FC Bayern

I was chatting with my coworker one morning. We tend to have conversations that just randomly veer off into multiple directions as a start to our day, which is nice. I showed her photos of Cabernet as we’d just gotten back from our house up north.

Her eyes got wide and she asked if I could build something as an anniversary gift for her husband. My first commission!

It was a challenge because it’s a left-handed bass. I did some searching and found a kit and gave her an estimate. I quoted low because I’m still in the beginner stage of luthier-dom. She said to go for it. I asked her to think about a design scheme or theme for it, and a day or two later, she had an idea.

Her husband is a big fan of FC Bayern. His family is from Bavaria, although he was born and raised in the US. So I had to do some research to see what they looked like and how to apply that theme to the bass.

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There were lots of challenges with this bass kit. Glue spots in the body prevented even dye absorption, parts were missing, or parts were damaged, so I ended up buying replacement parts throughout the building of this instrument. I learned about lacquer blush because one morning, I took the body out to the shed at our country house to get started on the day’s round of top-coating early.

Too early, as it turned out. Too much humidity in the morning air led to moisture being trapped under the layer of lacquer I laid down. This resulted in a distinct white haze and a lot of cursing from me. Luckily, I discovered that if I spray a light mist of lacquer over those spots to remelt the lacquer, the moisture can escape, which it did.

By the time I’d gotten to tuning and intonating, an electronics problem arose. The tone potentiometer was somehow damaged and fell apart as I was tuning. The shaft spun in 360° — that’s not good. Then a piece of the PCB broke off. So I had to order a replacement pot, which delayed final set-up even more.

But it was eventually done.

I included the team’s motto — Mia san mia — in the headstock. I used my Cricut vinyl cutter to cut the motto from white vinyl, applied it to the headstock then spent several days covering it with lacquer to reduce the millimeters of noticeable height difference as well as to protect the vinyl.

Similarly, I added a tribute to the Bavarian flag on the pickguard:

The hue is closer to the actual Bavarian flag than the variation used in the FC Bayern logo. I was having trouble finding a more royal blue vinyl rather than the navy blue I kept finding, so I went with the lighter sky-blue hue to match the flag instead. I found a matched color of Testors enamel marker, so I lined the edge of the pickguard with the enamel for an additional detail.

Testing it out turned out to be rather difficult as I’m a right-handed player. I tried playing the bass intro the Metallica’s My Friend of Misery but the longer horn that’s supposed to be at the top get getting in the way. Playing it upside down also meant my muscle memory had to adjust to the new placement of the strings. I gave up and went with something simpler instead.

I played through the pentatonic scale in A a few times then hit Stand By Me instead:

It only looks like I’m playing left-handed as I took the video in selfie mode, which mirror-imaged the whole thing, as evidenced by my Testament t-shirt.

This will be delivered to the office this week so my coworker will see it first thing in the morning.

Pivot

I was getting frustrated applying wipe-on poly to Kijo, only to consistently see wipe marks drying into the finish and no amount of sanding could smooth it out completely. The more aggressive I got, the more I burned through the underlying black.

I know I’m still doing it incorrectly, so it’s definitely a matter of not having executed proper technique. But I also know my frustration levels in that I need to feel like I’ve accomplished something in order to not give up in exasperation.

I went back to the tried and true method instead of spray lacquer. That was another $20 I wasn’t anticipating, but it got me mentally and emotionally back on track, at least.

Beta PowerSchool Plugin: Contingent Student Schedule

I’m not publishing this to the PowerSchool Exchange yet because it was a rush job and I’m not satisfied with the back-end management component of it. It’s in a “good enough” stage right now because of rapid-release requirement, so to speak.

This plugin replaces the default student schedule page in the public portal of PowerSchool and prevents viewing of schedules until the family has completed a back-to-school emergency contact update form. It seems like a common concern where schools beg for this information but parents just can’t be bothered to complete it, and there’s little for the school to do to enforce it.

