Paloma Stoneware Slides, The Scoop!

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Paloma Stoneware Slides, The Scoop!

Postby ricochet » Sat May 15, 2010 10:53 pm

I was very interested in these slides when I first saw the announcement about them from Jay Seibert, the maker. Jay’s a musician himself, and is active on the Steel Guitar Forum. He and his wife have been making stoneware for ~30 years.

For any who don’t know, there are three main categories of pottery: Earthenware, which is a porous material fired at low temperatures and used for cheap stuff. Fragile and non watertight. Porcelain, which is made from fine particle sized clay and other materials and fired at a high temperature that pretty completely vitrifies it into a hard, glassy, translucent substance. If you hold a dish up to light and see light shining through it, it’s porcelain. Porcelain’s good hard stuff and can ring like a bell, but it also breaks very easily. Then there’s stoneware. Stoneware is made from mixtures of materials with a range of particle sizes and fusing temperatures like clay, feldspar, quartz, flint, or a mineral called nepheline syenite. It’s fired at very high temperatures, but some of it fuses to glass and some of it doesn’t. Think of it as resembling concrete on a microscopic scale, with the gravel and sand held together by the cement matrix. This structure makes it very tough and fracture resistant compared to porcelain. Unglazed or fractured stoneware surfaces have a somewhat rough, gritty texture. It’s usually still slightly porous and water absorbent, but glazing takes care of that. Some “high fire” stoneware glazes are as tough, hard and impervious as porcelain, and the glazes Jay uses are in that category. Think of porcelain as the fine china you got for wedding presents, keep in the cabinet on display and get out only for special occasions. Stoneware’s the stuff you eat off of all your life. It survives lots of bumps and drops, and doesn’t get scratched up with stainless steel utensils sawing against it for decades. Jay uses two glazes, a clear one and a cobalt blue, that are fired to a final temperature of 2460° F. Experience has shown they’re reliably hard and tough.

I got two of the Paloma “bottleneck” slides, in the Large size with 22mm inside diameter so I can use them on either my pinky or ring finger (if I were exclusively a ring finger slider I’d have to go to 24mm) in the 69mm length, and two of the SP3BN shaped tone bars with a bullet nose in 90mm length. (I have 8 string as well as 6 string lap steels.) In both styles I got a clear glazed one and a blue glazed one so I could see if there was a tonal difference.

Here are the bottleneck slides:

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The clear glazed one is not quite white. It’s a pleasant, slightly beige off white, a bone color. The blue is a deep cobalt blue, a familiar color on many stoneware objects. It immediately reminded me of the decorative bands on my stoneware churn in which I used to make muscadine wine. ;-) Whatever Jay uses to hold one end of the bisque fired slides when he dips them in the glaze leaves a ring of unglazed stone at one end. The inside of the tube is glazed. For such large slides, they’re very light. I don’t have a glass slide of identical dimensions for comparison weighing, but I think the stoneware might be a little lighter. The surface glaze is very smooth in both colors, but not quite as glassy slick as my Diamond Ultimate leaded crystal glass slides. They’re like a good bottleneck, with a little fine texture. I don’t always want a super slick surface. A rough slide makes all kinds of scratchy noise and isn’t good for a lot of playing, but a super slick one won’t excite the string when the slide’s slid back and forth on the string for vibrato. There’s a nice medium where the surface gets a little “bite” on the string for vibrato sustain but doesn’t sound noisy. That’s a reason why many players like bottlenecks. Well, the Paloma stone slides got that happy medium just right. Stoneware’s very rigid structure doesn’t absorb sustain by flexing in the slide, either. I was surprised by this, and I may be wrong, but I think the blue glaze is slicker than the clear, which has a little more of the “bite” I’m talking about. But it’s very close, and even A/Bing back and forth a lot over a week of playing I don’t think I could tell for sure which was which with my eyes closed. Other than this subtle textural difference, I can’t hear a tonal difference. Get the one you like the looks of best! These slides are comfortable, sound great, and make for terrific sustain without scratchy noise. I’m not going to deliberately drop them on the floor (as Jay recently did in response to a question, finding that even on concrete they’re surprisingly resistant to breakage), but I’m not quite as worried about dropping one as I am about my crystal slides. I can’t make up my mind which I like best, the bone-colored clear glaze or the cobalt blue. After a week of playing, I remain deeply ambivalent. The best solution is to get both! I’m not about to quit using my old favorite Ultimate, Craftsman socket, Dunlop #224 brass or Bronze Bomber, but they all have their own special pluses and minuses for different things. These Paloma Stone Slides are going to be new favorites of mine! I love having different options. Slide Acquisition Syndrome is better than GAS, it’s cheaper and doesn’t take up as much space!

