Winspear Picks 3rd Anniversary

A couple of weeks ago I celebrated the 3rd year of my company Winspear Picks. I can’t believe how fast it has gone! It’s been a very busy few months with lots of new projects.

Last week saw the launch of the storefront on an entirely new platform, with upgrades such as user accounts, card payment, discount notifications and product reviews and ratings. And plenty more to come!

The site launched with some interesting limited products that sold out in a matter of hours.

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Engraved Stealth series

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Bone and Horn picks

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2mm Amber Standard picks

Those 2mm are some of a new regular offering – the Amber Standard will be available in various thicknesses on a roughly monthly basis. I’ve even been working on these precision tapered versions…

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That bottom one has flexibility exclusively in the tip!

In a month or two you can also expect to see the launch of Stringdrop from the dudes at Wired Guitarist – A subscription service of their own new high quality, progressive tension string sets. Included with every drop will be one pick made by myself.

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Amber Standards and other unique designs, such as this plain Bloodline Shiv with an Icegrip style texture, will be available exclusively through Wired Guitarist!

I also took delivery this week of a new CNC machine that I’ll be having a lot of fun with…

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That’s all for now! Keep an eye out next month for another batch of Amber Standard picks that I expect will yet again sell out very fast.

-Tom

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Tanglewood TW130 SM – Solid Mahogany Acoustic, Power Pins, & Thomastik Rope Core Strings

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Picking up this beautiful guitar uninformed, I would be very surprised by its price. This is a low mid range acoustic, retailing between £250 and £350 (I am unsure why such a large gap! Tanglewood website lists it at £349). It is incredibly good value for money, with impressive tidy build quality and nice features such as strap buttons and hidden fret tangs. I compared this guitar to the otherwise identical Parlor size but preferred the added tonal depth of this construction.

Specs:

  • Solid Mahogany Top and Back
  • Mahogany laminate sides
  • Mahogany neck with Rosewood fretboard
  • 43mm NuBone nut and compensating saddle
  • 25.6″ scale
  • Natural Satin finish
  • Orchestra body size
  • Slotted headstock with open gear tuners

The bridge pins shown are Power Pins I installed. Purchased a while ago out of curiosity and mostly for aesthetic and restringing convenience. I highly recommend them for the convenience alone. They claim their product gives an increase in power – I do believe I noticed it very slightly but honestly haven’t tested carefully and it could be placebo. Certainly nothing to write home about but I love them for the other reasons alone!

The solid mahogany selected for the top and back is quite beautiful. I especially love the headstock/tuners, and the posts having two string holes is a neat touch for getting straighter string pull. It stays in tune incredibly well even with a fresh set of strings. The C profiled neck is very comfortable and the finish all over is lovely to touch.

The volume/projection of this guitar is not brilliant given the smaller orchestra body design, but this combined with the wood choice makes it a fantastic guitar for a warm, intimate and earthy tone – great for fingerstyle and a folk sound.

I have taken the folk sound of this guitar a little further in testing some rather strange guitar strings, the Classic S series from Thomastik-Infeld.

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Rope core? And what about those gauges!? Quite unusual indeed. These strings run quite a high price but are well worth trying – they hold tune very well, last a very long time, and feel and sound great in their own unique way. They are alternative strings which perform somewhere between regular acoustic and nylon classical  strings. Much like classical strings, they run lower tension without sounding or feeling too loose (they held up tuned in D just fine too). Also similarly to nylon strings they aren’t very suitable for bending. Despite the drastic gauge and construction change, the intonation remained spot on with the current saddle which was quite unexpected.

The core is a “highly flexible rope core of weaved steel wires” – I’ve never felt a string quite like this. They are lovely and soft to play, and are also flatwound which minimizes finger noise very effectively. You can feel some winding texture on the trebles, which is quite odd! In the KR116 set pictured here, the basses are silverplated copper flat wound on rope core, and the trebles are nylon tape wound on rope core. The tension is similar to a .009 set, and very evenly balanced across the board despite the odd looking gauge selection.

The other set in the Classic S series (KF110) is not different in tension but instead in construction, with a nickel flat wound steel core basses and stainless steel flat wound trebles (with a plain high E). I am curious to try this set – I imagine it would have a more traditional acoustic sound but with the lesser noise and mellowing of flatwounds.

The KR116 set however with the rope core and nylon construction, brings the sound much closer to that of a classical guitar – but still a long way off. Very much their own thing. With their low tension they are also perfectly suitable for installing on a classical guitar without causing any damage. I imagine they would sound fantastic with the more resonant classical construction.

