My incredibly weird experience with DTouch from Devil Technologies

My old Mackie MCU controller was starting to fail in my recording studio.  I started looking around for a new way to control my mix and found an Italian company called Devil Technologies.  They make a product called DTouch or D-Touch for Pro Tools, DTouch for Cubase, DTouch for Nuendo, and perhaps some other music software products.  It looked interesting so I downloaded the trial.  Now to use DTouch you must have at least a 27″ touchscreen monitor, but they say you can try the free trial on any monitor.  I discovered that the trial version will work by mouse but is limited to 30 days (on an iLok dongle) and has only 8 working faders.  Seemed to work but I really couldn’t tell because the trial was limited to just my inputs and four effects sends.  All my channels were blacked out as they were faders 9-32.  I also felt that running the trial version on a non-touch monitor gave me no real feel for how it would work on a touch monitor.  I ordered the recommended monitor (an Acer T272HL), and purchased the full version of DTouch for Nuendo.

I set up the system and was disappointed to find that the software wouldn’t work reliably.  It kept crashing and posting warnings about “alignment” issues.  I had a great deal of trouble panning up and down the faders- it would take 4-5 times before the screen would respond.  The alignment of some windows was completely wrong and I couldn’t access my transport window.  The required 1920 x 1080 monitor resolution was almost unacceptable after getting used to my other monitor -a 27″ non-touch 4K version.  The mouse isn’t fully implemented in DTouch and many of the “buttons” are too small to make work without a mouse on the recommended 27″ screen- so I couldn’t work (for example) the record buttons.  I decided to return the whole mess and wrote to DTouch requesting a refund…  This is where things got weird!

DTouch said they would “sadly” refund my money.  Then they berated me for not going through a lengthy email tech support session modifying my setup so that it would be compatible with their software.  Then they said the time spent “fixing” my system to work with their software (keep in mind I have a STOCK Nuendo setup) wasn’t worth their effort so it was best to forget everything.  THEN they said their sales department needed to know why the trial version didn’t make up my mind- could I kindly explain why I bought the paid version after trying the trial version.  I explained that the trial had only 8 working faders and worked with the mouse while the paid version had all the faders but was only partially mouse enabled.  All the while they berated me repeatedly saying everything I did was wrong.  I got tired of this and contacted Paypal- starting a dialog which might actually lead somewhere.  DTouch berated me again for this and offered me only half my money back.  Meanwhile they rescinded my iTouch license for both the trial and paid versions (fine if they REFUND me- not so good if they don’t!).

What follows is the verbatim email volley between DTouch (most likely their owner- Silvano Bettinzana) and me:

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8/29/16

Thank you for requesting a License for Devil Technologies DTouch for Nuendo V1!

Your iLok Activation Code is:
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

To download the application files and the related documentation, please go to http://www.deviltechnologies.com/index.php/software.
Please choose the most updated version of DTouch for Nuendo V1.
Use your deviltechnologies.com username and password to access these pages.

Please read carefully the “Getting Started” chapter of the User Guide.

In order to download your iLok License to your iLok Dongle, please follow these steps:

  1. Please download and install the new iLok License Manager from https://www.ilok.com/#!license-manager
  2. Launch the iLok License Manager and sign in to your account
  3. Click the button in the upper right corner of the window labeled “Redeem An Activation Code”
  4. Enter your Activation Code and click “Next”
  5. Select your iLok Dongle from the “Activation Location” dialog and click “Activate”
  6. You’ll receive a confirmation when the license is moved to your iLok Dongle.

For customer support please go to http://www.deviltechnologies.com/index.php/support.

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8/30/16

FromDan Harris

ToDevil Technologies Customer Support Team

image1.JPG 115.76 KB, image2.JPG 132.37 KB, image3.JPG 156.59 KB, image4.JPG 107

 

Unfortunately- it is unusable.

1) I can’t change the tempo because F2 won’t bring up the transport panel.

2) if I alt-tab out of Nuendo, or pick “window button/D” to get to desktop. D-Touch crashes

3) unstable- crashes or lockups three times since last night.

4) Channel editor window is too big and overlaps the upper scroll window or blocks the pan windows (see pic)

5) when pgm opens channel editor sits in wrong place on screen and won’t move until you uncheck “stay on top” (see pic)

6) when using two monitors- one for DTouch and one for editing, DTouch won’t remember the settings and always uses only the touch panel.

