Archive for the Uncategorized Category

First Quarter 2013 repair blog report card

Posted in guitar repair, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on April 20, 2013 by Coyle's Richboro Music


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.


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.


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…

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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


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


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.


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.



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.


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.


Un-Floyd-ing a Swedish Strat and other odds and ends

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on August 20, 2012 by Coyle's Richboro Music

Al B. Sure to check us out at

And on with the program…

We’ve had some really cool jobs lately and the owners of a few of them asked if they’d make it to our blog.  We had joked that we only blog when we’re not as busy as we’ve been lately. But that seemed like a bunch of bologna. It only takes  a few minutes after HBO Sunday night.  So we’ll try to get back on the wagon with this stuff and take lots more pics. Starting tomorrow.  Here’s a good start.

See this Stat? It’s got a cool story.  This was painted by the owner in a “Dark Side of the Moon” motif when he was a younger man. Living in Sweden.  The story goes that a friend of Yngwie’s guitar tech got him some parts for this baby.  I love it already.  He had some extensive work done years ago including having the fingerboard re-radiused to 12″, refretted, EMG’s put in and a Floyd Rose double locking trem installed.  Our job? Re-install a vintage style trem and find a better place for the battery than under the pickguard.

One thing we always like to consider when un-doing a previous hardware or electronics installation is the “what-if” situation of when the owner wants to put ’em back in? You know, sometimes the heart wants what the heart wants.

 First step, dowel the old post holes.  No, wait! we don’t have to dowel anything. Those holes just need to be filled and stained over. We don’t need structural integrity at those spots, and filler would drill out easily without losing the hole’s center should the owner want the Floyd back.  So to cover up those old posts and fill in the gap the previous installation created (pickguard cut to fit the larger trem size), we made this little piece.  Don’t worry, it’s only tortoise shell on the bottom. Or the top if you’re in the southern hemisphere. It’s a 3-ply which we’ll sharpie the white line out and gently age it to match the rest of the pickguard.  The guard is hand painted just like the rest of the body, so we sprayed it with semi-gloss lacquer and 0000-steel wooled it to look weathered.

So that worked. Next we attack the nut.  Originally we proposed to use the way-cool ebonal nut from ABM that’s sold by Allparts.  It’s purpose built for just such an occassion.  But after further consideration (always dangerous), we decided to make something more special out of bone.

 We wanted it too feel more like a regular nut than an adapter, so we tapered the base and created a ledge to let the actual contact area sit higher like a conventional nut. Then we stained the base a deeper orange with Behlen’s Golden Wheat stain and left the nut portion bare-bone white.  One note about that. Don’t polish the bone too much or the stain won’t take very well. That’s the photo above. We had to rough up the portion we wanted to stain to let the color sink in. It still wasn’t quite as orange-y good as I’d hoped, but we didn’t want it to be darker than the aged finish on the headstock. Always better to be a shade lighter than darker on touch-ups and color matches.

 Next we fill the holes behind the nut.  These days, most Floyd nuts are secured from the top with small screws. Originally, all were installed with bolt going through the neck from the back.

 Some more filler, Behlen stain and a super-glue drop fill and we’re good.  Looks better at some angles, but after 4 pics I gave up. It’s a close match, again, trying not to be too dark. With holes this big on a natural finish, we’re not fooling anyone. You just want the fill to look like somebody cared. And they did. Sniffle.

 Next we find a home for the battery.  We’ve found this to be a great way to do it. We cut a cavity to allow the 9-volt to sit flat instead of on it’s side. Most strat cavities don’t allow a depth of a battery sitting on its side without going into the control cavity. As you can see here, even at the minimum battery depth, we still have daylight from the control room.  We then customize a claw, fitting just 3 springs and having 2 holes right next to each other.  After lots of installs, I can assure you that having all of the spring tension on one side doesn’t change the trem performance at all. Scout’s honor.

 I think that’s it.   So after some fretwork, setup and play testing, this baby was ready to go. Thanks to Anders for letting us work on his prized 70’s Strat.

We also had a killer Squire ’51 with an old Arlen Roth Hotlicks neck and some custom wiring. Really cool guitar. We just had to put in some ferruls for its new string-thru bridge.

