MusicWood Productions Releases Their Fantastic Documentary

•May 24, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Hello All and welcome to a special posting on the Zero Impact Guitars Blog.

Today, I’m pleased to share with you a press release from MusicWood. They have produced a fantastic documentary on the need for  eco-friendly instrument development.

Enjoy-

SC

For years guitars have been made the same way, but now this could all change. A new music documentary, “MUSICWOOD” looks at the threat of forest deforestation to a very different type of species. “I’ve been married to my acoustic guitar longer than I have my wife” — Gale Paridjanian, of the band Turin Brakes. There’s no doubt that we develop special relationships with our guitars. Now, these relationships are under threat, as the unique woods used to make guitars may be running out. The Musicwood documentary tells this story by following the Musicwood Coalition, a group of the world’s foremost guitar-makers — Chris Martin (Martin Guitars), Bob Taylor (Taylor Guitars), and Dave Berryman (Gibson) — as they drop their competitive differences and journey together to the Tongass, a remote forest in SE Alaska. The incredibly valuable Sitka Spruce trees that make most acoustic guitar soundboards come from the Tongass, the largest temperate rain forest in the world, and they are being logged at a staggering rate. In Alaska, the guitar-makers meet with the largest private company that is logging the Tongass, and struggle to determine the future of the forest and the acoustic guitar. As Chris Martin of Martin Guitars puts it, to convince them to change will be “as close to a miracle as we are likely to see in our lifetime.” The filmmakers get behind-the-scenes in the negotiations in Alaska, film the craftsmanship of guitar-making in the master workshops of Gibson, Martin Guitars, and Taylor Guitars, and frame it all to live acoustic guitar performances from the artists Yo La Tengo, Turin Brakes, Glen Hansard, Sergius Gregory…and many more. The documentary is the centerpiece of a campaign designed to bring awareness, economic incentive and a call for action to support sustainable forestry. Watch the trailer on the Kickstarter website http://kck.st/musicwoodthefilm More new videos will be posted throughout May and June 2011. Check out www.facebook.com/Musicwoodthefilm , and www.musicwoodthefilm.com which are regularly updated with information about the film and campaign.

CGT Classics get some new tone from Porter Pickups-

•April 4, 2011 • Leave a Comment

A lot has been going on at the Casper Guitar shop over the last several months. I have been working with a few Regional Artist to develop a few new mod’s to my existing arsenal of classic style and tone monsters.

I have a custom T-Series that has been built for my local Metal Shredder John Rainey. My classic T-Style axe with a Custom Modified Schaller / Floyd Rose Locking Tremolo.  On this guitar, John wanted the frets lowered to .040 and the Vol knob raised 1/2″ closer to the bridge. I also took a bit off of the neck joint to allow a smoother transition from the neck to the body during those blistering lead runs in the upper register-

I also had the opportunity to become involved with Porter Pickups. I had a need for a custom wound special request order and was fortunate enough to come in contact with Brian at Porter Pickups. (www.porterpickups.com) After a few phone-calls, I was setup as a builder and was placing my first order from Brian for a set of matched F-Spaced custom pups. Within a week, I had my pickups. The pickups came in a very nice package with all the hardware you would expect for the installation. The pickups are very solid and are well made. And they are manufactured right here in the Good o’l USA.

Now if I could just get the guitar ready for the installation. After several modifications to the guitar design that I intended the pickups to be installed in, I finally had it ready.

After speaking with Brian on the first day, I knew what to expect from his pickups, and I wasn’t surprised. The output isn’t so much that there needs to be any great gain adjustments to your amp but still has the guts and growl to push the front end. The “Classic F-Spaced” matched up great with the Original Floyd Rose Tremolo and the tone was as the name suggested, Classic PAF like tone with absolutely no noise. Great Blues Rock tone at any volume. The “Smooth” pickup in the neck position, really rounded out the tone of this guitar with the rich bottom end and clear definition.

I am also starting to work out the details for a new project for another regional artist for a P-Style Bass. We are currently working out the custom tone wood options and the Neck. Going along with my scooped arrow design peg head, I’m trying to keep the geometry correct. Another prototype or two and I think I’ll have it nailed-

Thanks for reading. Next month, I’ll be giving away some CGT swag and offering a special custom order deal.