Here are the lap steel tone bars:

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The same observations about the glaze texture and sustain apply here. To someone used to using a metal slide, like the Shubb Pearse SP-1 I’ve been mainly sliding with since playing 8-strings, what’s immediately noticeable is how very light these slides are! I had to make an adjustment to applying a little more downforce to the slide, whereas the weight alone of the SP-1 or especially of my big round bullet bar (a Dunlop stainless steel one) will keep them in firm contact with the strings. It’s more like the wood handled Gary Swallow and Snakeslide slides I have, made for bluegrass players who do lots of pulloffs and jumping up and down the fretboard. The bullet nose is excellently radiused and smooth. A very nice feature is that the top surface of the bar is left unglazed, helping with a easy, secure grip on the bar. Aids control. The squared off end of the bar isn’t as sharp as a metal bar with a sharp edge, which may be important to those who do a lot of pulloffs with the edge. It won’t give the string quite as sharp a snap as a metal bar would. Those who suffer from hand fatigue or control problems will appreciate the light weight of the bar. Tonally, I think I don’t hear quite as much of the very high harmonics with the stone bars as with metal. It’s not a dramatic difference. If you’re playing with slide vibrato, sustain goes on as long as you want it to, with no scratchy noise. I think these tone bars are a really nice alternative to the all metal and wood handled shaped bars for lap playing. Paloma also makes round bullet bars, which would be quite different from the metal ones in use due to their lighter weight. I haven’t tried one, and really don’t play that much with a round bar.

Jay’s a musician, and he’ll listen to what you want and make some custom alterations like length if you ask him. He extrudes the tubes for the bottleneck slides and the bars, cuts them to length and does final shaping like the beveled ends and bullet noses by hand. I recommend all of these as quality products, that you’ll like playing with.
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Re: Paloma Stoneware Slides, The Scoop!

Postby ricbleu » Sat May 15, 2010 11:40 pm

What an excellent review, Rico! You may now sit in the front row of the class at the desk reserved for "best student of the week". You may also put a cheque (check) in the post because you have just caused me to spend $NZ40. I sincerely thank you for that comprehensive description. :D :D
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Re: Paloma Stoneware Slides, The Scoop!

Postby ricochet » Sun May 16, 2010 12:05 am

I'm positive you'll like what you get! :D
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Re: Paloma Stoneware Slides, The Scoop!

Postby jayseibert » Sun May 16, 2010 12:55 am

Hi Rico!

Thank you so much for your thorough, thoughtful, and well-written review of my slides and bars! I have developed these with the counsel of many players of many skill levels... with the goal being to make something that players will enjoy using... and I continue to field suggestions and comments and put those to work by adding subtle upgrades to my slides and bars.

Truth be known, I am new to lap steel and have really taken a liking to my little Recording King. Alas, I am starting to think about an 8-stringer, in C6 tuning! I am having a ball. It is through web forums like this one, that I visited often in the developmental stages of Paloma Stone Slides, that I look to for purchasing tips, instructional materials, and insights. The work that you do to maintain this site is of immeasurable value to those of us who visit for info, entertainment, and fellowship as well. THANK YOU!

I look forward to a long, happy association with the players hangin' out in the Big Road Blues Forum!

Keep slidin' everybody!

Jay
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Re: Paloma Stoneware Slides, The Scoop!

