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




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Steve Earle Guitar repair : Mid tour crisis


On Wednesday I had a long distance phone call from Sweden. It was Russ Garett, Steve Earle’s guitar tech. Steve Earle is currently on a European tour

 

One of the two guitars that is being used on the tour had developed a nasty buzz on the G string, could I help? On arriving in the UK could I make time available to make the necessary repair to Steve’s Martin M-21? The tour was scheduled to leave Sweden after the Malmo gig in the early hours and arrive in London Thursday evening. A performance is scheduled at the Fairfield Hall, Croydon on Sat 31st Oct.

So with an appointment organised and directions from the crew’s hotel in Knightsbridge, Russ headed off to the workshop in South East London on Friday afternoon.

Once on the workbench I was soon able to ascertain that the nut slot had been cut slightly too low resulting in the G string buzzing when the string was played in the open position.

Steve Earle’s Signature Martin M-21

Steve Earle’s signature Martin guitar was designed by Steve Earle and Matt Umanov, a New York  based guitar specialist

This type of string buzz can be easily remedied. There are two options available, to make a complete new nut or repair the defective nut slot. On closer inspection it was decided to make a repair to the nut.

Rebuilding nut slots can be achieved very successfully using bone dust (or baking powder) and superglue. The idea is to build up the faulty nut slot layer by layer until there was enough height to re-cut the slot anew.

Rebuilding the nut slot

This was done and the guitar was strung up and the rebuilt nut slot cut to match the other nut slots.

Whilst Russ waited for the repair to be finished he lucidly chatted about life on the road. He told me that he was a freelance guitar/sound technician and tours with many artists in the US and Worldwide

He mentioned that the Steve Earle tour has only a basic crew. Russ, an outhouse sound engineer plus one other selling Steve Earle merchandise.

Russ’s responsibility on this tour is to re-string the two Martin guitars after each gig and keep them set up to performance standard. Also he is responsible for the stage set up of  microphones, stands and monitors. Russ has to be on hand during each performance in case of any onstage eventualities. He also takes his turn in driving the tour bus.

Russ tells me that he enjoys the travel aspect of touring and enjoys exploring new places. His work as a stage tech has taken him to many cities in the US, Europe and the Far East.

As a well earned break from this tour, Russ has an evening off (Fri) and is going to see Jack White of the White Stripes fame. His new band The Dead Weather is performing at HMV Forum London.

Meet Russ Garett, Steve Earle’s guitar tech. He mentions “When on tour the main thing is to get your laundry in”

Click for what happened next


Guitar repair: The Heritage H 535 Guitar, Kalamazoo

The Heritage H 535 is a beautiful guitar manufactured in the old Gibson factory at Parsons Street in Kalamazoo.
The factory is over 90-year-old and it’s where Gibson designed and made many of their masterpieces.

Heritage guitars have been producing a range of guitars from here for several years now. Their quality is extremely high.

Click the image to enlarge



This H 535 suffered a broken headstock when it crashed to the floor in spectacular fashion. After several weeks in the workshop we had it looking, playing and sounding as good as new.

An invisible headstock repair

For Flickr catalogue click here

Watch the repair process


Guitar Repair London: 1968 Gibson 330 Semi Acoustic: The Dilemma

This lovely old Gibson ES330 Semi Acoustic guitar dates back to 1968.

It has been well looked after and cherished by its owner (one of my regulars).

Simple Problem

What had started out as a simple problem soon turned into a long and complicated repair.  The jack socket had come loose and when the owner tightened it up all the electrics stopped working. This is a common fault with many types of jack sockets because the connecting cables often break if the jack socket is allowed to rotate. This was the cause of this jack socket failure.

To repair this faulty jack meant stripping the guitar down, taking out all the electrics through the pickup cavity and making the necessary repair.

A Convoluted Scenario

Due to the guitar’s age the wiring had become rigid and brittle. Any slight movement to the components or the wiring resulted in a minute fracture in the wiring circuit resulting in an intermittent fault.

The Dilemma

The value of a vintage guitar is determined by several factors

  • The make
  • The condition
  • The functionality
  • The authenticity

To remove and replace all of this 330’s electrical wiring and components would detract from its authenticity and therefore decrease its value. However, it could be argued that parts have to be changed and upgraded for the guitar to function properly. Should all the working parts on a valuable vintage guitar such as this one (including the wiring) be continually maintained and repaired?

Take part in the poll.

Vote functionality if you think that it is more important to change and replace parts as necessary for the sake of functionality.

Vote authenticity if you think that a vintage instrument should retain all of their original parts and remain completely authentic.

Vote now!



Outcome

 

In this instance the guitar was repaired using its existing wiring and components. It was painstaking work as any slight movement, tugging, pulling or distortion in the wiring would lead to another failure in the circuit.

I am happy to report that the guitar is now fully functional, playing beautifully and remains completely authentic, but for how long is yet to be determined.

Comments Please

Should an old vintage beauty such as this one be kept completely original, even if it becomes very labour intensive and costly to do so?

Or should all faulty parts (such as perishable cables etc) be replaced to keep the guitar in tiptop functional condition?

At what point should the old be replaced by the new?

I would be very interested to read your views on this so please feel free to make a comment.


Guitar Repairs In London

Guitar repairs in London:

For your Guitar repairs in London please contact Graham Parker Luthier.

Guitars are shipped  to the workshop from all over the world (even Ascension Island). Please get in touch for set ups, re-frets, headstock repairs, splits/cracks, electrical repairs and rebuilds.

So for your guitar repairs in London, UK or Worldwide please click here