Tube Radio Guitar Amp: Part 1 Exploring

I bought another tube radio, it’s a Philips B5X42A.  This is getting seriously addictive, but it’s better to be fixed on €10 junk nobody really wants than getting hooked on buying every Vox amp around, even that silly little white one.  So I spotted a guy selling several tube radios on a classifieds website, contacted him and went over there. He opened up his garage and there was a plethora of tube radio and bakelite goodness. I could only be honest:

‘That’s a stunning collection you have there. I am really looking for a tube radio to convert into a guitar amp. So anything you have lying around of which the radio part isn’t properly functioning, but the main amp is, I am interested in. The higher the wattage, the better.’

‘But then you are better off buying a guitar amp, that’s better suited than this. I don’t have any real throwaways, I repair everything myself.’

‘I have several great tube amps at home, a sixties Fender and an original 65 WEM Watkins. I also have two 5W single ended amps and am currently building a 50’s design guitar amp. But have you ever bought a new power transformer for a tube amp? Do you know what they cost?’

‘I just throw them away, had a box of them around here until last week.’

‘Well, if you want to build a guitar amp, the cheapest transformers you can buy are around €50, this is for 5W amps’

‘Whot?’

‘I tell you, if I buy a €15 non working tube radio that isn’t burnt out, I can probably salvage all power transformers (+€50/piece), output transformers (+€30/piece).  I knows it’s junk and the real reason tube technology went down the drain, but if you have to buy them in specialized shops nowadays, you pay for being in a niche market’

‘What kind of tube do these guitar amp generally use?’

‘In European denomination mostly EL84 as power tubes and ECC83 for preamps…’

‘Well, then I think I might have some chassis lying around for you…’

We made a deal for €10 for a Philips B5X42B from about 1964:

philips

 

 

 

 

 

That’s how it looked back in the day, celexa 40 mg what I bought looked more like something the cat dragged in last night, and the reaction of the wife was accordingly.

IMG_5058

Mine doesn’t look at snazzy anymore, the enclosure is not included, but more importantly the looks, is finding the phono input, which may require googling the back panel of the unit in question:

philipsb5x

 

 

 

 

The pickup (PU) jack has three contacts, one for the left mono channel, one for ground and one for the right mono channel… because this is a stereo amp. It has two distinct signal paths: here is only the stereo amp part of the schematic.

deatilEach of the signal paths uses half of a ECC83 (=12AX7) for preamp and one EL84 as power tube. If you consider that the rectifier in this radio is EZ81, it become clear that you have everything to here to build an Vox AC-15 (minus the tremolo).

The reason so many questions about converting radio’s to guitar amps remain unanswered is clear to me now: using it as a guitar amp requires no work at all, just connecting to the phone input. But converting it means getting rid of everything that is in the red square:

schematiccomplete

 

 

 

 

That is like 2/3 of the circuit.  This may seem like a difficult job, but it really isn’t because these parts of the circuit are switched in and out.  In fact, we should also get rid of the double stereo part. In fact, we can make one hell of guitar amp using this chassis, power transformer, tube sockets, even tubes… we may have to buy a new output transformer, BECAUSE: if the power transformer is powering the amp section (= one AC15) plus a whole bunch of other tubes, it may become the heart of a serious amp. I dare not believe what the label promises:

philips

That the cabinet is not included, is a shame, it would need almost no work to be converted into a nice guitar amp head:

b5x

 

Not exactly the same model, only the cabinet is different. Very helpful if you want to know which controls do what.