   Putting ferruls (the metal inserts that hold the ball-end of the string)in a guitar after-market like this can be tricky. Even with patience, a drill press and gently beveling all holes that might see a drill bit, the thick, plastic-y finishes of today’s import guitars can be a challenge.  Just go slow, don’t use any high-tack masking tape and keep some sharp dental tools and some super glue to seal around your new holes before pressing the ferruls.

 Here’s a great sounding Seagull Performer Mini Jumbo that’s shown here post-repair. The top got caved in something awful. Looked like a foot, but something caused 3 major cracks,some splintering,  2 crushes and 3 bracings knocked loose.  Even after lots (and lots) of even clamping pressure with heavy cauls on the inside, the top still had a little wave to it around the most serious crack.  We did some mild leveling but didn’t want to go too thin on this already thin top.  So we chose to refinish it with a lower-gloss Tru-Oil gun stock finish. This great looking finish looked very similar to Seagull’s semi-gloss finishes  and  improved the tone of the guitar. At least we thought it did compared to others of the same model we’ve had. Or maybe our auditory memory wasn’t that great. I mean, without some other-worldly powers, we’ll never be able to compare the pre-damaged guitar to the finished product here. Unless there are some recordings of it around and we can use the exact same equipment with the exact same mic placement.  Now it just seems like I’m arguing with myself.  Just don’t want to be held to ridicule.  I should save this kind of thinking for my diary.  The good news was that the top was now smooth to the touch and looked great without needing a thick clear coat to hide any inconsistencies.

 Double trouble. Bridge and headstock. At the same time.  Don’t worry big fella. You’re gonna be fine. Let’s start at the top.  This guitar was in a few years back with a broken headstock. We guarantee  our headstock repairs. Forever. Even if this one did break in a different spot than the old repair, we told the owner we’d take care of it.  I mean it was only off by a few mm’s, but it was a fresh crack. Anyway, we fixed the new crack and hid it pretty darn well, sanding down to bare wood and refinishing the entire area. But this guitar’s main talking points concern bridge repairs.  The bridge on this Garrison 12-string was lifting up enough to cause someone to squirt some foaming Gorilla glue in there.  The only problem is that without clamping pressure, that’s a false sense of security.  And they left glue residue on the top in a couple places.  Ugh. The only way to fix what’s ailing you is to remove the bridge, scrape the old glue off both surfaces and clamp the fresh wood.

 Here’s the bridge pre-repair of the repair. Got it?  Doesn’t look so bad, but that’s because the string tension is off and  the gap isn’t so big. Add some strings and you see a void and some old foamy glue residue.

 We like to score the underside of the bridge to really bond the tight-grained rosewood to the top.  All of the old glue is scraped off and sanded smooth.  So we then glue, clamp, clean up and attack the old glue splatter.  Since it had been there for a while, it didn’t come off the thin satin finish without a fight. Removing it glossed the top in the 3 spots where the glue settled. Sometimes you can de-gloss finish spots effectively with the right abrasive grit and some gentle wet sanding with soapy water.  This time it just didn’t match well enough for our inflated egos. So we removed the pickguard, taped off the newly repaired bridge and oversprayed the top with a few light coats of semi-gloss lacquer. It was more ‘spritzed’ than sprayed and ended up matching the original patina perfectly. Score.

Well that’s all for now.  If I could only figure out Bill Compton’s motivation right now. Is he really on board with the Authority?  And what’s up with Erik?  Dang you True Blood !!!!

Tom mount removal and what to do with that 2nd neck

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on April 28, 2012 by Coyle's Richboro Music

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Ya know (awful way to start a sentence, let alone a paragraph or a blog post), we work on lots of things that aren’t guitars. Case in point, Bil’s drum. Who’s Bill? What drum? Well that’s a long story, but here’s a picture of the Gretsch USA tom in question.

What’s the issue? It’s the fancy suspension mount. The sign of  a professional grade drum, this style of tom mount has become an absolute standard. Only problem is…Bill hates them. Enter Bill Avayou, senior drum man here at the shop and all around nice guy. He’s a jazz drummer and doesn’t like the fact that the suspension rims mount further out on his tom arm than he’s happy with. So he instructed us, in no uncertain terms, to remove the suspension mount, drill into that baby and put that mount where it belongs. Right against the shell.