Stay Tuned-

Anatomy of an eco Friendly Guitar Part – 2

•November 30, 2010 • Leave a Comment

A Continuation of the eco Friendly Series from Casper Guitar Technologies

Hello again from South Florida and welcome. I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and ate all of the leftovers.

This is another one of my articles that I wrote for the 300Guitars Website last week where I’m one of the Guest Gurus for my friend Billy.

In my last article, I discussed the materials that go into the construction of an eco-Friendly Guitar. This included the Body, Neck, Bridge and control plates.

This month, I’ll touch on the finish, electronics (pots, pickups etc…) and the shop. So let’s get to it.

Let’s start with the finish. There are several choices when it comes to this part of the eco friendly guitar planning and construction phase. One obvious choice is to NOT apply a finish. This is more of a personal choice and one that if not given the proper thought, could destroy the guitar. Yes it can be cool and the wood will certainly absorb “MoJo” from the locations you play and store the guitar. This does add some character to the axe and can be a cool conversation piece. “Yea, that’s where the drummer spilled his drink at that gig last month at the Hard Rock.”

Most builders will opt for a thin sealer of some sort though as a protective coating to their work. A light coat of hand rubbed Danish Oil is a perfect solution here. Danish Oil, when applied properly, will seal the wood nicely and will really bring out the grain. There are many brands available and there are also Low VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) versions available. Check out your local woodworking supplier for the right finish for your project.

But you’re not finished yet if you’ve decided on the oil finish. There must also be a wax sealer applied to add some luster to the piece. Here, there are some tricks to remember to achieve a high quality finish. Make sure you use a liquid or extremely soft wax. The harder waxes are more difficult to apply over an oil finish and will tend to not buff out properly.

Next, let’s look at Lacquer and Acrylic finishes. When it comes to Lacquer, there are not many options as far as low VOC. However, the process of application and the method of application can make the difference here. What I do in my shop is to isolate the area where I will be applying the finish by using pleated paper filters stacked and attached edge wise to form a booth. The piece is suspended in the booth and I use a low volume / low flow airbrush system for the application. This application system allows precise placement of the finish and all but eliminates overspray and waste. When completed, the filters are collected and contained in paper bags and delivered to our local waste disposal facility. (Cliff Berry Inc, in the South Florida Area) Here, the material is incinerated in EPA Approved furnace to assure the material is contained and completely destroyed with no impact on the environment.

Water Based Acrylic finishes can be applied in the same manner. I tend to not use this type of finish unless it is specified by the client though. I have had bad luck with durability. The non eco friendly brands tend to work better in this instance but I refuse to compromise my shop for that. Therefore, I try to avoid acrylic as an option. If the customer wants a finish other than Lacquer, I tend to recommend a light poly finish applied using my containment system. Once again, not the finish I prefer, but I’m more of a fan of the vintage axes and they were mostly oiled or light lacquer finishes. If you are in doubt, check the label for specifics on the Volatile nature of the product. If it doesn’t say Low or No VOC, it isn’t.

Now let’s move on to the electronics and pickups. Here we have several options again. This is where it may get a tad bit tricky. The best way to choose electronics to achieve the eco friendly state of your guitar is to use recycled materials for these areas. Once again, I would direct you to one of the many Vintage Parts suppliers for this. There are several out there, but my choice would be to contact our fellow Guest Guru Jim at “The Parts Drawer”. His expertise in vintage parts should give your project some special character with some heritage to boot. This is an area where your desired tone will have to really be determined prior to moving forward with the project.

If vintage is not the rout you desire, then you can select from a wide variety of RoHS (Restriction of Use of Hazardous Substances) certified manufactures for your pups. Another option is to go used or recycled as I like to call them. If you go on e-bay or one of the other online shopping sites, you can find 100’s of items that have been removed from someone’s axe due to their quest for that perfect tone and can be picked up for next to nothing. Just be sure that the seller has some clue as to how to sell electronic devices online. Look for a photo of the pickup attached to an ohm-meter displaying the impedance the pickup. If not, buyers beware.  This is also true for the potentiometers and switches to be used in your project.  MCM Electronics has a listing of RoHS compliant manufacturers as well as many other supply houses. Also check out your local supplier for RoHS certified parts. There are a growing number of them out there now due to the interest. This is good for us.

