Category Archives: Guitar Lust

Gotta start writing here again

It’s time.
This website is about to become: Guitar Lust!

Or maybe Guitar Lust + a few other minor topics. We’ll see…

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Filed under Badly-Thought Out Rants, guitar, Guitar Lust, Me

The Madness Behind My Guitar Acquisition Methods: My GAS, Explained

There are multiple reasons why I have the guitars I have, multiple motivations that stimulate GAS.

One of my motivations is collecting. I want valuable guitars that will retain or increase in value. Or I want cool, iconic guitars that existed at a specific moment, or capture a specific moment of guitar history. One of the thoughts that strikes me when I think of these guitars is, “They aren’t making 30 year old guitars anymore”. Maybe at some point a company will have a re-issue but it isn’t the same. My Peavey Vandenberg or my Hamer USA shredders are good examples of that:

Hamer USA Californian: extremely rare maple fretboard, and signed by Ted Nugent
Hamer USA Chaparral 12-string: very rare (even if no one cares how rare it is)
Peavey Vandenberg: very awesome, very under-rated guitar; maybe the ultimate 80s axe

Some guitars I have acquired just by buying and selling guitars, and I decided I liked them enough to keep. These are usually quality guitars, acquired at a “what the heck” price and retained because the quality is as good as guitars twice (or more) the price. This includes my Cort KX-5 (best action of all my guitars), and my Vantage X-77 (amazing tone).

Some guitars I keep because I love the appearance. This includes my Hamer import Stellar 1 (the only production guitar I know of w/ lacy oak top); my Hamer import SATF amber-burst with AAA 3D flamed maple top; I love the vibe of my Ibanez JTK1, too. Although these guitars also have excellent tone, excellent playability, and were all acquired for under $200…but I wouldn’t hesitate to gig with any of them.

Some guitars are a deliberate attempt to collect a brand…maybe with the hope of them someday becoming well-known as very collectible and skyrocketing in price/value, but good enough that they make me happy to play even if they don’t ever become truly collectible. These include Jon Kammerer, Vantage, and Westone.
– Jon Kammerer: strat style (heavy/thick), hollow body (potato-shaped), walnut small body electric, maple small body electric chambered, maple small body electric 3SC, maple small body electric desert deployment (nostalgia).
– Vantage: X-77 (awesome tone), trans red AV-325, trans blue AV-325, silver AV-325, AV-3xx (1x HB, pickguard = unknown model), FV-575 (flying V…awesome tone)
– Westone: ’87 Genesis I (XA1530), ’87 Corsair (XA1420; active pups, flame top), ’88 transition Corsair/Spectrum (XA1430 + rvrs headstock & 24-frets), ’89 Challenger, ’90 Villain Graphite
– Epiphone 935i shredder and Pro-2 shredder

And then there are some just because they are excellent guitars for the price. This includes my Parker Niteflies (’87 and ’88), an Aria Pro II I got for $100, a Cort Matthias Jabs Garage2; Yamaha PAC402s tele, Hamer Slammer Series strat.

Of course, some guitars are a combination of motivations. The Yamaha PAC402s has a beautiful quilt under a rich trans green color. The Jon Kammerer walnut small body electric might be the best guitar in my stable for tone and playability. If not, then my best overall guitar might be the Hamer USA Centaura Deluxe (w/ active EMGs and ebony fretboard), or the Hamer USA Centaura standard (w/ maple fretboard), or the Westone Challenger (acquired for just $200), or the Vandenberg. I love the appearance of the blueburst on the Hamer USA Centaura Deluxe. I love the figuring on my Jon Kammerer strat style (cherry wood w/ strong figuring and an asymmetric blonde flash).

Anyway, this was just an excuse to talk about my guitars. I love talking about guitars…

So why do you have the guitars you have? What guitars are on your wish-list, and why?

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Guitar Lust: Ibanez JTK1 Jet King

Click on any thumbnail to embiggen.

I really dig this guitar.

It is nice and solid.  Decent/good action…not really low, but not too high, either.

I love the tone.  It’s got some darker tinge to it.  The previous owner replaced the stock pickups with Breeds.  That might be the cause of the great tone, so I’m hesitant to switch them back.  But he also disconnected the coil taps, which is a big foul in my book.  So unless I get in there myself and start poking around and trying to reconnect, I might as well have the guitar tech I hire to reconnect the wiring put the old pickups back in, cuz then I can use the Breeds in another guitar that might need a pickup upgrade…that’s a topic for later.