< action shot >

Here we’re lining up the center of the tom mount with a template we made to center the screw holes.

The screw holes are beveled with a counter sink bit to make sure that the tension doesn’t stress the finish.

The finished product. Bill commented that the tom sounded better and seemed to sustain more. And when he’s happy, we’re happy.

Early 1900’s Weyman lute back mandolin. Incredible condition for it’s age. The finish is clear and shiny, the chrome looks clean and it’s been in the family for generations. Why do we have it? Back separation.  The seem  right behind the tailpiece opened up real good.  The problem we had was that, even with our fancy violin clamps, we couldn’t find a way to push the side in AND clamp the back in place. The arch of the top and back were both too steep for anything to clamp without digging into the finish.  So we tried a strap around the  sides, around the neck heel and tightened enough to close the seam. Nope.  So here’s the debatable avenue we took.  First we applied the proper wood glue. Then we used super glue like a tack weld.  With a smear of olive oil to keep the glue from sticking to the surrounding finish, we carefully applied a a few drop of super glue, pushed the side and back into place with lots of good-old-fashioned elbow grease and had our assistant operations manager Brian spray some accelerator over the joint. The super glue clamped the joint tight enough to let the wood glue do its work.

Just don’t let Brian spray the glue accelerator for you. I can still taste it. He said it was an “accident”. Whatever.

Here’s the only “before” shot I could find of this beautiful Bay State harp guitar from the turn of the (last) century.  This guitar had lots of old crack repairs and some playability issues.  Above we see a piece of wood spliced in to repair a damaged back. But the grain is going the wrong way and it’s not really close to the same wood.  We removed the wood, put in some old Cuban mahogany that matched really well and bursted the back to hide this transplant as well as some other cracks. This guitar’s owner, the super cool Bob, wanted to restore this family heirloom to a playable state.  It’s a double neck harp guitar and had a high action due to poor neck angle. Since we don’t have a neck removal jig designed to remove two necks at once (and who does???), we had to adopt the approach of lowering the bridge to correct the angle instead of resetting the neck. Since the necks are joined at the headstock, removing one at a time simply was not possible.  I know the suspense is killing you, so i’ll just say it turned out well.

Here’s a shot of one of the many clamping sessions we had with this guitar. Lots of seam separation and loose bracings were fixed, a few at a time. In this case, we’re adding an additional brace to the very spare ladder-braced top. The bridge was bellied so significantly that we had to add extra support.

Here’s the after shot. The original banjo-style tuners were fully functional and the guitar sounded very cool. We used Silk & Steel Martins to keep the string tension under control so this Bay State will make it to the next generation and beyond. Thanks again Bob!

This 80’s Gibson Melody Maker (yes, Melody Maker. And it has a Kahler. Look it up…) survived a flood. There’s lots of finish lifting and cracking all over the neck. We were able to over spray and wet sand the back of the neck with good success. It looks and feels pretty much pre-flood. However, the logo was lifting very severely  and needed more than just lacquer to secure it. So we wicked some water-thin super glue, held it down with a pin, THEN oversprayed, wet sanded and buffed. Some black touch-up was required to remove some of the glazed look, but it all came out nicely.

That’s it for today. Gotta find some Cheesits. Is there anything better than fresh Cheesits? Feel free to discuss.  And when you’re done snacking, don’t hesitate to contact us about your next mod, installation or repair project. Email us at

Thanks again. See you next time.

Gettin’ rid of that dang buzz pt 2 and other early January shop tidbits and a too-long title

Posted in guitar repair, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on January 12, 2012 by Coyle's Richboro Music

Be sure to check us out at Whew. Always forget that part.

A while back we discussed shielding your guitar’s cavity to avoid the dreaded ground hum that’ll make you nuts playing under fluorescent lights or worse yet, that neon Stroh’s sign at the bar  you played at last Tuesday night.  Well, we had 5 shielding jobs already this week, so that warrants rehashing it in my book

Once it was explained to me that the best way to shield a cavity was to use conductive shielding paint in the pickup cavities and copper foil in the control cavity.  Just make sure the paint overlaps a tab of the foil to make sure it’s all connected.  And this certainly does the trick. However,  after some trial and error we figured nothing beats good ‘ol copper tape all the way through and on the back of the pickguard. Doing it this way seems to kill all of the hum (you can crank up your amp and tap the bridge with no noticeable difference), and even quiet down the 60 cycle hum of single coils about 50%. That’s a rough measurement because I have no idea how to actually measure things like that. I, like most people, tend to through out numbers and hope nobody questions me. You’ll also notice that we solder the seams all the way around. That’s a little overkill, you can just put a connection between each piece like a tack weld, just where each new piece overlaps.