Stay tuned (haha!) for part 2 where we will be plugging in…

Notes and glosses to Josh Ritter’s ‘Another New World’

An epic song, to say the least.  The narration rolls Coleridge’s ‘Ancient Mariner’, its inspiration, the Second Voyage of James Cook and E.A. Poe’s ‘Annabel Lee’ into one seamless theatrical tapistry.  The most poetic theme cheap ambien buy zolpidem online no prescription ever, in Poe’s words, i.e. the death of a beautiful woman, is here sublimated in the narrator’s cannabalisation of his beloved ship:

We talked of the other worlds we’d discover
As she gave up her body to me
And as I chopped up her mainsail for timber
I told her of all that we still had to see
As the frost turned her moorings to nine-tail
And the wind lashed her sides in the cold
I burned her to keep me alive every night
In the lover’s embrace of her hold

The voyage to the Anthartic echoes the ‘Ancient Mariner’ and consequently, the alleged inspiration for Coleridge’s poem, James Cook‘s Second Voyage.  The “lights of the age” is a reference to the Royal Society and maybe Alexander Dalrymple in particular.

Another New World

The leading lights of the age all wondered amongst
Themselves what I would do next
After all that I’d found in my travels around
The world was there anything left?
“Gentlemen”, I said, “I’ve studied the maps
And if what I’m thinking is right,
There’s another new world at the top of the world
For whoever can break through the ice.I looked round the room in that way I once had
And I saw that they wanted belief,
So I said “All I’ve got are my guts and my God,”
Then I paused,”and the Annabel Lee.”
Oh the Annabel Lee, I saw their eyes shine,
The most beautiful ship in the sea,
My Nina, My Pinta, My Santa Maria,
My beautiful Annabelle Lee.

That spring we set sail as the crowd waved from shore
And on board the crew waved celexa buy online their hats,
But I never had family, just the Annabelle Lee,
So I never had cause to look back.
I just set the course north and I studied the charts
And toward dark I drifted toward sleep
And I dreamed of the fine deep harbor I’d find
Past the ice for my Annabelle Lee.

After that it got colder the world got quiet,
It was never quite day or quite night
And the sea turned the color of sky turned the color
Of sea turned the color of ice,
‘Til at last all around us was fastness
One vast glassy desert of arsenic white.
And the waves that once lifted us
Shifted instead into drifts against Annabel’s sides

The crew gathered closer at first for the comfort
But each morning would bring a new set
Of the tracks in the snow leading over the edge
Of the world ’til I was the only one left
After that it gets cloudy but it feels like I lay there
For days maybe for months
But Annabel held me the two of us happy
Just to think back on all we had done.

We talked of the other worlds we’d discover
As she gave up her body to me
And as I chopped up her mainsail for timber
I told her of all that we still had to see
As the frost turned her moorings to nine-tail
And the wind lashed her sides in the cold
I burned her to keep me alive every night
In the lover’s embrace of her hold

I won’t call it rescue what brought me here back to
The old world to drink and decline
And to pretend that the search for another new world
Was well-worth the burning of mine.
But sometimes at night in my dreams comes the singing
Of some known tropical bird
And I smile in my sleep thinking Annabel Lee
Has finally made it to another new world.

Blind Connie Williams – Precious Lord, Take My Hand

I don’t know of any blues heroes for whom there isn’t even a recorded year of death, I have never seen a clip that struck me on my path like this one and I never read so many people experiencing exactly the same when they hear Blind Connie Williams for the first time.

He only did one recording session, on the 5th of May 1961 in Philadelphia, for Pete Welding‘s label, on which he played both guitar and accordeon. Most of these tracks are available on Youtube. This clip, however, is a true gem because there are only 1 or 2 pictures of Williams. The only other source of info are the liner notes of the album. The catalog number also makes clear that it wasn’t issued until more than a decade later: Testament T-2225 (1974)

The song was actually written by Thomas A. Dorsey (1899-1993):

His first wife, Nettie, who had been Rainey’s wardrobe mistress, died in childbirth in 1932. Two days later the child, a son, also died. In his grief, he wrote his most famous song, one of the most famous of all gospel songs, “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”. Unhappy with the treatment received at the hands of established publishers, Dorsey opened the first black gospel music publishing company, Dorsey House of Music.

The musical basis was taken from an older, traditional hymn and is generally played in a death march like tempo. It was Martin Luther King’s favorite song, who specifically liked Mahalia Jackson’s version, which I give here by way of reference as to how the song usually sounds.