Now let’s move onto the shop. Here is where you have to do some homework as it applies to your shop. Some of my other articles have described how you can help out the eco system by recycling your shop wood scraps or by reusing some materials that normally would be a onetime use item.

I’ve also discussed how I use Low Voltage (12VDC) lighting or LED’s to illuminate some of my shop areas. These systems are easy to obtain and install. My system is powered by 4 Sealed Gel Batteries that are charged by 2 Solar Panels on the shop roof.  One of the items I maintain a charge with is my Laptop Computer. This is the system I use for all of my business needs and primary design and record keeping. I use flash drives for external storage / backups that require no additional power.

I also maintain the charge on my small battery powered hand tools like screwdriver, drill and buffer.

Most of the cutting and contouring take place by hand using Rasps, Files, Sandpaper and Wood Scrapers.

Here is something you probably never really thought about but, most custom shops already operate this way. Given the fact that they tend to only work on something that has been purchased, or is being purchased, they reduce their waste by 80% over the larger manufacturers.

So not only can the actual guitar be constructed from completely sustainable and eco friendly materials and techniques, your shop can be Green too. These are all things that are easily accomplished if you think about what you are doing and take into consideration the potential impact on the environment. The technology is being developed and the ability for even the smaller shops to take advantage of the affordable eco options to help reduce the environmental  impact and increase the ability of the small guitar manufacturing operation to be Green is more achievable now than ever. But, it is still up to us to move in that direction. There will soon be a day that the larger manufacturers will have to raise their prices due to the fines leveled for their violations of the new environmental laws. The smart shops, and the shops that build guitars out of a love of the instrument, and not the love of the Dollar, will thrive.

As always, I value your opinion and your input so please, leave coments or questions.

Do you have a particular subject you would like to see discussed here on my blog? Let me know. Drop me a line at info@Casper-GT.com. I’ll be happy to address it here.

Next month, I’ll be discussing the steps being taken at events and venues that are helping to reduce the waste and garbage from large scale musical events and concerts. You won’t want to miss this-

Steve Casper

New Noise Santa Barbara – Sustainability in Music Conference

•November 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Last week, I attended the Sustainability in Music Conference in Santa Barbara Ca. I was invited by Matt at the SB Independent to participate in the opening panl discussion covering how we in the music industry are driving the sustainable material uses and practices that help in the reduction of waste and fuel usage at concert events, in the performances and the way in which we approach venues and locations for events and shows.

I met several of the local and regional organizations that, along with myself, are advocating the uses of sustainable materials in the construction of their instruments, eco-friendly methods of advertising thru digital media instead of pamphlets and fliers, discounted admission to the event by showing a reusable beverage container like a Stainless Steel Travel Cup to be used at the many water stations located around the event.

The most interesting person I met was Craig Lyons (see his work at http://www.SecondLife.com). He is an artist that performs as an avitar. That’s right, he performs at virtual venues, as an avatar. Not only that, you can attend as an avatar. He also sells virtual T-Shirts, Hats and Buttons that you can decorate your avatar with. I really enjoyed my conversation with Craig, just a great person with a cool idea.

The trend that Craig  has started is a growing one. More and more artist, painters, photographers, graphic designers and musicians are using the internet and other digital media outlets for their distribution, adds and even live performances. The conference and some of the performances in the evenings of the event were streamed live to an online audience.

Along with these efforts, the conference really put on an educational event for the community and for an even more vast online audience. One of the questions I was asked was how I see the trend in sustainable material use going and how can they get involved? My response was that they were becoming involved simply by being at the conference. What I see is that many of us feel that we should do something, but aren’t really sure what or how. That’s why thru my blogs, website and private / public appearances, am advocating the education of the mass population as to the options available to them.

One of my goals is to offer custom one of a kind sustainable guitars to the public at an affordable price. The technology is there for us to use and it isn’t that expensive to implement. The other thing I do is to not charge my customer for the benefit of the sustainable nature of my guitars. This is novel in the world today.

Anyway, there was an incredible interest in my guitars and the potential for them in the sustainability market. Great tone, fantastic detail and quality for an unbelievable price. Thanks to all involved at the conference for making my part as simple as possible.