Here’s another cavity, this time the much debated “swimming pool route”. They call that because you have to add chlorine to your Strat every week during the summer to…forget it. That’s not even funny.  You’ll also hear this called the universal route, because you can install any pickguard you want on top with any pickup configuration without worrying about routing for singles, humbuckers or P-90’s.  Some say the missing wood robs sustain, some say the open cavity adds jangle. I don’t think it make s bit of difference as I’ve heard great guitars with similar qualities with both routes. You’ll notice that the tape isn’t very smooth on this one. That’s not just a lazy repair guy. The pickup cavity of this guitar had lots of bumps and from not being smoothed before it was finished. The control cavity smoothed out nicely.  Not a big deal, we’re just sensitive. This also segues into the rest of this project…

Here’s the before shot of the Strat we just saw. It’s about to get a new set of Fender Custom Shop Texas Specials, new 5-way, grounds and wiring cleaned up and re-done, Roland GK kit installed and a basic setup to re-radius the saddles, fix the intonation and set the string height.  The following pictures will tell the story. I’ll stop talking while you look

This installation has the pickup screwed into the top of the pickguard. You can also route a channel into the guard to have the GK pickup mounted underneath. That’s a nice clean look, but for this one we needed all the height we could get otherwise we would have had to grind the bottoms of each saddle height screw to achieve the right balance of saddle height ( we like the screws to not slice your hand when palm muting) and GK tolerance. It has to be a maximum of 1mm from the strings when the last fretted note is depressed on each string.

Moving on. Here’s a cool conversion of an American Standard Tele that got some vintage vibe. We added Klusons and a Bigsby kit making this the coolest tele ever. Well that’s very subjective, but for today, it’s the coolest tele ever. You’ll notice that the Klusons have a smaller post hole size and needed these cool adapter bushings to fill the larger holes left by the modern tuners.

See this…

You don’t want to see this.  We were calling a customer to discuss some fretwork when we noticed that his neck was shifting. Badly. Turns out all of the glue in his dovetail had given way and the whole thing was being held together by tongue of the fretboard and the contact of the dovetail. You have to resist the temptation to just squirt some glue in there. You’ll be seeing it move again very soon. So off it comes.

Don’t know if you can see, but there’s not much glue to scrape off.  Must have been a Friday afernoon at the guitar plant and the glue was almost empty.  The fretboard extension didn’t put up too much of a fight with the iron and spatula, but at least was amply adhered.  The neck angle was great , so it wasn’t a technical re-set. More of  a “re-glue”.  Usually at this point we’d be shaving some wood in strategic spots to correct the neck pitch. This neck sighted up perfectly with the saddle/bridge line.

This guitar also had cracked & shrunken binding reglued, frets leveled and crowned and this repair done. Perhaps the culprit that helped the neck loosen? We may never know. This is the same neck but my photography skills are not too good. The center stripe on the first picture appears darker than in the second.  Something about the lighting and my poor composition skills. Whatever. The ding’s fixed. Next.

Here’s a saddle from a guitar that came in with uneven string response when plugged in. The E and A were quiet even after the bottom of the saddle was checked for straightness. Even though the impressions from the strings weren’t really deep, they did effect the response of the pickup. The moral of this story is simple. Next time you change your strings just smooth out any burrs with sandpaper and you’ll avoid this becoming a problem. Just good guitar hygiene.

Yes, we really took a before and after shot of a saddle that we sanded. Sad, isn’t it. Just need to document every waking hour just in case we wake up too early and start a blog post.

Thanks for reading and thanks to all of those who’ve frequented Coyle’s Richboro Music this year. We forgot to do an official “Thanks for your Support/Happy New Year” email.  All joking aside, we really do appreciate all the great people who’ve come to be part of our daily life at the shop.

