Archive for the 'repairs & mods' Category


Wednesday, October 15th, 2008

Here’s a classic example of why I go to so much trouble to construct a scarfed, back strapped headstock. The owner of this Gibson Les Paul Standard wasn’t aware of having broken the neck - he opened the case and found it broken. Most likely, the case tipped or fell a short distance, and was stopped abruptly by hitting something. The weight of the tuners, supported at the end of the neck, combined with the Gibson Les Paul’s 1 piece neck (which results in very unfavourable grain orientation in the headstock area) and large trussrod adjustment cavity, allowed the whiplash effect to crack the headstock cleanly away from the neck.

From the side you can see that the only thing holding this all together is the plastic headplate, which is flexible enough to act like a hinge:

A (badly focused!) close up shows how little wood is left in the neck once the trussrod cavity is cut - you can see righ through the headstock!

The good news is; as easy as these breaks are to produce, they’re also pretty easy to fix. The headplate holds everything in alignment, and there is plenty of surface area for a good glue joint, which will be as strong as the headstock was originally.

To clamp the break closed, I use a spanish windlass setup. I run a piece of electrical cable (strong, with a cushioned surface, but not very stretchy) through the tuner holes in the head and around the lower strap button, then add tension by twisting a piece of scrap timber in the loop. Once it’s tight, I extend the scrap out to one side, where the neck prevents it untwisting.

This setup only works if the head veneer is intact, but is a very easy way of closing up the fine feather-edge of the break. It also allows easy access to all sides of the repair to clean up glue squeeze out. With the squeeze out wiped away with a damp cloth, I add an f-clamp (with a flat clamping caul and leather pad) to apply extra pressure of the rest of the break.

After for 24 hours, I unclamp the break, and carefully level the repair. Very little levelling is required, and the result afterwards is pretty clean.

However, it can be improved. Gibson still use nitro lacquer on their guitars, so this is what I use for touch up. I apply generous drops of laquer with the tip of a brush to fill any missing chips of finish, then sparingly brush over the entire area.

This lacquer needs time to cure, at least 1 week, or prefferably longer. Once it’s dry, it’s relevelled, wet sanded to 1200 grit and buffed to a shine.

Not a bad result if I do say so myself!

P.S: The guitar didn’t actually keep changing colour - that’s my photography and image editting!

Postponing a Viking funeral

Thursday, August 21st, 2008

Finally an opportunity to post something about guitars!

A little while back, Tim dropped in his Hagstrom Viking. After a good deal of gigging round Germany, the neck was very loose, and shifting unpleasantly in the pocket. Closer examination revealed the neck block had slipped, and string tension had deformed the arched top and back plates. To return the guitar to it’s original problem would have been prohibitively expensive, but since the neck block seems stable, a carefully shaped shim will do the job to keep the neck in place.

Whilst it’s here, Tim also wanted to upgrade from the cheesy stamped TOM to an archtop style bridge.

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The new bridge is shaped to fit a much more dramatic arch than the Hag’s, so it only contacts at the very edges - no way it can work well like this.

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Out comes the blue tape, and the bridge is taped and the curve of the top marked onto it with a pencil. A quick trip to the disc sander, and a few shavings with a plane, and it’s already much closer. Still a way to go though - and gaps will lead to reduced sustain and volume so a perfect fit is the aim.

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To get there, some 120 grit paper is taped to the guitar top, and the bridge is rubbed back and forwards until it had been sanded over the whole width. After the 120 grit, I repeated the process with 240 grit to refine the fit.

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Et voila - perfect fit!

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The job didn’t finish here, because the new bridge is significanlty taller than the original. So, I made a tapered shim to adjust the neck angle for a nice low action. The shim tapers from about 3mm to a feather edge, so the neck is fully seated on wood, rather than raised up on a shim at one end of the pocket. I much prefer this method to the old standbys like a folded business card or a matchbook, and think it’s beneficial to tone and (particularly important in this case) stability.

Unfortunately, I forgot to take any pictures of this before I put the neck back on, but you can see the results - with the guitar strung up, the action is spot on, with scope for adjustment in either direction. Should keep this Viking fighting fit for a good while longer…

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P…p…p… picking some pickups…

Thursday, September 7th, 2006

Every now and then, despite the best efforts to keep him locked out of the workshop, I’m paid an unwelcome visit by the cockup monster. He’s a tenacious little bugger, and if he’s really determined to visit there’s not much you can do to prevent it.

What you can do, is learn to clean up his footprints so nobody but you knows he was ever there*. With a little bit of creativity it can even work to your advantage.

So, exhibit A:

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One pair of Rosewood P90 pickup covers, made entirely to satisfy my whim, and not at all inspired by a template shifting slightly and making my routes a tad too big for a regular P90 cover…. honest!

These’ll be going in my LP jnr style, which (fingers crossed) will be getting some finish very soon. I’m still trying to decide which P90s to use - I’ve heard great things about Lollar and Fralin, but I’m also tempted by Vintage Vibe.

Any thoughts?

*Unless, of course, you post it on your blog. That might give the game away.

Classical Bridge Repair

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

New page on replacing the bridge on a Schaller nylon strung guitar has been added here.

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Tim’s Tele…

Friday, May 5th, 2006

…is off the operarating table after some minor surgery to plug a p90 route in the neck position. More here.


Bank holiday gubbins…

Saturday, March 26th, 2005

Over the last few days I’ve been kept pretty busy, working at the shop, going out and about, and working on a commission. It’s a bolt on neck for a member of Project guitar, and I’ve thrown together a page about it for anyone who cares.

On Thursday night I went to Woody’s, and saw Tim and Jamie’s band, End of the New. It was a very solid set, with James’ drumming conspicuously improved (he was throwing in some very tasty tom fills). A good night all in all, apart from a niggling problem with the vocal balance, which seemed to effect every band on the bill. After the set I got the chance to check out Tim’s new duosonic, which I recently worked on for him, installing a Fender Dynamic tremolo and dressing the fret ends. It’s all done now, and looks pretty cool with the new mustang trem, and dual lipstick pickups. It was only along as a back up so I didn’t get to see it in action, but apparently it’ll be christened before too long.