2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 51,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 19 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Guitar and Mandolin Repairs : Kalamazoo Mandolin





This lovely old ‘30s Kalamazoo came into the workshop because it has a problem with its action.

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The action is very high and it’s not too long before the reason for this high action is spotted.

The neck is pulling up with the tension of the strings and a gap has appeared at the neck/body join.

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According to its owner it had been attended to in the past but the repairer merely forced glue into the join, applied clamps and hoped for the best. Consequently over time the join has failed again.

The only means of dealing with this type of issue is to remove the neck and to make an assessment of the internal join.



The fingerboard extension is heated to release the glue. By teasing a little warm water into the join the hide glue is softened and the neck join becomes undone.

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The neck and body are held together with a simple French Dovetail. On close inspection of the dovetail it appears that it does not reach to its full height.

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It is decided that a simple solution would be to extend the male half of the dovetail.

The end is trimmed down and a piece of Mahogany glued into place.

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As a safeguard an Ebony dowel is fashioned and inserted down through the body of the join.

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Veneer shims are added to the dovetail to ensure a snug fit.

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The join is assembled using hide glue and clamped.

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A few days later the mandolin is strung up, tuned and tested. The join is now gap free and the playing action is as it should be.

Click photo for Flickr pic set

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This lovely old mandolin has the beautiful tone of a mature instrument with the playability of a new mandolin, good for another 80 years!





Guitar Set Up London



 


What are they saying about Graham Parker Luthier?

Here’s a selection of the many thank you emails that arrive weekly.



Hi Graham, Just a quick thanks for the great job on the guitar it plays beautifully and I have written a couple of new songs because it plays so easy.

Regards,

John (Neck Reset)


Hi Graham

Apologies for the random email – but I can’t remember actually contacting you after you had finished working on my Fender Precision.

Work was manic and as unbelievable as it might sound, I didn’t actually even get to take the bass out of the case for a few months.

I just wanted to send you a note to say that it is perfect – absolutely perfect. It feels better than ‘brand new’, and the action is literally the best I’ve experience in about 20 years – really good.

Great work. Thank you again and apologies for the delay in getting in touch.

Andrew  (refret – N. Ireland)



Hi Graham
I just wanted to drop you a quick line of thanks for the wonderful set-up that you did on my Gibson Byrdland. My hands were so cold when I came to pick it up from you, that I didn’t fully appreciate how good your work was. However, now that my hands have warmed up – and with a week of noodling under my belt – I have to say that the guitar feels and sounds fantastic. I was seriously thinking of selling it, but thanks to you it is an absolute ‘keeper’ now!
Thanks again
Mick

Graham,

Thanks for all your first rate work on the guitar, certainly worth the journeys from St. Albans to Lewisham. You diagnosed the issues very easily from my description and it was an education to chat at your workbench. I would recommend your work to anyone.

All the best
Thomas
Gibson ’75 J45


Hi Graham

Just to say again thank you for such excellent service repairing my Gretsch. From the initial contact to collection, your service was first class.

It was a pleasure meeting you.

Very best wishes
Stephen Crabb MP


Thanks again for setting up the telecaster and making the new nut.The guitar sounds amazing and is so much easier to play. I haven’t been able to put it down all day.

Great job as always,
Kind Regards,
Rachel


Dear Graham,

Just wanted to say thank you again for the extraordinary job you did on my mandolin: I really didn’t think it would be possible to achieve such good action and playability given the limitations of the original construction. Your efforts have proven absolutely transformative!

Pete


In 1973 I bought a Martin D28S in San Francisco.

Now the embarrassing bit: 43 years later I still hadn’t learnt to play it.

What happens to an old, even unplayed, guitar is that eventually it needs the neck resetting. I was lucky enough to find Graham. Apparently lots of professional guitarists go to him; but I, who refer to guitar parts as “the thin end” and “the big end”, was treated by Graham as a human-being.