Casper Guitar Technologies at FernStock 8

•November 15, 2010 • Leave a Comment

OK – We made it thru the festival relatively unscathed. What a great time we had at the 8th Annual FernStock Music festival. We were joined with about 10,000 hard core Rock n Roll fans from all over the world. (One couple came from as far away as Germany for the festival)

There were about 12 Bands from all over the South Dade county area and a few national acts from back in the day. Once again, Casper Guitar Technologies co-sponsored the event and I built a special guitar to be raffled off at the event. All of the proceeds went to the Le-Do Children’s fund of Homestead and we sold plenty of raffle tickets, close to $1,000 was raised just from the raffle.

Check out the video of me testing out the guitar in a live situation in the following link –

I had a blast and this was completely un-planed. They just got me up on the stage to talk a bit about the guitar before we drew the winning raffle ticket. Tony comes over and grabs my arm and says, ” Let’s get you hooked up over here.” The next thing you know, we’re rockin.

Thanks to Tony from Deck-52 for his tambourine work and the un-named harp player. They really turned a what was destined to be a lame single player demo, into a fantastic impromptu blues jam. Short but sweet.

Thanks again to the FernStock Staff for inviting me to the 8th annual event. I’ve already planned out the guitar for next year. There was so much interest in another demo axe I had at the event, I’m going to build a brand new FS9 LE for the event next year. The next guitar will be one of my S-Series guitars with a special finish for the event. I may get the artist that did the logo for the shirts this year to do some graphics for the project. I keep having to one up myself at each of these events. Raise the bar so to speak due to the fact that many of the concert patrons are there specifically to enter the raffle for my guitar. The word is out now that the local Nationally Known Luthier builds a custom axe to be given away at the event. Glad to know it helps draw a crowd. Thanks again to Cid Edwards and her FS Staff.

The Anatomy of an eco Friendly Guitar Part 1

•October 5, 2010 • Leave a Comment

This is a re-posting of an article I wrote for my friend at 300Guitars.com .

I get a lot of questions about what makes a guitar eco-Friendly, a completely valid question. The answer is by using materials and techniques that have been proven to minimize or eliminate the impact on the environment in either the construction or the use of the instrument. This is where we get into the varying degrees of eco friendly.

This is a great subject to dive into for the summer so I’ll be dividing this article into 2 parts.

The first part, will deal with the materials that go into the construction of an eco-Friendly Guitar. This will include the Body, Neck, Bridge and control plates.

The second part, will deal with the finish, electronics (pots, pickups etc…) and the shop.

Lets start off by looking at the main construction material – WOOD.

Wood is a natural resource that has been used in the construction of stringed instruments by Luthier’s for centuries. Luthier’s have also isolated some species that have exceptional tonal and aesthetic properties that are better suited for the high end hand crafted pieces. As I mentioned in my latest article, there is a self regulating agency, The FSC, which has set guidelines for tree farms to operate by that minimize the impact on the forest that they operate from. By selecting only mature trees or by selecting rapid growth species, they are able to provide 1st grade materials to builders with a minimum impact on the eco-system.

There are other techniques that a custom builder can use that also impact the material choice of the luthier. A builder can choose to build their piece using a 2 or 3 slabs laminated edge-wise to form the body blank. By using this technique, the trees that are required to form such a body, can be done by using younger trees, thus reducing the growing time associated with that material. There are several opinions regarding this technique. Some say that the lamination process works against the sound or the tone of the guitar causing limited sustain. Others feel that by laminating the material, you are stiffening the body thus creating a mechanism to enhance the sustaining properties of the guitar. Quite a few of the classic styles that we regard as the mainline of today’s guitars were designed and built using 2 or 3 piece bodies. So there is nothing really new there. Some of the top of the line instruments that are built using a single piece of tonewood are done so not so much for the tone, but for the appearance of the piece.

There is also “Smartwood”. This wood is either rapid growth lumber like Poplar, Pine, and Bamboo. These materials are not generally thought of as tonewood. I have a bit of a surprise for you. Poplar and Pine have been used in the classic Double Cut and Tele Style Guitars since the 50’s.

