Monday, June 28, 2010

My Bullhorn

Last night we hosted the first of our church summer series of Group Studies.  I had originally intended to use the Max Lucado curriculum for “The Cure for the Common Life” because it is a great book, but after I bought the study and tried to go through it, I realized that it really wasn’t a good study for our group at this point.

I looked around a bit and decided that the best thing that I could do would be to use the Nooma series from Rob Bell.  Each of these videos are not only well put together, they are also short, and interesting to watch.  Each video is certainly provocative and inspires great discussion whether you agree with the whole theme or not.

*I should also mention here that I am saddened by the huge number of people who seem to be dying to find holes in the theology of Rob Bell.  I think it is comical that every seminary student as well as every Driscoll wanna-be seem so eager to show that they know more than Rob Bell, or that one or two of his points about Jesus might not be historically perfect.  It’s really too bad.  Rob Bell seems to be one of the few pastors who is eager to engage the mind of the people who listen to him.  He doesn’t just want to change people, he wants to inspire them to look for themselves and think in new directions about old topics. 

Anyway.  We were watching the “Bullhorn” video where Bell was talking about the street corner preachers that yell about hellfire and damnation and try to scare and argue people into repenting and giving their lives to God. 

I love this video because it takes us a step further.  It takes us past the step where we as Christians who believe in a God of Love and don’t believe it is effective to “win” people to the kingdom by screaming at them, judge the judger.  I have been around countless groups of Christians who groan and complain about the tactics of the street corner preachers and traveling evangelists.  They say things like: “does it really do any good?” and “it just hurts the cause of Christ.”  The funny thing about this is that, as much as I disagree with the street corner preacher, and as much as I disagree with Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, Ryan Dobson, and all of those guys; I feel fine judging them.

Maybe it is because I can label them as Pharisees, but for years, I have felt comfortable judging the judgers.  I have felt like it is my job to rage against their machines.  I do this by blogging, or by preaching to the choir who already are offended and angry at these folks as well.  Could there be a more cowardly reaction?  Could I wuss out more? 

I do believe that they are wrong, but just because I believe that I am right, am I given the right to be their judge.  They are on the street corner preaching to people that want to beat them up, and I think that I am better by preaching to the tiny group of people that might stumble upon my blog, where the worst thing that can happen is that I could get a negative comment that can easily be deleted.

I don’t like what they do, but I have to repent to my reaction to it.  They are out there, doing something, and here I sit writing about it. 

This church planting experience is one of the first times in my life where I feel like I too am “out there” finally doing something.  But if the extent of my “doing” is taking a stand against the judgmental, I am doing very little. 

My question is: how can I do the right thing?  How can I repent of my own judgmental attitude?  How can I make a real difference?

After our discussion last night, here are some thoughts:

1.  GO out there!  I need to continue to get out and meet people and serve them.  Bullhorn guys yell, preach and condemn, but what do they do?  Jesus didn’t condemn and scream people into obedience.  Jesus served.  Jesus went out. 

2.  Apologize.  This is huge.  This is what is missing in not only the religious culture but also the political culture (which seem very tied together at times.)  How often do you hear pastors, Christians, politicians etc repent, admit wrongdoing or wrongthinking, and apologize?  Of course they do apologize, when they are caught in blatant sin and wrongdoing.  It seems like the greatest currency that people seem to believe that they have in religion and politics is being RIGHT.  In politics right now, each party seems to claim that EVERYTHING that the leaders of the other party do are wrong and that they themselves are more true to the founding fathers or the direction that our country needs to go.  I want to respect leaders that admit that they were wrong, or are amending their perspective on issues and growing and changing.  Followers of Jesus need to be far more willing to admit when they are wrong and forgive others when they are wrong.  Perhaps in the economy of God, we are more right when we forgive and apologize than when we judge others and put ourselves in a superior position to them because we believe that we are right.

