First Quarter 2013 repair blog report card

INCOMPLETE

That’s the grade we get for not posting for so long. But get off the edge of that seat. Here’s some pictures of some guitars!

Let’s start off by pointing blame at everything but ourselves.  Now that’s a life skill many of us have developed, huh? Very useful.   Truth be told, we lost a lot of before and after pics after my last phone upgrade when the files didn’t transfer properly. And no, I didn’t listen to everyone who said to back up to the Cloud. But on with today’s story.

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This winter was the cause of lots and lots of cracks,  like this one pictured above. Top cracks, fingerboard cracks, side splits and lifting bridges. The cause of most of these issues? Humidity.  Or lack thereof. Now that’s one of my favorite things to throw out there. Lack thereof. As in, “I admire your etiquette Emily. Or lack thereof. Ha Ha Ha.” Great for dinner parties.  Alrighty then, most of these top cracks start at the bridge and progress to the end pin. But some of the nastiest splits occur in places where it’s difficult to reach, like this guy pictured above. We make special cauls and posts when clamping in the hard to reach regions. But the most important thing is to humidify the heck out of splits and cracks, hoping they close and regain as much of their original form as possible before being nudged back into place with clamping pressure on both axisises. Or axes.  Next Fall, when you turn your heater on, put a humidifier in your case and keep your high-end solid wood acoustics in their cases. We recommend the Oasis brand. It’s dirt simple and works really well. Best $20 you ever spent.

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Here’s an action shot of a Breedlove getting it’s bridge planed.  This early batch Atlas series guitar had a shallow neck angle and is on the verge of needing a neck reset. Bad neck angles mean a high action and unhappy players.  It’s saddle had been shaved down to the point that it barely stuck out of the  slot, and we still needed to come down another 32nd or so to achieve optimal string height.  Normally, we’d recommend a neck reset to realign everything and get that saddle height back.  A more cost effective solution to realign everything is to lower the bridge itself instead of resetting the neck. It’s about $80 compared to $300.  For lots of guitars it’s a no-brainer. Very debatable though , since you’ll eventually run out of lowerable bridge material as the neck angle continues to flatten out or worse.  Theoretically, you’ll need to reset the neck AND replace the modified bridge somewhere down the road.  That’s assuming that you’ll be playing this guitar 40 years from now.  OK, we got that out of the way.  So what we’re doing is taking some material off of the top of the bridge and lowering the saddle slot with our handy saddle routing jig…
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This is a different guitar, but at least pictures the jig.  This is very useful for flattening the saddle slot for pickup installs as well. Some factory slots can be pretty sloppy or not deep enough to fit an under-saddle pickup without shaving your saddle too thin.  A lot of people’s golden ratio for saddle height is 50/50 for how much saddle shows above the bridge line. Especially with undersaddle pickups. This handy Dremmel jig ensures that we get that just right.

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Here’s our finished product with a new compensated bone saddle.  Looks like it sounds nice, don’t it?  That’s a pinless bridge in case some of you think those pin holes look a little funny. It strings from the rear of the bridge, like an Ovation.

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Lots of banjos lately. This one was an old 70’s  Japanese 5-string. It had a funky neck angle and the fingerboard didn’t clear the hoop.  After lots (and lots) of shimming and shimmying, it still needed another 1/8″ clearance.  This one had a wooden dowel rod, not a threaded steel coordinator rod, so the neck angle had to be altered with shims. That 1/8″ doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a lot in the world of string height. Instead of just filing the clearance flat, we scalloped it for individual string clearance.

photo-78Here’s a custom compensated saddle for a uke with some intonation issues. As you can see from the extreme offsets, the G (4th) and A (1st) strings were a little flat and the E (2nd) was very sharp. So we glued two pieces of bone saddle blanks to form a T.  We carved the contact points  until it corrected the intonation, making sure the shelf didn’t touch the bridge outside of the saddle slot. Since this uke has a pickup, we had to be sure all of the strings’ down pressure made it to the element. We were awarded some kind of engineering award from Denmark for this. But for me, man, it’s all about the music.

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Here’s a battery box installation so that this Gibson’s owner doesn’t have to reach into the soundhole to change the 9-volt for his LR Baggs pickup.  Clean and convenient, routed into the endblock for quick battery changes.

IMG_0489  Here’s an internal view from one of our newly designed guitar probe robots.
IMG_0022This handsome Strat just got an EMG afterburner and a quick-change battery door.  The placement of this battery box is right next to the control cavity, allowing easy access to the battery wires.  You can put this in a few spots, this one’s my favorite.

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Here’s a cool strat with some worn frets and heavily played fingerboard.  It’s owner wanted a little more meat to his fret wire, so we suggested our favorite Jescar extra jumbo. Tall and wide, just like I like my…frets.  Although a refret sounds scary to some, it’s the best way to bring an old favorite back to life and optimize your guitar’s performance.  Now that you’ve played your guitar for a while, would you prefer smaller vintage frets to feel more wood under your fingers, or big & tall wire for easier bending?  Custom fretwork gives you the ability to refine the feel of your neck.

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Here’s the after shot of this strat. Fingerboard freshened up and X-tra jumbos. Feels great.

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Here’s a cool  Klein-inpired Tele that’s about to go headless…

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So this one got routed for a licensed Steinberger trem and got a headstockectomy.

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First we had to make a few routing templates since this isn’t an everyday job.  There were 3 routs in all to fit the bridge.  Once they were done, we stained the bare wood black for a more finished appearance.  The Tele bridge pickup went in without a plate or ring for a Tom Anderson vibe. Love that look.

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IMG_0178 Headstock sawed off and a zero fret carefully fitted. The string retainer had  to be modified for our purposes, but worked out well. About an 1/8 of an inch or so was ground off the leading edge to fit snugly against the tang of the zero fret. We added a rosewood cap to make it look a little more loved. Not just chopped and screwed on.  I like rosewood caps. You should see me in the winter.

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What we ended up with was a killer Klein-inspired  guitar with terrific balance. Really fun to play and definitely a conversation piece. Better than taking a puppy to the park.

Here’s something you don’t see everyday.

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IMG_0077 This is the headstock of an upright bass that came in recently. It was cracked and loose, so we handled it with extreme care until we were ready to dismantle it and glue it back together. Only problem was, it wouldn’t come apart! So after some gently prodding and scraping wood fibers, some wood filler began to loosen up and come out. Then we found a bolt head! then another.  There were 4 bolts in all, but lots of gaps between the wood where the old glue job didn’t do a thing. A previous repair drilled out holes for bolts, tightened them up and wood puttied them to conceal the reapir. But without a snug fit on ALL the surfaces, it just didn’t hold. So we’re in the process of doweling those 4 holes and fitting things as snuggly as possible. Then LOTS of clamping pressure to do the rest.  Came out solid, but the after shots will have to wait for next time.  These Cheez Its arent’ gonna eat themselves.

Thanks for looking.

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One Response to “First Quarter 2013 repair blog report card”

  1. Thomas F. Says:

    Thank you very much for this new blog entry and usual sense of humour ! Blogging may be a hassle but rest assured it is really appreciated.

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