7) Can’t align and repeatedly dumps the program with warning not to move the mouse (see pic).

8) not your fault, but I find the touch panel cumbersome.  More often than not the alignment is wrong.  When I try to scroll across faders it almost never works first try.  The alignment on my 4K monitor is now also wrong so that menu tabs don’t open properly.

9) your evaluation version doesn’t give an accurate reading on the program because without a touch panel you can’t tell how bad it is.  But the biggest problem with the evaluation is that you only allow 8 active faders.  That only covers my input channels so I can’t try moving my audio or instrument faders.

I’m going to return the touch monitor and I would greatly appreciate a refund on your program.  You can take back your iLok key if that’s possible.  I’m uninstalling the program.

I’ve made a video which I can post to YouTube if you would like to see…  It shows me trying unsuccessfully to run the program 4 times.  Let me know and I’ll post it.

Thanks,

Dan Harris

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8/30/16

Hello Dan,

we think that you haven’t correctly setup something or that you are using some shortcuts which cannot be used in DTouch combined with Nuendo (for Example “F3” to switch from Mix to Edit and back).
All this issues could be fixed with a proper setting and a correct understanding of the “new” workflow. It is clear that a user MUST have the desire to understand this and accept a slight change in his workflow. From your E-Mail it seems that you don’t want to accept this … OK, we understand!
So, if you want to give it another chance, we can help you. Otherwise, if you want to give up, we can “sadly” (yes … the refund is a cost for us which could be avoided with a proper use of the trial version) refund you.

Best regards.

Devil Technologies Customer Support Team

support@deviltechnologies.com

www.deviltechnologies.com

forum.deviltechnologies.com

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8/30/16

Re: impressions of DTouch Nuendo -photos enclosed

Yesterday at 10:26 AM

FromDan Harris

Thanks for the quick reply.  I’ve already packed the touch monitor.  My last attempt to run the program (4 tries, 4 “alignment” errors) was enough for me.  FYI- I have a completely stock version of Nuendo and I tried both empty and previous songs.

I appreciate your kind reply but would appreciate a refund.

Please keep me in mind for your hardware interface.  It looks promising.  The smallest version- I use primarily the transport- would be of interest.  Is this working?  What is the cost?

Thanks-

Dan

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8/30/16

Re: impressions of DTouch Nuendo -photos enclosed

Yesterday at 11:17 AM

FromDevil Technologies Customer Support Team

Hello Dan,

please, sync your iLok dongle.
BTW: DTouch for Cubendo is not buggy; as said previously, you are doing something wrong. But, in these cases the support costs could be higher than the profits coming from the sale, so it is better to close everything at his point.

Best regards.

Devil Technologies Customer Support Team

support@deviltechnologies.com

www.deviltechnologies.com

forum.deviltechnologies.com

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8/30/16

Re: impressions of DTouch Nuendo -photos enclosed

Yesterday at 12:24 PM

FromDan Harris

I’ll sync tonight when I get back to my home studio.

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8/30/16

Re: impressions of DTouch Nuendo -photos enclosed

Yesterday at 1:02 PM

FromDevil Technologies Customer Support Team

 

OK, perfect.

Please, can you explain why you weren’t able to discover all the previously described problems with the trial license? We must report this to our Sales Dept to proceed with a refund.

Best regards.

Devil Technologies Customer Support Team

support@deviltechnologies.com

www.deviltechnologies.com

forum.deviltechnologies.com

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8/30/16

Re: impressions of DTouch Nuendo -photos enclosed

Yesterday at 2:58 PM

FromDan Harris

Two huge differences between the trial and actual programs-

1) I had only my 27″ 4K monitor when using the trial.  It opened without issue.  No mention of “alignment failure”.  The trial  responded to mouse clicks, while once I bought the touch panel and program, mouse clicks no longer worked for many buttons (like “record” for example).  The record button is too small with large meters to hit with my finger.  And for some reason I can’t hit it with the mouse.  Sliding up and down the mixer worked on the trial, again with the mouse on my 4K monitor.  With my finger it is tough.  Yes you have “bank” buttons, but a bigger slider on the bottom and a slider at the top that works reliably would help.  Once I got the touchscreen it would take 4-5 tries to slide up and down the banks of faders, and the bottom slider was useless because I’d miss the slider and jump out of Nuendo.  This was not a problem with the trial because I had no touchscreen.

