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#2147487 - 12/26/09 09:34 AM Okay guys, what is it?
picker Offline
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Has anybody ever seen one of these before? It is called a Camaz.




A friend has sort of permanently lent me this weird guitar. It's put together like an Alembic, what my friend refers to as the "hippie sandwich", a lot of layers of wood. The top layer on the front and back is very prettily figured walnut, then there is a partial layer of mahogany, and the core is rather boldly figured ash. The comfortably hefty tapered neck goes through the body, and is constructed of five or six layers of mahogany and maple, with a noticeably radiused ebony fretboard. The 'board has squarish pearl inlays, which are pretty nice looking.
The guitar has somewhat corroded gold-plated hardware, active electronics, two humbuckers, a 3-way switch, and three mini-switches. Two of the minis cut the coils on the p/ups, and one turns on the active 'tronics. There are three relatively large knobs in the usual places, one of which is master volume, and the other two are gain and tone for the active stuff.

The electronics made intermittant hums and crackles until I replaced the output jack, a stereo 1/4" phone jack.

Playing it is interesting. I put a set of .009-.042s on it, and they feel kind of wimpy & rubber band-ish. The neck is a bit wider than I'm used to, but very easy to get used to. You can tell the body has no resonance to speak of. Those were the days when "mass = sustain" was the maxim adhered to by guitar makes, and this guitar is more reflective than resonant. I haven't been able to play it at stage volume yet, so I don't know about the tone. I'm taking it to play at church tomorrow, so I'll know more about it then. I can tell you the active electronics at the max give it quite a boost. The bridge pickup is a bunch hotter than the neck, and has to be adjusted for a balanced level between the two. The coil taps work and quite well, but don't seem to give it quite the stratty/tele-ish tone as the coil tap on my Hamer. But with the boost from the electronics, it isn't wimpy sounding in single coil mode.

I let you know more about it tomorrow.



Edited by picker (12/26/09 02:22 PM)
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#2147490 - 12/26/09 09:53 AM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: picker]
Caevan O'Shite Offline
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Yeah, sure looks Alembic-ish; LOL, I recall one GP writer referring to such an instrument as a "brass infested hippy-scientist axe". grin

Looks to be well made; that body and neck must be comfy, too!

Only the third image in your post- showing the back- will display for me; the others all state, "This image or video has been moved or deleted - photobucket".
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#2147491 - 12/26/09 10:04 AM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: Caevan O'Shite]
picker Offline
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I having trouble getting the images to the size I want. So far, I'm only able to get one up to size. I'll keep trying.
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#2147494 - 12/26/09 10:37 AM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: picker]
02R96 Offline
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Polished up I'll bet it will look beautiful, even if it sounds terrible. But really, how bad could it be? Maybe with new pickups and re-soldering connections etc. it will redeem itself. Still, it looks like a lot of work went into making it. That's worth something.

Either way, it will be a conversation starter! Actually it kind of reminds me of Carvin's Neck Through models.

Is that a serial number on the back?



Edited by 02R96 (12/26/09 10:44 AM)
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#2147538 - 12/26/09 02:00 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: 02R96]
picker Offline
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Yes, it reads 080470. I'm sorry about the pictures, I can't seem to get them all to be the right size.
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#2147544 - 12/26/09 02:05 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: picker]
picker Offline
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Here are some shots.


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#2147548 - 12/26/09 02:15 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: picker]
Bill@Welcome Home Studios Offline
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in the 70s there were a pile of guys making guitars that looked like that, and probably a pile of knockoffs as well. No country of origin? No descriptive ID, or recognizable parts, like who made the pickups, machines, or switches? I never heard of this manufacturer and a google search yielded nothing. Could be an inexpensive knockoff, could be a custom guy that was local to a region and no one else knows about.
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#2147549 - 12/26/09 02:19 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: Bill@Welcome Home Studios]
picker Offline
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My friend says George Gruhn thinks it might be made by Aria, but had no way to verify that. I wondered if anyone here had ever seen one before.
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#2147550 - 12/26/09 02:24 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: picker]
02R96 Offline
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If it were me, I would replace all of the electronics (pickups, pots, wiring etc) with modern parts. Then either replace the hardware (if corroded) or buff out any tarnish. Then polish the wood to a high luster.

