Guitar Repairs London: 1968 Gibson 335 Headstock Repair



 

On the workbench a 1968 Gibson 335.

   

A phone call from a distraught Stage Tech. This guitar was slowly losing its headstock!

The guitar belongs to Richard Oakes, the guitarist with Suede.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suede_(band)

This is his beloved guitar which has had the headstock broken and repaired once before. The Stage Tech had resorted to binding the headstock with Gaffer Tape in the hope that it would last a little longer until the end of the band’s tour.


 

Once on the bench it is clear that the repair is substandard and slowly coming undone.

   

All it takes is a little tug and the whole repair comes apart.

  

This particular break is a bad one, it’s a shear break. The headstock has broken from the neck at 90° to the grain of the wood.

  

This makes for a challenging repair confounded by the fact that it has been repaired once before. All remnants of the old glue must be removed before a new join can be made. Fortunately there is no damage to the end of the truss-rod.

A shear break makes for a difficult repair because it is impossible to rejoin and glue the end grain of a section of wood to another end grain. Reinforcement strips will need to be inserted.

It is important that any repair work should be discreet and invisible.


 

The Process

Fortunately the head veneer is still in one piece and undamaged. The break has occurred just underneath the top nut. So it is decided that the head veneer should be removed and replaced once the repair inserts have be added.

The head veneer is clamped under a piece of perspex to keep it flat until needed later on.

  


 

The Repair

The idea is to join/re-glue the neck to the headstock (as best as). And once this is done reinforcing inserts can be added.

A jig is made up to hold the guitar and headstock in place whilst the glue sets.

  

Once rejoined, the neck and head are routed to except the inserts. Brazilian Mahogany and ebony inserts are made up and glued in oversized to be trimmed down to shape once dry.

  

  

  

  

The head veneer is then re-fitted, conveniently hiding the Ebony inserts

And the back of the neck/headstock is refinished to disguise the work.

  

A few other jobs around the guitar are carried out i.e. fret work and a new bone nut.

All in all a successful repair.

I believe the guitar will now only be used for studio work. It is regarded too highly for the rigours of touring.

 



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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.



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

 



 

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





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/





Vintage Bass Guitar Repairs : 1963 Fender Precision Bass





Here’s a piece of history on the workbench. A fantastic Precision Bass made by Leo Fender in 1963, two years before the company was sold to the mighty CBS Broadcasting Inc. Its age makes this instrument a fascinating, valuable, and classic piece of music industry folklore. Leo Fender/CBS history here…

It also has an interesting ownership history as it was owned and played by Richard McCracken who was the bassist in Rory Gallagher’s band Taste. The bass can be seen being played by Richard on stage here… at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. More festival history here…

The current owner bought the bass sometime in the 1970s from a well known music shop in South East London. It enjoyed a busy playing life for a few years but eventually got put into storage. And there it has remained until now. The owner has decided to start playing again and needs his bass back.

~

After an extensive workshop examination it was decided that the bass should remain fairly unchanged if it is to retain its authenticity and value. With vintage guitars this workshop prefers to adopt a “less is more” work ethic.

The good news is that the guitar has very little wrong with it. The pick-ups and electrics are in working order. The truss-rod, bridge-saddles and machine heads still work properly. The only work required is for a few frets to be replaced, two new speed knobs, new strings and a set-up.

The neck angle is a little shallow, causing a high playing action.  This is easy to adjust with this type of bolt-on neck.

The factory date stamp verifies the age of the neck. The prefix “C” indicates the neck profile type ~ Frets 1 – 11 are showing signs of heavy wear

The frets are gently heated and removed. The fingerboard is lightly sanded and the fret slots slightly enlarged

The following video clip shows the partial re-fret in Fast Mo

Meet the owner Jim, he’s the man with the bass (and the shades)

More enlarged photos here…

Soundtrack: Bass Instinct 5 by Chris Norton and Frank Mizen


A week or so later I received this email from Teresa, Jim’s partner and instigator of the restoration work.

Hi Graham,
I just wanted to drop you a line to say thank you for the work you have done on Jimmy’s guitar.  He can’t believe it’s the same instrument, the magic you have worked on his baby is unbelievable.  Great service, from your initial advice on the phone, for recognising that it is a rare vintage guitar and for your sympathetic restoration.  We really appreciate your less is more approach to work carried out on this type of guitar.  You have managed to improve the playability yet retain the character of this wonderful old beast.  We had not realised how important it was to retain as much of the originality of an instrument from that era, and your knowledge and expertise was greatly appreciated.  Your passion in your work is something very rare in this day and age. The additional research you did, finding a YouTube clip of the guitar being played at the Isle of Wight festival was very impressive.

Having looked at the piece about the guitar on your web site we thought you might also like to know a little bit more about the missing years.  Jimmy played in a band called Michael Robinson and in several pub/club bands in the 1970’s and 1980’s in the South East London area.  The Michael Robinson band even had a single (Rich Man) released on President Record label which had airplay on Radio 1 and was slated by Tony Blackburn. At which point Jimmy decided to join the ‘establishment’ and get a proper job!!!!!!

When we dropped off the guitar another one of your clients was just leaving and his passing comment to us was, “it’s in good hands” and he was right.  We would recommend your service to anyone with a guitar in need of some love, care and restoration; because we know that’s what any instrument left with you will receive.

You will be pleased to know that Jimmy has now bought a guitar stand is about to invest in a case…..lol!!!!

Best wishes,

Teresa and Jimmy





Martin D-41 Refret








I had the pleasure of working on a beautiful Martin D-41 which was in the workshop for some general maintenance work. After a workbench examination it was decided that it needed a partial re-fret.

Partial Re-fret

In this short video I take you through the process of its partial re-fret. Explaining the techniques, tools and materials used.








Fret Hone and Re-profile

In this short video I go through the process of honing and re-profiling the frets of the D-41. Explaining the techniques, tools and materials used.