Gear Porn by Dave Leslie: Grubisa Merlin

Merlin

Hey there, Sports Fans. This is the first instalment of a column that I hope will be a regular occurrence around these parts. It basically entails me, Dave, chatting and sometimes waxing lyrical/nostalgic about the equipment that myself (and Suze, if you’re interested) have been playing/using/abusing during the last 20 or so years of Baby Animals (and maybe even the 17 years before that…).

Those of you who know me know that I’m a self-confessed ‘gear-head.’ I have been fortunate to have acquired some really nice stuff and I really enjoy discussing equipment, what it does, how it sounds, how it looks and most importantly, the way it makes music…

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Some of you might find this stuff really boring. I realise that music isn’t about the gear and the listener shouldn’t have to know or care what is used, as long as it sounds good. I completely get that… Bottom line is that if it sounds good it is good. For those that are interested, please feel free to comment and ask questions. I will endeavour to answer to the best of my knowledge (and sometimes hazy memory).

I might kick off the maiden voyage of this adventure with a profile on my #1 guitar for the last 17 years, the Grubisa Merlin #001.

I had been friends with Frank for quite a while and used to hang at his workshop in Botany between gigs/tours to drink coffee, sniff wood and chat about guitars. I had been taking my Strats to him for re-frets/setups and I thought his work was immaculate, and a top bloke, to boot.

We had been discussing various designs when he showed be a design similar to a guitar that he had just made for Bob Spencer. As opposed to Bob’s, this design had a slightly bigger, more feminine body shape and the cutaways were a little softer and more-rounded. It was chambered and had an extended neck-tenon which extended through the body to the bridge pickup. In other words, a damn stable axe with an almost neck-thru quality…

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I had been playing a Les Paul Custom which was as heavy as a boat and I was looking for something that would still give me a fat, woody tone but not stunt my growth or give me curvature of the spine…

We got to start picking wood and decided on a nice, stripy maple cap (not too over-the-top) on a chambered Mahogany body with a couple of Grestch Filter-tron pickups. The neck was a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard (back in the day when it was still legal) on a quarter-sawn, one piece mahogany neck with abalone fret markers of Frank’s own design…

Well, a month or so later she was ready. The first of this design to be born, Frank named the model ‘Merlin’ after the Rolls-Royce engine that powered the mighty Spitfire.

My girl had serial #GM 001.

When I needed a little more mid-rangey beef than the ‘Tron pickups could provide, Frank routed the body out for 2 humbuckers. PAFs lived there for a while but the positions are now filled with two pickups from Adelaide maker, Mick Brierley.

dave leslieBoth pickups have split-coil possibility and a special wiring by Frank, which has a master volume, front pickup volume and master tone pots. This combo makes for a wide palette of tones.

As far as the sounds go, she is really versatile, with a wonderful, sparkly top end but also has an enormous thickness to the tone. An example of which, being when I used it on a “Boags Premium” commercial. (The B&W, Glassblower one, where the girl plays the double-neck, I think it’s still on YouTube…) Signal chain was Merlin-DE7 delay-RAT-Fender Twin, (we nearly killed that Twin…). Big, woody TONE! :-D

What more can I say than that it very rarely leaves my side, it has done probably around a thousand gigs, has been stolen and returned, it’s on it’s third set of frets, countless jingles and sessions and is all over the new Baby Animals record…

I think I’ll keep it.

Merlin + Leso