A quick primer on Specimen Products and the Chicago School of Guitar Making
The Specimen Guitar Shop, owned and operated by Ian and Nadine Schneller, is the home of both Specimen Products and the Chicago School of Guitar Making. More than a luthierie and a repair facility, the Specimen shop is also a gallery and an artist’s studio. I recently visited Specimen for a tube amp building seminar, and found a Midwestern haven where esoteric creativity and invention meet traditional techniques and handcrafted quality.
|Schneller routing the body of an Ultra Luddite model.|
This Specimen Royale Premiere features a two-piece, hand-sculpted basswood body, mahogany neck, Alaskan-cedar-burl headstock veneer and sculpted aluminum “diver’s helmet” finial, a one-piece ebony bridge and ebony fretboard with pearl inlays of rippling flags, colored dots and side markers, a faceted and machined aluminum tailpiece, Lindy Fralin humbucker, four Grover Imperial tuners and two geared banjo tuners—and finished in pale blue nitrocellulose lacquer.
If you’ve ever visited their website, you already know that Specimen offers quite an impressive array of intriguing and engaging instruments, from the nearly traditional-looking aluminum guitars, solidbodies and archtops to the custom offerings they affectionately call “Singletons” and more unconventional creations, like electric ukes, mandolins and even an electric lute.
Schneller also repairs all manner of stringed instruments and amplifiers, and even builds his own guitar and hi-fi stereo amps, along with a variety of custom high-fidelity horn speakers (you’ve seen them if you’ve seen Andrew Bird recently).
Go inside Specimen with our tour videos:
In Progress Projects/Prototypes
Schneller and seminar student Mike Dunn firing up Mike’s modded Tweed Champ replica (on the floor).
Since 2005, Specimen has been offering instruction in guitar repair and guitar and tube amplifier building in the form of weekly classes as well as weekend seminars throughout the year. All classes are taught by Schneller and take place at Specimen, which is outfitted with a fully-equipped wood and metal shop, individual workstations for up to eight students, and all the necessary tools, supplies and materials.
The foundation curriculum consists of the following classes: Guitar and Bass Setup and Maintenance, Fret Work, Guitar and Bass Electronics, and Advanced Guitar Repair. Once students have mastered the essentials they can move on to the Guitar Design and Theory class and the Constructive Techniques Workshops. The Tube Amp Building classes, which center on classic vintage Fender and Marshall replicas has recently been supplemented by a new Hi-Fi Stereo Tube Amplifier Building course for students interested in expanding beyond guitar amps.
For more information and course schedules, visit:
More from the Chicago School of Guitar Making:
Tube Amp Building Seminar Video
Tube Amp Building Seminar Article & Gallery
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
Flare is a dual-function pedal with a tube-like booster and a 1970s-style ring modulator effect that can be played separately or together.
Flare’s ring modulator is based on the iconic tone of the original Dan Armstrong Green Ringer. This vintage classic was made famous by Frank Zappa who loved the unusual modulations created by generating a harmonic octave over notes. Messiah’s version offers two control knobs: a “Sparkle” tone attenuator and output Level control. Its taupe-gold body, purple and green knobs and stick-figure rock ’n’ roller holding up a flame convey an appropriately rockin’70s vibe.
In a unique twist, Messiah’s Flare pairs the ringer with a warm tube-style boost instead of a fuzz. Flare feeds the booster into the ringer for an extra punch, while preserving the Green Ringerspirit. The ringer side also turns any fuzz into an octafuzz, and it has the ability to quiet signal background noise fed through it.
The booster side features a single Boost knob to control the MOSFET circuit, making it very tube-amp-friendly with a warm, organic boost and gain of up to 32dB.
The pedal is a distinct improvement over the 1970s pedal that inspired it. “Most ringer pedals don’t track well,” Tom Hejda, owner of Messiah Guitars. “The player can’t rely on repeating the same effect even with the most consistently played notes. We carefully matched the components, so our ringer follows your every move, producing that slightly dirty octave you expect on demand.”