Happy New Year! (there I said it.)

A Martin’s bikini line and miscellaneous shop stuff…

Posted in guitar repair, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on December 11, 2011 by Coyle's Richboro Music

So this week we had lots of upgrades and repairs but nothing too crazy, but we haven’t posted in awhile, so let’s look. That was a run on sentence.  Sorry about that.

This awesome sounding D-18 came in to have it’s original black pickguard replaced with a vintage style tortoise shell guard.  Acoustic guitar pickguards usually come off  easily with a hair drier and some patient peeling.  Just be sure to take your time. Not too hot, not too fast.  We’ve had guitars come in with splinters attached to the bottom of the old pickguard! For those who prefer the look of an acoustic sans guard, you can put your guitar in front of a window for a few days to let the UV color the  bikini line left by the old scratch plate. This one is more dramatic, but we were recently able to get a previously unexposed portion of a Breedlove to match the rest of the finish within two days. But we’re recovering this one anyway. If the replacement you’re looking for doesn’t cover the whole area, don’t worry too much. It’ll eventually match the rest of the finish’s aged hue.

After some final trimming, we matched the guard to the radius of the rosette. This guitar also got some shiny new Waverly tuners, some of the best you can buy.  These vintage style tuners are stainless steel with a bronze crown gear and have a 16:1 ratio. Super smooth and look great.

Next up is a really nice Gibson J-30 with a stress crack in the bridge. The design of this bridge didn’t give the saddle enough support. So after 20 or so years, it finally gave way…

So we removed the offending bridge and ordered a high quality replacement bridge. No problem. I saw this guy on YouTube use a 9 iron to remove a bridge in one hit. I used a pitching wedge, because we wanted sufficient lift. My swing coach keeps telling me we should use heat and a spatula. Next time.

Here we are after cleaning and prepping the area. You sould always replace your divots. It’s just good etiquette.

Here’s the replacment bridge. If you look closely, you’ll see the graft line where we spliced two bridges together. WHAT? Well, here’s the thing. The original bridge on this model is 2 1/4″ center to center from the E bridge pin holes.  The replacment bridges are the standard Gibson 2″ spacing. After some further digging, the Google told me that most Gibson bridges need to be fabricated. So in an effort to keep as original as possible and make sure the bridge plate and holes line up perfectly, we cut the broken bridge just below the pins and glued in the saddle half of the replacement bridge. The new style has LOTS of wood between the bridge and the edge, insuring that this baby won’t crack any time soon. Or ever. After lots of shaping, sanding and light finishing, this looks pretty original. The last couple pin holes haven’t been re-beveled yet after sanding.

Here’s the finished product with a new hand-shaped compensated saddle. The intonation came out nearly perfect and was fine-tuned with some saddle shaping. Now you can play an open E at the 12th fret and it all rings true. This guitar also got a new bone nut and fret level. It’s now ready for action and hopefully sounds better than ever.  Thanks to our buddy Fred for letting us work on this one.

Here’s a brief note about semi-hollow and hollow body guitars. Usually to replace a jack or repair a loose wire, the whole assembly has to come out.  If you’re going to go through that trouble, make sure you don’t have to do it again for a while. So we like to heat shrink the contacts on the jacks and make sure you put a lock washer to keep it from spinning again. Loose jacks tightened from the outside (without securing from the inside) account for 105% of repair guys having to fish electronics out of f-holes.

Here’s yet another pickup swap that needs some dressing up. The squared shoulders of the stock Duncan Blackouts leave lots of room on this 8-string. Yes, 8 (eight).  This was discussed in our last post, but we have a really nice shot of rings being glued together. It features our Craftsman clamp. I love this clamp.


O.k. Here’s a killer Ibanez Musician that wants to have new pickups. Only problem here is that the original pickups, much like the ones above, are very wide and don’t utilize pickup rings. The height adjustment is within the body of the pickup, smiliar to a P-90 but closer to the edges. We’ll have to figure something out with this one. We don’t want to modify the guitar in any permanent way or add new screw holes.

Here’s the size difference.

Here’s the mounting plate for the Ibanez pickups. We want to retain them if possible. We drilled and tapped new holes that lined up with the replacments’ height adjustment screws (Seymour Duncan ’59’s with 4-conductor wiring to keep the original Parallel/Split/Series switches).

