in my estimation, would draw the eye to the imperfections in the wood a lot more than a less shiny finish. This image (at the thumbnail size here) does a pretty good job of showing how cloudy it looks after the matte clear coat. The matte clear coat went on quickly and in very thin coats. I had my airbrush set to 30psi for this process and, discounting all conventional wisdom, sprayed around twelve very light coats on day one, separated by about five minutes each (which is to say that by the time I got to the bottom, I started back at the top). Which is a fancy way of saying that I pretty much sprayed clear coat for an hour straight on day one. On day two, I repeated the process. I did no sanding between the day one and day two coatings.

I used so many coats because this is a guitar which will be picked up, swung around, and generally mistreated in the way a scale model car will not. There are at least twenty coats of clear coat on this, which will hopefully be enough to absorb some of the day-to-day abuse.

shinyHere is what the finish looks like after a bit of wet sanding and polishing compound. As I said, I finished this with a matte clear coat in the hopes that once sanded and polished (which simply must happen or it will look horrible) it wouldn’t be quite so mirror-like and reflective. That didn’t work. While this image does little justice to just how shiny the fucker is, suffice it to say that I can literally style my hair by the reflection in the paint. I’m trying to be upset about that, but really the finish looks so damn good that it’s hard to not be happy with the result. The finish does. The surface prep leaves a great deal to be desired.

Having now completed the painting and finishing phase of the project, I’ve had a bit of time to think through what I could have done to make this better. I think my problem comes down to that I was trying to do the traditional method of sanding->primer->base coat->color coat->clear coat. While that works for a lot of things (maybe even this thing if I had a bit more patience) I think a better route to go with this project would have been sanding->primer->clear coat (many, many layers)->finish sanding->base coat->color coat->clear coat. I say that because the finish was amazingly smooth after the layers of clear coat went on (it runs into the cracks/crevices and smooths itself to a nice, level finish) and I can’t help but thing that getting few layers of that between the wood grain and the base coat of paint would have made the finish look significantly better. In fact, I’m considering buying another junk body just to test that. If I happen to find a B.C. Rich Warlock guitar on sale for cheap because of shitty paint or broken electronics, I may just give this another shot.

If anyone has scrolled all the way down here, I’m sure you’re only interest is in what I used to finish this guitar. Here is the list:

  • Cheap heat gun (20 bucks at walmart or other stores).
  • Sandpaper -60 and 150 grit to strip paint (at walmart or any hardware store)
  • Sandpaper –1000, 1500, and 2000 grit to wet sand.
  • Primer – 5 cans of Krylon primer from walmart or any hardware store -though you won’t need nearly that much with proper surface preparation.
  • Alclad Silver Candy Base -1oz. Get it on Amazon or a hobby site.
  • Alclad II Electric Blue -2oz. 1 bottle wasn’t enough to complete the finish on a guitar.
  • Alclad II Candy Cobalt Blue -for the darker stripes. I got mine on eBay and it may have been discontinued because it is not available from any online retailers.
  • Alclad II Klear Koat matte -4oz. I didn’t use quite the whole 4 ounces, but I came pretty close.
  • Novus polishing kit from Amazon. If you purchase nothing else from the list, this is a must have. This stuff polished even my matte finish clear coat to a mirror-like shine. Well wort the money. You can buy smaller portions if you have no other potential projects.
  • Total cost of this project: including the guitar and heat gun, I’m just about $200 dollars into this project right now.
  • Was it worth it? For the experience, absolutely. For the finish of the guitar, I think so. I made a short video of the results to show the sheen:

    I’ll follow up with some notes about hardware in the future.

    Second Pancake Complete!

    I believe Q*Bert said it best when he said, “@!#?@!”. I could probably expand on that, but the eloquence of the simple phrase seems so fitting to describe project: second pancake. It’s finished now, and finished is such an apt term.

    The engine and interior really look very good on it. Even the wheels, decals, etc.:

    And then there’s the body. Jesus Fucking Christ. Everything that could have gone wrong certainly did. The initial attempt to install bare metal foil on the side trim resulted in having to strip and repaint it. The second shot at painting wasn’t nearly as smooth as the first. Still, I soldiered on. I went with the two-tone paint because I knew it wasn’t going to be a showpiece and I figured I could learn something along the way. That also went pretty well. Even the application of the trim paint wasn’t too bad. Then I Installed the windows. Evidently I got some paint on my fingers during the process which resulted in globs of paint on the top. I’m too many coats of paint in to care to try stripping it down and starting over, so fuck it. I’m done.


    I want to point out that what you are seeing on top of the fenders, hood and trunk lid isn’t imperfections in the paint, it is actual dust that collected because assembly of this thing took me so damn long. Once I had the body paint fucked up, I just kind of quit trying. But it’s done now and I can move on. Hopefully I won’t repeat the same mistakes on the next one. The next one was going to be an AMC Gremlin, but the wife bought me a Corvette model for Valentine’s Day (which I subsequently bought some wheels and paint for) and I am itching to get started on it. Crossing my fingers that I won’t make some boneheaded mistake that costs me the project.

    Second pancake nears completion

    emptyboxWith the neck no longer bothering me, I was able to get project second pancake to this crucial stage. All parts from the trees are now in place with the exception of some of the chrome and the windows. I’ve been applying decals along the way, so there will be little left to do once I have those in place. As with project first pancake, the most disappointing part of this one is going to be the body paint. I had such high hopes in the beginning… I just overshot my skill level in choosing a car with so much chrome for my second go around. I should have gone with something much more mundane. Oh well, you live you learn.

    interiorThe interior on second pancake is far and away the best feature. From the dashboard features to the two-tone trim and even the decals, this turned out really good. Rather than beating myself up for totally fucking up on the body, I really should be congratulating myself on how well I pulled of the interior. That’s not the way my brain works, though.

    rolling1The rolling chassis now completely assembled, there are a lot of things I could be pleased with: The engine compartment detail also looks very good. The weathering I did for the radiator came out very well. Those tiny decals for the wheel center hubs (not to mention the one for the center of the steering wheel from the interior photo) look great and were a huge pain in the ass to install -the wheels have an embossed Oldsmobile logo that matches the image on the decals. While you can’t see it from the photos, lining up the edges was a real challenge. A challenge that I don’t even think would have been possible without the use of Micro Set and Micro Sol. The tiny size and the contours just wouldn’t allow for a simple water bath to make the decals pliable enough to put in place. After using the micro set, it took another four or five applications of micro sol to get them to really sink in.

    Now that the rolling chassis is all outfitted, it looks pretty darn good.


    I got the interior painted tonight also, so all I have left to do is install the chrome and glass. Since the boy is more or less a lost cause, I’m going to apply the chrome in the factory finish. If my paint looked a bit better, I would probably take the time to do it in Bare Metal Foil. Since this one is now deemed a ‘pancake’, that seems like a waste of time. Hopefully I’ll have the glass and chrome in place by this time next week so I can get started on the Corvette model the wife got me for Valentine’s day.