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 the 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 and 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.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/36512354@N04/30157938405/in/album-72157674918186025/

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

 



 

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.

Image  Image

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.

Image  Image

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.

Image Image Image

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!





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





Gibson Guitar Repair : 1969 Southern Jumbo





The owner of this lovely old Gibson SJ thinks it doesn’t have the sound projection that it should have.

My suggestion is to fit a GPL Saddle Insert to replace the existing adjustable bridge saddle.

Adjustable bridge saddles of this type were used by Gibson and Epiphone on their acoustic guitars during the 1960s. This adjustment gives the player the opportunity to set the action to the required height to suit the player’s style. However, when the saddle is set to a good playing action the saddle makes no contact with the soundboard; this is the down side to this system. This lack of contact is due to the saddle being suspended on two adjusting posts. These posts are screwed into two threaded inserts that are housed into the soundboard. Therefore the transmission of sound vibration from the strings to the soundboard is via two metal adjusting posts. This is not an ideal situation for producing good volume or tone. Simple logic would dictate that the more contact the saddle has with the bridge or soundboard the more transmission of sound, therefore producing more volume and more tone.

View Forum discussion here...


What is a GPL Saddle Insert ? A GPL Saddle Insert replaces the existing adjustable bridge saddle found on vintage Gibson and Epiphone guitars. It’s a non-invasive modification and can be removed if necessary. It’s an idea that I’ve used on several vintage guitars in the past which has enhanced the volume and tone and brought out the true voice of the guitar.

The Process

  1. The adjustable saddle is removed
  2. A GPL Saddle Insert is custom-made from matching woods to fit the slot
  3. The insert is glued into place
  4. The saddle position is marked out
  5. A saddle slot is routed into the insert
  6. A bone saddle is custom-made
  7. The string height is set for optimum playability

The GPL Saddle Insert is glued into place using high quality Hide glue. The remarkable thing about Hide glue is that it’s reversible. With most synthetic glues when it’s stuck it stays stuck. Not the case with Hide glue because it’s an organic material that softens with heat and moisture.  Therefore, by using a little heat and moisture the insert can be released and removed. Consequently, if the old saddle system needs to be put back into place it’s a simple job to reverse the above process and re-install the adjustable bridge saddle.


The Dilemma

Meanwhile the debate still rages on about the rights and wrongs of upgrading any aspects of a “vintage” guitar. Many owners of instruments that are of a certain age are reluctant to change any element of that instrument because it would no longer be origin. In a nutshell, if you have a guitar that’s 30 plus years old, making upgrades or changes to it could make it worth less than if it remained unchanged.

View a recent poll discussing the pros and cons of vintage guitar upgrades here…

The GPL Saddle Insert cuts across this issue because it is a non-invasive change that can be removed when required. If you have an old vintage acoustic that’s not living up to its potential contact this workshop and ask about the GPL Saddle Insert.

Update 23.01.11

An email from the SJ owner, shortly after collecting from the workshop

…………………………… it doesn’t show a lot of play wear and this might have been because it didn’t respond well and as a result, it never got the play for it to break-in and open-up since there was no vibration getting to the soundboard.   Now that the vibration is connected to the soundboard for the first time in its life, it might open up and get much better than it has ever been; wishful thinking or rational reasoning?  Even playing it last night warmed it up and as the evening wore on it seemed to sound better. I do have to say that it now does have a mystical kind of sound that is quite beguiling when one becomes familiar with it. As you can see, my enthusiasm has returned for the old SJ.