Even though the control and switch arrangement seems kind of strange, I think it has a lot of potential.


Edited by 02R96 (12/26/09 02:26 PM)
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#2147551 - 12/26/09 02:26 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: picker]
Caevan O'Shite Offline
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"CAMES"? "CAMAS"? "CAMEC"? "CAMAC"? (If the last letter is supposed to be a "Z", it's backwards.)

When and where did he come upon this guitar?

I see that there's a Camas, Washington, US, with a lot of guitar retailers and other guitar-related things around there...
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#2147553 - 12/26/09 02:30 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: picker]
Bill@Welcome Home Studios Offline
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The bridge pickup is hotter because someone raised it up, throwing off the balance.

But look at the pickups.... 2 screws to adjust the bottom, 1 for the top. Don't most humbucking pickups just have one at the top and one at the bottom? Maybe this could be a clue as to the manufacturer of at least the pickups.

The headstock looks cheap, and a sprayed headstock I would at first suspect an OEM kinda thing.. making thousands of them off-shore and spraying any name on the headstock..... Bills Guitars, Pickers Axes, etc. And I would expect any custom US manufacturer to jazz up his headstock with a cool inlaid logo or badge or whatever. But you never know.
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#2147555 - 12/26/09 02:36 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: Bill@Welcome Home Studios]
Caevan O'Shite Offline
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Originally Posted By: Bill@Welcome Home Studios
But look at the pickups.... 2 screws to adjust the bottom, 1 for the top. Don't most humbucking pickups just have one at the top and one at the bottom? Maybe this could be a clue as to the manufacturer of at least the pickups.


Good chance that the mounting-rings- the "bezels"- are from Carvin, if not the pickups themselves.
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#2147562 - 12/26/09 03:27 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: Caevan O'Shite]
The Geoff Offline
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Looks *very* Matsumoku to me.

Wouldn't say No to one in as a present!!!

grin

G.
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#2147564 - 12/26/09 03:36 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: The Geoff]
Bill@Welcome Home Studios Offline
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Originally Posted By: GeoffB
Looks *very* Matsumoku to me.

Wouldn't say No to one in as a present!!!
G.


I followed that up, and I think you are right. What bothered me about the headstock was that it looked like a Vantage, which was a cheap guitar.

http://www.matsumoku.org/arai_matsumoku.html

////////////////////////////////
Enter the "New" Aria Pro II - A New Identity
Arai, like other Japanese manufacturers had begun bringing in skilled engineers and popular players to influence the design of their guitars. The "new" Aria Pro II line was designed by H. Noble (Nobuaki Hayashi), and produced by Matsumoku. Quality was improved considerably and the models sported unique and innovative designs. Many models came stock with phase/series-parallel/coil-cut switching not commonly found on other guitars. Other innovations included active power boosts and unique tone circuits. Matsumoku's attention to quality and construction techniques soon began to attract people's attention and the line had easily jumped from entry-level to intermediate and even pro quality instruments.
At the top of the line were the PE Prototypes which appeared in 1977. Many of you have seen some of them as the PE "Masterpiece" or "The Aria Pro II". Many other high quality models were introduced, and for a decade, the Aria Pro IIs continually remained at the top of their class! Other notable models were the Thor Sound, Tri Sound, Noise Killer, Cardinal, and RS series (some of which are pictured here in the GG).

