Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #79093  by Fliptrax
 Sat May 01, 2010 11:17 pm
Hi, I'm Tom San Filippo the lead guitarist of the NY based Dead band called "Half Step" and I recently had my 25 year old Vantage VA900 modified to a Tiger set up. Being that the guitar was collecting dust and ironically had a similar blueprint to an Alembic it seemed to be a no brainer. So I commissioned luthier Joseph Jesselli on Long Island to do the work.( After getting Waldo's preamp buffer and schematics, an SDS1 and a pair of Super IIs and all the other parts needed, Jesselli went to work. He and I are beyond pleased with the final outcome.

The original set up of the guitar had two humbuckers with separate coil taps, a pre amp boost and a 3 way toggle. Visually similar in looks to John K's backup Vantage, only it had one volume, one pre amp volume and one tone as opposed to two volumes and two tones and one tap switch.
The Stock VA900
va900f11.jpg (91.03 KiB) Viewed 3581 times
Joseph installed a 5 way switch and did some custom brass work for the inputs and pickups. The only part that I could not find was the 250k/500k ganged pot so we went with 500k/500k instead, so there is a touch of Wolf in there as well. Well the guitar is faithfully functional and it sounds and looks great! Thanks to Mike Wald for all his invaluable knowledge and input every step of the way.
The cavity with the new guts
VA900_Guts.jpg (61.85 KiB) Viewed 3581 times
VA900 Modified
VA900_Front.jpg (92.42 KiB) Viewed 3581 times
So here is where I hope you guys on the forum can help me out...

The only thing that bothered me was the gapping hole where the 3 way toggle used to be. So I had this idea to have a 25k mini blend pot installed that would blend the wet signal with the clean, giving me the ability to control the amount of effect level when the OBEL is active. So I ran it past Waldo and Jesselli and they both seemed to think that it could work but it has never been tried before. So Joe attempted to make it work without a schematic and soon realized that although it seemed possible it wasn't as easy as we thought because (to my ignorance) both clean and wet signals are never active at the same time. Duh!

Does anyone have an opinion on this addition to the classic tiger design? In theory it sounds useful and would be awesome to have that added control but if it compromises the circuit then it's obviously not worth the trouble. At least I have a dummy pot in the toggle's place, but it would be cool for it to actually have a purpose. Any help devising a schematic would be greatly appreciated! Thanks to everyone on this site for their passion.
 #79097  by mkaufman
 Sun May 02, 2010 6:07 am
I'm probably not familiar enough with your wiring, however, what about this: is the signal path (clean vs. OBEL) determined by a single on/off toggle? If so, how about replacing that toggle with a 3-way DPDT where up is clean, down is OBEL and middle is both. Then, in the middle position, you can have two simultaneous live outputs (clean & OBEL) and then route them to the blend pot.

Another option would be to do something where the clean signal & OBEL signal are on full-time and route both to the blend pot? I suspect this one is less desireable.

 #79120  by JonnyBoy
 Sun May 02, 2010 12:33 pm
maybe you can run a "Before" volume to the obel that way you can change the sensitivity of the evenvelope filter and other effects then have the return signal ran to a master volume that wont change the sensitivity. I have this on my les paul and it has actually helped when switching to that guitar from my number one since the line signal from it is hotter. Basically you have control over how hot your line or "from the buffer signal" is before it is sent to the effects, which you will set only once or adjust as needed, then use the regular volume to go up and down after the effects. So you have two volumes at different places for different reasons, and its a solution that proves functional.
 #79123  by jdsmodulus
 Sun May 02, 2010 3:35 pm
mkaufman wrote:btw...where can one purchase a brass plate for the pickups like this one?

+1 I would like one of these as well, I was looking into just making some myself if they are too hard to find. BNalls is out of the game but there was talk of some other folks with them. Hopefully they will see this!
 #79125  by mkaufman
 Sun May 02, 2010 4:22 pm
The perfect one for me would be HSH where the middle position has a bunch of holes for positioning the middle single coil pickup in a variety of locations. I guess just drilling some extra holes would take care of that.

 #79143  by aoguitars
 Mon May 03, 2010 6:17 am
Hey Tom, killer looking guitar--I'm it's a huge difference over the stock axe.

I remember Half-Step very well, as I went to Skidmore in the late 90s. Not sure if you remember a three-piece band named West Harrison--we opened for you guys a couple times at Aiko's and King's, and I remember a big one for the Block Party on Caroline maybe? Glad to see you guys are still rocking.

Good luck with that wiring...sounds like a killer idea. I'd like to hear how that works out.
 #79164  by Fliptrax
 Mon May 03, 2010 10:52 am
Thanks for all the input guys! I can't wait to unveil the new ax this Saturday night! My band Half Step is sometimes confused with another band with the same name in upstate NY. But we are at

Joseph Jesselli Guitars is located in East Northport on Long Island. He does expert work and his own line of guitars are just beautiful. A true artisan and a super nice guy. He milled the brass plate from scratch and did a nice job scalloping the input jack plate too. When I approached him with my Vantage Tiger project he was skeptical at first but soon realized the advantages of this design, especially for the specific use in a GD band. After doing a bit of research he was stoked to get it going and now he's even considering the OBEL system in some of his guitars! He couldn't get his head around the unique tone controls, but once I told him that Jerry favored the middle pickup, the tone layout made more sense to him, giving that middle pickup its own dedicated tone control when combined with other pickups. Very cool and I still have to get used to it myself.

MK... I think with keeping the integrity of the design your idea of a DPDT 3-way mini instead of the on/off makes the most sense in what I'm trying to achieve with the blend pot. It may even wind up being hardly used but I can see its benefit in the extended jams using delays or phase shifting or whatever. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Thanks again guys... I love this site!!