Husband, father, geek.

by Chris Pearson

MCM Comic Con Birmingham Promo

I don’t normally post about my troops but this weekend was MCM Comic Con Birmingham. During our first patrol we were out near the entrance by the escalators from the trains. An MCM employee asked me to pose for a short video, and after a quick practice he took the shot and moved on.

When the end of day video was posted I figured I’d missed the cut.

However today they posted the end of con video and about halfway on is a very familiar trooper.

Handplane Restoration

One of the tools commonly used for wood working is the handplane. These come in a variety of sizes from only a few inches long to 60cm monsters weighing several kilos. Their purpose is to level and straighten wood and prepare it for jointing. It’s generally thought that some of the best are actually old vintage models made by Stanley or Bailey. These are readily available used and usually have plenty of life left in them. Once you clean them up that is.

My dads old type 19 handplane in the garage where it's been for 30 odd years.

This was my Dads plane. It’s a Stanley number 4, which is a middle size and a very handy one to have. It also had seen better days. The rear handle (called the tote) was broken, the metal work was all very rusted and the finish on the handles was flaking badly. It was time to restore it for use in some projects I have in mind for the future.

My dads old type 19 handplane in the garage where it's been for 30 odd years.

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Diy Katana 50 4 Channel Footswitch

A few months ago I was fortunate enough to win a Boss Katana 50 amplifier. One of the features of the amplifer is channel presets which can be switched via a footswitch. The default option for this is a 2 button item, one switching channels the other swapping banks. This means sometimes to change to a given channel you will need to push 2 buttons to swap both bank and channel.

For the 100W versions a 4 button footswitch is available allowing direct access to 4 channels on each bank, this is my DIY attempt to build my own 4 button switcher for the Katana 50.

My idea was to use an Arduino to read the inputs of 4 momentary switches, and then use this to set the appropriate connections for the channel switching and also an LED to show which channel is selected.

An initial design was prototyped on a breadboard. I didn’t have enough switches at this point so wires were simply shorted together to act as switches. This needed some tweaking but after a while I had a working design. The Arduino firmware was also written at this point.

Breadboard prototype

Once I had a working design I used a free application called KiCad to first create a schematic, and then a PCB design. This took a few attempts but the docs where pretty good and after following a few tutorials I was able to pick up enough to bumble my way through. I really enjoyed this stage and I hope to be able to use these skills again and build upon them in the future.

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Fixing Schaller S-locks biggest issue

I’ve used Schaller strap locks on a number of guitars and basses now. With the S-lock updates almost all my past issues were fixed, but one still remains: a 10mm thread doesn’t really fit in a 6-7mm strap hole. A bit of a shove gets it to fit, then cranking down on the nut works but the strap always ended up warped with the slot splayed open.

Rather than just put up with this I decided to do something about it and ordered a 10mm leather punch.

Prepping the strap to punch a new hole

The idea was to enlarge the strap hole so the lock fits neatly removing the need to force the leather. This should make it look nicer and also stop the small splits you normally get.

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Meeting your villians

On Friday we went to London Film and Comic Con to meet a few actors and add to our collection signatures.

Number one on my list was Lucius Malfoy aka Jason Issacs. After a bit, okay lot, of queuing we got to have a nice little chat with Jason who signed a Lucius Mask for me and also told me a brief story about the mask.

Lucius Malfoy mask signed by Jason Issacs

I’ve spent a lot of time on these masks: but there was no mask on set. For the 11 seconds the mask was on screen it was all CG! Jason was directed to just wave the mask away and “there will be a mask there or something” “they’ll make it work”. Which to be fair, they did and it was good enough to capture my imagination.

There are some beautiful hand made pewter Deatheater masks in the studio tour, which is what this one is trying to replicate. All I can assume is they were made and just not used on set, maybe used to help with the CG.

I’ve been meaning to write a post on how I made these masks. It’s rather involved so I keep putting it off, but I will do it soon.


The other week we went down to visit my Dad for lunch as we often do. After lunch, we decided to pop over to Andertons Music Co for a look for something for Middlest™ to earn as a reward over the next few weeks/months.

She’s been showing interest in guitar so we picked out a few Squiers and Epiphones for her to look at. She liked a pink Squier 3/4 Strat but ultimately picked a turquoise Epiphone Les Paul SL.

I was about to put the guitar back on the rack and give her the whole speil about she could have one once she’d earned it when “I can play a D chord”….

Sure enough she did, which was rather surprising as I didn’t teach her and I wasn’t sure what was going on. Turned out she’s been using her sisters guitar and watching JustinGuitar.

I submit the following as evidence of the D chord.

Middlest playing a D chord in Andertons

The guitar came home with us that day. The story doesn’t end there though.

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RIP T-Bone

Recently whilst tidying up I found a 2 things I though I’d either lost when moving or binned by accident. My 2 Danelectro pedals I bought when I was still at school (and played a Squier P-Bass1). I had a T-Bone distortion and a Surf & Turf compressor.

Danelectro Pedals

Sadly I had left a battery, a danelectro 9v, in the T-Bone. There was no signs of any leaking so I was happy all was well and plugged in.

  1. Sadly I had to sell both this Squier and my much prized Fender P-Bass a few years ago. Maybe one day I’ll buy a new P-Bass. 

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PRS SE Locking Tuners Upgrade

One of the worst things about playing guitar is changing the strings. Specifically spending what feels like a million years winding the strings off of and on to the post. Even with a winder it’s still a chore meaning I don’t change them as often as I should.

The solution: Locking tuners.

Gotoh locking tuners

These allow you to feed the string through, a mechanism locks the string in place 1 and then you just tune to pitch in less than a single turn of the post.

After a lot of careful checking I chose a set of Gotoh SG381 Chrome Magnum Lock tuners from WD Music. These looks near identical to the factory tuner with the same shape and size key, and they should fit the factory holes for the original tuners. Chrome was chosen to match the factory fitted items. Whilst the PRS Specs say nickel hardware it was clearly chrome but with nickel screws, you can see the screws are more yellow when you look closely. Though check your own guitar first, don’t just take my word for it.

  1. Different tuners do this in different ways. Some use an internal mechanism, others a simple thumb screw on the top or bottom of the tuner. 

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DIY Tonebender Fuzz

Late last year I started re-learning the guitar. I’ve been learning using online lessons by Justin Guitar. I’ve been slowly upgrading my equipment, buying a small practice amp and a nice PRS SE Standard 24 as rewards for my progress. But the time came to start playing with effects pedals!

Being the sort of person who I am I decided to build a DIY one. After a period of research online I decided to build a basic Fuzz, but using NPN transistors rather than the more traditional PNP transistors to allow me to use a mains adapter. This turned out to be a smart move.

DIY Tonebender Mk2

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MP38A Germanium NPN Transistor Pin Out

I’ve recently been working on a DIY guitar effects pedal. A lot of these use old vintage parts long since replaced as they are designs from the 60s. This means finding suitable bits on eBay.

Most of the old British/American parts are highly desirable, hard to find and so expensive. What are still pretty easy to get hold of cheaply are old soviet parts. You can usually get 10 or more units for 1 of the old british parts.

MP38A transistor

The part in question today is the Russian MP38A NPN Germanium Transistor. Ignoring the issue of reliablity and gain matching for a moment 1, just figuring out the pin outs are an issue when the datasheet is in Russian!

  1. As the British parts are rarer, and more valuable they tend to come tested and known working. For the old soviet parts you just buy a bag of 5/10/50 and you get what you get and have to test and rate them your self. 

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