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December 18, 2014

Happy Holidays y'all!

'Tis the season to be grateful for the good folks and things we enjoy. In that spirit, I wish you all a wonderful, warm, safe & happy holiday season!

A quick thought on wintertime guitar ownership - please keep an eye on Relative Humidity for our stringed friends. Since wood is hygroscopic (physical dimension dependent upon moisture content) precision wooden instruments require a static relative humidity in order to maintain consistent action and intonation. Here in the Mid-Atlantic, between 40 and 50% RH is best; when I lived in dryer climates, that RH % was lower, but still needed to be stable to avoid excessive movement. As winter is cold, often the outdoor RH drops and folks also turn on the heat indoors which can exacerbate and lower an already low RH.

It's a good idea to get a hygrometer of some type to help know when RH is too low and action to rehumidify the instrument's environment must be taken.

Here are a couple of ways to deal with low RH:

1) The simple way: keep your guitar in its case and add a case humidifier. The case acts as a smaller, more controllable environment so that a small case humidifier can maintain a healthy RH.

A case humidifier can be as simple as a Ziploc bag containing a dampened (but not soaking/dripping wet) sponge with pin holes to allow moisture to escape into the case, or the classic DIY plastic travel bar soap case with sponge and holes drilled in it, of the commercially made Damp-It sponge in a perforated rubber tube. The challenge with sponge based humidifiers is that they need to be not too wet (to avoid dripping/water damage - I have seen it happen folks) and since the sponge can dry out quickly, need near daily checking and replenishment.

Two case humidifiers I like a lot include the Oasis - a semipermeable mesh tube holding water absorbent crystals that become a gel and hold more water for longer than a sponge with a good visible indicator of replenishment needs (it shrinks!) and also the Planet Waves Humidpak, a dual system that uses a humidification gel and a desiccant to maintain a steady RH (requires periodic replacement of the gel pack).

2) For folks with lots of guitars, a music room or possibly also wanting a better controlled environment for themselves (your sinuses will thank you!), a room can be controlled with a stand-alone humidifier, or a system wide unit can be added to an existing HVAC system. For stand alone units, I particularly like ultrasonic humidifiers and my favorite brand is Air-O-Swiss - units #7135 and #7144.

Stay hydrated and keep jamming and I'll see ya in the New Year!

May 28, 2014

Its that time again y'all!

The Philtones are back at Mum's: 1134 S Hanover St, Baltimore, MD 21230 410-547-7415 on Friday, May 30, 2014 at 9 PM, ready to do some aural shenanigans, make a musical mess and smear it all around.

I will be joined by my friend a personal hero John Dierker on tenor, trusty Alex Weber on bass and Towson's Darrell Reddix on drums. If I'm lucky and beg, Chris Pumphreys may grace us on alto (love that dude's playing!).

Come one and come all and enjoy the tangled web we'll weave (umm, sticky...!).

December 14, 2013

Hey hey hey, ho ho ho! Happy holidays all in whatever way you do 'em!

It is my greatest pleasure to announce a resurrection of The Philtones on Thursday December 26, 2013 9 PM at our favorite place Mum's, 1132 S Hanover St, Baltimore, MD 21230 410-547-7415.

Joining me is an absolute all star line-up: Jeff Reed (bass), John Dierker (tenor), Chris Pumphrey (alto), and my brother Ben Jacoby (drums).

I'll be the weakest link in the chain! (always, always surround yourself with the best). We're guaranteed to make some serious noise, so please, if you're ready to get out after Christmas, c'mon down, drink some Evil and let things go crazy!

Parking in Federal Hill during the holidays is very good as many folks go out of town. As always - be safe! and hope to see y'all there.

September 14, 2013

LailaWhew, that move was a lot of work! Faithful shop companion Laila takes a break. In other news, the Philtones grace the stage 9 PM Friday, September 20, 2013 at Mum's located at 1132 S Hanover St, Baltimore, MD 21230.