Anyway, enough words! Here is a little clip of the guitar and strings. You will hear the rope core strings compared to D’addario Phosphor Bronze .011-.052. All fingers, no nails. The order of clips is;

D’addario fingerpicked

Rope Core fingerpicked +3dB

D’addario strumming

Rope Core strumming +3dB

The above is then repeated without the +3dB gain so you can hear the slight difference in volume between the strings. However I thought it better to begin with the boosted clips for unbiased comparison (louder often sounds better by default, but in a recording or live situation they will be normalized).

-Tom

Fender Pawn Shop Bass VI – 6 String Bass/Baritone Guitar Hybrid

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Tuning: B0 E1 A1 D2 G2 C3 (factory tuned from E1 with .090 gauge strings)

Scale length: 30”

Strings: Kalium Hybrids – .024 .033 .047 .063 .086 .114 – ~20-22.5lbs

Features:

Alder Body
Maple neck
Rosewood fretboard
HSS Pickup configuration: JZHB Humbucker and Special Design Hot Jaguar single coils.
Candy Apple Red finish

The Bass VI and other guitar/bass hybrid instruments are an interesting beast. Designed as a shortscale E1 tuned bass with guitar string spacing, they are traditionally considered a bass. However, as an extended range guitarist in a modern market full of many baritone guitars and guitars with extra strings down into the bass range, I think of it as much more of a baritone guitar (that ships with pretty heavy strings, at least on the treble side).

This one however I have tuned significantly lower, from B0. Along with the perfect fourths tuning, this means it mirrors standard 6 string bass. I essentially view it, in terms of feel, tone, and playing style, like a 9 string guitar (C#F#BEADGBE) tuned a step down and missing its plain strings. It allows me to explore the lower ranges of the guitar with a classic feel and tone. However, pitch aside, it certainly is somewhere between bass and guitar in terms of sound. It delivers the fundamental with a huge punch, and with some gain, has a growl to the top end distinctly like that of an overdriven bass.

I am very glad Fender reissued this guitar with the humbucker in the bridge and the regular electronics setup. The very round 9.5” fretboard radius is not something I am used to but it is quite nice and less noticeable with the medium-jumbo frets. I can’t fault this instrument. It plays quite similarly to a guitar and the 30” scale is small enough (compared to a bass) to be quite transparent. It is a fantastically unique, delivering low tunings with an excellent characteristic twang and fatness. Essentially, this instrument is very much to me like an extreme baritone H-S-S Stratocaster.

High resolution photos are available below and from my Flickr.

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-Tom

Thinline Telecaster Parts Build – Blog Entry #1

Hey all! Getting well underway with a new project – a Thinline Telecaster parts build. Most of the specs and details are planned out but for now I’ll just show you what I’ve done so far.

Swamp ash/Walnut body found on eBay. It was made by Haynes Guitars in the UK.

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The white ivoroid binding was nice but didn’t fit the aesthetic I had planned. As it would be the only white part on the guitar, I decided to replace it with ebony. The old binding was carefully removed with a knife. It can be useful to score along the side too, but it was unnecessary here and seemed to do more harm than good trying to get the blade in next to the soft wood.

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The ebony is soaked and bent on a home made bending rig I pulled together with some copper pipe (I didn’t grab any pictures of this stage). It’s a tough material to work with, but I got there in the end with a touch of wood filler needed on the cutaway.

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With the binding cleaned up, back edges rounded, and the top and back sanded to 240 grit, the body is ready to be stained.

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In the meantime, I am working on some other components for the guitar.

Proposed pickguard design. The standard Telecaster guard was out, given the F hole, and I didn’t want to include the controls like the traditional Thinline guard. Here is a rough design merging a Thinline guard with the Cabronita design. This will be made of ash veneer on a black plastic backing.

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I’ve always loved the look of one piece string ferrule blocks, so whipped up this quick piece to accent the back of the guitar. These parts are made from the same composite used in my Winspear Picks Stealth range. An expensive choice for aesthetic accents, but it machines beautifully and has a wonderful finish.

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Today was my first time using these new 0.5mm end mills, which went much better than I was expecting! It’s great finally being able to get this fine resolution, and the cutter is small enough even for some nice texture hatching. This neck plate will look real nice after some scrubbing up!