We ended up being able to use pickup adjustment screws to mount the pickup ring. They were just long enough to wedge between the pickup mounting plate and the cavity wall. This way we didn’t have any additional screw holes but anchored the rings quite well in the right spot. Awesome. But…

The mounting plate made the neck pickup sit too high. We didn’t want to risk damaging the pickup legs by re-bending them or shortening them in any way. And we couldn’t rout the cavity deeper without compromising the integrity of the neck joint.  So we cut this dowel into quarters and glued them into the corners to hold a pickup ring. Sometimes you just can’t tell how it’s going to work until you try it. We were able to mount the bridge pickup onto the existing mounting plate following what we just outlined.

Here’s a great project a customer brought in. It’s a violin that was in his family for generations and needed an overhaul. It has had lots of repairs over the years. Some different types of wood were spliced in to repair cracks, lots of open seams and a bad neck angle. We agreed to give it a dark burst similar to another violin we had in the shop at the time to cover up the old repairs.

The neck had this really big shim glued in at one point, but the angle was still way off making this violin unplayable.  We removed the shim and cut the neck heel to fit properly.

Here’s a shot of the back in progress. You’ll notice two screws at the endblock that were put in a long time ago to reinforce a crack repair.  We left the brass screws there. The neck had the same treatment. Although we removed them in the neck when we fixed the neck angle, we left the screw heads in place. Our job here was to keep the history, but make it playable.

Here it is after getting a new bridge, strings, 1 new tuning peg and all of the structural repairs and finish completed. Sounds really nice. Check out that cool fingerboard complete with inlay.  Hope this lasts in the family for a few more generations.

Here’s a shot of our new “guitar room”.  I call it that because it’s from a collection of old 1940’s Brazilian Rosewood D-28’s and I think a few 41’s. We took them all apart and used the back and sides for the floor boards. I know it’s wasteful, but man that floor sounds good.

Thanks for watching.

Adjusting a 50 year old ES and another cool Strat overhaul

Posted in Store News, Uncategorized with tags , , , , on August 19, 2011 by Coyle's Richboro Music

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Here’s a beauty. 1961 Gibson ES-335 dot neck.  An all time classic. Makes you smile just lookin’ at it. Only problem is…

After a couple of  previous refrets and some aggressive beveling (the angle at which the fret ends taper up to the crown of the fret wire), the high E string wants to slip right off of the edge of the fingerboard.  We discussed a few options to correct the issue with its owner, Barry.  We could A) refret it again, providing more level fret material at the edge of the fingerboard, B)  fill the high ‘E’ slot in the existing nut and recut it further away from the edge, or  C) do what we ended up doing. Tthe third  option was to replace the nut and cut it for a slightly narrower spacing of 1  5/8″ instead of 1  11/16″ .  We felt this was the least intrusive and most effective way to correct it, especially since the guitar’s owner Barry loved the way the neck felt with the low profile well-played in frets.

So I borrowed Becky’s rolling pin and knocked out the old nut. This was good, not only to correct the edge spacing, but also because this old nut had  been cut and filled a few too many times.  Heck, filling and recutting once is usually too many times. Perhaps I’m becoming a purist. Or just a snob. That’s fine. It suits me because I’m wearing a brand new shirt from the clothiers at Old Navy. The stitching is superb.

Here’s a shot of the bone nut blank, trimmed and shaped but not cut. The corners are still sharp, but we do that last. Next you’ll see the curious look of a compensated Earvana nut placed over top to double check the side spacing. They’re pre-cut to a variety of spacings and make great templates to test string spacing…

The slightly tighter spacing looks good, though not from this vantage point. This picture makes me a little squeamish. It’s just a test, that is not a graphite nut on a ’61 335.  Let’s move on. Since there’s some wear in the first 5 frets, we’ll crown and polish out those dents without removing any more height from the worn frets. I like to thing of ourselves as fret artists. No one else will call us that, but I’m hoping it catches on.

