Telecaster – Refurb’

This has to be the heaviest Tele’ I’ve ever come across.  It’s big old chunk of pine (I think) and a solid brass pick-guard.

It’s got a few intermittent electrical faults, that wiring doesn’t look too good, and I think the outside of the braded cable was shorting against the wiring on the pots’

It’s also missing the pickup springs…        

Generally tidied up and insulated a little better.

and a new set of springs.

The jack socket wasn’t working either.  Odd really, I couldn’t actually see what was wrong with it, but a new one fixed it.

With the electrics sorted it just needs a bit of a clean and setup.

Just a little lemon-oil goes a long way.

The neck relief was about right..

But the action at the 12th fret a little low…

So raise the bridge saddles a little, starting with the outside “E” strings…

and then the others, to match the fret-board radius.

Next the action at the 1st fret, about right.

and the Intonation.

Now that the action is right, a last tweek of the pickup heights.

   What a great guitar, just a little heavy!  

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How to set up a 6-String Bass

Wow, what a monster.  I’ve looked at some of these before but I’ve never really tried one out, it just seems so huge!

The basic principles for a setup are the same as any guitar, just scaled up a little.

It’s also got a problem with the nut.  The slots are a little deep so the open strings are buzzing rather badly.

The only real way to deal with that is to replace it.

While the strings are off I gave the fretboard a little oil.

So a new nut from a Tusq blank.

It’s way too long for a start so I took a lump off the end.

and then ground it down to the right thickness, to fit in the slot.

Next get the ends to the right shape, squared off to the side of the neck…

The top needs to be rounded off…

and of course some string slots.

I only cut shallow slots to start with, I’ll bring the string action down once the strings are fitted and the neck relief and bridge heights are done.

First stage then, the neck relief.

2 truss-rods, with all that tension I guess you need 2!

The action at the 12th fret.  With such a heavy bass string it had to be a little higher than normal.

Matching the radius of the other strings to the fretboard wasn’t so easy, none of my tools are big enough!

Back to that nut.  The action is way too high, as planned.

So cut the slots down now.

Finally then the intonation.

I was a bass player in the past, but have never tried such a huge guitar.  It would take some getting used too, but so much more range…All in all, a fantastic instrument..

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Hofner President Bass – Refurbishment

What a lovely old guitar.  I don’t quite know how old it is but it’s a beauty.  Sadly I don’t think it’s been out of its case for quite some time and is in need of a little TLC.

None of the electrics are working for a start.

The bridge is missing a couple of its saddles….

along with the height adjustment wheels.  There were a couple of washers and curtain hooks holding it up?

There are a couple of other minor bits and pieces, the arm has come adrift of the scratch-plate and the screw hole is a little slack.

Rather than try and clean the existing volume and tone pots’ I replaced them all.

Before all that, I gave the body a good clean and polish.

including the fret-board.

Since the pots were replaced I used all new wire.  The template was to give me the layout so none of the wires went immediately behind the sound hole.

There was another problem mind you, standard size pots’ were too large to fit via the sound hole.

No only that, the shaft is too wide to fit the control knobs.

With a new set of mini-pots that’s where they all need to go.

Just like that.

I had to wait a while to fit it all though.  One of the pickups didn’t work at all so I sent it off to Radioshop Pickups to have it sorted out.  Follow the link here to check out Radioshop pickups. They really do a fantastic job.

While I was waiting for the pickup to come back (unfortunately the Post Office took just about a month to get the pickup to South Wales, I could have walked and got it there quicker!) I turned my attention to the rest of the guitar.  First then the bridge.

The pictures are a little fuzzy, but the bottom part of the bridge doesn’t follow the curve of the top.

With some low-tac drafting tape and sticky backed sand-paper it’s a fairly simple task to sand the bottom down to match the top.



With the refurbished pickup back, time now to put it all back together.

To make it a little easier I extended the earth wire a little

Always a fiddly job, working through the sound hole but that’s the wiring back together.

A new set of strings and it’s looking good.  All it needs now is a standard setup.

The zero-fret and scale length made it impossible to use my straight edge to measure the neck relief.  So put a capo at the first fret….  

Press down at the last…

and measure the gap between the fret and the string half way up the neck.  Way too much curve so I tightened up the truss-rod.

Next the action at the 12th fret.  It was way too high so I needed to bring the bridge down by quite a bit.

Unfortunately the new bridge was already at its lowest..

So I took a lump off the bottom, you can just about see the pencil marks that I aimed for…

Rather than just keep the flat bottom I took a little more off at each end, to make a space for the thumb-wheels.

So there it is, working nicely now.  The rest of the setup was easy, the action at the 1st fret was just fine and with the bridge back in it’s original position the intonation was fine.

Lastly, back to that support arm for the scratch-plate.

And there it is, ready for another 50 years or so.

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Martin – Partial Re-Fret

Here’s a nice one.  It’s been well looked after but well used.

The frets are rather worn.

As ever it’s worse at the paying end.