Postby ricochet » Sun May 16, 2010 1:27 am

I'll give you a recommendation for an 8-string lap steel I really like. Go to http://musonmt.com/ and check out the Allen Melbert steels. Bob Allen makes all of these by hand. (Allen Melbert is a rearrangement of his name, which is likely Robert Melvin Allen.) They're inexpensive but well made, easy to play and sound great. Sometimes he has a "second" he'll discount because of a flaw in the wood or something. That's how I got my black walnut 8 string (which you can partly see in the pics above), and I think it's gorgeous! Bob's a craftsman/small businessman much like yourself, and a really nice guy. He's in Livingston, Tennessee, a small town on the Cumberland Plateau. Check it out. I see he no longer lists the 8 string I've got, just the higher end "Professional" model. It's got a better bridge, nut and "real" steel guitar pickup. (Mine's got a bridge and nut fabricated from steel and aluminum brackets and a Kent Armstrong pickup made for a 7-string guitar, and suits me fine. It's outfitted pretty much like the 6-string he still offers, just with two more strings.) I like the way he does his "fretboards," made like those door name signs with the black plastic routed away to show a white layer underneath. Very neat looking.
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Re: Paloma Stoneware Slides, The Scoop!

Postby bottleneckjohn » Sun May 16, 2010 3:42 pm

Wow!
These really look interesting, Ric!!
Thanks for the review!! Hmm, maybe I'd better get me one and try it out, I really liked my Mudslide but it broke in pieces some years ago..

Stoneware could be the new thing..?! :D

As a side-kick to the ultra-cool Diamond Bottlenecks..
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Re: Paloma Stoneware Slides, The Scoop!

Postby ricochet » Sun May 16, 2010 3:44 pm

Of course! :D
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Re: Paloma Stoneware Slides, The Scoop!

Postby Lo-Fi » Sun May 16, 2010 10:17 pm

Thanks for the review - the price is right so I might just go and get one for my lap steel.
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Re: Paloma Stoneware Slides, The Scoop!

Postby allanlummox » Mon May 17, 2010 3:22 pm

These look cool - especially the tone bars.

I've been playing my Magnetone six string lap guitar, tuned cegace, more and more - I see an eight or even a ten string in my future.

Thinking about these

http://www.msapedalsteels.com/html/superslide_pics.html

Also fascinated by the idea of putting keyless Pedal Steel tuners on a plank, like these GFI tuners
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Re: Paloma Stoneware Slides, The Scoop!

Postby ricochet » Mon May 17, 2010 6:09 pm

10 & 12 strings, dang! They are pretty!
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Re: Paloma Stoneware Slides, The Scoop!

Postby 2slow » Tue Jun 01, 2010 8:10 pm

Well,got my slides last Friday.Had all weekend to try 'em out.I own a lot of slides.I've made them
myself,had people make them for me,bought every one I saw that looked interesting.These are
the best I own.I used them on my spider set-up and my biscuit bridge and i'm finally satisfied.
If you're like I was,looking for the slide that has the right tone and comfortable feel.Give Jay a
holler.he's got it for ya'. BTW Thanks Rico for the comprehensive low down on the Paloma slides.
'Turned out well for me.
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Re: Paloma Stoneware Slides, The Scoop!

Postby ricochet » Tue Jun 01, 2010 9:47 pm

I'm still loving mine!
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Re: Paloma Stoneware Slides, The Scoop!

Postby ricbleu » Thu Jun 03, 2010 2:36 am

Mine arrived a couple of days ago. Brilliant! Smooth as silk and easy to hold. It's true that they don't sustain as long as a heavyweight stainless bar but how often do you actually need to hold a sustain for so long? So their weight, speed and ease of use gives them my vote. And what can you say about a vendor who sends a complimentary bar, effectively a 50% discount. May you do so very well, Jay. :D
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Re: Paloma Stoneware Slides, The Scoop!

Postby Neal » Thu Jun 03, 2010 12:37 pm

ricbleu wrote:Mine arrived a couple of days ago. Brilliant! Smooth as silk and easy to hold. It's true that they don't sustain as long as a heavyweight stainless bar but how often do you actually need to hold a sustain for so long? So their weight, speed and ease of use gives them my vote. And what can you say about a vendor who sends a complimentary bar, effectively a 50% discount. May you do so very well, Jay. :D


I have nothing to add, my experience also.
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Re: Paloma Stoneware Slides, The Scoop!

Postby OldWailer » Mon Jun 07, 2010 6:21 am

I just ordered one of these babies too, but Jay is out of town until later in the month--I'll have to wait for a while to review it--I hate waiting--but that's how things are!
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