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-

Understanding Tonewoods-

•August 10, 2010 • Leave a Comment

When it comes to Solid body Electric Guitars, the wood that is used for their construction has varied over the years. These variances have been both experimental and economical in drive. But when it is all said and done, there seems to be some consensus.

By far the most popular is Mahogany, then Alder and Ash, but there are many other woods that share some of the same characteristics and tonal properties of the common woods used. One of my favorite woods to use for my ecoAxe™ is Poplar. Poplar is similar in weight to Alder and has very close tonal properties. One of the upsides of this wood as a tonewood choice is the price and it’s sustainability. Due to the fact that poplar is not as common as Alder, it is easy to obtain in the dimensions suitable for guitar construction. Poplar is a rapid growth species so it is easy to grow and harvest responsibly.

Another tonewood I use regularly is Limba or Korina. As a tonewood, Korina is very similar to Mahogany in weight and tone. Of the two varieties, I really like the White Limba. White Limba takes a finish very well and looks fantastic with my “Smokey-Ember” finish. Limba is a bit more responsive with  super sweet mid’s.

So lets take a quick look at the most common tonewoods I use in my shop. I’ll give you a brief description of the weight and a tonal comparisons.

  • Mahogany – Characteristics are a fine open grain and very dense. An average sized guitar body will weigh over 5 lbs so this is not the lightest material out there. But the tonal properties outweigh the cumbersome weight. The Low frequency response is good, with a somewhat compressed midrange and a low mid accentuation, as well as the upper mid’s a mahogany body will produce a guitar that has a “Punchy” tone. Great for Rock, Blues and Alternative.
  • Alder – Average guitar body style weight  is about 4 lbs. Alder tends to have a fairly balanced resonance that trends towards the mid-range. This helps out with the clarity and in providing a good dynamic range. Alder has been a very popular choice over the years for guitars that are generally used to play Blues and Rock. However, being an extremely sonically flexible choice, alder is a good choice for an all-around instrument.
  • Ash – There are two varieties of ash that are common to guitar building. The first is Southern Swamp Ash. Characteristics are light weight and bright tone. Plenty of warmth with loads of dynamics. Average weight of a standard sized body is approximately 5 lbs. The second and less commonly used is the Northern Ash. Often referred to as Baseball Bat Ash, is hard, heavy and dense. This will produce a bright sounding guitar weighing about 5 lbs with plenty of sustain.
  • Basswood – This wood is an extremely light weight material, under 4 lbs for a standard sized body. Basswood however, is somewhat weak as far as support for Tremolo posts or studs. there needs to be design considerations to allow enough material for support in the case of heavy tremolo use. This material is not my favorite but is a popular choice of the overseas mass produced models due to it’s being soft, tools tend to last much longer.
  • Korina or (Limba) – This is one of my favorite tonewoods to use in my custom projects. The tone is similar to that of Mahogany but with a much sweeter midrange response. Limba is not quite as dense as mahogany making it a great choice for an average sized body. Add a maple neck and you have one of our favorite combination here at Casper Guitar Technologies.
  • Poplar – Here is my go to material for the FSC Axes I build. Poplar is a rapid growth wood that is easily sustainable. Tonal response is very close to that of both Alder and Ash. The biggest issue with poplar is the green gray grain and wide patterns. Poplar is not very well suited to be finished with a transparent finish. Opaque finishes should be the choice on a poplar guitar. Once again, combined with a maple neck with any choice of fingerboard will produce a guitar that has a dynamic response and versatile tone characteristics.
  • Walnut – This is a material that is gaining some ground in the guitar industry due to it’s striking figuring. Tonally, walnut ads quite a bit of tonal variety. Providing the warm solid lows of Mahogany, the dynamic mid’s like Alder and the open grain finish options of Ash. A nice choice for a one of a kind custom guitar for an artist that requires a flexible Axe for live performances.

