Archive for Instrument Repair Bucks County

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.


Custom Lefty Strat

Posted in Electric Guitars, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on May 3, 2011 by Coyle's Richboro Music

From time to time, we’ve been known to put together some funky guitars. Sometimes at a customer’s request and sometimes we just find ourselves with some cool parts begging to be assembled.  This one was a collaboration with one of our all-time best customers Mike M. Mike’s a lefty and has to special order all of his guitars, and he has great taste. From Taylor walnuts to  Breedlove myrtles, Gretsches to G&L’s, he’s had some top shelf guitars. So we were flattered when he asked us to assemble him a killer strat. He wanted versatility, so we recommended the Seymour Duncan Everything Axe Set. This pickup set includes single-coil sized ‘buckers that retain the classic S/S/S strat look until you look up close. The Lil’59 is one of our fave neck pickups, as is the JB Jr in the bridge. Just enough chunk for classic rock and blues. The Duck Bucker in the middle lets you nail “Hey Joe” convincingly during the 3rd set. No fancy switching here, we’re going for a simple array of solid tones and the familiar 5-way switch.

This guitar features a 2-piece swamp ash body, finished in a trans-green burst. The stain and burst was done in-house, but we left the final clear coats to Fran Drummond at Drummond Custom Airbrush. His finishes have that “dipped in glass” look. He’s done some amazing work for us in the past and came through again on this one.

This is the rear view, showing off the killer grain of this light-weight ash body. The neck was sprayed in nitrocellulose lacquer with a vintage tint, slightly aged and given a speciall burst around the back of the headstock…

I don’t think we’re capable of not bursting a headstock in some way or another. I need to talk to someone about that. It’s becoming a problem. Those are black chrome  Gotoh’s on there as well to match the Gotoh/Wilkinson bridge.

We did a faux-grain on the headstock by spraying a TON of  tint and letting it swirl. It worked out great but I don’t think we could replicate it again. We just wanted to do something interesting. It was either this or overlaying a thin ash veneer to match the body.

Mike’s bridge of choice is this Wilkinson VS-100bk by Gotoh, made in Japan.  It was a special order in lefty but was worth the long, long wait.  It’s silky smooth and looks great.

Here’s a shot of the whole thing, pre-setup. My photography skills need some honing, so you can’t make out the pickups or the fact that it’s a white pearl pickuguard w/ black screws. hopefully we’ll get a better shot when it’s all done later today.

Until next time, remember what my Uncle Ned always told me. “Shut the door and stop making so much noise.” He really meant “Life is beautiful so enjoy every moment!”

Thanks Ned.

Neck resets and a Tele with a trem…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 18, 2010 by Coyle's Richboro Music

Well, what we’ve got here are two great sounding acoustics from the late 70′ – early 80’s that have rendered themselves nearly unplayable.  The action’s high, the fingers hurt, the guitar gets put in the case. To prevent this from happening, we’ve decided to take ’em apart and put ’em back together. It’s what fancy talkers call a neck reset.

When the saddle has been cut down and the truss rod cranked and you still have a high action, this proceedure corrects the neck pitch for optimal playability. When set properly, the fingerboard should be in line with the top of the bridge, right where it meets the saddle. Sight down the neck of your guitar and you’ll see it.

So…what’s supposed to happen is that you remove the 15th fret, drill the hole, steam the joint and the dovetail comes loose enought to remove and we proceed. However, what makes these two guitars (Guild dread and Alvarez 12) interesting fodder for this stuff is that the joints were a little more complicated.

On the Alvarez, we hit metal. Ouch. Turns out that the dove tail is a bit tighter on these guys than your typical Martin-style joint. Since we were flying blind, the only way to prevent unnecessary damage was to remove the lip of the fingerboard completely and find a new method of attack. As you can see, there’s almost no gap between the neck and body and this joint was made to last forever.  So we drilled some holes on each side of the joint and patiently steamed them seperately while keeping lots and lots of pressure on the neck.  It finally  popped after 10 minutes of steaming. Luckily we knew what we were in for and taped off the lables and put lots of towels inside the body to project the bracings and seams.

Here we are after cleaning up the gluing surfaces, gluing and clamping. What follows next is re-fitting the fingerboard section, fret leveling, crowning polishing, finish touch-up. Can’t find any of those pics.  But I already typed all of this, so I’m not stopping now. Lets just say it turned out great.

If anyone’s wondering about the Guild, I’m glad you asked. Just substitiute the word “Guild” for “Alvarez” above and you’ve got the idea. The Guild’s issue was that the gap in the dovetail joint was located almost exactly between the 14th and 15th fret. After 3 small angled pilot holes didn’t his pay dirt, we removed the top portion of the board on that one as well.

We removed a larger portion of the board on this one to also address a truss rod rattle. We’d usually just drill a tiny hole and get some wax in there as a filler, but since we were already doing something drastic, what’s another couple frets?

Here’s a nice action photo of a chisel.  I don’t think it’s from either of these jobs, but it looks cool.

On to another topic…

So our good friend Steve came in the other day with a cool Mighty Mite parts Tele for trde that he got at a guitar show a few years back. Nice ash body, great feeling neck. Just one problem. The guy who assembled it used a rear loading bridge and drilled the ferruls by hand.  The holes had finish chips and were very uneven. I couldn’t even take a picture. And we definitely couldn’t sell it as is out of self respect. So here’s what we did.

Routed for a trem. Note the old ferruls. In an effort to make it look better, two of them were filed so they’d fit together in a tight space. Ugh.

Out came the stock pickup (whatever it was) and in went a Duncan Hotrails for Tele.

Yup, those are flat head screws on that pickup buddy.  There’s always room for cool points. We also went with a mis-matched gold vintage-style trem and graphtech saddles.

And bursted headstocks are in for 2010.

The dice knobs came with the guitar, and I’m not going to be the one to take ’em off.