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.

 



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

 



 

Bass Guitar Setups London: Sadowsky Bass



I had a visit from Jean-Louis Locas.

Jean-Louis is the bass player with Cirque Du Soleil who are performing their show “Kooza” at the Royal Albert Hall.

Jean-Louis has in his arsenal of instruments a beautiful 5 string bass by Sadowsky. The bass was in need of a quick set-up and a little fret attention mid shows.

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Sadowsky are a reputed workshop based in New York who make a fine array of 4 and 5 string basses

More about Shadowsky guitars here


Cirque du Soleil tour with a 5 piece band where the musicians double-up on instruments . It’s made up of bass, guitar, keyboards, drums, percussion and a horn section.

More about Cirque de Soleil here


Catch Jean-Louis in action at the Royal Albert Hall here

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Circus of the Sun is in town!

KOOZA | Royal Albert Hall




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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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.

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