Here’s the finished bone nut all polished up and ready for final setup…

And here we are . You shouldn’t notice the spacing difference, and you really couldn’t feel it. We’re not crazy. Usually you would feel the 1 11/16ths shift to 1 5/8″ spacing. But becuase of the naturally rolled edges of the well played-in neck,  you really don’t on this guitar. The high E  just stopped slipping off the fret edge. And since the new nut slots are the proper size, the open strings have more definition.

And now, more pickups…

What you see here is…

Dimarzio Area 67 neck,  Gibson Firebird middle ‘bucker, Gibson Classic ’57 plus bridge pickup.  Push/pull volume pot to activate the bridge pickup in any position, mini toggle for out-of phase tones with middle and bridge pickups (more on this in a second), G&L’s PTB system with passive treble and bass cut circuit.

Wait a minute. This sounds a lot like the last post. What gives buddy?”

Well, after further consideration, the pickups on this guitar were rearranged to suit it’s owner Mike.  We also added  a few other options.

To add versatility to the double hum combination, we installed a mini switch to reverse the phase of the middle pickup. Since it’s a traditional braided wire, you can’t just make the braid the black and the center the white. It’ll make the pickup cover hum when you touch it.  So…you take off the cover, remove the black wire from the braid, splice on a new lead and you’ve got yourself a workable 2-conductor pickup for the circuit.

This is pre-mod. Forgot the next picture. What else is new. Now picture a nice braided wire paired with a cloth black wire coming from the back of this Gibson Firebird pickup.  That’s it. And there’s just a gentle breeze and the smell of pumpkin bread. And it sounds great out of phase with the bridge pickup. Now open your eyes.

This guitar also got a Hipshot Drop D tuner, GraphTech nut, Hipshot Trem Setter, GraphTech saddles and absolutely nothing else.

So now Mike can choose between the noiseless single coil tone of the DiMarzio Area 67 for great Strat tones, the Firebird middle ‘bucker, the Classic ’57 plus or any of the 3 together, including all at once. On top of that, he can put the neck and middle or neck and bridge out of phase with each other for killer funk tones. You can just hear those 9th chords now.

Click here to hear me play that whistling part of  new Britney Spears song on a dobro in open F#Maj. At about 13:35 it really gets magical.


Relic strat gets glossed over

Posted in Electric Guitars, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 26, 2011 by Coyle's Richboro Music

In this age of distressed finishes, here’s a fresh take on a  relic’d strat we’ve never seen before…

This started out as a raw ash body and given an artificial aged finish. Our customer brought the body and a reference pic of a 60’s sunburst strat with lots of wear to a local air-brush artist. The cool thing here is that even the worn sections feature a gloss finish. It’s a real head-turner.  Our job was to take his trusty Fender Deluxe Powerhouse Strat and convert it into this body.

As you can see, this guitar was upgraded with Seymour Duncan’s Everything Axe pickup set. This popular configuration has (2) single-coil sized ‘buckers (Lil ’59 & JB jr.) and a noiseless middle pickup with lots of vintage quack (Duck’bucker, get it?).

Our first mission was to make the neck fit the smaller pocket of the new body…

We set our Dremmel in a template and used the sanding drum to take off just enough to ensure a snug fit. Nothing worse than a loose neck joint with unsightly gaps.

Next we have to find a spot for the 9-volt battery. Oh yeah, forgot to say that the Powerhouse Strat has a circuit board and a 9-volt compartment in the back. We don’t want to route out a battery compartment, so we’ll hide it in the spring cavity on the back like on a Clapton model. Luckily, the board was able to fit under the 5-way with a little foam to avoid shorting out.

I like before and after pictures. It makes it seem like we actually do something around here.

Here’s a shot of the new assembly next to the original body.

This shows the original placement of the preamp’s circuit board.

Here’s a closeup of a wear spot.  This ended up being an incredibly cool strat that made everyone who passed by the bench yesterday stop in their tracks.  Maybe he’ll give it to me for my birthday. It’s worth a shot.

Here’s a Gold Tone Banjitar that came in yesterday. Can’t stop thinking about it. Now I have to learn some banjo licks on a guitar. If you play it normally, it just sounds like a bad 6-string. I heard someone fingerpicking some rolls though, and it sounded awwwwwesome.

And  like Bruce Dickinson says somewhere in the middle of Live After Death, “Scream for me Hammersmith!”

Thanks for looking.