Don’t be afraid to get this guy’s expert advice. His prices are fair… In fact, fantastic value for the excellent quality of his work.

This man is honest.

Cheers Graham from Patrick.


Hi Graham,

So I’ve had time to play the guitar properly now and I just wanted to say thank you!

Great job and it plays perfectly – it’s just right!!

Many thanks

Alex 50’s Gibson J50


Hi Graham

Don’t know what you did to my Les Paul but you’ve transformed her into a real player! Absolutely superb I can see why people like these guitars now.

Many thanks, and hope you have a good weekend!

David W


Hi Graham,
Just want to say that the guitar sounds and feels amazing! Better than it has ever done.
I’ve been playing for almost 4 hours straight.
I know who to call whenever my guitars needs a professional hand.
Thanks for the great work you’ve done.

Jonathan.  Heritage 535


Graham
Just wanted to say thank you very much for an excellent service and a great job.
The J-45 with your new bridge has been un-puttadownable since I got it home, its strumming/ rhythm tone is exceptionally warm and resonant, thanks again,

James ’60s Gibson J45


Hi Graham. I just wanted to say thanks again for the wonderful job you’ve done in my guitar. It is dramatically improved!

Well done.

Guy ’60s Guild M20


Hi Graham
Thank you so much for fixing my bass!
I really should have spent more time with you testing out the extent of your work, probing the wood, strings and feel, but I appreciate that you must see hundreds of people pretending to ‘test’ their gear, when the reality is that they are simply trying to impress you with their ‘hot licks’ or whatever. Either way, and nerves aside, my bass plays better now than it ever has, and I’m thrilled!
Many thanks,
Paul Fender Fretless P.bass

Hi Graham

Another massive thank you for the work you did on the guitar.
Sounding awesome and playability is excellent.

All the best Sean ‘43 Martin 000-18


That’s great Graham, and thanks for doing such a top job on the guitar. I’ll certainly be using you again.

Nick Tucker ’50s Martin 00-17


Hi Graham,
Just a note to express my deep thanks for sorting out my Epiphone ES345.
You have done a wonderful job on making what I found an unplayable instrument into one of my favourites.
Thank you very much and I’ll be in touch soon enough re more work.
Regards
Alan


Hello Graham,
Hope you are keeping well.
Just wanted to say thank you for the work you carried out for me on my Gibson Acoustic SJ200.
I have had the guitar from new since 2010 and have been trying to find someone to make it the instrument it should have been, you have more than achieved that where others have failed.
You replaced the saddle and nut as I requested and carried out a full set up with a fret re-profile.
The guitar really plays and sounds as it should have now and the intonation is 100% accurate.
The bass notes are a joy to play.
One of my concerns that others could not rectify was the E string moving on the saddle, you have corrected that and increased the break angle.
I went from being very frustrated with the guitar and ready to carry out a Pete Townsend on it to never wanting to part with it !
Thanks again for all your hard work and advice.
Hope you have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Regards
Steve (Gibson Acoustic SJ200)


Hi Graham,
Just wanted to say a massive thank you for the awesome work you just completed on my guitar. It’s sounding wonderful….well especially when you played it!
All the best until next time…..
Sean Marsh (1955 Martin  00-17)



THANKS SO MUCH !!!
It sounds and plays lovely, I’m heading off for the tour tomorrow a very happy man.
Cheers and hope all is well with you

Ted Barnes (Birkett Acoustic)



Graham,
Guitar is amazing, sounds better then ever, thanks. Alek
Alek Coroner (Les Paul)



Dear Graham, just played the old lady for an hour, she is in fantastic shape… Thanks a lot for brushing her up, I am very happy.  See you soon P

Philip Goeth (1964 Hofner President)



Hi Graham,
I want to thank you for the excellent work you did on my 1965 Levin. The intonation, which had never been right, is now absolutely perfect. It also sounds and plays better than ever. I think it will be the first guitar I pick up from now on – even before my Martin 00028ec. Great job!
Regards,
Peter



I ran into big difficulties trying to fit new pickups to my Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster. Graham took on the mess I had made and rewired the guitar and installed the pickups. He also set up the guitar involving truss rod adjustment, corrected intonation, resetting the action and got the tremelo to float perfectly. It has never played so beautifully. Graham’s work is of the highest standard and anybody seeking his help can have the confidence that their guitar is in very good hands. I think he offers great value for money.