3.  Courage.  This is what the street preachers and bullhorn guys seem to have in spades.  They certainly have the courage to put themselves in positions where they can get bashed and abused themselves.  They have the courage to be hated.  Do I have the courage to proclaim the truth so strongly that others won’t like me?  I hate it when people don’t like me.  It is one of my biggest fears and motivating factors.  Too often, I choose to NOT put myself out there because I am afraid of the reactions of others.  I am afraid of failing in my church planting endeavor if some choose to not like me or what I am doing.  I need the courage of the Bullhorn guy, not to do what they do and say what they say, but to be THAT intentional about my calling, to know that not everyone will love me or my church, to GO out there and be OK serving.

When it comes down to it, bullhorn guy has some things to teach me.  His theology might not be perfect, but I am arrogant if I believe that I know everything about God too.  I might owe him an apology for judging him, but I really owe the apology to the people I sometimes fail to serve because of my own lack of courage.  I owe the apology to the people who don’t know the REAL me because of my own fear of rejection and failure. 

The question that challenges me is:  If bullhorn guy is screaming his belief in hellfire and judgment through his words and actions… am I screaming my belief in God’s grace and love in my own way, through my actions and intentions?  What is coming out of my bullhorn?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Why and How to Relic a Guitar

The Beginning of the Story

As you can see on earlier entries on this blog, I bought a Kenny Wayne Shepherd Strat, that I was wanting for months.  I sold other guitars and stuff around the house to afford my purchase.  When I got the guitar, no doubt, it was awesome.  The best parts about it were the neck and the pickups.  The worst: the saddles were american sized and the base of the neck is Mexican sized.  This means that the edges of the “e” strings were too close to the edge of the fretboard.  According to Fender support, this is part of the design.  According to two guitar techs, this was a flaw and a poor design.  If they had used mexican spaced saddles the problem would be fixed. 

So I took it back.  For the exchange though, I exchanged for a Fender Standard Mexican Sunburst Strat and a Fender G-DEC 3 Fifteen Watt amp.  (I’ll review the G-Dec later after I have some serious time messing around with it.)

Based on my experience with Fenders, and my new confidence in upgrading and fixing a Fender, I decided that I could choose a Standard Strat and Turn it into the EXACT guitar that I want.  Because I was so heart broken to not keep the Kenny Wayne Strat, I have vowed to make this guitar better than the Kenny. 

The only compromise is that I can not have the same heft in the neck as the Kenny has.  This does make me sad, because I do want a bigger neck with Jumbo frets.

So I touched and played every Fender Standard in the store and I chose the one with the best feeling neck.  It was a sunburst strat with Medium-Jumbo frets.  Here’s the picture:


I like a sunburst strat and the newer Mexican strats are super high quality with a larger trem block for more sustain and better hardware than the 90’s or early 2000’s strats.  The pickups are also great sounding.

In order to make it MINE, I am going to relic it and put on bridge Saddles with more sustain, change the pickguard and the pickups.



Four Reasons:  Style, Comfort, Playability, and Tone.

Style – I buy worn jeans, not starched dark blue ones.  I want a broken-in feel in my clothes.  I also prefer that feel in my guitar.  Blindfold me and put me in front of a shelf of guitars that are properly set-up and I will always like the feel of the used ones.

Similarly, I like the artistic look of a properly relic’d guitar.  I like the wear to look natural even though I am not trying to fool anyone.  I like the uniqueness of a properly relic’d guitar.  It doesn’t look like another one in the store, it looks interesting and unique.  It is now MY guitar, unlike anyone elses.

FYI- When I relic a guitar, I am not trying to fool anyone into thinking that I have played it so much that the paint is worn down.  I am not trying to convince someone that it is an actual 1960’s strat used by Clapton or something like that. 

Comfort- Go to a music store and slide your hand across a Mexi strat and the neck of the strat.  Press hard and move fast.  You will find that because of the Poly finish your hand will be slowed down.  Now do the same to a guitar that has a satin, flat finish.  Your hand will glide normally.  Now do the same with a wet finger.  Wet or sweaty fingers and hands get slowed down even more than dry ones do.  The truth is that the inside of my right forearm gets sweaty and sticks to the body of the guitar, the sweat doesn’t lubricate it, the sweat actually adheres it.  The same thing can be true on my left hand. 