2) The trial, because it only has 8 working faders, was essentially useless to me.  My main template has 4 inputs followed by 4 effects.  I couldn’t control any of my audio or instruments with the trial- those faders were all black.

Since the trial loaded and seemed to work on my non-touch monitor, I ordered a touch monitor and deleted your trial version after using it for only a few minutes.  I think that making only 8 faders work in the trial is a bad idea.  Also running on a non touch monitor is completely different from running with two monitors, one 4K and one 1080p touch.  I wrote to you asking if it would work with two monitors, one 4K and one touch that you suggest, and you said yes it would work fine.  But for me I had way too much trouble making it work.

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8/30/16

Re: impressions of DTouch Nuendo -photos enclosed

Yesterday at 3:30 PM

FromDan Harris

Comment follows (in blue)-

On Aug 30, 2016, at 11:17 AM, Devil Technologies Customer Support Team <support@deviltechnologies.com> wrote:
Hello Dan,

please, sync your iLok dongle.
BTW: DTouch for Cubendo is not buggy; as said previously, you are doing something wrong. But, in these cases the support costs could be higher than the profits coming from the sale, so it is better to close everything at his point.

Best regards.

I understand that you take justifiable pride in your work, and to you, your product is without flaw.  But I too have spent time in research.  I bought and must now return a touch monitor, paying shipping and restocking fees.  I’ve spent considerable time reporting to you the issues I’ve had running D’Touch.  I bought appropriate cables and ran them to my computer room fully expecting your product to work as advertised.  Is it really my responsibility to make your software work on my computer?  Or is that responsibility shared by both of us- you trying your product across a wide range of systems and me making sure I read the documentation and install the product correctly?

Telling me I’m doing something wrong when your software doesn’t work might be understandable if I tried to run it on a Mac.  But when I’ve done everything in my power to make it work and it continually tells me the alignment failed and dumps, or locks up Nuendo, is this really the fault of your customer alone?

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8/30/16

Re: impressions of DTouch Nuendo -photos enclosed

Yesterday at 7:29 PM

FromDevil Technologies Customer Support Team

Dear Daniel,

read inline in red.

Regards.

Devil Technologies Customer Support Team

support@deviltechnologies.com

www.deviltechnologies.com

forum.deviltechnologies.com

 

Il 30/08/2016 20:58, Daniel Harris ha scritto:

Two huge differences between the trial and actual programs-

1) I had only my 27″ 4K monitor when using the trial.  It opened without issue.  No mention of “alignment failure”.
If it was set at 4K resolution, we are very surprised to hear that it worked correctly, but … this is a good news.

The trial  responded to mouse clicks, while once I bought the touch panel and program, mouse clicks no longer worked for many buttons (like “record” for example).
Yes, this is as expected. At the moment we don’t have the dual (touch+mouse) operating mode on all the DTouch mixer overlay.

The record button is too small with large meters to hit with my finger.
You have a big finger, certainly the biggest of all our users base.

And for some reason I can’t hit it with the mouse.  Sliding up and down the mixer worked on the trial, again with the mouse on my 4K monitor.  With my finger it is tough.  Yes you have “bank” buttons, but a bigger slider on the bottom and a slider at the top that works reliably would help.  Once I got the touchscreen it would take 4-5 tries to slide up and down the banks of faders, and the bottom slider was useless because I’d miss the slider and jump out of Nuendo.  This was not a problem with the trial because I had no touchscreen.

Yes, in fact 100% of our users comfortably use a sliding gesture on the Channel overview at the top of the mixer. It is also shown in a video linked on our web-site.

2) The trial, because it only has 8 working faders, was essentially useless to me.  My main template has 4 inputs followed by 4 effects.  I couldn’t control any of my audio or instruments with the trial- those faders were all black.

The only difference between the “black” and regular faders is that they doesn’t send a value to Cubase; everything else works fine in the trial too. A trial is not done to work with. Today this is a matter of piracy protection … we are sorry!

Since the trial loaded and seemed to work on my non-touch monitor, I ordered a touch monitor and deleted your trial version after using it for only a few minutes.

This wasn’t a smart move. Why not test your touchscreen setup with the trial? We haven’t understood it yet!

I think that making only 8 faders work in the trial is a bad idea.

