Monday, July 12, 2010

Making a new bridge for an old Gibson Acoustic

Last month we performed some restoration work on a Gibson L-OO, a small body acoustic guitar from the 20’s-30’s, popular among blues and country artists. Its features include an Adirondack Spruce top, Mahogany back and sides, and Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard and bridge. The headstock has Gibson’s “stencil” logo which can help to date the guitar.

The first photo shows the condition of the bridge when the guitar was brought in to the shop. The back half of the bridge was cracked off straight across through the bridge pin holes and was almost completely un-glued from the top. We found a suitable piece of quarter sawn Madagascar Rosewood, which has similar characteristics to Brazilian, and set out to replicate the original bridge and fabricate a new bone saddle.

There were several challenges in replicating this old bridge. First off, a third of the bridge was missing so the overall depth of the bridge had to be determined by looking at it’s footprint in the top of the guitar where it had been glued on previously. Secondly, the bridge pin spacing has to match up with the existing holes. We use dividers and calipers to determine these measurements and transfer them to the new bridge blank.
Thirdly, the bridge base has to match the radius of the top of the guitar. The L-OO has a fairly pronounced radius of around 25 feet. If you place a straight edge on the top of the guitar and you will notice that the straight edge will rest on center and there will be space on either edge of the top. Many guitars have a slight radius built in to the top to help eliminate the bellying behind the bridge which can occur over time and is caused by string tension.

Luckily this guitar still had great neck angle and the bridge could be made to almost exactly the same height as the original. After the shaping of the bridge was completed and the bridge pin holes drilled out, we made a clamping caul for the interior of the guitar which has the exact opposite or convex radius to the top. Temporary wood bridge pins help locate the bridge during glue-up and for layout purposes.
Once the bridge is glued in place and we have determined the location for a properly intonated saddle, we use our saddle slotting jig to route for a new saddle. The bridge pin holes are reamed to fit the new pins, a new saddle is made, and the guitar is ready to be strung up. After some fine tuning with the set-up we were very pleased with the results and happy to hear this guitar for the first time. It has a wonderful midrange and a lot of volume.

Friday, July 9, 2010

That pesky falling out Tele Jack, The magic Stewart MacDonald tool.

The kit
The Tool
The Prep
The Install
Bracket in place ready for jack and outer cup.
Modern Replacement

Possibly the worst guitar jack plate idea in guitar construction. The Vintage Telecaster jack is held in place by a bent steel plate with a hole in the center for the jack in it. It is jammed in place by it's 4 corners. The jack goes on the inside and the cup goes on the outside with a nut holding it all in place. When the wedged metal plate comes loose so does the jack. Those fine folks at StewMac have come up with a wonderful tool that collapses the loose plate and then holds the plate in the correct position while compressing it back into place. It is the best way I have seen to re-do an original installation. There are some alternatives like a flat square or football jackplate or even the new inset one the screws in from the outside you see here in the photo.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Stuffing a Sustainiac in a thin Ibanez

Sometimes we have to squeeze a-lot of stuff in a small tapered guitar.
In here is a Sustaniac circuit board, bells, whistles, knobs and buttons.
It all went together with much thought going into the placement of the electronics. The control cavity had to be extended to fit the board and the battery has it's own box to avoid moving the wires around when changing the battery.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The GuitarTable or Gitable

The GuitarTable, built by Dan Ransom.
We often are hired by new manufactures for advice on development and up and coming products.
Here is something made for a pickup developer to slide different pickups into to test.
There are many ways to make a guitar for sampling pickups.
We have seen guitars that slide the pickups in from the side, the back and even guitars that assemble onto the side of pickups. This was a specific design from our client.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Our Shop Manager Allen Whitman gets the call to do the Joe Satriani CD and Tour! What!

Allen and his world of basses
Joe and Gary talking tone

Drums anyone
Can you really ever have enough guitars

Magic Mike, tuning it up
Oooooooo YEAH!!!
Yes, that tall long haired fellow that helps you figure out how we can help you with your guitar will be taking a few breaks now and again. But never fear, Fernando who you usually see Mondays and Tuesdays will be filling in, until his band Jet Boy hits the road for a small tour in November. How did this happen you ask. Well, lf you did not know, Allen is a most amazing musician and happens to be a fabulous rocking bass player. His main claim to fame is his band the Mermen, which is a 3 piece "surf-ish" but rocking band. So Allen is no stranger to holding down a 3 piece, which happens to be what Joe needed. I believe it all got rolling when Joe and drummer (an all around nice guy) Jeff Campitelli went to see the Mermen play a CD release party for the Merman CD they just finished. Joe and Jeff must of been sufficiently impressed to invite Allen to a few casual "jams" to have a little fun ;-), and check out the chemistry. Yada-yada-yada..... Off to the recording studio to record the next Joe Satriani CD. Somewhere in the middle of all that fun, Allen was also invited to join the tour that begins this fall. Most of the CD is done and what little I heard the band was amazing. A new addition is Mike Keneally on Keyboards. If you do not know Mike he has a long musical past and can play almost any instrument with precision and skill.... We did a-lot of guitar preparation for Joe and Allen before the session started. We changed strings, milled or re-fretted when needed, changed pickups, put together some new ones and got everything ready to be recorded. Even with all the prep I still had to make a studio call to check out some other guitars and to bring a few over. It was fun and inspiring to see, and be a part of it all coming together. We are Happy for Allen and Joe to be working together and look forward to checking out the show when it hits the road. Read about it here,

So you want to intonate a 12 string acoustic guitar

The problem with intonating a 12 string acoustic guitar is many. The biggest being that most of the pairs tuned to the same pitch are of a different gauge. This make the intonation or the pitch of the string as you move up the neck different for each gauge string. The pitch difference is compensated by changing the length of the string slightly at the saddle. On most electric guitars the saddle length is adjustable on most acoustic guitar you file the top of the saddle forward or backwards so the endpoint of the string, where it leaves the saddle is in the correct place. The problem with this is the saddle is often not wide enough to intonate the difference between strings and when it is often the b string or others is resting on a small point at the back of the saddle and that is not so great for the tone. Subtle but it makes a difference. Also, a wider saddle sounds much different than a thinner saddle. You can sometimes loose the nice ring and clarity of a guitar with a fatter saddle sometimes not. What to do....... We prefer a split saddle when appropriate. Here you see the saddle getting wider towords the lower strings. This is what was needed on this guitar to keep the pairs in tune. There are tricks to finding the intonation points. First we fill the saddle with matching wood, then we have small saddle pieces of different heights that we can rest the string on and move around while the guitar is strung up and playing. After we find the correct points then we come up with the best saddle to accomplish this. Sometimes a 3 piece saddle will do the job sometimes 1 or 2. Of course strings, nut placement, height and finger pressure are other issues.