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It may be a while before another update as I am pretty busy keeping up with pick orders and working to launch some new products next month – but stay tuned!

-Tom

 

Hofner HC504-1/2 – Converted Fretless Alto Classical Guitar

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Tuning: G2 C3 F3 Bb3 Eb4 Ab4

Scale Length: 530mm / 20.866″

Strings: Custom set – Well balanced mid-hard tension

  • Trebles: Savarez Alliance KF Carbon – .0205 .0260 .0331
  • Basses: D’addario Pro Arte Lightly Polished Basses (EJ46LP) .030 .036 .044

Features:

  • Solid Cedar top
  • Mahogany back, sides, and neck
  • Rosewood fretboard

Modifications:

  • Side soundport
  • Strap buttons
  • Fretless conversion

I wanted to try a fretless nylon guitar after hearing a couple, and figured I would have most use for it in my alto tuning. I filtered down a number of cheap classicals, 1/2 size, for the appropriate scale length for this tuning.  I settled on this Hofner HC504 (which come in a variety of sizes) for the reputable brand, wood selection, and the fact that it has a small 44mm nut width.

It was a solid purchase for its price. Good build quality with just a few flaws (pictured below). Warm tone, with projection and sustain somewhere between a standard classical guitar and a ukelele. The tuning machines are very smooth to use and hold tune perfectly. Assuming the entire HC504 range is of a similar quality, I can’t recommend them enough for a cheap classical guitar.

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Firstly, a little bit of a clean up, and my standard acoustic procedure – adding strap buttons and a side soundport. For the soundport, I first drill some guide holes and then remove the wood with a needle rasp. If you haven’t tried this before, start small so you have room to learn, fix errors, and sand a smooth shape. I’ve seen it done very easily with a hole saw (drill attachment) before, but I don’t have one of those and prefer an oval anyway.

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The next step is to sand into shape. Here I’m using 80 grit. Especially on laminated sides like these, it is important to only sand in downwards motions, else you risk chipping the laminate and finish. You can see a small chip (oops!) on the second picture, which I sanded out further to mostly cover.

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Next came the fretless conversion. Heat the fretwire with a soldering iron to melt the glue, and then gently remove the fret with fret pullers. Be very careful not to chip the board – you can see an almost-chip in the third picture. After tidying up with some light sanding, wood filler is added. Again sand away the mess, using a radius block if necessary (this classical guitar has a flat fretboard). Use a straight edge to make sure there are no high points, as these will cause dead notes.

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After the board is clean and oiled, the nut, and saddle (if an acoustic guitar) will likely need lowering significantly for good action.

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And she’s finished! All in all a lovely little guitar. Given its small size and being fretless, it sounds a little weak acoustically but really comes to life in a recording. Here are my very first sounds as I struggle to keep my intonation on this fretless shortscale;

And some photos of the Hofner in its final form;

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-Tom

Winspear Picks 2015

2015 is quickly coming to a close and I have been busy finalising Christmas plans for the business. This week I am finishing up a small batch of Battleaxe necklaces which will appear on the store this Wednesday – this time made from some lovely figured walnut scraps I had left over from another project. Here’s how last years ebony ones turned out!

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I’m getting these sold and shipped out early as December post is always quite delayed – this year I am going to experiment with closing the store for the entirety of December to avoid issues. This period will be used for admin work and stocking up for a huge January sale, though I’ll be doing another print on demand T-Shirt run to fill the void! Be sure to keep updated via the Winspear Picks Facebook Page and subscribe to the mailing list via www.winspearpicks.com. Necklaces should go on sale around midnight and are sure to sell out fast!

-Tom

An Introduction

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Hello, and welcome to my blog. At the time of writing this post, I have not yet publicized this website, but I figure I should write an introduction and begin uploading a little content.

Firstly, a little about myself. Many know me for my company Winspear Picks, crafting high quality guitar plectrums from my home in the U.K. If you are already a customer of mine, I thank you very much. 2015 has been an exciting year, with a complete relaunch of my products receiving incredible support from around the world. More things to come before the year is up! This site will be used to document all new designs and projects I am working on.

I am also a guitarist, bassist, composer, and aspiring luthier. After taking somewhat of a break over the last year to concentrate on my business and personal life, I am now back into the swing of things and have created this website not only to share information and educate, but also as motivation for myself – a diary of sorts. I invite you to explore and learn alongside me, and I hope you will join!

That’s all for now. Please consider following my various new media accounts linked at the bottom of this website.

-Tom