Richard Chambers



Hi Graham

Thanks for the great job you did on what was an old standby guitar that I hardly ever played. Its a different guitar now and a pleasure to play

Colin Fielding (Takamine)



Hi Graham,
All I think I need to say is that my Gibson 60s J50 has been in the hands of a true master craftsman.
Many many thanks for a truly great job I am unbelievably pleased with all you have done and the guitar feels and plays beautifully.
Fondest regards,
Terry Windle



Hi Graham
Just like to say thanks for the lovely job you made of my Larrivee. Been playing it this weekend and it feels and sounds great.
Many thanks Ray



Hi Graham, Ive been playing the guitar alot since I picked it up from you, and it is sounding and playing beautifully. Thank you.

Bob (Ovation Viper)



Hi Graham,

A quick note to thank you very much for the excellent work you did on my Tokai. It plays beautifully!

Thanks again,

Derek



Hi Graham,

Just a quick note to thank you for the work you did on my 335 recently, the neck is now simply seamless all the way along and this means smoother solos and less strain which equals a great deal more playing pleasure and better music. Thanks again.

Fabian



Hi Graham,

Just wanted to say thank you for the great setup on my les Paul. It feels easier to play, and sounds fantastic – chords in particular sound much cleaner now.

Thanks again.

Luke



saulashby Saul Ashby

Thanks @gparkerluthier for making my Gibson play like the hot shit. Can’t put it down.

Gibson J 160E



Hi Graham,
A quick note to thank you for your excellent work on the Squier: it has transformed it from a decent but rather ordinary guitar to one that feels, plays and sounds very good indeed.
Thanks, too, for making us so welcome.
Best wishes,
Derek S


Hi Graham,

Just a note to thank you for the transformation you have made to my guitar. It’s improved in pretty much every way and plays like a dream and I’m sure will keep opening up even more as I’m playing it even more now; in fact it’s hard to put down!

Kind regards

Luke F



Hi Graham,
A quick one to thank you for the work you did on my No.2 strat the other week. First class job as always.
Les has asked me to convey his gratitude for his bass set up – he’s very pleased and will be bringing you some other axes. (left hand ones of course)
Thank you once again for your high standard of work, hope all is well with you and yours,
kind regards,

Nick W.



Acoustic Guitar Pickup Installation : Olson Acoustic





On the workbench is a beautiful guitar. An Olson acoustic, from the renowned luthier James Olson. He makes guitars for James Taylor, David Crosby and many other top recording artists – more here…

This Olson is owned by Chris Difford.  It’s in the workshop for a new pickup system and it’s needed fairly urgently for an up and coming tour.


The old pickup is a passive system and an active pickup is needed to boost and enhance the beautiful acoustic quality of this guitar. The guitar was made in 2007 and in its short life span the technology of acoustic pickups has come on leaps and bounds.

The L.R.Baggs iMix is the preferred choice for this Olson. It will combine the warm, positive sounds on the undersaddle pickup with the natural and sumptuous tones of the soundboard mounted iBeam pickup.

Check out the iMix here…


Out with th old

The old pickup system is removed. It’s the early type of pickup that is combined and manufactured into the saddle. Once removed a new saddle substitute will need to be made.

Before removal, measurements are taken of the string and the saddle height. This is to ensure that the playing action is matched once the new saddle is made and installed.