Connie’s version is musically very different from the traditional version and could be transcribed as a traditional 8 bar blues:

PreciousLord_V01

 

 

 

 

 

But what Connie is playing contains almost every passing chord from the gospel book:

PreciousLord_v02

 

 

 

 

 

This may look infinitely intricate, but it isn’t. Connie’s guitar is tuned in open G tuning (DGDGBD tuned down to CFCFAC), so this will mostly be one or two finger chords; F7 – F6 is x00003 – x00002. There are a lot of rumours on the internet that he would be using Vestapol tuning, but the album track on guitar are all in G and detailed analysis of the video will show him picking the root bass on the second string, which is G (tuned down to F).

connieslide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PreciousLord_v03

 

 

 

 

 

You could even take it a bit further: replace the Gm-like chord C7/G by a D7 and extend the walkdown which started on line 3 to include line 2. It would then virtually span an octave and a half, from “lead me on” until “storm.” It would change the lead a bit, but it need not. Connies steady singing seems almost independent of the changes he plays… and it always works.

It was a real revelation to see how flexible gospel chords are. You could almost go anywhere with the last line:

preciouslord_variationslastline

 

 

I haven’t figured out how to play it in open G, I hardly know anything in this tuning (contrary to open D), but this video of Lonesome Joseph playing another Blind Connie Williams track in open G, reveals a lot the positions:

 

 

Automatic Solar-Triggered Chicken Coop Door Opener

With two attacks on our chicken so far, the idea has been boiling for some time to make a automatic chicken coop door opener. Before I started googling: I had set the followin requirements:

  • requiring no mains power or batteries, it should be self-sufficient;
  • no use of timers, but using light and darknes to determine time to open or close

After reading around, the biggest mistakes challenge seems to be:

  • avoiding to use a electric car antenna, which is no made for pulling or pushing doors!
  • not to eventually resort to timers because we cannot figure out how to use daylight; when using timers you will always need 2!

This nice attempts show exactly these as the main problems. After weeks of figuring out the wiring on the relay, the antenna fails.

Better to start with a strong enough motor; a sattelite actuator seems a good candidate, because it has stop switches built in. You could use a simple strong motor, but the you need to tell the motor when to stop working.

This is the best video on the subject, but still uses timers. Anybody intending to get into a project like this, should watch this. All construction advice given here is first rate:

So the project will consist of a few steps:

  1. Building a lightweight, sliding door for the coop, without any electronics involved and getting that door to work smoothly.
  2. Mechanics: attaching the motor to the door in such a way that it can function properly and is safe and dry
  3. Electronics: powering the motor and getting the door to open and close buy celexa 20 mg electronically, but on human command.
  4. Solar activated: adding a circuit before the motor which tells the motor when to work.

Everybody buys relays to do this; switches that a electronically activated. This is great but makes solar activation a bit difficult without still adding another circuit. So what we need is in fact a switch which activates itself by light and darkness.

The solution may well be a Velleman Daylight Switch kit, or even just stealing their schematic:

schemerschakelaarvelleman

 

 

 

 

velleman02

 

 

 

 

 

The diagram clearly show what the circuit does, there is a photo-resistor (a resistor that changes value with the amount of light available) which regulates the switching. When there is no light, the switch turn on, powering the lamp.

Where the motor is concerned, I am really looking at small satelite motors called actuators, which can be had from €35 but have the advantage of built-in stop switches. We will need to test the minimal movement span needed for the chicken to exit the coop.

miniactuator

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sensor: reed switch means that a magnet is used to determine that the shaft has reached the end of the stroke. If it can move a 1.5m satellite dish, it will have no problems with our coop door. We might need a different, momentary relays, which will tell the motor: do your thing and stop at the moments of dark to light and light to dark. It may be more difficult that initially imagined. But building two Vellemans will still be cheaper that buying two timers.