I love the red stain.

I also really love the nifty silver/gray original hardshell case that says “Jet King” right on it.  This guitar is extremely satisfying.  It eliminates a huge chunk of low-grade, unidentified GAS.

It is made in Indonesia.  I didn’t realize that at first.  I couldn’t tell.  It is really a quality guitar, in materials and workmanship.  And this one is in near-flawless condition!  I love it!

 
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Guitar Lust: My Current Guitar Stable

Pictures to follow soon.

The occasion is I just picked up a few guitars, and I think this is a fairly stable stable (pun intended, even if badly done) for a while.

Hamer:

Hamer USA Californian: maple fingerboard, signed by Ted Nugent

Hamer USA Chaparral 12-string: rare, ’nuff said

Hamer USA Vintage/Tobacco Burst Centaura: fairly rare maple board…I used to call it a tobacco burst, but when I pulled it out last week to see if it was a keeper, I realized it has 3 colors…the red intermediate tone makes it a vintage burst, I think.  In any case, it sounds awesome, the trem stays in tune, and the relative rarity of the maple fretboard makes it a 100% keeper for me.  It makes it easier to decide to keep this that someone wants the Hamer USA Blueburst Centaura Deluxe that is too beautiful/mint to actually play.

Hamer XT SATF: beautiful flame, great sound…I don’t think I could improve much if I bought a USA

Hamer Korean import Stellar 1: I sold my first one; this one has stainless steel frets, done well; I just missed the “cherry sunburst over Lacy Oak” appearance.  It isn’t the best tone, but acceptable.  It doesn’t have the best action, but acceptable.  But I needed a cherry sunburst Stellar 1 in my stable.

Jon Kammerer:

Walnut small solidbody: this is my main axe.  Great action, although still not the best.  But it has great tone; the pull-split tone knob gives it a credible strat sound.  It’s beautiful, and is so comfortable to play.  My go-to Axe

Desert Tan epoxy finish: This is the guitar I took to Qatar on my 2nd Deployment.  It flew over Iraq with a KC-135 crew.  Memories that can’t be replaced.  Decent guitar, would be #1 in almost any other collection for tone and playability, but I can’t ever get rid of it because of the history.  $1 million wouldn’t make me get rid of this guitar.

Walnut Hollow Body: Wow.  This guitar is great for jazz, but also perfect for all my fingerstyle tunes.  Yet when you crank the distortion, this guitar can rock with the best of them.  No way I ever get rid of this guitar.  $100k might do it, but only because I’m sure I could get Jon to do another one for $20k.  Rare.  In my opinion, pretty much irreplaceable.  Formerly owned by kick-ass guitarist and published author Ron Terborg (go read “In Your Dreams”; well worth your time)

Maple small solidbody: this little blonde kicks serious ass.  Even though the walnut gives me credible strat sounds, I need a true 3 single coil guitar.  This one is fast and smooth as you’d want a blonde to be.  Also formerly owned by Ron Terborg.  This one is also a permanent fixture in my collection.

Gloss Cherry strat style:  Holy crap. This one has the solid weight and sustain you imagine from a strat.  Gold hardware, but don’t hold that against it.  The Dirty Finger pickups might be a little hot…but as a result, it has the deepest, richest, best clean tone of any guitar I can imagine.  This will be my Surf guitar (songs forthcoming), but is just a blast to play.  The figuring in the Cherry wood is also unique and irreplaceable.  I chose this one over a butterscotch finish Cherry wood that both Jon and our friend Chad said was even more gorgeous because the blonde flash matches the blonde flash on my go-to walnut axe.

Transparent Yellow Cored Maple: This is what other people might call a semi-hollow body, or Chambered w/ F-hole.  In any case, it has a hollow section in the upper part of the guitar body, and it is open to the air.  I got this one because it hadn’t sold (apparently people preferred natural wood to a transparent color dye) and was cheap, but also because I wanted to be able to review his Cored guitars, as the Cored Cherry Wood is just about his biggest seller.  After getting this guitar, I can say that the chamber does add some depth and complexity to the tone, but without causing too much feedback.  An excellent guitar, lots of fun to play, and it has a beauty all its own.  All the Kammerer Guitars are great…it’s almost like the one I like the best is always the most recent one I’ve played.  Any one could be a go-to guitar…

Collectibles On Hand:

Peavey Vandenberg: the first of the collectible guitars.  I got mine for just under $500 2 years ago.  Now they are going for nearly $900. ($860 on eBay for an average plain black Vandenberg like mine at the time of linking).  They aren’t making 10-year old Peavey Vandenbergs anymore, by definition.  I can’t see me selling this one, either.

Floyd Rose Speedloader: okay, they don’t make the strings anymore.  I’m trying to find some more.  This one may get sold…but maybe not.  It has an excellent tone, and–again!–they aren’t making these anymore (if they aren’t making the strings, they damn sure aren’t making the guitar, right?).  It’s gotta be a collector’s item of some sort.  It not only has a great tone, it’s got really smooth/slinky action for bending.  Not a go-to guitar, but I can easily see myself using this at a gig at some point in the future.  I’ve got a non-trem version.

Aria Pro II Thor Sound TS-500: This has been a holy grail of sorts for me for quite a while.  I didn’t want to spend more than $500, and the only thing under $500 were the TS-300s, which had bolt-on necks.  So I finally found someone on Craigslist selling one for $450, but he wouldn’t ship it…luckily he was in Houston, which is only a 6-hour drive from where I’m currently at.  I made a day of it, selling one guitar for $450 in Austin, then going to Houston to purchase the TS-500 for the same $450.  But I also picked up the Speedloader at the used instrument music store we made the exchange at.  The only thing is, after waiting/searching for this guitar for at least 3 years, I brought it home and felt like it sounded like crap!  But after playing it more, I’m starting to find the sweet spot on the setting that makes it sound pretty good.  A new amp helps that, too.  And it has a thick/wide neck unlike anything else I have…plays pretty easy, so I think it is a keeper.  It’s pretty rare, and like I often say, they aren’t making any 30-year-old guitars anymore, by definition.

Cort KX-5: This one was on its way out…but I watched some YouTube videos that seem to make this guitar seem pretty cool.  I always liked its shape, and it has awesome action (the best of my guitars, paper-distance between string and fret), but I wasn’t a big fan of its tone.  Well, when you are playing hard rock/metal, the distortion can make any guitar sound decent…at least that’s what I learned from YouTube.  Since I have the new amp (a 120-watt Crate Amp w/ twin Celestion speakers), I tried it out with that amp, and it actually does sound pretty good.  So why not keep it?  In the final analysis, this guitar is worth $200+ to me, but I’d probably get about $180 for it, so it stays, for now…and probably forever.

Epiphone 935i: this is almost a perfect Hamer Californian clone.  The full story is that I had a Westone Frankenstein clone that I finally decided must have been an Epiphone 635i body w/ a Westone neck.  It had the best neck pickup tone of any guitar I ever remember playing.  They are pretty rare, too.   Not valued at all, but still rare.  It is a set neck, which is cool.  27-fret slant-edge neck like a Californian.  A well-respected Gibson bridge humbucker w/ a single coil in the neck position. Solid-feeling guitar, great ergonomics.  I like the neck, too.  But it isn’t playable because for whatever reason, the strings are fretted out. I don’t want to mess with raising the tremolo bridge, and I haven’t decided to mess with the truss rod yet.  I’ll probably take it to a luthier to get set up and/or fixed at some point.  Until then, it is a collector…even if valuable only to me.

Collectibles On The Way:

Vantage Avenber X77: I’ve been reading through some old Guitar Player magazines from the early 80s…one of the cool things about this is finding out about cool guitars I would never have heard of otherwise.  So one of them was a Vantage Avenger.  Maybe not that special…the coolest thing is they all have coil taps.  But when I did an eBay search, there was one right there!  No one had matched the reserve bid, and it was virtually mint, with an original Vantage hardshell case.  Again, even if not valued, this is extremely collectible.  I plan on living another 50 years, this could be invaluable at that time, because guitars don’t get damaged with me.  It’s not that I take care of them all that much, but there’s nothing to ding them in the bedroom or living room where I play, and my picking style never hits the guitar body…so every guitar I’ve ever owned is in the same condition I got it, and leaves my hands in the same condition I got it.  So a mint Vantage will be something very difficult to find in the coming decades…and I’ve got one!  The seller also said it had excellent tone.  We’ll find out, but that is secondary to its rarity.

Ibanez JTK1 Jet King: Another rare, cool guitar.  Not as rare as the Vantage, but not exactly well-known.  I’d never heard of one.  They sound pretty good in the YouTube videos, too.  This one has some upgraded pickups.  I expect it will be fun to play with good tone, but if not…well, at the risk of sounding like a broken record, they aren’t making 30-year-old guitars anymore!  There is tons of mojo with this guitar, as you’ll see when I get it and post pictures.  The seller disabled the coil tap switches (grr!), but I plan to restore them to restore its cool functionality.

Player-Quality Guitars On the Way:

Parker P-44VB: maybe not collectible…but some great functionality.  It has the the Parker proprietary trem, which uses a ball bearing and locks when you move the arm back (I think…I’ll report after I get it), which is cool because I don’t like trems that much…if I have one, it has to work well (like the one of my Cali, Centaura, and Vandenberg do).  But the reason I really wanted this guitar is because I wanted the piezo system to mix w/the magnetic pickups.  This one is the cheapest model with the piezo system plus a Parker trem.  I got it fairly cheaply, too.  But if I get it and just don’t bond, I’ll sell it.  I think it should be a keeper, though.

Cort Matthias Jabs Garage2: Like the Parker, this will be one of the few guitars in my collection acquired new.  The Cort MJ G2 guitar is pretty basic, but it is cool enough I was willing to spend the cash to get it new.  It has slanted pickups, which some say gives a better tone mix.  Okay, fine.  It has a coil tap for both pickups, which is becoming a standard demand for me.  Okay, fine.  It has 24 frets.  Okay, fine.  At this point, other than the arguably minimal effect of the slanted pickups, there is nothing different than my Jon Kammerer Guitars (I’ve actually used that argument to talk myself out of wasting money on at least 6 guitars).  So why buy it?  Well, I like the satin gray color, first of all.  Matthias Jabs worked on the pickup design, too, so it may have a tonal color different than any of my other guitars.  It has a swamp ash body, which is my favorite wood (of my guitars, only the vintage burst Centaura has swamp ash…I just love the sparkle it adds to the tone).  Its coil tap has a special knob that is very easy to pull, which is kind of cool.  And you can set the guitar for rhythm work by turning down the tone and/or volume, but get a blast of full power for solos with the bypass switch.  Not many guitars have that.  I think the fretboard might have a more curved radius than my other guitars…I actually usually prefer flat radii, but I really should have at least one Strato-caster radiused guitar fretboard.  All in all, I think this will be a blast to play, and I don’t want to wait for them to start appearing used.

Steinberger Spirit GT Pro: I’ve been wanting a Steinberger trans trem.  Unfortunately, this isn’t it.  However, it was clearly going to go for extremely cheap (sub-$300), so I couldn’t resist getting a Steinberger guitar, even if it is the entry model.  It should be excellent for business trips, at the very least.  What I figure is, this guitar is kind of a placeholder…if I really like it, it will be worth going large to get the top-of-the line Steinberger w/ a trans-trem tremolo (allows you to raise/lower full chords in tune!), which cost at least $1200, or maybe more like $1400 or $1500.  Too rich for my blood w/o having a better idea of whether or not I can accept the ergonomics.  It might even come down to the tone of the cheap guitar as a representative for what improvement I might get with the full-priced guitar.  Dunno.  I’ll wait and see.

Everything Else:

Takamine acoustic: not much to say about it.  But it is a guitar, so I gotta count it.  It has good tone, and has electronics so I can plug it in.  I haven’t played it in years, tho, literally.

 

 

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My Evolution of Taste in Guitars (Westone, Fernandes, Jon Kammerer, Hamer, Etc)

I think I finally found the (my?) cure to GAS*.

A few months ago, I heard that Jon Kammerer Guitars** was having a big clearance sale.  In the process of doing some unpaid promotional work for Jon Kammerer Guitars back in 2004, I got the chance to play on a Jon Kammerer solid body guitar for about 3 months.

It was a great guitar.  But I was still a cheapskate.  I still believed that the Pawn Shop Find of the Century was out there somewhere for $200.  I still believed that there were some professional-quality guitars available for $300 or under.  I still believed there <i>had</i> to be some guitar company doing great work that hadn’t been discovered yet.

So at the end of the 3 months, I didn’t continue the relationship.  There was no way I was going to spend $1k or more on a guitar, no matter <i>how</i> good.

Well, in some ways, guitars are much like cars, or any other item that can range from utilitarian to luxury: you <i>can</i> find the basics for cheap, but the quality/price curve is quite steep.  At some point, you end up having to pay twice as much for something only 10% better.  The ratio can get even worse.  For instance, your average family sports sedan that you can get for under $20k now outperforms most so-called “supercars” that cost several hundred thousand dollars back in the early ’80s.  And a loaded BMW 3 series costs 3 times as much as  Mazda3…yet it can’t go 3 times as fast; it isn’t 3 times as luxurious, it can’t turn corners 3 times as tight.  Most likely, despite being 300% of the cost of a Mazda3, a BMW 3-series is probably just 20-50% better in any attribute.

So, yeah: some of the guitars I found were 70% as good as a professional.  I had a JB Player Professional w/ EMG Select pickups that was both beautiful and sounded great.  But fret wear started to catch up and I started to have fret-outs and buzzes.  And the Wilkinson Tremolo wouldn’t really stay in tune, even with a Tremsetter device installed.  I bought a couple of Carvin Bolts for $300 each.  They were very good, but not “great”.  And the newer Carvins, anything with an upgraded appearance got to be $1300 or more very quickly.  Too rich for my blood.

I heard that the Matsumoku-made Westones were great…they <i>did</i> have great necks, great action…but sometimes the tone was too harsh, and the tremolos didn’t stay in tune well.

I stumbled across Fernandes Guitars…they had some very good guitars for very cheap, used, on eBay.  But although they had very good sound, I found myself slightly frustrated with the fit and finish: the fret edges were always rough, and the back of the necks seemed to be raw wood.  Over the course of a very short time, I had a Revolver X, a Vertigo X, a Monterey X, a Dragonfly X lavaburst, and a Dragonfly Pro (w/ sustainer).  But (with the exception of the Revolver) the Xs were all “photoflame” (a paper-thin veneer literally printed with a pattern meant to mimic quilted maple), the Dragonfly Pro got badly damaged in shipping, and the Revolver both had a slightly whiny sound (excellent vintage Les Paul sound, btw…just happened to be a tone I hate) and was purchased cheap enough that I wanted to sell it for a big profit to buy other guitars (I made about $200 off of buying/selling it).

That was when I discovered Hamer, through a Korean-import Hamer Stellar 1.

Fast foward a few years, and I currently own 7 USA Hamers: a Ted Nugent-signed Californian w/ rare maple fretboard, a set-neck Chaparral, a blueburst Centaura Deluxe, a tobacco burst Centaura w/ maple fretboard, a Diablo, a speckle/granite Centaura, and a 12-string set-neck Chaparral.  And that’s after selling another speckle/granite Centaura, another Diablo, a transparent green Californian, a flame maple-topped Special, a Studio, and an Artist.

But I have now found another company that is making me feel like dropping my entire Hamer USA collection…or, at worst, only keeping the autographed Californian and 12-string Chaparral due to rarity.

That company is Jon Kammerer Guitars.

But that’s the next post.

*GAS: Guitar Acquisition Syndrome.  Basically, a nearly-uncontrollable urge to buy a guitar you have been lusting after

** Yes, there’s a long story behind this.  I’ll talk about it someday.

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Guitar Lust: Jon Kammerer Maple Solidbody Electric

It has great action…flamed maple fretboard, abalone inlay.
As always, blind fret tang cuts, so no fret edges despite no plastic binding.

Not sure what pickups they are, but it has a really nice strat quack.

As always, be sure to click on the pictures, as these are merely thumbnails.

 

The clearance sale at Jon’s website goes on. So you can get one of these beauties for yourself at a very reasonable price.  Even after the clearance sale ends, he is going to be selling a $995 guitar…all sorts of things like hardware color, pickup configuration, fingerboard wood, body wood, etc, will be customizable for no extra charge.

Go take a look.
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Guitar Lust: Jon Kammerer Hollow Body Electric

Folks, this is one awesome guitar.

The body is walnut, carved in Jon Kammerer’s patented parabolic hollow body style.  It is *really* loud unplugged, even though there are no soundholes.  And all that air inside, combined with the shape and the walnut tone, gives it an excellent timbre for jazz and blues: it just sounds round, full, rich with harmonic overtones…like rich soil would sound like if it were guitar tone.

Seymour Duncan pickups, with a JB in the bridge and a Jazz in the neck.

21/24 countered-edge ebony fingerboard with an absolutely gorgeous genuine abalone inlay.

The bridge is a Schaller Tune-o-Matic w/ fine tuners.  It works really well.

Being a hollow-body, the guitar is really light.  But it isn’t neck-heavy at all…the ergonomics on the guitar work really well, with all the frets within easy reach.

Jon didn’t make many of these…it’s always possible he’ll re-start the line someday, after the industry recovers from the current recession…but for now, these are extremely rare.

Without further ado, the pictures (clickable thumbnails):
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