The iBeam

The iBeam mounting fixture is assembled and fitted

The iBeam is mounted into position on the fixture. This device ensures that the iMix correctly lines up with the saddle

The mounting fixture is fed through the soundhole and the vertical posts are brought up through the outer bridge pin holes. This ensures the iBeam is sitting directly under the saddle.

The iBeam is positioned and the mounting fixture removed

          


The Element

The undersaddle element is fitted into place….

…and the stereo jack socket fitted

     

The Preamp

The iMix preamp, remote control soundhole controller and battery housing are installed



New Saddle Demands

A new saddle is made up from a bone blank to match the intonated contours of the old saddle…

 

…the bottom of the saddle is cut with a slight angle. The saddle is made so that it fits loosely into the saddle slot, this is to maximise the transferral of string vibration to the pickup element. Consequently there is a slight forward tilt to the saddle once strung-up. The angle cut to the bottom of the bone saddle will ensure that there is maximum contact between saddle and element.

Click image to enlarge

All internal wiring is tidied and secured to the guitars internal walls.

The guitar is strung-up and tested. The new pickup system sounds great and will enhance and complement the acoustic value of this beautiful guitar in any live performance or studio situation.



Cased up and ready for collection.

Chris is very happy with the new pickup. In a later message from him he remarks “Brilliant, thank you it sounds great”

More about Chris Difford http://www.chrisdifford.com/





Fender Bass Repair : 1969 Fender Precision Bass Truss-Rod Repair





On the workbench is a 1969 Fender Precision Bass with a problematic playing action. The action is high and the bass is very uncomfortable to play.

It was bought through a popular online auction and was brought into the workshop for an assessment after the new owner had tried various adjustments but failed to make the bass more playable.

It had spent most of its life in its case inside a closet. This is confirmed by its amazing condition. The finish is bright and clean with very little markings or lacquer cracks. The hardware is all original and unusually the bridge and pickup covers are still present. I suspect that it was put away and forgotten about because it is such an effort to play. This would account for its immaculate condition.

Click image to enlarge



Fender Truss-Rod

On all early Fender guitars the truss-rod adjuster is at the body end of the neck. Upon inspection it is apparent that the truss-rod is not working as well as it should. Any adjustment has little effect on the neck.

Upon testing the truss-rod, it appears that the adjusting screw reaches its limit before any changes to the neck are effective.

The prognosis is that the truss-rod is either broken internally or that the adjusting nut is ineffectual in some way.

The remedy is to replace the truss-rod.

This is a problematic job as this would require the rod to be removed without removing the fingerboard. It is not possible to remove a Fender style fingerboard without changing the nature of the neck beyond all recognition. This would detract for its originality and drastically devalue the guitar.

A Fender truss-rod is made from a piece of round section steel with a “T” soldered onto one end (the truss-rod fixed point )and a thread tapped onto the other end to accept the adjusting nut. Once fitted into place, and when the nut is tightened, the adjusting nut pushes against a fixed internal washer which is part of the inner channelling that the truss-rod sits into.

It is decided to create an opening in the fingerboard directly above the truss-rod fixed point and expose the “T”.  Once exposed, the “T” can be severed and the rod extracted via the body end on the neck.

A magnet stack is used to locate the end of the truss-rod

A section of fingerboard is scribed through and removed thus revealing the “T” fixed point

The “T” is drilled through and severed

The rod is extracted through the body end of the neck

Testing the truss-rod once it has been removed, it is apparent that the adjuster is ineffectual. As the adjuster is tightened it has the effect of ejecting the screwdriver (very frustrating).

Click image to enlarge


A new rod is made up using a piece of silver steel and a different style of adjuster. This is inserted into the headstock end of the neck and fixed. Silver steel is a tougher material and more likely to allow for extra torque that may be needed on final adjustment.

The fingerboard piece is replaced

The area smoothed over and cleaned up

Frets 1 & 2 are replaced and a new bone nut made and fitted.