No, this is a GOOD idea, trust us. And, bless the trial.

Also running on a non touch monitor is completely different from running with two monitors, one 4K and one 1080p touch.  I wrote to you asking if it would work with two monitors, one 4K and one touch that you suggest, and you said yes it would work fine.

Yes, it works fine. Not only … you could also run >10 regular monitors + >10 touchmonitors!
But for me I had way too much trouble making it work.

Yes, “for you”.

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8/30/16

Re: impressions of DTouch Nuendo -photos enclosed

Yesterday at 7:42 PM

FromDevil Technologies Customer Support Team

You wanted to return the monitor. We think that this was your main goal.
We bet that you have made some mistakes: usually the users uses the visibility zones (prohibited), set a not-100% scaling factor in Windows, incorrectly setup the screens … all things which are documented in the User Guide.
80% of what you described in your first E-Mail is technically a non-sense, denoting that you haven’t understood how to use this application, but this is not so bad.
In 90% of the cases we fix the incorrect setup with 4-5 E-Mails after the receive of some good screenshot (not taken with a phone camera) and in the remaining 10% cases we do a 1/2 hour Teamviewer session and we adjust everything.
You haven’t asked for any help … you packed your touchmonitor and asked for a refund in a rude E-Mail.
For example we have seen that you have setup your two monitor with an odd horizontal dead-gap. Why? Has this a sense???

Our SW works perfectly in a correctly setup environment. Everything is documented. Unfortunately, you haven’t asked for our help. You will have no benefit from this little jewel like all our other DTouch for Cubase/Nuendo users. And … honestly, this is your fault … you only needed to write “Guys, can you help me?” in an E-Mail.

Regards.

Devil Technologies Customer Support Team

support@deviltechnologies.com

www.deviltechnologies.com

forum.deviltechnologies.com

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8/30/16

Re: impressions of DTouch Nuendo -photos enclosed

Yesterday at 8:49 PM

FromDan Harris

Well we all have opinions…

I have honestly told you my experiences with your software.

I ran my 4K monitor at 1920×1080 when using the trial.

I don’t have visibility zones set

I set my scaling factor to 100%

I watched the Michael Naz video several times before deciding on buying your software.  He is using a 46″ monitor, so I expect his experience is quite a bit different from mine on a 27″ monitor.  My fingers are no larger nor smaller than most.

I really hoped I’d like this setup because it is reasonably priced, and the Naz video shows it can work.

I believe I’ve been honest and polite with you.

Your product didn’t work for me and I’ve uninstalled it and would like a refund.  Am I being unreasonable in this request?

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8/31/16

Re: impressions of DTouch Nuendo -photos enclosed

Today at 8:57 AM

FromDevil Technologies Customer Support Team

Dear Daniel,
you are wrong on everything in this discussion.
We can repeat ad nauseam that all your problems could have been discovered with the trial license and you are the only one responsible for the not-working DTouch. Even more you are the only one responsible for the purchase of a product that now you consider not good for you.

Anyway, you recent move on PayPal is even less smart than all your previous ones. At this point it is even more difficult to help you. You would do better to be nicer with your communications …

Regards.

Devil Technologies Customer Support Team

support@deviltechnologies.com

www.deviltechnologies.com

forum.deviltechnologies.com

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So today I will request that Paypal make a determination on my refund.

 

New(ish) Amp Designs-

I’ve never much cared for the look of your average guitar amp.  I realize that a Tolex covered wooden box with grill cloth serves a purpose: it allows the amp to be carried around from gig to gig without damage to the sensitive electronics.  But what if you have no intention of moving the amp anywhere?  What if you intend to let it sit in one place in your living room or recording space?  If it doesn’t need to be moved, why make it look unattractive?

My amps are Living Room amps.  They are designed to be put in one place and will hopefully appeal to the eye like furniture or a piece of sculpture.  I made two amps in 2014, which will serve as a prototypes for more amps to come.  One amp follows a design similar to artists from the De Stijl movement of the early 20th century.  Gerrit Rietveld was famous in part for his Rietveld chair.  Piet Mondrian painted brightly colored rectangles, often bordered in black.  I borrowed from these two artists to create my Mondrian amp.

The other amp is inspired by hot rods (and possibly robots) from the late 40’s and 50’s.  It uses curving lines of steel and has few 90 degree angles.  I powder coated the metal in candy apple red.