1963 WEM Watkins Control ER15 & Pick-A-Bass cabinet

wem01wem02 wem03

 

This nice little 15 watt all tube amp head was built by the British WEM Watkins company in 1963/4.  At this time, bands played in clubs and used at max 30W amps and the Beatles were still playing their Vox AC-30’s through the stadion PA when they called it quits after Shea Stadion.  The equipment simply was not holding up to the task in 1965, but by 1967 Jimi Hendrix was shredding away: what had changed?

Charlie and Reg Watkins had started their record shop in 1948 and switch to selling guitars and accordeons some two year later. Charlie is mainly interested in electronics:

In 1949, my fascination with the guitar, its mechanics and now its electronic reproduction paved the way to the first Watkins "Westminster" Guitar amplifiers and later the "Copicat" Echo and the "V" Fronted Dominator amplifier. 

The breakthrough which really put WEM on the map happened in 1966:

Invention of the "Slave" P.A. System. Possibly the most rewarding and personally satisfying development. In a world bristling with the likes of Alvin Lee and his Ten Years After, The Faces, Jethro Tull, Rod Stewart, Hendrix and indeed the Rolling Stones with so many brilliant groups waiting to emerge but who were unable to do so for the lack of a powerful and competent sound system. This limited the exposure of groups to small venues and pubs or whatever size a couple of lashed up Marshall 100 or Hi Watt ordering celexa Guitar stacks could handle. 
Charlie Watkins
Charlie Watkins

It’s hard to determine how many amps they put out per year and there is also hardly no information on the Watkins serials. I do have the impression that in the early 60s they were not product bound: the cabinet I own has a similar tag with a different number. I might have to take it apart and check the date codes on the potentiometers if they haven’t been replaced, but on the basis of the serial, this unit will be 1964/1965.

Serial #00951
Serial #00951

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wem_set01

I had the cabinet for some years, but it was missing a speaker. Could have gone overboard and spent load of money trying to source the original speaker, but as the thing is meant to be played, I opted for something that’s an affordable solid alternative: Jensen C12Q-16 Ceramic Vintage 12″ Guitarspeaker 35 Watt
RMS, 16 Ohms, 1,25″ voice coil used by Fender Bandmaster, Deluxe
Reverb, Pro and Vibrolux.

WEM Watkins Pick-A-Bass cabinet with new 12" Jensen speaker. Cabinet serial #1150
WEM Watkins Pick-A-Bass cabinet with new 12″ Jensen speaker. Cabinet serial #1150

Around the late 60’s Marshall cloned this exact amp and issues the Marshall 18W Combo. It’s basically running the same configuration a little hotter.

1965/6 Marshall 18W Combo (James Stevensons Collection)
Comparison between WEM ER15 and Marshall 18W by tonegeek.com

instruct er15

Sigma 000M-1ST Acoustic Guitar

000A terrific second hand find for €130, the Sigma 000M-1ST lists new for $355.    Originally the Sigma brand was set up by Martin in 1970 to respond to growing demands and the guitars were built in Japan.  It was sold by Martin to the German company AMI Music Instruments, GmbH in 2007, but by then Martin has even lost the rights to the name Sigma in the US.

Hence, Sigma guitars were marketed from 2014 onwards under the name of Kindred Guitars, and there seems some current battle about the ownership of the brand.

Golden Guitar Gallery in Nazareth, Pa. seem to have lost the right on the use of the name to Six Strings Brokerage.

000M-1ST specs

Among the earliest Sigmas built from 1970-1979 there is quite a bit of solid wood, but by the turn of decade they had depleted their stock. From 1980 onwards, almost all Sigma (unless explicitly indicated) are non-solid tops, backs and sides. The new line of Sigma/Kindred however, are all feature solid spruce tops. If we read the orientation chart, we can read the specs of this guitar:

Sigma model chart
Auditorium size (000) solid top, laminated mahogany (M) back & sides, with gloss finish (1ST)

I expected this guitar to be short-scale, but it isn’t – as a matter of fact, Martin 000’s are not consistently short scale to begin with. Scale length and nut width match the 15-series Martin 000. But strange is the nut width difference between 000-18 and 000-28.  In the end, this Sigma’s specs are most like the OM-18 Authentic, with its solid spruce top, long scale and smaller nut width.