Matsumoku not only produced the Aria Pro II guitars but a number of other well known brands such as Vantage, Westone, Electra, some of the Japanese Epiphones, and the Japanese Washburns. The most notable of the Vantage line were the VP and VS series incorporating many of the same electronics features as the Aira Pro IIs. A number of neck-thru models of extremely high quality were produced and still command prices worth respect. Electra production began in the mid '70s and also bore the same high quality and features but took electronics and decoration one step beyond. Features such as active power boosts, active EQ, MPC on-board swappable effects, fancy inlay work, and even faux tortoise shell binding appeared on a number of models. The MPC models (a complete line by itself) were unique in that up to two effects modules actually plugged into a compartment on the back of the guitar and were controlled through the use of universal controls on the front of the guitar. Modules could be swapped at will and a number of modules were available.

For more information on the Electra guitars be sure to visit the best Electra site on the net!

Westone (as well as Electra) were distributed in the US by Saint Louis Music. Westone was also distributed in the UK and some models actually debuted there before they hit US soil. The two most impressive of the Westones in my opinion were the Prestige and Session II. Quite a few different models were offered including the Spectrum series, Dynasty, Dimension, Concord series, Pantera series, and Raider to name a few. If you love the Westones, your Westone search is not complete until you have been here!

A number of other guitar brands were also manufactured by Matsumoku, some documented and some not. As time goes on, some are spotted and at least partially identified. Such is the case with the mysterious Skylarks. The Japanese Washburn Wing series as well as the Japanese Epiphone Scroll can be credited to "Uncle Matt"!
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#2147589 - 12/26/09 07:14 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: Bill@Welcome Home Studios]
Larryz Offline
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It's a nice looking piece of machinery...I like the double skunk running the entire length of the neck in back and through the body on the front...it would have looked even nicer with the headstock matching...as for the hardware I like having a volume control for each pick up and the farthest back knob being a master tone...similar to the Kirk Hammet EMG set up...Fender Humbuckers have two adjustment screws on top and one on the bottom so these could be mounted upside down FWIW...looks like some sort of writing on the back above the string through body cover plate which might be a clue...I like the access plate to the electronics and the contour body...it has some class...the lettering on the headstock has some ancient Mexico motif to it or maybe modern hot rod...
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#2147623 - 12/27/09 02:01 AM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: Larryz]
The Geoff Offline
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Compare my Matsumoku Westone Thunder IIIb and my Aria Pro TA-40 - especially the headstocks and the active electrics on the Thunder, not the same, but.....:







I still have the Thunder, but the TA-40 is now with my pal in Scotland.

G.
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#2147624 - 12/27/09 02:10 AM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: 02R96]
The Geoff Offline
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Originally Posted By: 02R96
If it were me, I would replace all of the electronics (pickups, pots, wiring etc) with modern parts. Then either replace the hardware (if corroded) or buff out any tarnish. Then polish the wood to a high luster.

Even though the control and switch arrangement seems kind of strange, I think it has a lot of potential.


Ripping out & replacing hardware is the very last thing I'd be doing at the moment - if it turns out you have a closet classic here, then any value would have been ruined.

As for the triple screw mounting, Ibanez did this at one time - see my Ibanez Studio ST-105:



You'll also find Schaller pups/mounting rings like this, but the spacing between the 2 screws was/is less than in the Ibanez models.

I'm 90% sure it's Matsumoku, but I'll forward this to someone who knows more about Japcrap than me.

By the way, I think it's CAMAS and the 'S' has been stylised because of the font.

Still can't find anything about it though!

G.


Edited by GeoffB (12/27/09 12:02 PM)
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#2147632 - 12/27/09 05:02 AM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: The Geoff]
picker Offline
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Originally Posted By: GeoffB
...I think it's CAMMAS and the 'S' has been stylised because of the font.


I only see one "M", but "S" is as likely as "Z" AFAIK.
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#2147644 - 12/27/09 07:08 AM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: picker]
Gabriel E. Offline
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"Hippie Sandwich" - I LOVE that term! That guitar is my nightmare - maple, brass and lots of knobs and switches! That kind of construction might be good for a bass. . .

