Monday, April 20, 2009

1955 Supro with 1940s P-90

I got this 1955 Supro Dual Tone body with no pickups in February. I had hoped to get some Supro pickups separately and wire them with an "in series" option, but there were problems with the neck fit and it was looking bad; more trouble than it was worth. I tried and failed to re-sell the body + neck on ebay. Meh.

Around this time I discovered an ancient pickup in the den, that upon further examination turned out to be a late 1940s Gibson P-90! How did that happen? I bought it several years ago and had installed it on a low quality '60s archtop, but took it off again as it was feeding back too much. My enjoyment of the Kent Armstrong P90 in my Epi LP Jr led to a new plan to make the Supro into a kind of Supro /Junior hybrid, complete with a route for the P-90 and a dog-ear cover and wrap tail.

But I didn't have the heart to cut up the pristine Mother Of Toilet Seat pearloid finish on the Supro, so ended up with a trad short trapeze tail instead of the bridge/tail I planned, and with the right amount of adjustment of the strange neck joint, whch I slowly figured out, there was just enough room to surface mount the P-90 with no cover. The first time I plugged it in I knew it was a match made in heaven! I still have the option to make it a Dual Tone again in the future, but for now the single pup is King. There's not much chance of finding a '55 Junior for £200, so this will do, I love it ...

I still have some shaping to do on the scratchplate /pickguard, but I'm happy with it overall. The neck joint is unusual, to say the least, secured by a long bolt through the body parallel to the neck (as shown below). Very secure, but awkward to work with. Valco patented this joint design in 1953, but dropped it as a method of attaching necks around 1958/9.

I think it's a great idea, but ultimately I think it may have worked out too expensive. As time went on Valco neck/body joints became progressively more conventional - ending up in 1968 where Leo Fender started in 1950, with 4 screws and a metal plate.

Shatterbox to Bardobox

Ah - the lure of the super-rare cool-looking fuzz! In this case the John Hornby Skewes Shatterbox! Such a cool name, in a cool wedge shaped box, cousin of the even more rare Zonk Machine! When this circuit (or at least the stripboard version) came to light earlier this year thanks to ElectricWarrior at FSB /DAM, I had just made a Kruscher (TB 1 variant) for a rabid 60s fuzz fan in Birmingham. I was happy he liked it. He asked if I could make him a Shatterbox, and I said yes. That was my first mistake. I was soon to learn that the Shatterbox is basically a crap sounding bassy fuzz with a nice treble boost added. I should have built the circuit first and told him it was crap and not to bother, but I didn't. He wanted a Shatterbox, so that's what I made him. But: it did sound pretty crap. I knew he didn't have much money and felt bad sending him a lemon, so I offered to mod it to make it sound more like the benchmark ear-hurting fuzz sound of the guitar solo in the Third Bardo garage-psych classic 'Five Years Ahead Of My Time' that he wanted. It was hard! I came close to totally rebuilding it, but managed to make some mods to fit the bill better - a louder, more trebly fuzz, combining with the icepick treble boost to go to a place where most people don't want to go. It still sounds horrible, but horrible in a good way, for his most singular needs. If I was building from scratch, I would just hard-wire the 2 effects in series rather than keeping the pretence that the fuzz sounds any good by itelf, and cut out the fuzz control completely, leaving it on max the whole time. I'd call it the BardoBox! As it was I repainted the Shatterbox to reflect it's new and more horrible guts. Hopefully he will dig it. Ok - halfway through is the solo that inspired this - have a listen.