Playability- If you want a playable instrument, your hands and arm need to feel comfortable and you need to be able to rest properly on the instrument to give you leverage.  Pulling the poly finish off of the guitar will make your guitar smoother and more comfortable and much more playable.

Tone- Here is a big reason that no one talks about.  When your guitar is covered in a poly finish, it is much like putting a rubber mute on the bridge of a stringed instrument.  Have you heard what a violin sounds like with a mute on it?  The sustain and tone are both taken away.  The same is true with a brass instrument. 

The Alder that Strats are made of is a resonant wood with a lot of tone, when you cover it with a thick gloss like Poly, you mute the tone and vibration of the wood.  Taking off of the poly will give you more options with the sound of your guitar.  You can install some high output pickups and have a screaming tone with sustain, or you can install lower output pickups and get the type of tone that John Mayer gets from his strat.  I personally play with the tone at 10 on my guitar 95% of the time, and when you give your guitar more tone, you can dial it down and have more choices. 



I have decided that I like to hand-relic a strat rather than use power tools.

Here are the supplies that you will need:

Tools:  Philips and Flathead screw drivers, wrench and pliers, soldering iron, solder, sanding block (the kind where you can put different grains of sandpaper on), clorox cleaning wipes, paper towels, q-tips, etchant (this is for the steel parts of your guitar, you’ll find it at Radio Shack), different grains of sandpaper I like 60, 100, 150 and 200, steel wool at 0000 grain, and linseed oil.  The total cost of these supplies is about $30.

Disassemble your Gutiar.

Don’t be scared, there is nothing that you can do that can’t be undone. 

1. Detach the neck with the 4 screws.

2. take off all tuning pegs. you’ll need to use a pliers or wrench to loosen the nut that holds them together.

3. unscrew the pickguard and the input jack

4.  you’ll need to unsolder the ground wire from the metal that holds the trem springs, and unsolder the wires from the input jack.  To unsolder, take your soldering iron and heat the solder that holds the wire on, when you liquefy that solder, the wire will slide loose. 

5.  unscrew the bridge screws and remove the bridge

6. unscrew the saddles

7.  remove the screws that hold the trem block to the bridge plate

I leave the screws that hold the metal that the trem springs attach to alone, but that is all that I leave on.

Relic-ing the metal

1.  Take any metal that you are going to relic and put it in a tupperware container or small box.  I do not relic screws. I don’t relic springs either.  I will relic the tuning pegs, the input jack guard (not the jack), the bridge plate, the saddles, the neck plate,

2. Shake them for quite a while.  You’ll dink them and some of the cheap chrome will flake off.  You might want to rough them up with some of the steel wool as well.

3.  Lay the pieces out on a paper towel.  Smear etchant on any part that you wish to relic.  I don’t put the etchant on the part of the tuning peg that the strings touch, but it probably doesn’t matter.  The etchant is an acid, so don’t get it on your fingers and don’t breath it. 

4.  Keep your eyes on these parts.  Some pieces will look cool after 5-10 minutes, and some may take much longer.

5.  When a piece is finished, wash it off with water thoroughly. 


Relicing the Body

Know this.  You can literally trash the body and it will still work and play well.  Don’t get discouraged half way through and quit, follow through and finish it right.  It takes a lot of sanding by hand.  A lot.  It will look horrible when you start putting scratches in the Poly, but remember, you are just scratching the Poly when you are sanding until you break through and get to the paint.

Also know.  The poly is thicker and more resilient than most people believe.  This is especially true on the flat areas on the guitar.  The edges have a lot less poly and you will break through to the paint earlier on those areas. 

You will want to do the sanding in a well ventilated area, preferably outdoors.

I start with the back, but start doing the rest of the body whenever you want.  The sides are difficult and you’ll have to just hand sand it.  In the following instructions, I start with the back, but go to the front whenever you feel like you know what you are doing.