I'm going with Aria. It looks a LOT like a Vantage that one of my old guitar teachers had.

The 3-adjustment PUs were pretty standard for Asian guitars in the early-mid 80s including Ibanez. I used the tip of a soldering iron to burn holes in the bezels of my friends' guitars to mount after market PUs.

At least you can stand it up without using a guitar stand.
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#2147651 - 12/27/09 07:57 AM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: Gabriel E.]
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It does look a lot like a Vantage.
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#2147675 - 12/27/09 09:07 AM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: A String]
Caevan O'Shite Offline
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Sorta seems to remind me of some Memphis branded guitars I remember seeing in a store yeeeaars ago, too...
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#2147676 - 12/27/09 09:07 AM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: The Geoff]
Bill@Welcome Home Studios Offline
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Originally Posted By: GeoffB
Originally Posted By: 02R96
If it were me, I would replace all of the electronics (pickups, pots, wiring etc) with modern parts. Then either replace the hardware (if corroded) or buff out any tarnish. Then polish the wood to a high luster.

Even though the control and switch arrangement seems kind of strange, I think it has a lot of potential.


Ripping out & replacing hardware is the very last thing I'd be doing at the moment - if it turns out you have a closet classic here, then any value would have been ruined.

G.


That is the kind of thinking that drives me nuts. Stop 'fixing' it, it ain't broke! If you want a Les Paul, buy a Les Paul. If you want a Frankencaster, buy a cheap guitar and modify that. When I see what some people (including me, when I was young and very stupid) have done to some guitars, it is just maddening. You cannot make gold from lead. (or we could just put a candymetalflake sparkle paint job on it and REALLY make it cool...)
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#2147702 - 12/27/09 11:03 AM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: Bill@Welcome Home Studios]
picker Offline
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Well, I took it to church and played for the morning service. The verdict; it raw-aw-awks! There are some interesting sounding combinations in the coil taps. Oddly enough I like the ones that combine a dual coil and a single coil. The p/ups are out of phase when bopth are in single coil mode, and have that thin, stinky sound o-o-p p/ups make, which may have a good context in which to play them, but I haven't found it yet.

The boost switch works pretty well. I tried it in combination with the OCD and the CCTOD singly and with both pedals on, and all combinations sounded great. With both pedals, the boost and the neck p/up on it, gets a really smooth, sustainy, Santana-esque lead sound. The bridge p/up is really bright and sharp-sounding, It sounds better to me with a little of the treble rolled off.

On the con side, the neck is wider than I'm used to, and will take some getting used to. There is some sort of mechanical noise in the guitar that shows up with I hit certain notes. I can't isolate it, but it doesn't show up in the amplified sound, so I'm not very worried about it right now.

All in all, I'm very pleased. It's a really good guitar, and I'm happy to have it.

The sound guy and the harmonica guy both told me they thought it sounded great.
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#2147704 - 12/27/09 11:12 AM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: picker]
The Geoff Offline
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Heard from my Japcrap expert. here's what he says.....

Wow - that's quite exceptional - I've never seen that before. Don't know the name, either ( I'd say it's "Camas") but I doubt it's an actual manufacturer.

The hardware doesn't give many clues - I don't remember seeing a tailpiece like that before and the pup mounting rings are quite unique in the way they're shaped around the bobbins - I don't remember seeing that before either. The 3-screw mounting is quite common on 70s copy-era Matsumokus, but less so on the original models. This also appears on Yamahas & Ibanez, as you note. The pups on this don't look the same as each other - one appears to have hex poles like a DiMarzio, but the other looks like it has slot-heads on one bobbin & solid slugs on the other. Might just be the photo, though.

It certainly looks "Matsumoku-esque" - but the same can be said of much of the original design output from Japanese and Korean factories in the late 70s/early 80s. I'm almost hesitant to say it's MIJ at this point - Cort in Korea was very able to manufacture to this standard, and their neckthrough guitars are very frequently mis-ID'd as Matsumoku. It has a Mat-esque heastock - but again, Korean builders did use this style too, and did actually make copies of Mat original guitars.

