Posted on 7th Jan 2016
Here at Eastwood, we love to hear stories from our customers about their guitars. Whether it's a simple "thank you", a suggestion for a new model, or ideas for modifications to an existing one, we value all feedback and greatly appreciate the time many of you take to let us know your thoughts.
Back in November we started to receive a string of e-mails from a customer named Paul Ewing who wanted to transform an Airline H44 into something of his dreams. Piece by piece he kept us up to date on his project, and each e-mail was a delight to read through to see where he was taking things.
With Paul's permission, we are posting the final e-mail to his story here for you to read. We hope you enjoy it as much as we have, and perhaps give you an idea for a project of your own!
"So here is my great master work....the transformation of an ... Airline H44 DLX ...into a ... Limited Edition Airline H44 Shredder.
The bridge PU was replaced with a Seymour Duncan 'Pearly Gates' virtually a 1959 Gibson Les Paul Humbucking PU wound on the original string winder.
The Gibson humbucking PU was unique in many ways. No two pickups were identical as the string winder did not count the number of turns but worked on a mechanical clock which was too inaccurate to create a specific number of turns. Pickups were often over-wound by a variable amount of turns.
But even those that were close to spec would give the PU its famous 'quack' which is momentary amount of distortion when the string was plucked with a heavy attack. If the attack is backed off the pickup responses with a rich even sound. The 'Pearly Gates' is 'hot' or over-wound significantly more t
The bridge pickup was changed to a Gold Foil...... the original 50's pickup was a Dearmond Hershey Bar a cross between a Gibson Soapbar and a Fender Tele PU. The Hershey Bar PU is unavailable new as a repro. The H44 and H88 Stratotones were replaced with the H49 Jupiter Stratotone in 1958 which came with the first Gold Foils. I thought it a reasonable alternative.
A traditional single coil has the magnets mounted vertically, this picks up a narrow and focused part of the string and can produce high outputs. In the Gold Foil the magnet lies horizontally and picks up a broad area of the string. The sound has a very even spectrum of frequencies from the lows to the highs. It has a full rich clean sound. If used to overdrive, the distortion is thin but razor sharp. If it is pushed into heavy overdrive it tends to sound unpleasant and nasty. The Gold foil is very quiet. It is even quieter than a Humbucker.
The rosewood bridge had to go. Metal adjustable bridges give much better intonation they tend to increase the highs and give you more sustain. I choose a 1964 Fender Mustang bridge. First because it is the only adjustable bridge that sits low enough. Even at that it will not go lower than the rosewood bridge. The second reason I choose it is because all of the Fender bridges since 1949 are a piece of metal plate...holes punched out for the strings, saddles and screws and then stamped into shape. So to my mind the design is locked into a 50's ideal and does not look out of place. It leaves the ascetics intact.
Both the original H44 single pickup and the H88 double pickup started life with dual concentric pots. Later changing to a simple single volume and tone control with 2 cupcake knobs labeled tone and volume, The stacked pots had a thin brown knob on the base with a cream coloured 'cupcake' knob on top. The pickup switch tip had a Top Hat the same as the 50's Tele, so I swapped out the knobs for the cupcakes and put on the Top Hat. (I look very dapper wearing my top hat.)
I'm in an original material Indie Alternative band...and although we are certainly within the confines of the style, like many I use distortion as well as my Martin. In fact I have a Silvertone and a Custom Shop Strat too... The thing I noticed is whenever there is an Indie band with a guitar player with a few chops he has a LP. Many of these bands have a second guitarist with a Dano or Gretsch or vintage 50's guitar like a Kay, Supro or a Harmony...even a Eastwood Airline.
The thing I wanted to do was get a substitute guitar so I could stop using my Gibson Les Paul 59 Special reissue all the time...for I do push it out on a solo. So I very much hoped I could play my H44 on stage with my LP and Strat sitting on stands beside me. It makes a statement. I am not just one of the sheep in the herd.
Note: I restrung the guitar with D'addario 10-46 ...yes... the guitar came with these...and as I have been told by more than one luthier....
They are consistent in their
Well...I gave it an A/B test
result....the Les Paul was a shade nastier (in a good way)
I am talking shades of grey here. Except for the sustain...that is noticeable
I would call it a tie. No shame when you can make a guitar that ties with Gibson or Fender.
Bottom line... an Airline is not just a guitar with a fun look and some funky sounds.
IT CAN SHRED WITH THE BEST !!!! SOOOOOOO HOW COOL IS THAT !!!!
My general feelings about this are. "IF YOU DARE TOUCH MY AIRLINE I'LL BREAK YOUR FINGERS"
and one thing I know for sure...the audience will love the look of it! The colour alone most certainly draws
Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates PAF.......... $94.95 USD
Toaster Top (Humbucker) pickup cover.... $5.79 USD
Gold Foil pick up............................
Harmony cup cake knobs.........................
Tele Top Hat tip (China).......................
Fender Mustang bridge [kit] (China)........ $9.98 USD
total ... $143.15 USD plus labour
.the prices are all from online shopping. Labour is local and will vary.
To anyone wanting to try my ideas, I would recommend changing the knobs first. A bit of fun and cheap. The PAF will make the biggest difference. Then do the bridge. The Gold foil is optional. The Eastwood mini hummy sounds very good in the neck position. If I only had one guitar I would have kept it.
On a final note;
Researching all the history of this guitar taught me a lot about all the guitars from the 50's thru the 60's. I became very impressed with all of the Eastwood guitars. They pay a lot of attention to detail....which is a mammoth task. The guitars they choose to do often made many changes every year and they manage to keep not only the best ideas from the basic instrument ...but cherry pick the best ideas from each year the original was in production. One particular guitar had 3 entirely different headstocks through it years in production. Which one do you pick?
I do not think it is unrealistic that Eastwood could catch up with the 'big boys' ...as they are getting further and further out of touch with their customers. I read on a musicians chat site....I love my Fender...but I hate the company! To me that tolls the beginning of the end!
The big boys offer us limited editions. Eastwood lets us choose them. That sums up the difference. I am planning to buy at least 2 more Airlines. I will probably hot rod them in a similar manner.
I will end my little epistle right here. I gotta get to band practise."
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