 

Bookmatched Redwood

Possibly my most upscale guitar to date, #8 has a beautiful redwood top with mahogany back and neck, and ebony fretboard.  I spent a great deal of time working on the inlays, using abalone and mother of pearl.  The redwood for the top was cut some 80 years ago and shows amazing figure.  I used standard plastic bobbins but wound the pickups as usual on a sewing machine.  The pickups are switchable series/parallel using switches in the pots.  Home made knobs and switch tip from ebony.  I even turned the ebony guitar strap buttons on my mini lathe.  I named the guitar “Bohemia” for the European Bohemian movement of the 1800’s, oh, and also for Natty Boh beer!

 

 

Time Flies

…and here it is two years later and I’m still making guitars!

Here are some pics of my latest, the Sparkle Guitar.  I wanted to make a lighter guitar so I used Jelutong for the hollowed-out body with a stripe of figured redwood down the middle.  The top is maple with 20-30 coats of nitrocellulose lacquer over red metalflake.  I made the humbucker pickups on homemade wood bobbins, and installed series/parallel switching.  This one has a 26″ scale neck and I think it sounds just great de-tuned a whole step.  It sounds so good that I think I’ll concentrate on making more 26″ scale D tuned guitars for awhile.  The end result is 6lbs, 4 ozs, lighter than my Strat by a few ounces.

My old homemade studio amp, reamp

I made this amp in 2000-  It has a rectifier tube, an EF86 preamp tube, and an EL84 output tube.  It probably puts out about 4 watts.  It has a simple tone control, which can be bypassed.  It has a cathode bypass cap, which can also be switched out of the circuit.  Volume, power and standby round out the controls.  I used two Weber 10″ alnico speakers in the cabinet- one is open back, one closed back.  I can pick either or both speakers, and can pick series or parallel connections when using both speakers.  It is very versatile for such a small simple amp- I use it all the time!

 

Homemade reamp

homemade reamp

homemade reamp

This box  allows me to send pre-recorded tracks out to a guitar amp for processing.  I find it great for making a synth or keyboard sample sound more “lively”.  Fully passive, it has a Jensen transformer, ground lift.  I used some nice hardwoods, mortise and tenon joinery, and roofing copper.

Finished photos

…and it is alive.

I had a ton of trouble getting the pickups to work well!  I really didn’t want to drill holes in the beautiful thuya burl pickup covers, but no matter what I tried I couldn’t get the pickups to sound good without getting the strings closer to the magnetic field.  I finally ended up drilling holes for 12 alnico magnets in each pickup.  I made bobbins from maple and used alnico 2 magnets in the bridge and alnico 5’s at the neck.  The neck pickup has 2x 5000 windings and the bridge has 2x 5500.

Strangely, even though I have 10,000+ winds on each pickup, I’m getting a sound very much like a Strat from these pickups.

2013-11-23 13.09.10

one of four maple bobbins…

I tried many different styles of pickup- blades, stacked-

-many attempts

-many attempts

I also spent a lot of time making knobs for this guitar.  I had a couple of ideas in mind, but once I tried them I was disappointed by the look:

2013-12-07 10.10.52

lots of failed knobs to go with the failed pickups.

Applying the finish

I decided to commemorate the Halloween season with a bat inlay on the headstock and an orange top-

 

Sanding and Shaping

I wanted this to be a really smooth guitar, with lines flowing naturally from one to the next.  I spent a lot of time sanding and went back over the course of a week or two refining the curves.  For the first time I used my drill press like an arbor press to insert the frets, and did all the frets with the fretboard off the neck.  I also decided to bind the neck with ebony so it isn’t readily apparent the neck is bound unless you look closely.

developing theme

I started thinking about Fall and Fall colors, Halloween coming in a few weeks…  The brown in the ebony fretboard led me to choose Thuya burl for the headstock inlay.  I put in an ebony inlay for the first time, around the perimeter of the headstock.  I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t be able to bend the inlay around the curves!  I ended up hand cutting the curves at the base of the headstock from leftover fretboard wood, using an inlay saw.  I cut the slots for the tuners using my little Harbor Freight mini mill.  That mini mill comes in handy for so many things.

more progress…

I chose to use the ebony fretboard with the swoop of brown coloring.  I discovered that it had a natural dot and I oriented it so that this dot was at the 12th fret- a natural octave marker!  I cut the space out for the neck in the body.  This has an extra long tenon which terminates at the bridge pickup cavity.  I really didn’t want to put in a neck reinforcing rod, but decided at the last minute to do so.  I think the 5 piece neck with the thick ebony fretboard would’ve been OK, but I chickened out.  