August 23, 2013

OK, here we are moved in to the Cork Factory located at 1601 Guilford Ave, Basement South, Baltimore, MD 21202 but not fully up and running yet. First I must give a hearty thanks to all that have made this possible so far: my lovely wife Teresa, without whose support I would not be here; Win S for his generosity; Jay R and Crusty, great friends and always helpful: John D, a great client who became a friend and and happens to be strong as an ox, Matt Schmill of FBB Custom Basses and James Finnerty of Re-Wind.net pickups, both of whom helped move the Plek as well as the other shop stuff.

Delays in reopening to the public and new work have occurred due to a few things; this space has had multiple uses thru the years, one of which was a printing outfit that moved power around considerably, so I have had an electrician thru to help sort out the power situation. Some of that has been impacted by the building's change in water service going from an industrial sized supply after the Industrial Roll Company moved out to a more suitable supply and meter. Old buildings are grounded to their water pipes; when that is disconnected, its tough to do certain electrical work. Lastly, Verizon has been an overly complicated PITA to deal with in moving the shop phone and internet service over. Beginning with Verizon insisting that another building tenant was already in our space (those guys need to confirm their databases, besides folks can have service wherever they want it) and culminating with a woefully ignorant customer service rep at their Phoenix, AZ office who could not find Baltimore, MD in their system (largest city in MD, population 620K+, 11th largest city in the US and the Cork Factory has a shared T Mobile/Verizon tower on its roof!), we will finally have phone and internet service sometime on 8/27/13. I hope Verizon keeps their end of the deal as I've had their service and the shop phone # for years. The Plek requires internet access to recalibrate as that is done with the folks at Plek monitoring online.

In the meantime, I am squaring away storage and building new benches etc. It's amazing all that stuff came out of a small rowhome shop with the heavy tools in the basement. Visitors will really enjoy the new shop and I will be able to work more efficiently, especially on larger repairs. It's awesome to have the bench capacity and unencumbered access to tooling.

So thanks for all your interest and support and I look forward to y'all seeing the new shop after 8/27/13.

August 18, 2013

After a year of looking, and all kinds of other exciting life events, I am finally moving into a much larger shop space. We are going from 8 1/2 years with a 280 sq ft main space and ~350 sq ft auxiliary space, to 1200 sq ft of open, accessible work space with multiple benches, organized storage, etc. Phone and email are staying the same, only the physical address is changing to: 1601 Guilford Ave, Basement South, Baltimore, MD 21202, in the Cork Factory - modern day bottlecap inventor William Painter's original Crown Cork and Seal factory, which has today become artist studios. I'm looking forward to a more efficient and productive shop and possibly some more fun builds and big custom projects.

Virginia A Billhimer
July 1, 1952 - April 13, 2013

This is one of my favorite pictures of my Mom and I, taken on board my grandfather's boat on the Chesapeake Bay near Deale, MD in 1972. My Mom's family emigrated from Scotland in the mid 1950s and is very musical; this is where I received my interest in music. Mom's father Victor played piano and had excellent pitch; my uncle Robbie played trumpet and drums. Mom loved listening to music and was a big Beatles fan; relatives in the UK sent over Beatles records before they came to the United States in early 1964. Growing up there was often semi-loud music playing. These things influenced me and my siblings; Ben is a drummer based in Nashville, Nick plays drums as well, Madeline plays sax, all three participated in the American Originals Fife and Drum Corps with Mom and my stepfather Win.

Mom also loved children, family, her dogs and cooking. Mom was an awesome cook, often modifying and making her own recipes, often in a French style. For birthdays, she would have the celebrant choose the dinner and the dessert from her vast repertoire, all homemade.

I miss you Mom.



Plek

The most important thing in the repair process of improving playability is making sure you and I communicate well. I need to know what you are looking for out of your guitar and you need to know what is reasonably possible with it.

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Read the obituary for Virginia A. Billhimer



My lovely daughter Julianna visiting the shop checking out a freshly Lonnie Mack'd Gibson Flying V. Y'all know I love Bigsbys and Vibramate is helping make the world a more Bigsby'd place.