First thing first, out with the nut.

and then out with the old frets.  A little heat often helps to loosen things off a little.

then in with the end nippers, to gently wiggle the old fret out

I pulled the first 7 in the end, from then on they’re OK.

With the frets out it also makes it easy to clean the fretboard.

Put a gentle curve in the new fret wire, just slightly more than the curve of the fretboard.

Gently tap it into place.

…and snip the ends roughly flush with the side of the neck.

Next tape up the fret-board to protect it while I level the fret tops.

concentrating on the new frets.

Once the tops are level, re-crown them.

With that done, tidy up the fret ends.  As gently as possible, so not to damage the side of the neck.

With the new frets level, rounded and the ends tidied up they just need re-polishing.

A splash of lemon oil on the fret-board will finish it off nicely.

A new set of strings and re-set the truss-rod and it’s good to go.

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Gretsch – Setup

I do love a big semi-acoustic. For a Chinese made guitar these are excellent value.  This one’s been fiddled around with a little though, so it needs a setup.

It’s fairly new so doesn’t really need any cleaning as such, but a splash of lemon oil never goes amiss.

A little polish on the top before fitting new strings.  The bridge is pinned on this one so there’s no problem in getting the position right.

So with a new set of strings fitted a 5 point setup is al that’s needed.

  1.  The neck relief..

2.  The action at the 12th fret.

3.  The action at the first fret.

4.  The intonation.

5.  The pickup heights.

There it is, ideal for a bit of rockabilly action.

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Custom Stratocaster – Build

I usually enjoy a complete guitar build, something to get my teeth into and turn out something nice.  It helps to work with the customer first mind you, to make sure I get bits that work together.  The trouble with cheaper parts, from various places it can be a bit of a challenge!

At first It all looked good….

But before I even start, spot the first problem?  Yes, the body is cut for 2 humbuckers and a single coil but it’s come with a set of single coils!

The cavities may be bigger, but there isn’t enough space for the screws on the single coils…

That’s where they’re going to have to go.  

So I need to rout out a little more wood each side.

Just a little here and there…

Next problem, with the bridge.  I hate working with cheaper parts like this, It’s always worth getting genuine Fender or similar high quality parts if you possibly can, they fit and work far better.  The holes on the bridge don’t line up with the holes in the body!  I’ll re-drill them centrally so that the trem’ sits in it’s cavity and doesn’t foul on the sides.  Otherwise it won’t move properly.  The neck alignment might be a problem later on though.

The silver pickup covers were also very difficult to fit, very tight.

Next the nut, guess what, it doesn’t fit either, too long and too thick.

A little bit of sanding should do the trick.

At least the pickups and electrics fit, well fit on the pick-guard anyway.

I might have known it wouldn’t just drop in place though….

Something in there doesn’t quite fit properly…

Not enough space for the wiring in the single coil configuration, so a little more work there.

Looking at the little odds and sods, the tip for the tremolo arm is much too loose so I glued it into place.

On the other hand the tip for the pickup switch was too small so a little filling on the switch shaft.

The fret-board was very dry so some lemon-oil to bring it back to life.

With the strings fitted, as I suspected the neck didn’t line up properly….

So off with the neck and a little work on the neck pocket.

All it needs now is a standard 5 point setup.

No.1  The neck relief.  Amazingly about right!

No.2  The action at the 12th fret.

Of course I need to get the tremolo action right first.  It was a little high.

so tighten up the springs in the back.

With the tremolo set the action was still never going to be right, so up with the bridge saddles, starting with the outside “E” strings.

Once they’re in place set the remaining saddle heights, to match the fret-board radius.

No.3  The action at the 1st fret.  The bass E and A strings were a little high….

so cut the slots down a little.

While I’m at that end it needs a string tree on the 2 treble strings.

No.5  The Intonation, to make sure chords sound in tune all the way up the neck.

Just the last little bits then, the cover for the trem’ springs.

Just about fits…

Lastly, strap buttons.  establish the centreline

and then the mid-point…

about there then…

So there it is.  If there is anything else you need, from a re-string to a complete bespoke guitar then just check out

Epiphone – Fret Dress and Setup

I rather like these, I’m always a sucker for a semi-acoustic.

This one’s brand new but sadly isn’t playing very well.

the pickups still even have the plastic film on them.

The biggest problem is in the frets, some of them a very uneven..

So out with the nut…

and level the neck.

Tape it up to protect it.

Using the calibrated beam to grind the fret tops down to a common level.

You can see as I started where all the high spots are.

Once all the fret tops are even they just need to be rounded off again.

and then re-polished.

a spot of Lemon Oil on the fretboard.

Back to that nut.  Rather than put the plastic one back I’m going to make a new bone one.

First get it to the right thickness..

and then get it cut to the right length and squared off.

About like that…

Then got the top to the right shape.

with an angle on the back edge.

With it in place mark the string positions.

So with a new set of strings all it needs now is a standard 5 point setup.  Starting with the neck set.

with a twist on the truss-rod.

next the action at the 12th fret.

starting at the outside “E” strings….

followed by the other strings, to match the radius of the fretboard.

