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

 



 

Advertisements

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.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE


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

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

Circus of the Sun is in town!

KOOZA | Royal Albert Hall




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

Image  Image

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.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

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.

Image  Image

 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.

 

Image Exif_JPEG_PICTURE Image

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.

Image



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.

Exif_JPEG_PICTURE  Exif_JPEG_PICTURE

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.

Image  Image  Image

Image  Image

 Gluing the Back

Once the bracing system is completed the back is cleaned up and glued into place

Image

A replica of the plastic bridge is made up out of Brazilian Rosewood and fitted

Image

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.

Image  Image

Image

 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





Acoustic Guitar Setup: Gibson Hummingbird Custom Shop





 

This Beautiful brand new Gibson Hummingbird Custom Shop is in the workshop for a quick set-up.

Its new owner has only just taken delivery of it and wants to get it checked over.

It’s in fine fettle and is just given a truss-rod and action adjustment.

It’s given a clean bill of health

Enlarged photos here…


 

Spec:

Body
Soundboard          ~     Sitka Spruce
Back and Sides     ~     AAA” Figured Koa
Binding                   ~     Multi-ply Top w/ Abalone, Multi-ply back
Bracing                   ~     X-Bracing
Rosette                   ~     Double Ring w/Abalone
Hardware
Bridge                      ~    Ebony Belly Up
Scratchplate         ~    Tortoise Hummingbird Inlay
Tuners                     ~    Gold Grovers Engraved Knobs





 

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


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.

Just click on the RSS button.

Guitar Set Up in London

Fizzing and buzzing

Fizzing and buzzing is an expression I like to use to describe annoying fret rattle.
It can be caused by several factors and will compromise the playability and sound of the guitar.


Acoustic Guitars

Fret rattle is usually the result of the following:
An action that is too low. This would be remedied by raising the action at either the nut or the bridge-saddle.
The internal truss rod is over tightened. By slackening the truss rod it would allow the string to vibrate without contact with the frets. How to adjust

Uneven fret wear along the fingerboard. This is a general wear and tear problem and is solved by honing the fret tops to a uniform height and then reprofiling the frets to recreate the correct shape. This process can be repeated several times before the frets have to be replaced.


Electric Guitars

Does your guitar have annoying fret rattle?

Fret buzz or fret rattle is annoying and can be caused by several factors. It will compromise the playability and sound of your guitar if left unchecked.

Fret rattle is usually the result of the following:
An action that is too low. This would be remedied by raising the action at either the nut or the bridge-saddle.

The internal truss rod is over tightened. By slackening the truss rod it would allow the string to vibrate without contact with the frets. How to adjust

Uneven fret wear along the fingerboard. This is a general wear and tear problem and is solved by honing the fret tops to a uniform height and then reprofiling the frets to recreate the correct fret shape. This process can be repeated several times before the frets have to be replaced.