Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #140064  by Marlow
 Sun Jun 29, 2014 7:32 pm
Just finished the new Alligator build today. It's a hardtail Warmoth swamp ash body with a "Lite Ash" Strat birdseye neck. The bridge is a 1980s Dimarzio trem bridge -- the screwholes for the trem block lined up perfectly with the hardtail hole pattern, and the string guides are just a bit off. Strings go through just fine, though. The control plate is from Leo (thanks, Leo!), and the jackplate I made myself. I wanted to do some brasswork just to have a hand in, but my advice to anyone who wants to try it -- just pay Leo! Unless you have a good workshop it's a royal PITA.

The pickups are a CS69 in the neck, a RWRP Dimarzio SDS-1 middle, and a Fralin Steel Pole 43 in the neck. The (master) tone pot is no-load. The toggle controls the bridge pickup, for wacky new pickup combinations.

After playing it for a few minutes, the biggest disappointment is the Dimarzio, which is really surprising . I'll try a different amp with more tone-shaping options, but through a modded (brightened) 5F1 head and a K110 in an open-back cab, it is way too warm and muddy. It sounds good, just not the good I'm looking for.

 #140065  by TI4-1009
 Sun Jun 29, 2014 7:48 pm
Nice work!
 #140068  by Searing75
 Mon Jun 30, 2014 5:16 am
Looks cool! Try D. Allen's Voodoo 69's or the echo set. It should sing.
 #140072  by tatittle
 Mon Jun 30, 2014 10:17 am
I also used a trem bridge with the block removed on my hardtail Strat and it seems to work just fine. I also did not like the SDS-1 in the middle spot of my was nice for overdrive but harsh for cleans. It would probably sound better to my ears in a more modern amp like you said....or perhaps with a Mc power amp. Leo is the best...everything I got from him is just exactly perfect. must be burning the neck at both ends. 2 neck pickups and no bridge? 3 handed monster guitar.
 #140076  by Marlow
 Mon Jun 30, 2014 4:29 pm
+1 on Leo's stuff. There's a lot of baby Alligators, Tigers, and Wolves that would not come into this world without his help.

The pickup choices are admittedly a bit weird. The CS69 is the same in every position, though, and the SP43 can go anywhere as well. I used to think the SDS could too, but having tried it now in both the neck and mid spots, I think it's bridge-only for me. Maybe my not-that-young ears are different from other people's, but the SDS seems like a mud machine whatever I do with it.

One thing helped: I screwed down the pole pieces so they are recessed far back into the pickup body, then set the pickup to about mid-height. That seemed to uncork a bit more tone.

I think the next project might be three Dual Sounds. Or a different amp. Or new ears!
 #140078  by Marlow
 Mon Jun 30, 2014 5:38 pm
The VooDoo 69s are no doubt amazing, but I'm shooting for a fall '77-'78 sound either before or with the Dual Sounds. My other Strat is the "early 70s" guitar.

There's a huge thread somewhere about the singe coils Jerry had in Wolf in fall 77 - June 78. Theories range between a Bill Lawrence, a prototype Dimarzio, standard Fender, Alembic re-winds, or maybe something no-one has ever heard of. Thought I'd take a chance with the SDS. It's sort of in the ballpark, kind of ... maybe with some extreme EQ, an OBEL, a Mac, and a heck of a lot of volume it would get there. But I'm sure not hearing it just from the pup. I'll fiddle with amps though and give it a chance.
 #140079  by augustwest1
 Mon Jun 30, 2014 6:40 pm
That is a beautiful guitar. Nice work!!

As far as the middle pup is concerned: Are you playing it the way it's set in the photo (i.e., almost level with the pick guard)?
 #140092  by Marlow
 Tue Jul 01, 2014 12:13 pm
@Augustwest. I raised it up a few mm after the picture but dropped the hex bolts on the E, A, and D strings by quite a lot and the E, B, and G by a bit less.

I think I'm going to try unwinding the SDS-1 to get it down from 9.36 k to 6.84K (half of a Dual Sound). Sure that sounds crazy, but I'm on vacation. After some googling, it looks like the SDS uses 43 gauge wire, which carries a resistance of 2143 ohms/1000 feet. So, that requires removing 1175.9 feet of wire. At least, in theory.
 #140143  by Marlow
 Fri Jul 04, 2014 9:55 pm
Just to cross one "78 tone" possibility off the list I've gone ahead with the experiment to partially unwind an SDS-1. After 1000 turns removed it's down from 9.36K to 8.52. That's .84 ohms per turn, so 1411 more turns to hit 6.84K. It's pretty tedious, but gets easier as the goopy tape residue disappears. But getting started was like putting a diaper on a flea.

Edit: It takes 3173 unwound turns of wire to get an SDS down to 6.78k, or about half the resistance of an SD. Probably sound like crap but who knows? I'll throw it in tomorrow and see what happens.