I discovered “Thuya Burl” at my local exotic lumber supply and chose to use it as the headstock inlay.

Shaping and refining

Once I had my basic shape I cut out the top and bottom of the body and then started shaping the neck.  I discovered that I had to be careful because the mahogany is much softer than the maple or ebony- it is easy to trim more mahogany than ebony, leading to flat spots on the neck.

Working up body design…

I was originally planning to make another LP style guitar, but chose instead to make an original body design based in part on guitars by Michael Spalt and Steve Klein.  I drew a sketch freehand on a piece of tracing paper and put another piece of tracing paper atop the first, modifying my sketch until I had something I liked.

Long Hiatus, but back at work- starting #5

I came to the realization last January that I was spending too much time making guitars!  I still have to work for a living, but I’ve got a little time free between jobs so I’ve recently started build number 5.

It was a revelation putting together the Koa guitar- the action, neck feel, and overall appearance turned out great.  The pickups, although they hum like most P-90’s, just sound fantastic and I really liked how the Bocote neck, pickups, and knobs worked together.  I’ve decided to make another single-cut glue-in guitar, making use of some of the wonderful woods I have kicking around.

YouTube videos on Koa guitar now posted!

Here are some new videos, showing the Koa guitar off and comparing it to some real classics from Fender and Gibson.  I’ve also posted comparisons in sound between Vox and Fender amps and running direct from pickup to hard drive…

Favorite and least favorite spray guns and PPS

Making guitars is one thing.  Finishing them is something else altogether!  As a kid I always wondered how guitar manufacturers managed to get such deep glossy finishes on their guitars.  Once I started building them I learned that the “coolest” finish for guitars is nitrocellulose lacquer.  This is what Gibson and Fender used in the 50’s, and while the formulas are no longer the same (the old stuff was very bad for people and the environment), one can still get a finish that’s close to the classics.  On recommendation from various web sites, I started using Sherwin Williams LOVOC- a lacquer that looks and feels like the old stuff but also has fewer dangerous volatile organic compounds.  It also dries faster than other finishes I’ve tried, like Behlins which took forever, I mean, literally a month or more, to dry.  I found a spray gun (you need a compressor for these- the bigger the better) that works great and also happens to be the cheapest spray gun I’ve ever bought.  It is a Tool Force touch up spray gun model A-C2.  I think I paid about $18 for it on Amazon.  I combined it with the “3M PPS system” -which allows you to work with these finishes using disposable spray cups, less clean-up and less exposure to the nasty chemicals.  This makes a big difference in the enjoyment of finishing a guitar.  The gun has a lot of adjustments, allowing you to get a very fine mist, great for sunburst finishes.

The $17 Tool Force is, in  my experience, fantastic for guitars.  The $120 Leonardo ATD-16913 is essentially useless.

The $17 Tool Force is, in my experience, fantastic for guitars. The $120 Leonardo ATD-16913 is essentially useless.

these disposable cups work great and offer less exposure to harmful chemicals

these disposable cups work great and offer less exposure to harmful chemicals

 

In contrast- the Leonardo ATD-16913 has been completely useless to me, except it introduced me to the PPS system mentioned above because it includes the PPS cup and adapter in the package.  This gun, no matter how I adjust it, doesn’t properly atomize the lacquer.  I get big messy drops on my guitars.  I sent email to the US distributor asking for help but no one responded.  It is possible my compressor just can’t get enough CFM to properly work the gun, but I’ll never know because it is impossible to talk to anyone and they don’t answer their email requests.  In short:

Tool Force A-C2 Touch Up Spray Gun  highly recommended

3M- PPS system and adapters for different spray guns highly recommended (by the way the PPS adapter for the Tool Force gun is the 3M 16105 PPS Adapter #21)

Leonardo ATD-16913 NOT recommended

Almost Done! The Koa guitar- Number 4

Surprising that it has been just over a month since my last post!  I ran into several problems applying the finish to the Koa guitar…  I burned through the horn while buffing, and ended up refinishing the whole guitar.  I finally completed that, had the guitar sitting on a sofa in the living room and somehow Petey, my six year old, put a gouge on top of the guitar.  So I had to sand it out and refinish it once again.  Each finish takes a couple of weeks before it can be buffed.

