Thursday, July 31, 2008

For want of a nail....

The gentleman who owns this pretty vintage Gibson Hummingbird choose to upgrade and repair the guitar with a neck reset, a refret, a new rosewood bridge as well as a new bone saddle and bone nut. This complete and necessary refurbishing yielded excellent results except for one little problem. An intermittent buzz/rattle, only at certain times and only on certain notes, often not repeatable and, ultimately, very frustrating. Until Gary, nosing around with the instrument in his lap, solved the mystery. He tightened the strap button.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Parking is terrible

but we're reasonably close to the Civic Center BART station in San Francisco. Condos spring up around us and drivers spend more and more time circling the block. Here Tim demonstrates a serviceable form of transportation (if you only have one guitar and it's on your shoulder in a bag).

Here's directions from BART: exit the station at the West end and head uptown on Market St. to 11th St. Turn left. Go one block to Mission St. and turn right. Within half a block turn left onto Lafayette St. and we're the 3rd door on the left. See you soon!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Rant #970

We love our suppliers, even when they make us wait (I'm talking to you, Fender) and we're excited like kids when we receive a shipment of pretty much anything. Our needs our simple. Anyway, we request that our suppliers always ship to us in bulk and *not* use styrofoam peanuts as packaging. It's one thing if the peanuts are grain sorghum or corn starch. That's fun because I can stick them to my forehead and they decompose nicely. But styrofoam (polystyrene) is nasty stuff, it gets into the environment really easily (just try herding a handful!) and breaks down into molecules that do not play well with flora and fauna. Of course in the process of repairing or modifying your instrument we may well use material known to the state of California to cause cancer so we don't pretend to be innocent. But, if a non-toxic choice is available we'll choose it.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Rant #374

We're a small shop in a small space doing a big job. Guitars can be shaped awkwardly, too heavy for their architecture; and the shiny finish, exposed to other sharp and abrasive objects, is easily marked in an unpleasant manner. People: please feel free to bring your guitars to us but (O Please) bring them in a case. The case not only protects your guitar but also provides convenient pockets to store your replacement parts/strings, etc. Cases also act as a deterrent against Spontaneous Rock Posing (dread applicator of chagrin to un-cased instruments the world over). No one is going to take the time required to remove a guitar from a case simply to strike the pose most appropriate to express a feeling. Like Zappa's bands, we can dance this stuff, too.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

It didn't play right for Cat Stevens

and that means it probably wouldn't play right for you. Here Leo (L) and Glenn pow-wow on adjustments to this big body Gibson. Offered by the manufacturer to Yusef Islam, recording recently in the United States, the guitar was returned with a few polite but pointed suggestions about playability. If you have a Gibson, under warranty or no, we have the ability to have it play as well as it should.

Friday, July 18, 2008

A conundrum

This instrument, according to the owner, doesn't play or stay in tune. To "play" in tune is different than to "stay" in tune, and requires a different fix. If the instrument isn't staying in tune after being tuned up we recommend stretching out the strings, keeping the winds around the posts to two or three maximum and having us set-up the guitar (which includes modifying the slots in the nut). If the guitar doesn't play in tune then it's an intonation issue, also usually taken care of with a set-up which includes adjusting the saddle(s). In the case of the guitar in these photographs, the position of the bridge studs (top) is incorrect. Earlier attempts to modify bridge are clearly visible. In the second photograph (bottom) the zero fret is in the wrong place, relative to the rest of the frets. This instrument requires that the bridge be moved, the zero fret also must be moved and only then will a set-up be worthwhile. Otherwise, it will never play in tune. You might as well hang this guitar on the wall to "hide the nasty stain that's lying there"*.

* - 10CC - I'm Not In Love

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Excessive clamping pressure

is one of the conditions warned of regarding the proper use of the adhesive product that Tim is about to apply to the break in the wood of the headstock of this Gibson Les Paul. With any new product, tool, or procedure Tim reads the directions first.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

some quietalonetime

One of the lovely little benefits of working on a guitar is testing it out through a real amplifier after the work is completed. Sometimes a persistant fault can be detected out here, away from the bench. Even better, it's an opportunity to play cool guitars...well hell, let's face it: to have a chance to play every cool guitar known. Maybe we become better players because of all this extra time adjusting to different kinds of instruments. Here Trevor meditates with an SG after spending several hours making it play well.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Heaven and Hell

From the sublime to the ridiculous. The carefully arranged row of precision cutting instruments indicates craftsmanship of the highest order. The pile of guitar parts detritus is a blunt reminder of chaos. Either one of these extremes does not exist in a vacuum. In the tao of guitar repair an instrument is made well again.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Carefully using a very sharp tool

Tim begins cleaning a nasty gouge in a fretboard prior to rebuilding. High quality tools are one of Tim's happinesses.

(update - Tim just informed me we've already used this pic in a previous entry. I'd like to take this opportunity to offer apologies all around...maybe we need some kind of image mgmt system...hmmm...anyway, I'm not changing it because it's such a great representation of the way Tim approaches his work...but I'll try to be more precise. Thanks for your forebearance - Aaaa)

Friday, July 11, 2008

Friday - full tilt

(from top to bottom) Gary is doing something arcane with a rock star's sustainer system in an Ibanez, Tim is making a new bridge for this Martin and Trevor is valiantly refretting an old Airline archtop. Today's criteria for YouTube videos: "songs that will get you laid." Never a dull moment!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

You buy a guitar online

and you bring it to us to open it up and verify it's provenance, to say nothing of the accuracy of the claims of the seller. The Les Paul (L) is clearly a 1986, everything checks out datewise and it has the added attraction of a much sought after one piece mahogany neck. The SG, however, is an oddball. The serial number on the back of the headstock is 1966 or 1969, the body is 1963 or 1964, the pickups match the body date but the potentiometers are from 1979. "Buyer Beware" may be the watchword of online commerce but you have allies. We charge for this service.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Every shop has a friend

and this is our friend Leon. A well-known SF staple, he visits us every once in a while and plays gentle, introspective but appropriately sloppy Delta blues finger style acoustic guitar punctuated with sporadic comments like "Hey Hoss, how's the kids!?" and "Give me a dollar, it's my birthday!" He told me I could take this picture but I had to pay him $1.30. We don't know where he stays.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It's summertime

and the alley-style Q is *on*. Bangers, corn on the cob, aspargus, veggie dogs & burgers (this is California after all) and a cool Negro Modelo (with lime) to wash it down. Apron optional, Trevor (L) and Tim display their abilities in the heat of the day. It's High Noon on Lafayette St.

Monday, July 7, 2008

keep 'em coming....

When we are changing (or modifying) a guitar from it's original condition, it's important that we do precisely what you ask us to do. And to that end, more information is always better. You can write long notes, draw charts, make up your own language to describe what you desire (we do translation!).