1.  Take some 60 grit paper and put it on the sanding block.  Start on the back of the guitar and thoroughly sand the back of the guitar until the entire back is powdery. 

Know.  if you keep sanding the body with the poly powder on top of it, you actually heat the powder and it sticks back on.  You’ll be sanding the same layer over and over.

2.  When the back is powdery, take a clorox wipe and wipe the powder off as much as you can.  Use a paper towel to dry it again.  What you are doing it removing the poly dust so that you can go back over it again.

3.  On my most recent guitar, I repeated the first two steps 3 times on the flat surfaces with the 60 grit.

4.  If you can see that you are exposing the wood at all and cutting through the paint, you should back off and get back to that area with a higher grit count paper so that you can make it look the way you want to.

5.  Once you have used the 60 grit a few times, move to the next higher grit and do the same.

6.  The higher grit counts will smooth the deep gouges that the 60 grit has made and make it look smoother.

7.  Because the Poly has bonded with the paint, there will not be a point where there is no poly and only paint.  But you can get it very very thin.

8.  When you cut through the paint and poly and expose wood, with the lighter grains, you can decide how much wood you want to expose and what you want the pattern to look like.  Remember to go slow and don’t over do it.  Make it look good and then back off.

9.  When you have gone through the higher grain count papers and have cleaned off the wood, and you have the right amount of wood exposed you’ll move to the next steps.  btw. it won’t look clean yet, don’t worry if there is still a powdery dirty look to it. 

10.  Feel free to do any damage to the body that you want.  Dink it up with a screw driver, drop it, gouge it, whatever.  Personally, I don’t want it too gouged or dinged, I just want to expose some wood, but do whatever.

11.  At this point, I take some linseed oil and smear it all over the body.  The oil is going to be absorbed by the remaining poly.  Let it sit for 15 minutes or so.

12.  After leaving it to soak in the oil for a bit, take a dry paper towel and towel off any remaining oil. 

13.  Take your steel wool and go over the entire body thoroughly.  Now, you’ll finally start seeing what it is going to look like. 

14.  If you still see lots of deep gouges from the heavier grit sand papers, you might want to use the finer grit papers to smooth those out.  When you do this, you’ll have to reapply some oil and then go over it again with the steel wool.

15.  On my last guitar, I repeated the oiling and steel-wool steps a few times to get rid of the deeper gouges and get it nice and smooth and flat. 

16.  Do this until you like the look and achieve the finish that you want.  You can even go back to the heavier grains to expose some more wood whenever you want to.

NOTE- You might notice that some of the exposed wood looks very light colored and new.  This does not look too worn, if you want to darken it up, you can get some dark oil, some magic marker, or even dirt to darken it.  Do this during the oiling process.


Relic-in the Neck

On the neck, I don’t let anything touch the frets.  If you have a maple neck, you can sand or dremel the wood between the frets to make the fret board look worn.  This is nothing but cosmetic.  I only have done rosewood necks in the past and I don’t mess with the frets or the fret board.

1.  Take the neck and sand the back with 100 grain sand paper.  There is far less poly on the neck than the body.  If you have a tinted neck, you can break through the tint and know that you are into the wood of the neck pretty quickly.

2.  You’ll want to use some orbital strokes with the paper, but mostly sand length-wise.

3.  After breaking through the poly, clean it off with the clorox wipe and move to the finer grains.

4.  The neck is more about feel than looks, so make sure that you don’t leave grooves or sand a spot, use long strokes and make it feel right.

5.  If you want to do anything to the headstock to make it match the amount of relic on the body, feel free.

6.  Apply linseed oil to any part of the neck that has been sanded.

7.  Let it sit for 15 minutes or so.

8.  use the 0000 grain steel wool over the whole back of the neck and headstock. This will give you a very satin-like feel. 


Relic-ing the pickguard

I changed the pickguard on my last project which makes relic-ing the guard much easier.  If you don’t replace the pickguard, you can either uninstall the pickups and pots, or you can work around them.