Some schools have had success in making completion of that information a condition for receiving student schedules, but PowerSchool doesn’t have any built-in tools to accomplish this. So I created something instead.

There are two prerequisites:

  1. You must be using Ecollect Forms to present your emergency-contact update form. The plugin requires the form ID to work.
  2. In each school’s Years & Terms, “suppress student schedules” must be turned on. Otherwise, the entire purpose of this plugin is defeated.

PowerSchool users, feedback is welcome. I have a topic on the PSUG community forum where comments and discussion can be posted.

UPDATES: after release, a few bugs were discovered. This version is the latest that’s currently live on our server in our district.

Download the plugin here.

Modifying the Jack

Since I wanted the Strat boat-style jack, I had to expand the jack hole (hah!) that I asked Warmoth to do. The plan sounded great in my head, but when it came time to do it, I naturally wondered if I was about to make a $240 mistake.

I taped the area and marked out the outline that I’d need to cut and sand to make the plate fit. I drilled a starter hole at the “south” end of the jack plate, then used my jigsaw with the scroll saw blade to cut out extra material. Then it was time to get to work with the barrel sander to do the fine-tuning and shaping of the expansion.

Scared out of my wits, but it worked.

Kijo: the Unboxing

My shipment from Warmoth arrived today. Two weeks from order to arrival. Super-fast considering they had to rout the pick-up cavities and the control holes to my specs. I expected it to take a month then another week for transit, but they got it done in one week then shipped it.

Mahogany body, routed for dual humbuckers, fixed Tune-o-matic bridge with string-through-body, and single volume+tone potentiometers, and 3-position Gibson-style toggle switch.

Decisions Made

Thanks to friends’ opinions, I’ve decided on gold accent for the new guitar. I also came up with its name: Kijo, the Japanese term for “female demon.”

The one thing I wasn’t happy with in this design is the headstock. While it fits the angles and pointy-ness of the body, it’s too reminiscent of a stock Jackson headstock, even though the body is essentially the Jackson King-V. The company I’m ordering the body & neck from don’t have anything stock that would otherwise fit the aesthetic of the guitar.

As I was working on another woodworking project, though, I started thinking about maybe cutting my own headstock. Of course, that would necessitate some practice ahead of time before I leap in and possibly ruin a $350 custom neck.

eBay to the rescue!

I can buy a spare neck to practice woodworking on for under $40. Highly preferable to working out mental ideas and refine my woodworking technique on a throwaway than the real project, since real life doesn’t have a “revert to snapshot” or “spawn from last save” feature….

Which leads to:

There’s enough material in the paddle headstock of the neck (this blank style is offered by the company making my guitar body, which I just ordered this week) to cut it into the shape illustrated above.

Cabernet Pics

I ended up tracking progress on my Facebook page instead, so here’s the list of photos, no other text description. This was a little too hectic since I was doing a lot of the top-coat while working from home throughout May.

The pickups are a pair of DiMarzio Titans at the bridge and neck, with the single-coil DiMarzio Blaze in the middle.

It’s always the ground, isn’t it?

I don’t remember when I discovered the problem with Ke Kai, but it was another grounding issue. It was the stereo barrel jack. The lack of instructions provided by the seller meant I had to research the wiring on my own, and it’s been rather lacking out there in Internet land.

Turns out that I had to jumper the unused lug to complete the circuit to ground. I used a small piece of spare wire, and that eliminated the hum.

And that was apparently also the issue with Cabernet. After we got up to the up-north house, I looked at all of my wiring under the pickguard. Everything was nice and secure.

On the flip-side, however, in the spring cavity, that might have been the culprit. The ground wire was loose from the spring claw. Solder doesn’t stick well to shiny chrome.

Using my Leatherman, I scuffed the metal and resoldered the wire, making sure it was nice and secure. At first test on my travel amp, I couldn’t hear any buzz. The real test will be back at home on the bigger amp.