So, as you can see, there are plenty of options when it comes to just the tonewood that a guitar body is made from. I have left out several varieties due to their being the sonic equivalent of placing a wet bag over the guitar. Unfortunately, most of your overseas, mass produced guitars are made from such materials. There are also plenty of sites on the web that give a better description of the woods than I could. So, heads out and do some research. You will most likely be able to make a good decision on the tonewood to be used in your next custom project. And don’t forget. If you have a question for your builder, ask them. The listing here is only intended to be a partial one covering the most common woods I use in my shop and intentionally did not include the really exotic varieties used by some of the Boutique Guitar Builders.

If you have a species that I didn’t list here, let me know. I’ll look into the material and may even build a test body to do some experimenting.

RFID – Myths and Legends DeBunked

•July 26, 2010 • Leave a Comment

Tag or Tracking?

Today on my way into the shop, I was listening to one of my favorite radio broadcast when I was shocked by one reporters total lack of understanding of a small piece of technology that seems to have a lot of people concerned that Big Brother is watching and tracking all of your purchases and in effect, tracking you and your position.

The concern seems to stem from a piece of technology called the RFID Device. By it’s definition: Radio Frequency Identification. These devices in their present state, only rebroadcast when excited by, you guessed it, radio waves. And not just any old radio wave. It must be the correct frequency for the device to activate. Then it only transmits what it has been programed to send like a serial number.

Now, I’m not saying that the conspiracy theory’s have no validity. SciFi has a funny way of making it into our lives on a regular basis. But what I’m saying is that as long as no personal information has been programed into the device, there is no way for a scanner to get your data. Now, there are and will be the criminal element (and the government element as the case may be) so there are ways of crossing over from the store you purchased an item from then matching the serial number for the device or RFID equipped item you purchased to you by the credit card or debt card you used to purchase the item at the point of sale. But that is a security issue for the store to resolve. Someone has to go looking for the info and that implies some wrong doing on the store or company.

An example I like to use is a story of a family in Boston and their family pet, lets call him/her Rover. Now Rover is a good dog and likes to lounge in the back of the house by the old sycamore tree for some shade in the summer. Well, Rover decided one day to chase after the UPS truck as he went by the house. Well, rover got lost and was eventually picked up by Animal Control.

Well, Rover was a Shelter Rescue Animal and was implanted with an RFID microchip. Upon his/her arrival to the Animal Shelter, was scanned by the receiving officer using an RFID Scanner. Bleep, and the owner’s information pops up on the computer screen and Rover is reunited with his/her concerned and elated family.

Rover’s stay with the county was dramatically reduced by the RFID technology lying just below his/her skin. Now this would be a bit extreme for a human I agree.

Now, here is how RFID microchips are being used in the retail and merchandise markets. As a deterrent to theft and as a property recovery tool. These devices are generally deactivated at the checkout or point of sale station where you make your purchase. Some high end devices come with this device installed and allow the consumer to register the device with their theft prevention systems.

This is what I do at Casper Guitar Technologies. I install as an option, a small RFID microchip that I get from www.Snagg.com. They will register the Serial Number from the RFID device and tie it to the guitar. What this does is the same as with the story of Rover. In the event that your prize guitar is stolen, contact Snagg and they will notify the area police department and you have a 35%  better chance of recovering your guitar.

Resistance is Futial-Now, I understand the level of paranoia that is present and I too don’t want the government or any other entity tracking my purchases or my location. And I am not tracking your purchase. These devices are a proven deterrent to a thief and are an invaluable tool for law enforcement in their recovery efforts. I leave this as a standard option for my customers. I believe it to be a benefit. Free theft prevention device and a free insurance policy for the increased odds of getting your prize axe back.

Now for a quick recap.

  • RFID devices require RF to operate.
  • RFID devices only store the info entered. If you enter personal info, they will replay it.
  • RFID Devices have been proven 35% more effective in the recovery of stolen items equipped with the RFID Microchip technology.
  • RFID’s are widely used in the retail market.

This is an emerging technology so the data is still being developed and collected. If you want to find out more about this and other RF technology, try a search on RFID using your favorite search engine and follow up on some of the information you see. You are the ultimate person that has to decide if this technology is a tool or if it is obtrusive.

FSC Certified Lumber – What is it and how does it affect us in the music world-

•July 21, 2010 • Leave a Comment

FSC or the Forest Stewardship Council (hyperlink – http://www.fsc.org) by their own definition is:

FSC is an independent, non-governmental, not-for-profit organization established to promote the responsible management of the world’s forests.