1. If you leave the pickups and pots installed.  Completely cover the pickups with masking tape.  This will keep the little bits of steel wool from sticking to the pickup magnets.  If you don’t cover them, you will be cleaning the wool off of them forever.

2.  I use steel wool to rough up the entire pickguard.  This will take off the gloss and give it a matte type finish. 

3.  I then use some sand paper to make it look worn where a pick might rub against it.

4.  If the guard is white you’ll want to use something to make it look a little dirtier.  Personally I like the darker guard look better.


Reassemble the guitar.

Your guitar should go right back together.  Use a little solder to get your input jack back on and your ground wire back on the spring holder. 

You might want to get it professionally set up, but there are a lot of instructions to teach you how to set up a guitar yourself.  You’ve gone this far, you might as well learn how to set it up too.



Here is the finished product.












Have FUN!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

My Current Strat Setup - The Strat Pack

SDC10354 Here are my two strats amp and pedals.  The black strat is a Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Strat, the other is a Mexican 2008 strat with a Seymour Duncan Jeff Beck Pickup in the Bridge.  The Amp is a Blackheart Handsome Devil and the pedals are a Boss Blues Driver BD-2, and Ibanez Tubescreamer TS9dx and a Pitchblack Korg tuner.  I love ‘em all!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Kenny Wayne Shepherd Signature Fender Stratocaster Review




I should start this review by saying that I first noticed this guitar because of its looks.  This is one of the coolest looking guitars that I have ever seen.  That’s how I was drawn to take a peek at it.

I love black guitars, and I love the Hot Rod kind of flare that the stripes give this guitar.  It’s not some crazy fiery paint job.  Just simple, but very cool. 

I saw this guitar from across the store at at Guitar Center in Seattle.  I went over and checked out the price and was baffled.  It has the American Strat Graph-tec saddles as well as the cool look and signature series, but it was priced at $869.  I know that Fender Signature Strats are usually $1300-$2500 guitars.  A Stevie Ray Vaughn is about $1400 as is the John Mayer Signature, Clapton Signatures can break the bank easily over $2000.  So I was a little confused as to why an American Signature was priced so low.  I also had recently fallen in love with some Kenny Wayne Shepherd music.

I happened to have some money in my guitar savings and Kim urged me to pick  it up.  But, of course, I am always super reluctant to make a big purchase without first doing my research. 

Here’s what I found in my research…

1.  This strat was made in Mexico.  I had no idea that any Signature Strat was made in Mexico. 

2.  It has some HUGE upgrades from Mexican Strats…

3.  It has a bigger neck.  The neck is deeper and wider on the bottom.  Has a huge feel compared to a Standard Strat neck.

4.  This neck has Jumbo frets.  The frets are big and wide and smooth.  These are presumably so big so that bends happen easily and accurately.

5.  Graph Tec Saddles.  The saddles are the same as what most American Strats feature.  The Graph tec saddles reduce string wear and tear and add tone and sustain to the guitar.

6.  The pickups are specially designed by the Fender Shop with Kenny Wayne’s Input.  These pickups are supposed to be a big upgrade, but also unique to any other set. 

7.  The neck has a Satin Finish and not a poly gloss on it.  I had to work hard to sand the poly off of my current mexi strat to make it feel like this neck feels out of the box.

8.  The bottom tone knob also controls the bridge pickup.  This is an easy upgrade that I still don’t understand why it is not standard.

If I wanted to take a mexi strat and add these upgrades, it would cost easily $250 to buy a warmoth neck that matches these specs.  The Saddles are about a $50 upgrade.  The pickups are unique so there is no price equivalent, but, a good set of texas blues pickups from guitar fetish is going to cost at least $80ish.  Including labor, it would take at least $600 to turn a regular strat into this signature Kenny Wayne.  The parts themselves would be more than $400. 

