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First Quarter 2013 repair blog report card

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

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.

Posting out of sheer principle is rarely fascinating.

Posted in guitar repair with tags , , , , , on March 13, 2012 by Coyle's Richboro Music

www.richboromusic.com

That’s our website, so  you can find us on the web.  I think that’s how this stuff works. Now on with the program. 

Just wanted to warn you that this post will not be terribly informative or life changing. It will have some pictures in it, so it’s worth the next 3 minutes of your life.  We try not to go too long without adding some new things to this blog. But…the busier the shop gets, the worse our documentation skills get regarding this thing.  So, without further adieu, here’s what I scavenged from my phone this morning

Here’s our resident inspector Joe checking on the progress of a bass fingerboard being planed.  The fingerboard ramped up at the end, so we plane it flat with…a planer.  Man, just not inspired today. Get it together cupcake!  Alright. We had a couple of interesting upright repairs last week. This one had a new bridge, some relief carved into the fingerboard and a hump on the bass side planed out.  Nice sounding bass, played hard by its owner. He wanted a low action at the nut and up high for his runs up the G string, but needed more relief in the middle of the neck so he wouldn’t buzz.  Hopefully the work passed the approval for the aforementioned Joe.

You never want to see this.  Bad fall, sheered the neck right off. Usually this would call for a replacement neck. However, the budget for this job dictated otherwise. We ended up drilling for a reinforcement dowel. Glued and clamped. Fingers crossed. Didn’t hold. Even with the scariest glue we could find. So we ended up with a re-do. This time we still went with the dowel, but removed the fingerboard and used 4 deck screws to help hold it all together.  Fingerboard back on and a little finish touch-up and it looked good.    Sounded great too. I really don’t think the break impacted the performance of the bass, so everyone involved was really happy.

We also had some cool 70’s and 60’s Gibsons last week. Here’s an SG in for a refret…

And a little more.

Since the neck is bound, the frets have to be cut and shaped prior to being clamped in. This is a rough fitting in progress. You have to trim the tang at the end so a little bit of the fret hangs over. All of the nubs (affectionate term for the bit of binding that goes over the fret end) were worn away, so we just had to let the fret hang over the binding without having to worry about fitting them in the old nub’s cavity. That’s a little trickier. Alright, a lot trickier but can be done.

Those are some old Dimarzios and modified pickup rings from the previous owner.  We reassembled using the existing parts so it was playable. But this one’s going to be completely restored. The current owner is planning on getting those pickups out in favor of some P-90’s and custom rings to fit the elongated cavity. Refinishing to remove some varnish brush strokes (!?!!??) is also in order. Can’t wait to see it when he’s done with the project.  Glad to be a part of it.

Here we are in mid pickguard fabrication. That’s a fancy word for cutting plastic. Makes you feel better when you say fabrication.  We ordered a cool pickguard, but it was just a hair to small for our customer’s taste. After staring at it for a few  minutes, I suggested we use the last bit of a tortoise shell pickguard blank we had. The blue tape was for tracing. We cut it with a roto-zip and hand filed the bevel. The bit on our table router was a little to steep, better suited for a strat pickguard than a jazzbox. Hand beveled sounds waaay better anyway.

This one involves an old Gibson hollowbody with a floating pickup. The original installation put the pickup a little too close to the middle for its current owner. We wanted to make a pickguard that put the pickup to be closer to the neck, but didn’t have too much room otherwise the hi E would hit it . The neck angle wasn’t designed to accomodate electronics without routing. And we didn’t want to do that.

Here’s the before. And the next will be the after. Just to clarify.

Here’s a pic of a sound port we cut into my guitar. We’ve been experimenting with this idea, as have many others for the past 100 years or so. It’s not revolutionary, but man does it work. If  you cut it in the right spot, this added a tremendous amount of detail and low end to the tone. The difference is apparent only to the player. Doesn’t effect the sound to the listener one bit. Good or bad.  But to my ears, it made my old Ovangkol bodied Washburn sound like a nice Rosewood dread.  Not for everybody, but I’m glad we did it. If you have a guitar that sounds  a little thin for your taste and you’re not afraid of regretting a hole cut into the side of your instrument, this monitor soundhole idea might just work for you.

That wraps up today’s entry.  Maybe next week we’ll hire that documentary crew and do this for reals. I meant that ‘s’ on the end. That’s for street cred.

And don’t forget to check us out at http://www.richboromusic.com

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 http://www.richboromusic.com. 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.)

sticker removal and ANOTHER aged tele

Posted in Store News with tags , , , , on July 16, 2011 by Coyle's Richboro Music

Here’s when adhesive and lacquer just don’t play well together.  After a valiant effort to remove an old sticker, a customer walks in with his beloved LP Studio in need of fix’n up.

Here’s a close-up, showing the finish rubbed to the bare wood in spots…

Now the plan of attack for this guy could have gone a few ways. The main issue was matching the color of this aged Gibson finish. There were about 3 distinct shades of white going on with this guy, so a spot repair wasn’t going to look good. Also the back and sides were really dinged up, so we had to figure out what was worth doing and what to leave alone.  We decided on just overspraying the top. The offending area was sanded smooth, filled and sprayed with arctic white lacquer. After buffing the heck out of the edges, the blend was as good as we could have hoped for.  Since this was budgeted as a sub $200 job including a setup, I think it turned out better than expected.

This IS arctic white, just looks ivory due to my poor photography skills.  I should use the services of Rebecca Coyle Photography, as should all of you.   Don’t worry, the color match was solid.

What else, what else? Oh yeah. We had an old, honest to goodness beat up Tele body. Now we like to build custom guitars with the coolest parts that are within arm’s reach. So we ended up with a ’72 Tele Custom-style pearl pickguard, a Fender Vintage Noiseless Tele bridge pickup, an Allparts hardtail bridge, a creme Bill Lawrence neck pickup and some tuners. The only drag was that we had to rout the body to fit the pickguard. Oh well, here goes…

I didnt’ have a template, or patience, so we did it freehand. The routes are cleaner than they look, but the black stain skewed the edges a little. Not perfect  are they, but we’re a sensitive group here.

So we stained the back a satin ebony and sprayed the top in a satin amber laquer, wore it out, aged it and buffed it to a really thin coating. The edges were scraped and softened.  We’re not going for an authentic vintage look, more of a played-out frankenstein Tele.  The neck got the same treatment.

The headstock logo was embossed and we’re gunning for a hand-painted sign look.  I can feel you judging us. It’s o.k. I was warned.

We copied the finish wear pattern on the neck from a customer’s 50’s Strat. It doesn’t look real, but you get the idea. We’re having fun with this guitar and try to make a head-turning piece of guitar goodness to wow your friends and impress your neighbors.  And it feels great with some major league tones to boot. Yay Richboro Music!

Here’s a gig bag with a Dragon on it. Have a great day.

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.