One of my most popular models at Casper Guitar Technologies is made from a 2-piece poplar body. The tone and sustain are extremely close to that of an Alder bodied guitar. The main difference is the ability of a poplar body to be finished in a transparent lacquer. The grain and color of the wood doesn’t lend itself well for these finishes. Opaque finishes however are completely suitable for a poplar body guitar. As you can imagine, there are literally 100’s of materials that can be used in the construction of a modern electric guitar. Some better suited than others. But keep experimenting. There are surprises everyday. The same principles are valid for the neck construction.

Now, lets direct our attention to the hardware. This includes the tuners, bridge and control plates / covers.

To build a guitar that is eco-friendly, we have to define what is eco-friendly. For our application, it is an item that is built using environmentally safe materials, responsible growth lumber and recycled metallic parts. If we are looking for a Zero Impact Guitar, then the obvious choice will be recycled parts. But our projects require a higher level of craftsmanship. Here is where a Vintage Parts Supplier like The Parts Drawer can come into play. Vintage parts that have been removed from older pieces for whatever reason and have been refurbished and presented for your special application. There are many varieties and varying levels of “Vintage” that can add special character to your project. Be imaginative here. This is where you can make a subtle statement.

For the bridge, there are several options depending upon your ability to work with metal. For the flat bridges, I use hand bending and grinding to form a bridge from a single piece of re-cycled steel. This creates an item that has taken minimal resources to fabricate and is a durable item.

I use the same process for the control plate covers on the T-Series and similar style guitars. By using recycled materials, I am reducing the amount of raw material used and am helping to minimize the amount of metal added to our landfills. This is a small step but I feel that every little bit helps. Remember, it’s our responsibility.

Other covers can be fabricated using wood. This really adds a level of eco-friendly to a piece. It also tends to have an impact on the overall aesthetics of the piece. Wooden covers can be carved from select smartwood, FSC woods or Regulated exotic’s.

So, you see that there is some thought that goes into the design process of an eco-friendly project. These principles can be applied to any project you get into. Plan out you project and try to be as environmentally responsible as you can.

Join me next month when I’ll discuss the choice and application of a finish, the electronics and the shop environment when we continue with the Anatomy of an eco-Friendly Guitar. And as always, please feel free to leave comments. We love to hear from you.

Steve Casper

KTS-America Titanium Saddles

•August 19, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Several weeks ago, a rep (Stan) from KTS-America contacted me to review a set of their Titanium Saddles on one of my custom guitars. I was eager to comply. I am always looking for ways to improve tone and to be in a position to offer to my custom clients, a wide range of options for their projects. I also love to experiment with new materials and combination’s, new looks, new sounds.

So I responded to the e-mail with my desire to try out a set of their product on one of my current projects. A custom T-Series (a Tele™ style guitar) with a Wilkinson Traditional Style Bridge with compensated saddles. Stan asked me to take a photo of the bridge I was planning to use and send it to him so they could be certain I received the correct pieces for my project.

Little did I know the treat I was in store for. After a few days, a package arrived from KTS-America, containing a set of their PR-08WD Compensated Saddles.

Boy are these saddles well made. Nice machining and they matched the new Wilkinson Bridge perfectly. So once installed, I performed the setup. This went just like any setup so no surprise there. But I did notice during the intonation process that I could almost set the intonation without looking at the strobe. Something was different with these saddles. They somehow allowed me to really hear the string. The guitar resonance somehow seemed a bit enhanced and brighter.

Once the guitar was setup, I selected my 72 Deluxe Reverb and a few simple effects, (MXR DynaComp & BOSS CE2 Chorus). At the first chord I could tell there was an improvement in tone, response and sustain. Now add the effects and the notes raced out of my amp. The best way I can describe this action is that the sound really popped out of the amplifier and seemed to just swirl around the room. No Doubt this is the enhanced frequency response causing this phenomenon.

So to summarize: The KTS Titanium Saddles were

  • Easy to install
  • Well Manufactured
  • Matched My Existing Hardware – This is a big Plus-
  • Enhanced Sustain
  • Enhanced Resonance
  • Enhanced Feel and Playability

The KTS systems are designed to enhance the natural tones of the instrument and as far as I can see, they do what they were designed to do. I was impressed with the product and will offer these as an upgrade on the guitars I build. KTS-America offers a wide selection of saddles, truss rods and Tremolo Blocks. Once again, Casper Guitar Technologies Merging Art, Tone and Technology-