The Conclusion

I am pleased to report that the truss-rod works well and has made a vast improvement to the basses playability. The initial cost of a repair such as this is easily justified due to the overall value now put on this fully functional  ’69 Fender Precision bass – all original and in excellent condition – in short a splendid bass.

The bass is now permanently out of the closet and enjoying its new lease of life by its new owner.

More on P. Basses here




Martin Acoustic Guitar Repair : D 15S Rib Repair





This Martin D 15S got into trouble on its way back from a festival.

It was loaded into a truck with the rest of the band’s gear with only a soft case for protection, the result was a crushed rib


Good News Bad News

With an extreme break such as this the good news is it can be repaired.  The bad news is that the repair will always be visible unless the complete rib is refinished. This can be very costly and, because of its “natural “finish, there is still no guarantee that the repair will not be seen. In this instant the owner is just happy to get the instrument up and working again and is not too bothered about the appearance.

Firstly the break is gently opened up on the inside of the guitar. This separates the cracked parts and disentangles the loose sections enabling glue to reach into the extremities of the cracks.

Once glue is eased into the cracks the inside of the rib is reinforced with sections of 1.5mm thickness plywood. The lamination within the 3-ply makes this a very tough but flexible choice capable of taking on the inner curve of the rib.

To ease the ply into place whilst the glue is drying a clamp is made up using a guitar string and an old machine head

The ply is patched over the inside of the break and the guitar string is threaded up through a convenient crack. The string is then threaded onto the machine head and tightened. Once tightened the plywood patch takes on the inside curve of the rib and is held firmly against the break whilst the glue dries.

Spool clamps are used to close up the cracks

Due to the length of this particular break, it is decided to repair this rib in two parts.



Once the glue has dried thoroughly the cracks are gently sanded and leveled. This inevitably removes some of the lacquer down to the bare wood.

The area is given an initial coat of stain to match in with the existing colour


Strung up and ready for collection





Vintage Martin Acoustic Guitar Restoration : Martin 00-17





Here’s a rare guitar on the workbench, it’s an old Martin 00-17 made in 1949.  Bob Dylan used this model back in the early so called “Coffeehouse Days” more info on Dylans guitar’s Here…

This little gem has some all too familiar problems; it has severe soundboard bellying, the neck is loose giving a high playing action. All of which has probably causing the bridge to lift.

Other issues

There is a small hole in the rib

Initials have been scratched in the lacquer on the back

It has been fitted with inappropriate machine heads

Click image to enlarge

 


With all bridge-lifting or bellying issues the first thing to look at is the internal structure of the soundboard.

Using lights and mirrors to scrutinise the internal bracing it is discovered that the bridge plate is a little loose and not glued at its edges.

By removing the bridge and bridge-plate the soundboard can be returned to its original flat shape.


With very little effort the bridge is removed.

The bridge-plate is soaked overnight. The next day, with a little heat, the bridge-plate becomes detached very easily.

With this area of the soundboard in a “damp” state, the soundboard is clamped into a negative bow and left to dry out for a week or so. This will help the soundboard regain its correct shape.

Once completely dry a new bridge-plate is made up from Indian Rosewood and glued into place. Hide glue is used because it is reversible, this will make the plate easier to remove in later years if necessary.

With the soundboard still in its negative bow the new bridge-plate is fitted, clamped up and left to dry overnight.

The bridge footprint on the soundboard and the underside of the bridge are cleaned up and with the soundboard still in its negative bow the bridge is glued into place.



Hide glue can be diluted to such a viscosity so as to be used in a syringe. Using this method the issue of the loose neck is easily solved by injecting Hide glue into the join and clamping overnight.

The hole and initials are patched up and cleaned up so as not to look too “over worked”. This is quite often a good way of resolving damage to a finish that is already distressed from years of use.

Suitable replacement machine heads are not available at the time of stringing up this old Martin. This will be done when appropriate tuners become available.



Glenn of Glenn’s Guitars plays the changes and checks over the  finished results.

More Martin 0017 photos on Flickr