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.

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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.

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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.

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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 Repairs: Guild JF55 12 String





 

This Guild 12 string has started to rattle badly across its bridge saddle.

On close inspection it appears that the bridge is raised. This fault is caused by the soundboard bulging or bellying in an area just behind the bridge. This is the rotational cause and effect of the bridge twisting under string tension and rising up at the back-end causing the string to lose its break point at the saddle. A classic example is the soundboard bellying behind the bridge and the soundboard sinking in front of the bridge. These problems can manifest themselves as poor intonation or string rattle across the bridge saddle. If left unchecked it could result in the bridge lifting and becoming unattached.

The cause of this problem can be due to several factors:

  • Soundboard too thin
  • Loose or weak internal bracing
  • Faulty bridge-plate*
  • Excessive string tension due to incorrect neck angle

On this fine old Guild the neck angle is as it should be. The soundboard seems to be fine with no loose struts. In reality, because this is a 12 string the soundboard thickness and struts are massively engineered. However, the bridge-plate could be at fault as it seems a little undersized to be of any great benefit. With some bridge-plates, over time and with excessive string tension and humidity changes, the glue can start to creep resulting in the plate splitting and going out of shape. In this case the bridge-plate is made of Curly Maple (odd choice) with the grain running along its length.

As all the other possible causes seem in order, the way forward is to remove and replace the bridge-plate with a slightly thicker and heavier plate made of a stiffer hard-wood.

* The bridge-plate is a wooden reinforcing patch that is glued to the soundboard directly under the bridge. It has the task of stiffening that part of the soundboard directly under the bridge and helps to counteract the twisting force from the bridge. Also it reinforces the soundboard area where the bridge-pins and string ball-ends lock into place.



The bridge is removed. The bridge-plate is dampened with a wet cloth to soften the glue. A little heat is used; the heat from a light bulb is enough to warm the plate through to soften the glue

 



The soundboard is clamped in a concave posture to help reinstate a flatter shape and left in a quite part of the workshop for several weeks

 



This short video clip takes you through the repair process

Soundtrack: Perfect World by Jeremy Sherman

 

Follow this link for enlarged photos on flickr…






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.








Guitar setup: Acoustic Guitar Repair: Fret Dressing a Martin D 28

This Martin HD 28 is in the workshop for a full set up and fret dress. It dates back to 1987 and this is its first serious set up.

The frets are showing signs of wear and tear. Also the fingerboard has started to show signs of wear and has a few grooves worn into it around the lower end on the treble side.
The fingerboard wear is tackled first. It is skimmed between the frets and the worst of the grooves filled and smoothed.

Next comes the fret dress.

The truss rod is released to ensure that the fingerboard is flat and level. The neck is supported along its length. The body work is protected and masked off.

The fret tops are skimmed with a fine honing stone to remove all fret wear and grooves. Also to ensure all frets are a uniform height.

The fingerboard is masked off. Each fret is re-profiled.

Each fret is polished up to 2500 grade Silicon Carbide paper and then finely polished with burnishing cream.

The guitar is strung up and the truss-rod reset for Martin medium gauge strings.

And it plays like a dream.

Meet Colin the happy owner.

B.F.T.S. Buzz Feiten Tuning System


This Gibson ES 135 is in the workshop for a Buzz Feiten nut

The old nut is removed and a new Buzz Feiten shelf nut custom made from highest quality bone

The guitar is then intonated using the Buzz Feiten formula

Find out more here



Guitar Set-up: Vintage Gretsch Chet Atkins Nashville Guitar Repair

This week I have had on the workbench a 1970’s Gretsch Chet Atkins Nashville.

This guitar was being used on a major recording session, but when it came to laying the track down the guitar sounded out of tune.

First impressions are of a well maintained and great looking vintage guitar. Delving a little closer reveals some dark and sinister goings on.


Trials and Tribulations

It would not play in tune; it would not stay in tune, and we all know how frustrating that can be. There were also several other minor issues including an electrical fault.

Tuning Problems

On closer inspection, I was able to establish that the fingerboard had been re-fretted.

The fret wire used was very high and wide. Uneven flats spots had been worn into most of them. This created an intonation problem because the strings were taking the leading edge of the fret as its note reference and not the centre of the fret.

The Zero fret was also too high: This caused string-stretch when fretting the lower frets (1 – 5) causing the guitar to play out of tune. String-stretch can be a major cause of intonation problems.

The Bigsby tremolo was unstable, which made tuning the guitar an epic event!

The Electrics

One of the 3-way toggle switches was intermittent. This guitar has 3 x 3-way toggle switches and naturally it was the one that was the hardest to get to!

On removing the pickups and gaining access to all the electrics, I soon realised that the whole electrical system had been rewired. It looked a pretty poor attempt as the wire that was used looked like domestic household wire insulated with masking tape!

When removing the electrics to any semi acoustic guitar care should be taken when feeding the wiring loom up and out through the pickup or F hole cavities. If the electrics have been wired correctly there should be an earth wire that is attached (internally) to the bridge or in this case the Bigsby.

In this instance the earth wire was cut so short that I was forced to remove the complete tremolo system to release this earth wire, only to find that the strap button screw that was holding the wire had had its head removed!


Happy Outcome

On all guitar repairs, once the problem has been identified it can be put right. This vintage guitar has had numerous maintenance jobs carried out on it over the decades. I did get the feeling that I was putting right other repairer’s work. However, I am happy to report that the outcome of this repair ended very well, much to the delight of its owner.