I made the pickups from the same wood as the fretboard- bocote wood.  I then decided that I should make the knobs to match, so I turned them on a lathe and spent countless hours making them identical to each other (to within four thousands of an inch, anyway).  I spent even more time putting the thick glossy coat on these knobs.  I decided to apply Super Glue to them for durability and had real problems getting the finish to match exactly from knob to knob.  I set metal sleeves inside the knobs, perfectly centered, so the knobs don’t rock on the potentiometer shafts as they turn.

2nd coat of clear

Here are some pics taken moments ago…  Might be the last work I can do before Hurricane Sandy comes our way.  The sun popped out and I thought I’d take a couple photos of the work in progress.  This will need more sanding, another coat, more sanding, and at least one more coat before I can start buffing it out.  I decided to do a “faded” sunburst finish on the front because it just looked so cool on the Koa.  I also did just one coat of tinted lacquer over the binding so it wouldn’t stand out so starkly against the wood. I finished the 2nd pickup so now once I finish the headstock inlay and lacquer I’ll be ready to put it all together.

One-piece pickup bobbin construction

I’ve finished one pickup, still have another to finish but it is close.  I came up with one of those eureka moments very early this morning.  I came up with a plan to make a pickup bobbin out of a single piece of wood (in this case I chose Ipe for its strength and stability).  I clamped a piece of mahogany scrap to my table saw for use as a jig, and after carefully dimensioning the stock, I was able to make fairly precise slots.  Cutting to size and more slotting followed, and after sanding and drilling I was ready to wind!

Covers Complete, now I have to fill them!

Here are some shots of the completed pickup covers.  Fortunately I had no real problems finishing the second one…  Well, I did forget to count turns as I was milling out the 2nd pickup cover, almost broke through the end.  I must have been in some sort of meditative state, counting “40, 41, 42, 43…” when I should have stopped at 42!  I use an old Harbor Freight manual mini mill to create the cavities in these covers.  It comes in handy but it has a lot of slop in the gears and really isn’t good for precise work.

Coolest pickup cover evah?

I told my client I had some ideas for cool details on this guitar…  Here’s one:

Wood pickup covers.  I’m hoping I’ll be able to make another one of these!  This one turned out great.  I made it out of bocote so it will match the fretboard.  I’m a little worried that it might be too delicate, especially on the endgrain, but I’ll learn this as it suffers the rigors of assembly.  This one is only sanded and buffed- no lacquer yet.

Working Weekend

It is coming together, finally, and not without a battle.  Gluing the top and back is always a challenge with hot hide glue.  This was no exception.  The glue cooled too fast and when I released the clamps one edge didn’t hold, leaving a nasty quarter inch gap.  Of course the good thing about hide glue is that it is reversible.  I heated the joint with a heat gun, applied a little hot water, and inserted some fresh hide glue, re-clamping the whole thing for another couple of hours.  That did the trick and it looks good now.  There was a lot of detail work before gluing- drilling holes for the controls, routing recesses to accommodate the mounting threads.  Cutting the control access hole, making the control plate, making sure everything would fit together once glued.  I’ve put an initial coat of tung oil on it, and the grain looks good.  Trying to decide whether to stick with tung oil or to go with the hard nitrocellulose finish I’ve grown to love.  Regardless I’ll have to let it dry for a while before I do anything else.

Frets and Alignment

Today I tweaked, sanded a little and put in the frets.  I gave it a quick alignment check, held my breath and drilled the holes for the bridge.  Now I could put up a couple of strings and make sure everything lines up pretty well before I glue anything down.  Looks good, and this is the best fret job I’ve ever done.  I haven’t set the height of ANY frets yet but at least so far, they look level and straight.  Of course that’ll probably change once the string tension comes into play!

small step for Dan, giant leap for Dankind

Here’s one area I always avoid for as long as possible.  But at 7AM I mustered the courage and started measuring for the headstock slots.  The Waverly tuners showed up yesterday, and I couldn’t put it off any longer.

It worked!  Still have to sand, polish, insert screws, etc., but nothing broke and it looks pretty good.