Guitar Repairs London: 1961 Guild M20 Acoustic



 

This lovely old Guild on the workbench is in need on a bit of TLC.

Seasick Steve M20 Full

It’s an M20 made in 1961. This model has been called the Nick Drake model because of the association with him during the 70s.

This particular guitar belongs to Seasick Steve. You may have seen him on the Jules Holland show or heard him on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2.

The guitar has got a few problems. The soundboard has a distortion at the edge of the sound-hole. Frets 1-5 are worn and there are some intonation issues.

Seasick Steve is in London for a limited time so the guitar has to be repaired and turned around very quickly.

 



 

Close inspection reveals a loose X brace on the bass side. This is causing the distortion in the soundboard at the sound-hole. The loose brace is glued, clamped up left to dry overnight.

The intonation issues  is caused by a badly fitting nut. Also it is not intonated correctly over the bridge saddle. These and discarded and a new bone nut and saddle are made and fitted.

A light redress of the frets is enough to take out the wear in the frets.

Soon the guitar is playing smoothly and sounding great.

Seasick Steve thinks so as well.

Seasick Steve

Seasick Steve tries out his repaired M20 in his hotel room.



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Electric Guitar Repair: 1968 Gibson Melody Maker



 

Luke Crowther from The Rifles dropped by the workshop a few days back. He was collecting his Gibson Melody Maker.

Melody Maker

On the Bench


This lovely old guitar was made in 1968 and has been cherished by Luke for many years until it was worked on by an over enthusiastic guitar tech and was never the same again. After that it didn’t play very well and the intonation was hopelessly wrong.

A possible reason was identified immediately

Wrap Around Tailpiece

The wraparound tail-piece was never a great idea in the first instance and this one was also tipping forward quite acutely. This type of bridge/tailpiece relies on a raised pattern to fix its intonation. Quite a crude idea which only allows for fine adjustment via two small grub screws hidden in the back end of the wraparound. This allows adjustment forwards or backwards ( or  ) and typically never gives enough movement to permit accurate intonation. 

 

Tailpiece Pull up

This has been modified at some point as it still shows the remnants  of the old tremolo system. And removing the scratchplate reveals some crude routing out for the humbuckers. Certainly not factory spec!

Open Cavity

It’s hard to say definitively but it appears that this guitar had a fixed bridge and fixed tremolo as well as single coil pickups. And at some point a previous owner has carried out all these mods.



 

Time to put it right

First thing is to remove the wraparound assembly and trem remnants.

Tailpiece removed

A modern wraparound is bought in to be fitted. This system has separate saddles similar to the Tune O Matic bridges. This will allow the intonation to be set accurately.

New Tailpiece/Adjustable Bridge Assembly

The threaded inserts that are buried into the guitar body are slightly smaller than the originals. Therefore the holes are plugged and re-drilled. To achieve this two Mahogany plugs a turn down on the lathe, inserted and drilled out.

Posthole MeasurementHole Plugs in Lathe12.85mm in Mahogany

With the scratchplate removed a few of the scratchplate screw holes are repaired.

Breakout in cavity

Scratchplate Off Plugs Drilled

With the new wraparound bridge installed and the scratchplate secured correctly the guitar is ready to be set-up.

There is some fret wear which is honed out and the frets re-profiled. The fingerboard is cleaned and oiled and the guitar is re-strung with 10-46 gauge strings.

 


 

Luke checks out the guitars new set-up

Yes he likes it, one very happy Rifleman.

 

Luke Playing a Few Licks

Luke Standing

 

Check out the band on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/therifles

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rifles_%28band%29

 



 

Fender Guitar Repairs London: Stevens by Fender



Here’s an unusual guitar on the workbench.

A Stevens by Fender made by Michael Stevens.

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Michael Stevens is a renown Luthier working out of Alpine, Texas. In 1986 he became the Founder and Senior Design Engineer of the Fender Custom Shop along with design engineer John Page. Together they designed and made guitars for many named artists. Read more here


This beauty has taken a tumble and the inevitable has happened, a broken headstock.

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As evident from the serial number this guitar was one of the first few in the run. I can’t be exact as to where this guitar was made but the decal suggests it was out of the Fender Custom Shop.

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The electrics cavity-cover bears two signatures and a date which adds to the intrigue.

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It is decided that an invisible headstock repair should be made. This complicates matters as spraying a headstock with a coloured lacquer, so as to disguise the repair, will obliterate the decal. And the decal is essential to authenticate the instrument.

It will be impossible to save the existing decal as the finish on the back of the headstock will need to be scraped back to the Mahogany. After considered thought it is decided that new decals should be designed and made up.


Firstly the damage to the headstock is repaired, hot hide-glue is used for this. The break is clean with a large gluing area.

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The neck and headstock are stripped down using a simple cabinet scraper. This ensures that the finish is removed in a controlled and careful manner.

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The guitar body, fingerboard, edge-binding and headstock face are masked off and the guitar prepped for the spray booth.

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The first coat is applied – this is the base colour mixed with clear gloss Nitrocellulose Lacquer

Layer upon layer of this mix is sprayed onto the neck to eventually fill the grain and to bring the finish up above the surface.

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The lacquer is cut back in preparation of attaching the decals

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The water-slide decals are soaked, applied to the surface and left to dry.

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The neck has several coats of clear lacquer applied. This gives depth to the finish and also offers protection for the decals

 

The surface of the neck and headstock are burnished and polished and the tuners reinstated.

