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




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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





Bass Guitar Repairs London: Vintage Washburn B-20 Bass


One of my regular customers, and a collector of rare and unusual bass guitars, bought this Vintage Washburn B-20 bass into the workshop. He had hoped that it might be resurrected.

The immediate problems were:
•    Heavy fret wear
•    The electrics were in disarray with parts broken and missing
•    Machine heads missing
•    Nut missing
•    The Finish was scratched and battered

All in all it was a mess, after a workbench examination it became clear that most of the jobs were doable but there was one nagging problem, there was an extreme split to the back of the neck.

A major worry as this meant that this guitar was destined for the scrap-heap if this couldn’t be resolved. It appeared that the truss-rod was trying to burst out through the back of the neck.

This truss-rod problem could have been due to: (1) Faulty manufacture or material (2) A sudden shock to the back of the neck (3) A fault with the playing action that necessitated the truss-rod being tighten beyond its limit. Whatever the reason I needed to investigate further.

After a quick test I discovered that the adjuster was locked as tight as possible but the neck was in an upward bow. It was the  truss rod type that adjusted with an allen key and it showed signs of heavy use.
Another test would have been to string the guitar up, slowly bring the strings up to concert pitch and to check how the neck responded, but that was not possible as two of the machine heads and the nut were missing.

I decided to make an extreme adjustment test to the neck and truss-rod.

Using a heavy-duty straight-edge, blocks of wood placed at either end of the neck and a clamp at the centre of the straight-edge, the neck was gently forced back into a back bow. This took the strain off of the truss rod and held the neck in a back bow. With the truss rod under no pressure from the neck I was able to tighten the adjuster further to hold the neck in a back bow with the truss-rod. The splits seemed no worse for this action.
With the neck now held in a new profile, correct adjustment was guaranteed when it came to setting up the guitar. The tension could be slowly released, at the adjuster, until the optimum position was reached.  But first the cracking and splitting to the back of the neck would need to be remedied

The finish around the Mahogany insert was scraped back and the cracked insert routed out. This left a straight and clean channel for the replacement. This was to be a piece of ebony because of its strength and density (taking no chances here).

From left to right:

1. Neck held in jig

2. First router pass shows how deep cracks go

3. Third pass reveals truss-rod

4. Ebony inset glued in place

5. Cutting back the insert


As well as the neck repair here is a list of jobs that were carried out to bring this old War-Horse up to playing spec.

A Partial Re-fret

The frets showed signs of heavy wear and tear on the first 9 frets. These were replaced with identical fret wire. All frets were honed, re-profiled and polished


The Electrics

The pickups were working but the electrics were in a mess, components missing, bad solder joints and the components that were present were cheap and nasty. All pots, caps, 3-way toggle, jack socket and wiring were replaced and the pickups were giving a complete overhaul.


Machine Heads
New machine heads were sourced and bought in.


The Nut
A new nut was cut from a bone blank. How?…


The Finish
The Finish probably seemed worse than it actually was. The guitar’s top and back had what seemed like lines scratched into its surface. On closer inspection these weren’t scratches at all but gold pen and would probably polish out. Was someone, somewhere really considering cutting along these dotted lines?! There were many scratches and knocks all over its body. Although many of these would never polish out the owner resign himself to the guitar showing its “battle scars” and thought that it would probably look quite cool once the pen marks were removed and the finish polished up.


The Final Job

The last job was on the electrics back cover. This had curled up like a stale sandwich and would never go back into place without some attention.
I used my rib bending-iron and applied a little moisture and heat.


The Finished Result




Guitar Repair London: Collings Acoustic Guitar

This Collings acoustic guitar is in the workshop for a pick up to be installed.

A Fishman Passive pick up was decided upon to eliminate cutting a large rectangular hole in the rib of the guitar to except a pre-amp, and also to eliminate any need for a battery.


The saddle is removed and a hole is drilled in the saddle slot through into the soundboard. This is to except the pickup cable.


The strap-button is removed and a 12mm hole reamed through the rib and into the guitars internal end-block. This is to except the jack socket which will also serve as the new strap-button.


The internal pick-up cable is soldered to the jack-socket.


The jack-socket is tightened up and made secure.


The original bridge saddle in skimmed to compensate for the thickness of the under-saddle pick-up


Strung up and ready for the customer

Aria Pro II Fretless Bass guitar repair in London

This bass was taken into the workshop last week for a complete overhaul and set up. As the Aria Pro II range seems to generate a lot of interest (as did the previous blog) I’ve decided to blog this one also.

This guitar is approximately 28 years old and has never had any professional attention. It’s in very good condition and still plays quite well. This is a testimony of excellence to the Matsumoku factory whose guitars and basses were extremely well manufactured and made from the best quality materials.

The bass was showing some wear and tear on the fingerboard due to the round-wound strings that have been used throughout its lifetime, but a clean up with some fine sandpaper, and lemon oil soon had it looking like new. The electrics where checked over and showed no signs of any ageing. The guitar set up and intonated like a dream, much to the delight of its owner.

Look out for further Aria Pro II blogs as there are several Aria guitars scheduled into the workshop for repair.

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