Messiah developed this vintage octave pedal with flexible features so that people who love that messy, dirty Zappa-esque sound can get there with ease but there’s also something for those who have not fallen in love with fuzz or the Green Ringer alone. Flare offers an array of sonic options while retaining simplicity in the controls.
Each Flair Pedal Includes:
- 3 control knobs: Boost, Sparkle, and Level
- Two effects – Ring Modulator and Boost – can be used together or separately
- Space-saving top side jacks
- Durable, cast aluminum alloy 125B enclosure with fun artwork
- Easy to see, illuminated True-bypass foot switch
- Standard 9V pedal power input
Flare Pedal Demo
Messiah Guitars pedals are designed with an explorative player in mind. Like their custom guitars and amplifiers, Messiah’s pedals are hand-crafted in Los Angeles for a long life with guaranteed quality.
Flare retails for $199.00 and can be purchased directly at Messiah Guitars or you can hear it in person at Impulse Music Co. in Canyon Country, CA.
For more information, please visit messiahguitars.com.
This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal.
If it looks like a duck, acts like a duck, and QUACKS like a duck, then it must be a duck. That's how we came up with the name for our new envelope filter. This feathery little guy is a joy to play because of its incredibly quick response to your right hand - much faster and more expressive than your typical auto-wah pedal. Trevor explains how this is possible in the launch video, as well as gives a demo on Le Canard’s operation.
The attack control determines how quickly the filter responds to the envelope, and the decay sets how quickly the filter releases afterward. The range controls which frequency spectrum the filter does its magic on. Add to this relay-based full-bypass switching with failsafe, and you've got one crazy little quacky beast. It is so expressive that you'll want to give up on your rocker-wah forever.
The MayFly Le Canard envelope filter features:
- Super fast responding envelope follower. Touch it and it jumps!
- Range control to dial in the character of the filter
- Attack control to control how fast the filter moves on that first touch
- Release control to control how slowly the filter slides back to baseline
- Full bypass using relays with Fail SafeTM (automatically switches to bypass if the pedal loses power)
- Cast aluminum enclosure with groovy artwork
- MSRP $149 USD ($199 CAD)
Introducing the MayFly Le Canard Envelope Filter
All MayFly pedals are hand-made in Canada.
For more information, please visit mayflyaudio.com.
Outlaw Effects introduces their next generation of NOMAD rechargeable battery-powered pedal boards.
Available in two sizes, NOMAD ISO is a compact, versatile tool that offers the convenience of a fully powered board plus the additional freedom of not having to plug into an outlet. NOMAD ISO is ideal for stages with limited outlet availability, quick changeovers, busking outdoors, temporary rehearsal locations, and more.
NOMAD ISO builds upon the legacy of the ultra-convenient and reliable NOMAD rechargeable pedalboard line originally launched in 2018. The brand new NOMAD ISO editions feature eight isolated outputs (1 x 9V DC, and 1 switchable 9V/12V DC) for even more versatility and clean, quiet power. With an integrated lithium-ion battery pack boasting 12800mAh capacity, NOMAD ISO can fuel a wide array of pedals, and will last over 10 hours* on a single charge.
Each NOMAD ISO pedal board includes adhesive hook & loop pedal-mounting tape, eight (8) standard DC connector cables, and one (1) reverse polarity DC cable, giving you everything you need to build your ultimate "off-the-grid" rig. A rugged, road-ready padded gig bag with shoulder strap is also included, to safely protect your gear while you're on the move.
NOMAD ISO S
NOMAD ISO S: MSRP $309 / MAP: $249
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 5 ¼"
NOMAD ISO M
NOMAD ISO M: MSRP $349 / MAP $279
Dimensions: 19 ¼" x 11"
More info: https://www.outlawguitareffects.com.