What I also found by talking to a friend that works at Guitar Center is that this guitar is on clearance.  I was able to pick this guitar up for hundreds less than the retail price and much less than Guitar Center’s posted price.

I basically got this guitar for barely more than I would pay for a new Mexi Strat off of the rack.


Here is how I feel about it:

I certainly do love it!  No question. 

The Feel:  This guitar it comfy.  Don’t get worried about the bigger neck.  It is not too big.  I have small hands, and this neck feels not only fast, but very comfortable.  I personally feel that the extra depth and size of the neck gives you a bit more to hold on to while you are bending notes.  For a comparison, try pretending to bend a string on the back of your remote control, and now bend an imaginary string on the back of your forearm.  A little extra depth gives you leverage and helps you use your big muscles to bend rather than your finger and wrist muscles.  I notice that bends feel so dang easy and smooth on this guitar.

The jumbo frets only help.  They help you hit the note with less effort and bend the note smoothly.  The 12 inch radius neck also feels like you are bending on a flatter surface rather than bending “uphill” on a  smaller radius neck.

The Sound: I could tell by playing it without plugging it in that it has a very pleasing amount of sustain compared to any other Mexi Strat that I have tried.  You can also hear a thick and full sound. 

What I noted from the pickups is that these are unique.  They are not super “quacky” they have a rounder sound than you would expect from a Texas style pickup.  But when I play them into my Blackheart Handsome Devil amp, with or without a Boss Blues Driver. it is a very satisfying bluesy sound with a lot of tone.  A couple of reviews that I read say that the mids are “scooped.”  I guess this is true compared to normal Mexi pickups that are all mids.  But the sound is bold.  There is a lot of character to the sound of the guitar even without overdrive.  It sounds bluesy and full when amplified at all, but add some overdrive and DANG!  With the sustain already in the guitar and the cool pickups you can really drive an amp.  It can sing beautifully or it can get an extremely thick blues Stevie Ray type sound.  I like light gauge strings, and feel like Audley Freed or Warren Haynes might really love this type of tone.

As far as tone goes, since I use light gauges I tend to have a trebly sound, but it was very warm compared to the last mexi strat I played with.  I noticed that I had a larger range of tone in the tone knobs than any guitar I have ever used.  You can back off of the tone and still get some really cool sounds.  Most guitars that I have used, I normally leave the tone knob on 10, this guitar actually gives me some very interesting choices.  I would tone it down and crank my amp to get a SRV sound, but if you tone it up, you can make it scream.

The Construction:  My only semi grip about this guitar is the construction.  I have noticed that the high e string is a little closer to the edge of the fret wire and neck than any guitar I have ever played.  When I am sloppy, I push the string off of the neck.  I don’t like that feel and believe that the nut was slotted a bit weird.  I will want to get this replaced.  I also noticed that the hole for the trem bar was not well aligned with the hole in the trem block.  Seems like a couple of quality control issues. 


ALL IN ALL:  I can’t say enough about this guitar.  I have only had it for a weekend, but I can’t stop touching it or looking at it.  It is exactly what I wanted it to be.  An amazing guitar for the blues.  I don’t think that this guitar would be a good sounding metal guitar without a lot of silly amp and pedal choices, but I bought it for the blues. 

I have heard lately that the Mexican Stratocasters are far higher quality than they used to be.  I love my 2008 Mexi Strat that I have been playing the last month and a half.  But this guitar is on another level.  The upgrades were a huge value at the price I paid.  It is comfortable and sounds amazing.  I truly feel like I have a custom shop guitar in my hands.  I truly feel that if I could do a blind feel and listening test with custom shop fenders and American fenders, I would rate this guitar super high and would certainly choose this guitar over guitars that cost 4-5x as much as I paid.  I played some American strats only a few weeks ago, and none of them felt of sounded as cool as this guitar does. 

In my opinion, this is money well spent.  Very well spent.


I saw a youtube clip where Kenny Wayne Shepherd talked about why he designed it the way he did.  I feel like he accomplished what he was trying to do, and I am thrilled to own it.  Check out the video: