Other Guitars

Otter’s Great 2021 Project Guitar Update, Volume 1

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So this is the year I've decided to finish up some long unfinished projects and finally commit to some things I've been considering for a long time. This will be long, so feel free to just skip through to the photos.

Both my 6120 and Casino have some major updates coming, but I'm not ready to discuss that yet. I'm sorry, but you'll be hearing all about those soon. Today we'll focus on the Tele and the Dano.


So Teles. I've tried A LOT of iterations. I've had "this" Tele since about 2007, but it's a Ship Of Theseus at this point. I think the only remaining parts from that MIM Tele that I bought at Fenway GC the summer of my Junior year are the control plate and the strap buttons.

Necks? 4.

Bodies? 3.

Pickups? 7.

Bridges? 4.

Bigsbies? 2.

But isn't that the point of Teles? I don't think this one will ever be "done", and it took a while to get the B16 where I wanted it, but I'm happy to report I'm in a good place with it right now.

The neck is a Squier "Strat" neck, with the big 70s headstock, circa 2012. I believe it was made in China, but I removed the original label unfortunately and don't remember. It's got a lovely rosewood fretboard and impeccable fretwork. The nut was a little high, so I spent some time sorting that out. I painted the headstock to match the body's Shell Pink, applied my logo, and installed vintage-style tuners. It's got a good unobtrusive medium C profile that's so generic you don't even think about it. Just feels like a regular electric guitar.

The body is a plainol' swamp ash plank (supplied, free, by the same lumber supplier here in Vicksburg used by Fender, Gibson, and PRS) that I cut on the CNC. Regular vintage specs, lightweight, finished with reranch Shell Pink.

It's got a Dimarzio Chopper T pickup, which gets a reputation as a super metal shredder pup, but output-wise seems more like a slightly hot PAF to me. But really where it shines is in parallel mode, where it gives a fairly--surprisingly--convincing gnarly Tele twang. And the series mode is there for solo boost or heavy-grungy rhythm. I'm considering adding a neck bucker for Keef-style riffing, but undecided on the type. I could get the Chopper neck pup to match the bridge (and do the same series/parallel wiring) or go for a more traditional humbucker type.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, I've arrived at the Gretsch Rocking Bar Bridge on this guitar. This bridge is the original bridge that came with my 6120, I believe it is chrome-plated brass. I had to reshape the rosewood base to fit in the space alotted by the B16. Its radius doesn't match the fretboard, but it's already a vast improvement in functionality over the Bigsby bridge that came with the B16. Expect a Serpentune in my future, material TBD.

I had a B5 on my Tele for a long time, but after experiencing more and more Bigsbies without the tension bar I just couldn't abide the unresponsive B5 anymore. I got this B16 from Frank Giffen along with the Bigsby neck shim, and I couldn't be happier with it. The increased body-to-string distance and the back angle of the neck have resulted in a Tele that very much feels more like my archtop guitars. I'm sure there is some sustain and twang missing from not having the traditional Tele bridge, but I'll be damned if it doesn't still sound like a Tele.

Overall, I'm super thrilled with this Tele where it's at right now. I guess it's still an Esquire, but I do think I'll add a neck pup at some point. I'm just glad to have it playing so well, as it took a while to get the setup right with the B16. Some nut work, and the Gretsch bar bridge sorted that.


The Dano. I guess I shouldn't call it a Dano, because it's not, but it's vaguely constructed like a Dano and it has the pickups. I've considered calling this model the "Catfish", as it was conceived in Mississippi, and there's nothing more "Mississippi" than a catfish. See here for more on the conception of the Catfish: http://gretschpages.com/for...

This one has seen considerably less modification then the Tele. In fact I don't think I've changed a thing in nearly 4 years. But after successfully getting the B16 on the Tele working the way I want, I couldn't pick this one up without reaching for the Bigsby. I didn't want to compromise with another B5, and I've been impressed with the geometry of the B16, way more than I expected to be. So I just decided to go for it.

This is the B5 with the tension bar cut off. I had another neck shim and reused the Bigsby compensated bridge (I'll probably replace that with another bar bridge). So far I like the overall effect but I've got two remaining problems. The only Bigsby spring I had left was the stupid Reverend soft spring. Those worthless things should be melted down and turned into paperclips. I've got a proper 1" Bigsby spring on the way.

The other problem is pickup adjustment. These Seymour Duncan lipsticks are meant to be installed in a Strat, without the high body-to-string distance afforded by the neck shim. I've got both pickups cranked all the way up, but I'd still like another millimeter or so on the bridge pup. I think I might be able to take apart the pickup and modify to get what I need.

I think once I get those problems sorted I'll be able to set this up to perfection. Will be a nice tonal contrast to the Tele, while maintaining much of the same feel.


On the amp front, I've finally installed the tweed on my 20w 1x12 plexi-ish thing. This was my first time covering a cabinet, but I think it came out pretty good. It helps that I had a high quality cabinet constructed by Powdog.

I used a fabric more like clothing tweed than luggage tweed. In fact it's wool! It's gray, with some cool flecks of red, yellow, and blue throughout.

Overall I really like it. At some point I might add some piping (not gold!) around the baffle, and possibly lacquer the tweed for durability. I've got several extra yards, I'm tempted to make a pair of pants out of it.

The astute will notice it doesn't have a handle. I just haven't found the right one yet, and until COVID is over, I have no reason to carry it anywhere.


Anyways I thought I'd update y'all on some of my projects; it's been a while since I did a good long post on here. I've been playing guitar a lot more lately, after a couple of years focusing on other hobbies, and tinkering with gear always helps me get into the spirit.

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Love the Dano ‘Catfish’. Surf green and Lipsticks, got me there !!

I was gonna say it’d look good as a bass..........until I reread the link, and saw the bass.

It looks good as a bass !!!!

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Yeahman. Top-notch stories, well told and illustrated. I like both guitars, though I'd sure be looking for a neckpup for the Tele.

The chopped B5 is quite a thing. That could work in a lot of situations where nothing else quite fits. You got me thinking.

You apparently haven't had a guitar yet which requires the Revspring to be usable. I haven't needed it on any Gretsch pro-line, or any guitar with a US-spec Bigsby. But Electromatics and Streamliners, hoo boy. Those Bigsbys are hardtails without it.

Before you go melting your Revspring down, send it to me!

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Any guitar that requires the Rev spring doesn't deserve to be played. It's all yours.

A few minutes with a hacksaw and metal file, and you too can have a chopped B5. It does immediately become apparent as an answer to many guitars' Bigsby deficiencies. Unfortunately I don't think there's enough room behind the bridge on my P Bass.

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How far above the guitar top does the top of the axle on the chopped B5 sit? That metric would be necessary to know what kind of break angle a candidate guitar might have.

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Right about three quarter Tim. I reckon it's the same as a B3 or B6, or shit, even a regular B5.

I think any guitar would need a floating bridge to make this work.

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Might depend on the fall of the top from the bridge location to the front edge of the Bigsby. The archier the top, the better.

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Oh absolutely. On an arched top, you could get away with a lower bridge.

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Your post content is being interested by a lot of people, I am very impressed with your post. I hope to receive more good articles. fireboy and watergirl

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Good to have an Otter update supported by Proteanalysis.

All cool looking rides -- also can't go wrong w/ a Reverbrocket and Echoplex. About 30 years ago, I owned 5 Echoplexes, 4 solides state, one tube model.

Of the two, I would pick that green one -- something about lipsticks. Kind of like HiLos, in all their 3k charm, really have something.

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That cab is so cool. Looks like something I'd wear.

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i've seen a cut-down DeArmond Bisgboid used on a Special Jet with D'A 2000s and a Badass-style wraparound bridge (obviously not used as originally intended). that guitar haunts my dreams.

did you go with the tow bolt mount of what's left from the B5, or put a third screw in the spring receptacle? it seems like that could alleviate any potential stability problems.

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I've got several extra yards, I'm tempted to make a pair of pants out of it.

a matching amp and suit set would be special, particularly if you're working the British Invasion beat.

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Currently just the two screws Mac, as they're over the non-chambered "rim" of the guitar. I may add a third in the spring cup at some point, but it will only be grabbing <0.25" of wood.

It is a very comfortable and stylish tweed, Nick. Your sartorial taste is on point.

The Echoplex and the Gemini are quite the pair. And I do like the lipsticks. They're Stratty, but different; I particularly like the neck position with a slide and a little bit of grit from the Rangemaster.

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Also, the chopper looks hilarious. All the better!

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Well "hilarious" wasn't precisely the look I was going for, but I'd be lying if I said that your entertainment wasn't at the top of my priorities.

While I have your keen eye's attention, what would you prefer (aesthetically) between a single-sized pup (to match the bridge) or a nickel PAF-type in the Tele neck position?

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Hilarious in that it's an almost purposeful negation of the (let's face it) Goldbergian elaboration of most Bigsby rigs (especially those with tension bars, and most especially the Tele-specific options). It embodies purely functional minimalism in a tradition which has consistently incorporated the baroque and rococo (pretty much any PA Bigsby-designed guitar - and the pedal steel, for that matter - I'm looking straight at you).