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All in all a good result and another quality guitar back in action.

More pics available on Flickr



Vintage Guitar Repairs London: 1930s Gibson L0 coustic Guitar Restoration





 

This lovely old Gibson L0 was made in the 1930s.

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It was taken in by this workshop some years ago for an extensive rebuild. It’s had a hard life and had undergone some very strange repairs over the years.

The majority of the internal struts within the soundboard were loose and in a previous and mistaken repair attempt to stabilise the struts, Epoxy Resin had been smeared on the entire underside of the soundboard. Also wooden clothes pegs were glued here and there as a misguided attempt to strengthen various parts of the soundboard.

The bridge was missing. There were several splits and cracks on the soundboard as well as a distorted area around the footprint of the bridge. All in all the whole instrument was in a sorry state and on the verge of being discarded.

Fortune & Misfortune

Fortunately its neck, fingerboard and frets were in good order and the guitar was owned by someone who could see the potential in this old guitar.

After months of intensive restoration the guitar was finally restored and shipped off to its owner in the Midlands.

Much to his distress on arriving it was revealed that the guitar had been mishandled by the carrier during transit. Unfortunately the guitar had suffered catastrophic damage to its ribs.

Side Split 7 Side Split 6

Fortunately insurance had been taken out prior to the guitar being shipped and after much haggling with the carrier the guitar was returned to the workshop and work commenced on its second restoration.

The split was extensive and extended from the waist on one side to the waist on the other.



The Repair

The split had occurred when the guitar (in its case and packaging) was drop upright on its end. This caused a split that ran along the grain of the rib.

The broken halves of the split will need realigning and gluing back together. Also the area along the length of the split will need to be reinforced.


The splits are carefully aligned and glued

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Made from old machine head parts and guitar strings, clamps are made up to hold the internal reinforcing strips in place while the glue dries

Threaded MH Threaded ply

Small holes are drilled through the guitar rib for the string to pass through. Once tightened and the reinforcing strips are held in place.

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With the glue dried the sides were lightly sanded, re-finished with a Shellac based lacquer and matted down.


I’m happy to report that the repair went very well and the guitar is now back in action again. No more National carriers though, this one is hand delivery only.

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Acoustic guitar repair London: Gibson 1966 LG-0 (Hot Rod)





Here is an interesting project recently taken in by the workshop: a Gibson LG-O made in 1966

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This is an all Mahogany guitar: Mahogany soundboard, back, ribs and neck. This guitar was a budget instrument at the time of manufacture and sold at an affordable price as an entry-level model. The guitar has a slim neck which measures 1 9/16’’ at the nut and joins the body at the 14th fret.

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The Bridge

In 1962 with many thousands of the LG-O sold Gibson decided to exchange the standard rectangular Rosewood bridge for a plastic “belly above” type. This plastic moulded version was held in place by 4 screws that attached from under the soundboard up into the base of the bridge. This was done for ease of removal when dealing with replacements. This was upgraded in 1968 with a Rosewood replacement which included an adjustable saddle.

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 The Soundboard

The soundboard is ladder-braced with 5 lateral braces across its width. This type of bracing gives a distinctive tone that is indicative of the old acoustic Blues sounds of the 1930s. However, this system lacks structural strength and over time the soundboard can become bulged and distorted with string tension. The over large bridge-plate can exasperate the problem as these where generally made of softwood which also offered little structural strength. The LG-O was discontinued in 1974.



The Brief

Our Brief in this instance was to remove the internal ladder bracing, replace with a scalloped X brace system to give the guitar a more balanced tone and to accentuate the bass tone.

To upgrade the bridge-plate and to make and fit a Rosewood replacement bridge.



Removing the Back

In order to gain easy access to the internal bracing it will be necessary to remove the back.

This LG-O does not have an edge binding around its back outline. Therefore, a thin pallet knife is slipped between the back and the end block to start the separation. Once started a Japanese saw is used to precisely cut through the inner lining. Because of the saw’s thin blade and unique cutting motion very little material is lost during this process.

 

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Once the back is removed the simplistic ladder-brace system is revealed. You will notice that a brace and the bridge-plate are missing. I believe these became loose and subsequently lost years before. Their footprints are still visible.

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Rosewood Bridge-Plate

The remaining braces are easily removed and the internal face of the soundboard is prepped in readiness for its upgrade. An Indian Rosewood bridge-plate is made up and fitted. Rosewood is the workshop’s prefered material for bridge-plate replacement because of its strength to thickness ratio.

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Go-bars are a very handy and simple way to fit bridge-plates and braces. They are made from flexible timbers that allows pressure to be applied where needed whilst glue is drying.

The Bracing System

The bracing system is made up and glued into place piece by piece.

Each brace is made from 1/4 sawn straight-grained spruce individually scalloped.

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 Gluing the Back

Once the bracing system is completed the back is cleaned up and glued into place

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A replica of the plastic bridge is made up out of Brazilian Rosewood and fitted

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The Set-Up

The frets are showing some wear. They are honed and re-profiled and the truss-rod is adjusted.

The guitar is strung up and tested.

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 Conclusion

I’m happy to report that the finished upgrade turned out very well. The guitar has a sweet sound with a good balance. It has a warmth and depth to the bass with sweet mids and trebles. It likes to be picked as well as strummed and I suspect that it will record very nicely and with a small body guitar that’s all you can really ask for.

Full size photos available here on Flickr





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!





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.

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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).

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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