  Sigma 000-1ST Martin 000-18 Martin 000-28 Martin OM-18 Authentic Martin 000-15M
back&sides laminated mahogany solid mahogany solid rosewood solid mahogany solid mahogany
top solid spruce solid spruce solid sitka spruce solid adirondac spruce solid mahogany
body size 000 000 000 000 000
scale 25.4 24.9 24.9 25.4 25.4
nut width 1-11/16 1-3/4 1-11/16 1-11/16 1-11/16


So this trusted Martin muppet is wrong: not all 000’s are short scale, not all OM’s have wider nuts, etc… Luckily there is a community out there to correct her:

omvsooo

Truss rod

As Dave constantly warns us: before you buy a guitar, make sure the truss rod works. Suprisingly, neither the 5mm allen wrench which came with my Simon & Patrick Pro Mahogany was too small and a 6mm wrench too big for the Sigma. I called the big store selling Sigma in Belgium, they told me to come round, but couldn’t tell me what type and size of wrench would fit this guitar. Also sent a mail to Sigma, as yet got no reply.  In fact the neck relief is quite ok, but it could use a nudge and I just want to check whether it is working.

Sigma 000M-1ST sound hole truss rod
Sigma 000M-1ST sound hole truss rod

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Update! Today I got a reply from Sigma Guitars:

Hi,

it is a 4mm hex wrench, usually there is one in the box.

Kind regards

Thomas

There was no box and no wrench with the guitar, but it’s a standard 4mm allen wrench.  It was strange, because I had discovered this at the same time as the mail buying celexa online arrived, while I was trying to set up another guitar: The Gretsch Jim Dandy parlor guitar I had bought my daughter. Saddle on that was already pretty low from the factory, and putting some tension on the truss rod straightened it out.

Just like on Martins, the Sigma truss rod is quite a way back in the neck, so I had to use the long end and twist it with a pair of pliers.  In fact, it needed little adjustment, just a little nudge extra was good.

Sigma truss rod adjustment with 4mm wrench
Sigma truss rod adjustment with 4mm wrench

Neck

The neck consists of three pieces of mahogany: heel, neck proper and the headstock.

Neck - heel joint
Neck – heel joint
Neck-headstock joint
Neck-headstock joint

Action, Saddle & Bridge

I had been watching the listing of this sale for a few weeks, hesitating to buy it, when the listing suddenly dissapeared.  I thought it had been sold.  A week later it was relisted, and I didn’t hesistate then.  The day after the sale was concluded I learned what had happened.  People had come to see and try the guitar, but were turned off by the extremely high action on the guitar.  The seller took the listing off line and went to see the store where he had bought the guitar 2 years previously.  The ‘tech’ there told him he didn’t have the proper truss rod wrench nor knew where to get one.  He advised the owner to sand down the saddle to proper string height, which he did.  When I took out the saddle, this was what I saw:000-saddlepre01

 

The bottom of the saddle (top of the picture) was sanded straight; this was obvious as the saddle wouldn’t even stand up by itself on a flat surface.  I sanded the saddle off straight and took off some more material.  I kept the strings caught in a capo, so I could quickly re-install a string to check the action in between sanding sessions.

000teststring

One problem that popped up was that the saddle didn’t fit snugly in to the slot.  I will be ordering a new saddle one of these days, so I put in a very small piece of thick paper to make for a tight fit as temporary solution.

000_unstringed

I ended up with a little over 2mm on the bass side, just a little less on the treble side.  Time to get me some proper measuring tools.

000_endaction

Even more importantly, the intonation turned out spot on, except for the G string (just slightly sharp).

Edit: after adjusting the truss rod, the action improved a little more.

Serial

On the basis of the information of the original owner, this guitar was bought in 2013, so presumably, the first two numbers in the serial refer to the build year: (20)12. 0304 might be date code as well… 4th of March? Would this be the 519th guitar built by Sigma?  We will have to look at more serials.

000_label