Monthly Archives: April 2009 - Page 2

Fender VG Strat

I bought this VG Strat, in excellent condition, on eBay for $901 in late March 2009. It looks like it’s hardly been played, and came with all the paperwork, hang tags, etc. I’ve been tempted by the VG as a live guitar for a while, but couldn’t bring myself to pay the new price. After working with the Strat Plus (see other post) it seemed more sense to go for the VG rather than put a Fishman bridge in the Plus (although I might still do that in the future). Here’s how it looked as I received it.

After the first outing

After the first real usage (3 hours) of it – a few thoughts;

Firstly it needs to get a set of straploks so I can use a wider strap, I’d forgotten how light the Parker was compared to almost any other guitar. I’m guessing the Strat is 2+ lbs more. Next, I need to do more EQ tweaking with my standard rig (by the way, this is a Damage Control Womanizer pedal with two 12AX7 tubes feeding a Bose L1 Mark 2 with Tonematch). The sound definitely cuts through the mix top end, but (as usual) I have trouble with the sound being a little too thin, and not ‘live’ enough with distortion.

The neck will take a little getting used to, but is generally more comfortable than the Parker. Oddly, the guitar seems to be a bit neck-heavy. The string setup will work fine for now.

Next steps: Straploks, a Fishman bridge and the associated gubbins for the acoustic parts, and maybe, just  maybe, a humbucker for the bridge pickup to make it HSS. It’ll mean doing some routing under the pickguard, and some creativity in where to put the 9v battery so you don’t have to take the pickguard off every time you change the battery. Look, this was never intended to be a collectors piece.

I’ve also just acquired a Strat VG which of course will theoretically do all this anyway, but has alot of on board electonics and may not prove reliable. If I do go all strat then this Plus will end up being either primary or backup so it’s important to get it right.

Initial thoughts

This is the story of a USA made 1987 Fender Stratocaster Plus, Serial E471618, which I acquired in late March 2009 on eBay for $799. It’s supposed to be 1987, and the serial number kind of bears that out. The rear trem spring cover was missing, it had one or two minor dings (nothing serious) and an awful setup.

Although some people tip the Strat Plus to be a future collectible, that wasn’t the reason for getting it. I’m trying to build/integrate a replacement, or maybe an alternative to the Parker Nitefly that I’ve been playing almost exclusively for the last couple of years, and this will almost definitely mean some, er, modifications. I’m still undecided as to exactly what those will be, but they’ll include some kind of piezo/acoustic capability at the very least.

First step is to use it for a practice session, which I’m doing tonight. I’ve just blocked the trem and removed the lever, thrown a new set of Ernie Ball 9’s on there and given it a quck setup. While I was doing that I noticed it has some fret wear (well, it is 22 years old) but in my opinon that a *good* thing – it means it plays well as someone  has been playing it. There’s also a crack in the fingerboard around the 18th fret on the treble side but that’s purely cosmetic. Stringing with the needle roller nut is a bit weird but at least I was used to the locking Sperzels.

Addendum – May 28th 2012

OK, so since writing the original post three years ago, I’ve had an adventure with a VG Strat … which ended  up being replaced by a Variax 700 and a Pod X3 Live, and then a custom Variax, then briefly a Gibson Dusk Tiger, the Parker again, then an Ovation GP Ultra. Why? Because I spent ages chasing my tail to avoid having to change guitars to play acoustic songs, and I was compromising on everything just for that reason, which is ridiculous. I bought a better acoustic (a Martin OMC) and went to a non-Piezo guitar – the Ultra GP and switched the Pod X3 Live for a Zoom 9.2tt because I wanted the tubes to ‘warm up’ the Bose L1.

Anyhow, the point is that I’ve dropped the whole Piezo/modeling guitar thing, it just doesn’t sound right. So where does the Strat Plus fit in?

Although I love the GP Ultra, it has three design problems – firstly it’s heavy (not much to be done about that) second it has a wrap around bridge, which I’ve never liked, and third it has regular tuning keys, not locking Sperzels. I almost bit the bullet and took a drill to the GP .. which would slaughter it’s value. Instead, I got the Strat plus out. It has the Sperzels, it’s light, it has the roller nut (not everyone’s taste, but it avoids my usual Strat problem of the high E jumping out of the nut). The lace sensors though .. too weedy.

Of course with a Strat, you can do a whole electronics transplant really easily. Looking around, I found the Seymour Duncan Everything Axe pickguard replacement, with all humbuckers. That should do the trick. I also ordered some Graphtec saddles – the trem is already blocked.

Hopefully it won’t be another three years before I post on this again!

Kuwait-Bahrain Race April 1990

Technology Conferences


Pre conference:

  • Pay conference organizer a significant amount of money
  • Receive daily spam from conference organizer daily for 90 days leading up to the event
  • Receive volumes of spam and spurious phone calls from vendors ‘really wanting to meet you’ and realise the conference organiser has provided all your details to all the exhibitors.
  • As the departure day approaches realise you actually probably don’t need to spend three days looking at various ethernet switches and you probably have a lot more important things to do, but it’s too late to get a refund now. Even worse you realise there are some people going (possibly even from your own organisation) that you don’t relish spending three days locked up in a hotel or conference center with.

The conference:

  1. Get up at 5am, queue 2 hours for security screening, plane delayed, try unsuccessfully to get a wifi signal to do email for an hour.
  2. Sit on plane while pushed back and out of touch as we missed our takeoff slot.
  3. Fly 2-6 hours depending on venue.
  4. Register at venue. Put on your mandatory name tag labelling you as vendor prey for the duration.
  5. Register at awful hotel (if you’re lucky and they have a room/haven’t lost your registration)
  6. Attend exhibit hall. Look at ethernet switches until your brain is numb
  7. Look at something that looks like it’s something other than an ethernet switch but find out it is after all, just an ethernet switch but a different shape.
  8. Have people take your business card every 5 paces. Your incoming spam email velocity increases 20% per hour. Your blackberry is behaving like an angry wasp.
  9. To alleviate the boredom, look at a router
  10. Pretend to be on the phone to prevent sales attacks
  11. Repeat steps 6-10 until you can’t carry any more literature or the venue closes. Mercifully your blackberry battery has run out by now.
  12. Attend conference. After the keynote speech realise all other presentations are thinly veiled sales pitches for ethernet switches or routers (see 7 & 9 above) 
  13. Unless you like being shouted at, befriended, etc by inebriated ethernet switch purchasers, stay away from post conference parties or events that involve ethernet switch manufacturers providing free alchohol
  14. Repeat steps 6-13 for the duration of the conference, then do 1-3 again on the way home.

Post conference:

  •  Recycle all conference material
  • Tighten up your spam blacklist
  • Change your phone number
  • Vow never to do it again
  • Pick up a piece of spam from the massive stack on your desk and as you go to throw it away realise it’s for a rather interesting conference on wireless access points .. well.. it is three months away, I can always change my mind … .


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