Not that I'm a hater of Gretschenbigsby kitsch. Sometimes it's a substantial part of the appeal, and the B5 Chopper couldn't stand stark and self-effacing if it didn't have the entire history of Bigsbism to create context for its contrast.

I'm busily considering guitars to put one on. And the bigger the guitar, the better. Like a vast earth-mover with a tiny little one-man cabin for the driver.


Teles with big pickups at the neck seem wrong to me...but I haven't landed yet on the ideal Tele neckpup. I've thought maybe a P90, or even a Charlie Christian (which is big, but at least not in the least humbuckery-lookin'). A rounded, smooth-topped mini-hum wouldn't be offensive. But definitely no kind of ordinary-looking 'bucker, nosir. (I respect the Tele thinline, with its pair of SpecialBuckers, but I feel like keeping a Tele-form pickup at the bridge makes installing even one of those at the neck less than aesthetically harmonious.)

Not that that matters. After all, tone above all.

And now I think back to my Melody Maker, whose pickup cavity was crudely carved up (like with wood-carving tools) when I got it. Knowing nothing except that GIBSON HUMBUCKERS ARE COOL (because it was 1975 and I'd yet to own something with a 'bucker), I put one in that guitar's neck position - and a then-new-and-interesting DiMarzio Fat Strat at the bridge, an example of past-me violating one of future-me's prejudicial and doctrinaire rules.

It worked fine. But when I redid it after a jerk broke the original pickguard (photo on request), I put a lipstick tube at the neck and an old Hagstrom fat single coil at the bridge. I like that too.

Nother words, ignore me!

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Nice work Otter. Corners look tight.

A few handles I have in a box. Anything look interesting?

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Thanks Ethan, really great work on the cab! My corners aren't perfect, but not bad for a first try.

I think I'm gonna go with this handle. I've got one on another amp and I really like it.

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Thanks Ethan, really great work on the cab! My corners aren't perfect, but not bad for a first try.

I think I'm gonna go with this handle. I've got one on another amp and I really like it.

– Otter

Yea, that’s a cool handle. Very good.

If anyone needs a chrome “fridge” style handle let me know. They’re hard to find and I have a few extra.

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Hilarious in that it's an almost purposeful negation of the (let's face it) Goldbergian elaboration of most Bigsby rigs (especially those with tension bars, and most especially the Tele-specific options). It's purely functional minimalism in a tradition which has consistently incorporated the baroque and rococo (pretty much any PA Bigsby-designed guitar - and the pedal steel, for that matter - I'm looking straight at you).

Not that I'm a hater of Gretschenbigsby kitsch. Sometimes it's a substantial part of the appeal, and the B5 Chopper couldn't stand stark and self-effacing if it didn't have the entire history of Bigsbism to create context for its contrast.

I'm busily considering guitars to put one on. And the bigger the guitar, the better. Like a vast earth-mover with a tiny little one-man cabin for the driver.

Ah yes, I see what you mean. It is about as minimal as you can get and still be a Bigsby. It's stark in the same way that a vintage-style Esquire (not this one) or LP Jr usually is. It reminds me a bit of some of the mutant whammies found on a lot of 60 Japanese guitars, usually accompanied by a floating bridge.

The Catfish is about 10% larger than a Tele, offering even more contrasting real estate for the B2.5 to make its point. Even the B16, if it were so abbreviated, would show a little more flair at the tail end.

If it's visual panache you want, look no further than TK Smith's offerings:

https://shop.tksmith.net/co...

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I yield to no one in my admiration for TK's craftsmanship and taste (and I love the look of his big aluminum pickups), but his tailpiece incorporates that extraneous reptilian ridge down the middle. I know it's a nod to the SoCal school of guitar ornamentation, but it's just a little too fancy by comparison to the Chopper.

And even though "Bigsby" is a time-honored name I'm proud to display (on at least a couple dozen guitars), I might paint over it on any Chopper I make. If not for a complete blackout, at least in something with less contrast than shiny raw aluminum.

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Yeah, the guitar would have rival one of Smith's own for that tailpiece not to look completely outrageous. It looks like it belongs on a classic motorcycle, which I guess is the point.

Nail polish remover and elbow grease can wipe out the black paint in a matter of minutes.

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Ah. That's an even better way to go.

I wonder if there's a way to make a hinged butt bracket for the Chopper, so one wouldn't have to drill the top of a guitar.

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That's a bit beyond my metalworking abilities. I can remove, but not add, aluminum. For that, you might look into chopping a B16, but the rear-end screws don't have a lot of purchase.

I suppose someone with access to a top-notch machine shop could get them to make something that works. Probably a bit pricy for a one-off, but that's never stopped an enterprising guitar modder.


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