Sunday, September 26, 2010

Refrets, no regrets

You're looking at my Christmas present, a Nelsonic Starliner Les Paul clone.

Years ago, at the local guitar shop, I picked up one of these, used, in absolutely mint condition, for a whopping $150.

Other than having a bolt-on neck, which is, admittedly, against the grain when it comes to Les Paul style guitars, the thing was extremely well executed:  it weighs a ton, has a great sound, and the fit and finish are, frankly, much better than the Epiphone Les Pauls I find in shops for $400-$700.

It turns out that Nelsonic made a number of clones at great prices (contract manufactured in Korea and sold for $150-$300 or so), but lost a lawsuit with big G., and that was pretty much that. Nelsonics are pretty rare. In the last 3-4 years, there have been only 3-4 that have come up for sale on eBay. I've never seen one anywhere else. When this one showed up on eBay last November, I pointed it out to Mrs. Toadroller, who took my hint.

I was excited to open it up on Christmas day, but was shocked at its condition. Rusty strings, a few nicks in the paint, and, what's this, a belly curve? Doesn't seem right. Worst of all, the fist three frets, the ones in the "cowboy chords" position, were dented beyond repair.
I never even plugged it in.  It wasn't playable.

Being the brave and curious soul that I am, I wondered if I could do a refret on it.  You're looking at the results.  I used a soldering gun to heat up the frets and a set of fret pliers (nippers) to pull the old ones out.  The fret-board is bound, so the replacement frets' tangs had to be nipped off before pounding them in.  I had full length fret-wire from my other projects (Remember those?  Still in progress.), but would need to build a wire bending machine and, well, I came across pre-cut and pre-snipped frets delivered from eBay for $10.  I took the easy way out.  Hammered them in; filed the edges down; hand sanded them.  I strung it up and it played well, but was definitely in need of a leveling.  You just can't skip a step, can you?  I did the leveling yesterday and set the intonation today.

Boom.  I've done a fret leveling. No longer a virgin there.  I'm not ready to do such work on, say, my Taylor...  But a broken down $100 guitar?  You bet.  Now it plays well; the action is right.  Only the slightest buzz on the 6th string (the 12th fret is pesky).  It photographs well and yes, I do have the pick-guard components, which I'll be putting back on.

It just isn't the same as my other Nelsonic; the tone isn't the same; this one doesn't weigh as much and therefore doesn't feel as solid; some of the hardware is cheaper.  They're the same model, but probably from from very different batches.  Nelsonic was short lived.  I'll keep my eye open for more of them and, doubtless, will snag another some day.  In the meantime, I'll be putting this fish back in the water for someone else to enjoy.  

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Ah, Craisins

I love raisins, "nature's candy."

But over the last few years, and partly due to the volume based discounts available at Sam's Club, I've become partial to Craisins.  Cranberries are from my region of the country; Maine/NH/Mass(holes).  Craisins are the cranberry equivalent to raisins.  Dried cranberries?  Dried grapes?  Not much competition, honestly.

If you've never been to Fresno, California, go.  My first (and only, now that I think about it) trip to Fresno was on business.  My flight took me from Denver (where I used to live, and might someday live again.   Oh, Denver pulls at me every few months) into Fresno.  I turned to the person next to me on my flight (gosh, this must have been 2003/2004) and remarked at the incredible sights as we were getting close to landing.  "Oh, you mean Yosemite?"  ..pregnant pause...dope-slap... "oh.  of course."*     I had dinner in a local restaurant that had once been a Chili's.  (How do Chilis franchises go out of business?  Well, in 2004 I can't comprehend it.  Of late, though, I wonder how they stay in business).  A mother in the booth next to me was loudly on her cell phone, talking to her divorce lawyer, with her teenage daughter and friend in-booth with her.

It's funny what you hold on to from business travel.

The next morning I traveled south for an hour through raisin country.  Sun-maid signs here and there along the highway.  If it had been corn, I would have thought I was in Ohio.But the smell of drying grapes was raisins.

But I was in northern California for, of all things, a sales call.

If you don't know me, I am and am not a sales-person.  I'm a pre-sales engineer.  I'm the techie guy in the technology sales process.  I know what the product does; the sales-guy sells it.  The customer asks, "Can it do it?"; the sales-guy says, "Sure!  Dennis (that's me), show him, and I say, (to myself) "What?" and then to the customer, "Yes, of course, watch this," and proceed to demonstrate my product.

Anyway, the customer made prescription cattle-feed.  I had a product configuration tool.  For a whopping $20k transaction, my product helped them cost-effectively and time effectively (instantaneously, as opposed to 3 days) quote, manufacture, and deliver prescription cattle-feed for individual dairy cows.  Yes, that's right, I helped cost-optimize the construction of dairy cattle feed.  What of it?  From happy cows comes happy milk, or cheese, or whatever California dairy-product you desire.  If there weren't so many regulations, the industry wouldn't have hand to find a new way to compete.  Economics, my friends, economics.  Anyway, that was my meeting, and that was my trip to Fresno.  I'm guessing.  I hope to return some day.

Oh yeah.  Craisins.

I challenge you.  Have a box of raisins.  Then have a handful of craisins. You won't be able to go back.  Craisins are to raisins what Audi is to VW, what photography is to a cartoon, what a gin martini is to vodka.  Another class.

Try some.

Especially with your RiceChex breakfast cereal. When you're celiac, this is q quick breakfast.

*I remind myself of a woman who sat next to me flying into Boston. See this post: travel