Anyway - superficially the styling reminds me of the El Maya EM range, produced by Rokkomann in Kobe:

http://i7.photobucket.com/albums/y281/lint...maya8middel.jpg

And also puts me in mind of Kasuga's Scorpion models:

http://www.geocities.jp/guitarofworld/TheKasuga-21.jpg

On the other hand the construction - 5-piece centre core and veneered ash wings - is near-identical to these guitars branded here as Fernandes:

http://www.geocities.jp/guitarofworld/Fernandes1978-291.jpg

And so far I'd say this is the best clue. Apart from Fernandes, these appear with dozens of different - usually obscure - brands, in numerous territiories. These are believed to have been build by Kawai, who also sold similar Alembic-esque guitars under their own brand:

http://www.geocities.jp/guitarofworld/KAWAI1.3-3.jpg

So I'd be inclined to think - based on what we have so far - that this was manufactured by Kawai, probably to a 3rd party's specs & design. Obviously what we really need is for the exact-same guitar to turn up with a known brand which has a known history & provenance - but in the bizarre & confusing world of JapCrap, that almost never happens! And I'm about 90% sure this is MIJ.

So more clues are in order. Good, clear close-up pics of the pups, bridge & tuners, anything at all stamped/printed/written on pickups, pots, wiring, caps, circuitry, backs of tuners, underneath the bridge, inside body routes - might provide some insight.

I'd also recommend posting the guitar on the Matsumoku Forum, in the "Other Japanese Invasion" or "Unknown/Unidentified" sections. Many of the Kawai-derived guitars I mentioned earlier have been discussed & compared in depth there, plus there's always the possibility that someone there has seen one of these before.



Geoff - feel free to copy & paste my ramblings into the thread, if you want, & keep me informed on any developments!

All the best - Jon.
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#2147709 - 12/27/09 12:01 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: picker]
02R96 Offline
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That is the kind of thinking that drives me nuts. Stop 'fixing' it, it ain't broke! If you want a Les Paul, buy a Les Paul. If you want a Frankencaster, buy a cheap guitar and modify that. When I see what some people (including me, when I was young and very stupid) have done to some guitars, it is just maddening. You cannot make gold from lead. (or we could just put a candymetalflake sparkle paint job on it and REALLY make it cool...)

Now hold on there Bill. I'm not talking about doing ANYTHING stupid. I can see it's not a "cheap" guitar. It's a very beautiful piece of work. My comments are being taken WAY out of context and that drives ME nuts. My intentions were to suggest restoring it to a high level of quality. If the hardware is corroded or cheap plated metal, I see no problem replacing it with higher quality hardware of the same type. And explain to me how buffing out tarnish and polishing the wood to a high luster is "stupid" or will create a "frankencaster".

You cannot make gold from lead. (or we could just put a candymetalflake sparkle paint job on it and REALLY make it cool...)

I don't know where your coming from with this comment as I never suggested doing anything of the sort. I looked at this guitar for what it is: GOLD. Cleaning it up and making look it's best will only enhance it's value and appearance (unless you're into Joe Strummer type guitars).

Also, it was mentioned at the very beginning that I haven't been able to play it at stage volume yet, so I don't know about the tone. Based on this comment and the fact there was some crackling associated with the 1/4" jack, AND the slightly corroded bridge suggested to me that there could be additional problems with the internal electronics that needed further investigation. If that were the case, I see no problem with replacing the pickups, pots etc.

I hate these kind of arguments, but from what I've been reading it was obvious my remarks needed clarification.
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#2147711 - 12/27/09 12:03 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: The Geoff]
Caevan O'Shite Offline
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Glad that you like it! I figured that it had to have some redeeming qualities as well as unique character. cool

Originally Posted By: picker
There is some sort of mechanical noise in the guitar that shows up with I hit certain notes. I can't isolate it, but it doesn't show up in the amplified sound, so I'm not very worried about it right now.