They were established in 1993 prompted by issues dealing with global deforestation. Since its beginnings, the FSC has become widely regarded as one of the most important initiatives of the last almost 2 decades to promote responsible forest management worldwide. They provide internationally recognized standard-setting, trademark assurance and accreditation services to companies, organizations, and communities interested in responsible forestry.

The FSC label provides a credible link between responsible production and consumption of forest products, enabling consumers and businesses to make purchasing decisions that benefit people and the environment as well as providing ongoing business value.

FSC is nationally represented in more than 50 countries around the world.

Now, that being said, our concerns in the guitar or musical instrument building business require a supply of tone woods to build craft our products. Some of these tone woods are alder, ash, mahogany, and rosewood. All materials used to build probably 75% of the solid body electric guitars out there. These are the woods used to build the classic guitars we all crave and the tone produced from those materials were, well, classic.

But some of these beautiful sounding woods are being harvested before they can mature into the choice materials we crave, and then they are either sold on the black market or shipped to crafty importers for the black market elsewhere. The result, shortages in the lumber market of some of the ideal materials necessary for the top end instruments to be built from.

Remember a few months ago a very large, well-known guitar manufacturer was in some trouble with the Feds due to some potentially illegal African Rosewood that was purchased from an expediting firm out of Germany? Well, that was all due to a possible violation of the Lacey Act.

The Lacey Act, as it is described on the Federal Regulation site protects both plants and wildlife by creating civil and criminal penalties for a wide range of violations. Most notably, the Act prohibits trade in wildlife, fish, and plants that have been illegally taken, possessed, transported or sold. This way, the Act underscores other federal, state, and foreign laws protecting wildlife by making it a separate offense to take, possess, transport, or sell wildlife that has been taken in violation of those laws. The Act prohibits the falsification of documents for most shipments of wildlife (a criminal penalty) and prohibits the failure to mark wildlife shipments (a civil penalty). The Departments of the Interior, Commerce, and Agriculture administer the Lacey Act through their respective agencies.

So if you purchase lumber from a poacher, you are in violation of the Lacey Act. If you purchase lumber from any other source, the real origin can’t really be determined unless you can gain access to the Manifest of when the shipment arrived. This will give you some idea thru some digging as to where the lumber originated and as to it’s legality. This is not to say that lumber mills and suppliers purchase illegal wood in shady deals in back alleys and old warehouses. I’m sure that does go on some. $199.00 guitars should tell you that. But by purchasing FSC Certified lumber, you have a document stating the origin as being FSC Compliant. Once again, it boils down to being a responsible business and guitar builder. Whether you’re the builder or the consumer, purchasing FSC Lumber and lumber products, helps supports the self-regulation of the lumber industry and helps to continue to insure that the materials being sold haven’t been pillaged from some poor village somewhere for a bag of peas.

The whole deal with FSC Certified lumber is the ability to self regulate our usage. By purchasing lumber from certified tree farms that regulate their harvest, we are helping to regulate our portion of the system. These tree farms will specifically select trees in their forest, and only cut what has been marked. No clear-cutting of an entire forest. When companies do that, it causes quite a bit of damage to the eco-system and depletes our (luthier’s) supply of choice materials for our creations. But unless you are purchasing trainloads of lumber, you have to go thru a supplier and not the farm. There are many FSC certified Lumber Mills and Suppliers around. Check your phone book or Internet for some close to you. They will provide you with the paperwork associated with your lumber when you purchase it.

Believe it or not, Lowes and Home Depot have a lot of FSC Certified products. Get a can of paint from their paint department and they hand you a paint stirrer right? Check it, I bet they tell you that it is either recycled or made from FSC certified lumber. If you would like more detailed information about FSC Lumber or a certification, please go to http://www.FSC.org and check it out. There is lots of great info to be had.

Something I like to see is that some of the larger companies are beginning to catch on to the idea of building a greener guitar. Most offer a model that can be built using FSC Lumber. But they do come with an additional price tag for their efforts. Ahhh, Competition- Good Luck Fellas