Possibly in the bridge? Is there a retainer wire there for the saddle-screws, similar to that on Gibson ABR-1 Tune-o-Matic bridges? Or, one missing?

Originally Posted By: GeoffB
Heard from my Japcrap expert. here's what he says.....

- I don't remember seeing a tailpiece like that before...


I would bet that it's a Leo Quan Badass bridge, made of plated zinc and brass, with a block tail-piece insert (possibly custom/home-made) of brass sunk into the body there behind it.

Originally Posted By: GeoffB/Jon
"...the pup mounting rings are quite unique in the way they're shaped around the bobbins - I don't remember seeing that before either.


Y'know, I must have thought that bit that conforms between the ends of the coil-bobbins was the wood or some plastic showing through from behind, I didn't realize that they were formed like that when I had looked at the pics before. Unusual! Speaks of possibly being of custom make, or having been cut-out from blanks.

Are they perhaps one thick piece, rather than a box-like shape? They appear to be that, from that angle...
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#2147716 - 12/27/09 12:18 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: 02R96]
The Geoff Offline
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Posts: 8847
Loc: Near Glasgow
I'll repeat - removing the hardware would reduce any value it has greatly. If you two are going to rant at each other, get a room or PM. I'm on Bill's side though.

To follow up Jon's comments, I actually have seen pickups with flashing fitted around them before - in the last few years, but I'm d**ned if I can remember where. I assume though, it was on a Satellite or Hondo.
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The Geoff - blame Caevan!!!

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#2147730 - 12/27/09 01:32 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: The Geoff]
picker Offline
10k Club

Registered: 06/13/04
Posts: 13539
Loc: Near 12th Street and Vine...
Yeah, I've seen p/up bezels cut like that too, but I don't recall on what. Pretty sure it was on something mid to low priced and Japanese though.
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#2147752 - 12/27/09 03:13 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: picker]
Larryz Offline
10k Club

Registered: 06/23/08
Posts: 11581
Loc: Northern California
It's either going to be a player or a leave it in the closet case multi-thousand dollar classic someday kinda thing...If Pickers going to take her to church and start playing it, then there's nothing wrong with replacing/cleaning pots, switches, etc., neck adjustments, fret filing, whatever a good luthier can do with it...just save the old parts until you find out what you have, and if it turns out to be Jcrap, then go for whatever pups you want to run...not much you can do if the necks too wide except get used to it...IMHO





Edited by Larryz (12/27/09 03:14 PM)
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#2147796 - 12/27/09 06:09 PM Re: Okay guys, what is it? [Re: Larryz]
picker Offline
10k Club

Registered: 06/13/04
Posts: 13539
Loc: Near 12th Street and Vine...
Just so folks will know, the pots don't need replacing, and the frets are in pretty good shape. Since I replaced the jack, the crackles and pops are gone, so there's no good reason to mess with it any further, at least for now.

The knobs are a bit tarnished, but I think a good work-over with Brasso will cure that. The bridge is a bit cruddy looking, but it just looks played. The neck is well-adjusted, and I suspect that either the folks at Gruhn's shop or my friend adjusted it. I'm not worried about the p/ups either. After adjusting the hieght of the bridge p/up so they are balanced in output, they sounds fine.

Right now, I'm playing bass in the band I'm in, so the Camaz/Camas/whatever will see use maybe twice a month if I don't use the Variax/XT Live set up, which is really more versatile. I may end up in a band again where I play guitar, and it will see more use then. If I use it for practice, I'll get used to the neck width. Because of the neck width, I think it might make a good electric finger-picking guitar, for like slide playing.

So for now, I don't see a serious need to do anything more to it. Gruhn said it's worth $500-$800 as is, so even if it is Japcrap, it's GOOD Japcrap.
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