Back to that new nut.  Now is the time to cut the string slots down to the right depths.

With the string action all sorted set the intonation.  It turns out that the bridge is basically in the wrong place by about 5-6mm, I had to take the springs out to move the saddles far enough backwards.

Lastly, the pickup heights.  To make sure their outputs are balanced.

And there it is.  Can’t say better than new, as it is new, just better!

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A word or 2 from the owner:

“It plays well now thanks to George”

Burns Steer – Setup

What a great looking guitar.  I’ve never really liked Burns guitars but this one’s rather lovely.

It’s an odd sort of thing, It’s got a sound hole, but there really isn’t any sound coming out of it?

Some of the frets are a little worn….

and just a little uneven.

A fret dress will sort out both problems.

So, off with the neck and out with the nut.

Level the neck…

Tape it up to protect it, some black marker so I can see where the file is touching.  As soon as I start you can see the low and high spots…

Once I’m down to the lowest point I can re-crown each fret.

and then re-polish them.

Finish that off with a good clean-up of the fretboard and it’s good to go, well good to re-fit it to the body.

The screws in the bridge are all a little gumed up and corroded..

So pull them all out and give them a good clean with a dremel and a wire brush.

Give the base a good polish and a spot of oil on the screws

The pots were a little lose but still had some of the original plastic film from the pick-guard.  Again, just a bit of a cleanup needed.

The pots’ were a little grubby inside as well, making them crackle as they were turned, so a little switch cleaner.

Once the strings were back it became obvious that the neck wasn’t quite on straight.

So just slacken off the screws a little and re-set it.

That’s better.  

All it needs now is a standard 5 point setup.

No.1 The neck relief..

with a tweek on the truss-rod.

No.2  The action at the 12th fret.

Start with the outside “E” strings.

and then the other 4, to match the bridge radius with that of the fret-board.

No. 3  The action at the 1st fret.

Fine on the treble side but a little high on the E and A strings.

No. 4 The Intonation.

No. 5  The pickup heights.

There it goes, plays every bit as good as it looks now.

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A word or 2 from the owner:

“An absolutely stunning job George, thank you for taking the Steer & turning it into a raging bull, a total joy to play now after spending 10 years as a piece of wall art”

Fender Telecaster – Body Transplant

Odd one this, I’ve been asked to fit a new neck to an old guitar but never fit a new body to an old neck?

I was a little sceptical at first, it was a nice guitar to start with, and I wasn’t very sure about that pink?

Some of the hardware is going to be transferred a well, starting with the control panel.

Unfortunately the new knobs are splined but the old pots’ have solid shafts!  I’ll have to replace the pots’ as well then.

The strap buttons should be simple.  

The neck should have been easy, but unfortunately the holes in the body were just a little out.  So I drilled the old holes out….

and plugged them.  All I’ll do is drill new holes later.  There’s quite a way to go before that though….

At a first fit it looks like the neck is going to line up OK.  The question is which bit do you fix in place first?

The neck overlaps the scratch-plate so that has to go in first, but I don’t know where to put it until the neck is in place?

With the scratch-plate lined up on the neck it left an uneven gap between the scratch-plate and ash-tray bridge.

It should all line up like that in the end, just needs some careful attention to detail.

The one thing that can only go in one place is the bridge, so that’s where I need to start.

Since the neck pickup wires have to pass through the rear cavity I do need to fit that one first.  and of course the bridge pickup fits in the ash-tray before it’s screwed down.

With the bridge fixed in place I can now accurately judge the neck angle…

and re-drill the holes in the neck.

With the neck and bridge fixed now I can accurately locate the scratch-plate.   

The next problem was the jack cup.  The hole in the body is just slightly too small for the fender cup.  I don’t really like them anyway so I’m going to fit a screw in one.

So with the new pots’ wired in all it needs now is a new set of strings and a setup.

Starting of course with the neck relief.  Theoretically since it came off a perfectly good guitar it should be OK.

But it wasn’t so a little tweek on the truss-rod.

Next the action at the 12th fret.  That was always going to need to be done.

Start with the outside strings…..

and then the inside four, to match the radius of the fetboard.

Next the action at the first fret.  That was OK.

And the Intonation.  Always a bit of a compromise with three screw Tele’ bridges.

And there it is.  The photos don’t really do it justice, now it’s finished I think it’s gorgeous!  An with the Fender pickups and hardware it sounds as good as it looks.

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Simon & Patrick acoustic – Reduce action height

Not the greatest of guitars, but could still play a lot better.  It just needs the action height bringing down a little….

Before I take the strings off I like to set the neck relief where it should be, so I can tell exactly how high the bridge is.

Now I know exactly how much to take off the bottom of the bridge saddle.

While the strings are off the fret-board needs a good clean…    

and oil….

So back to that bridge saddle, that’s how much that’s got to come off the bottom…

Got a new tool to make this really easy.  Just clamp it in place with the bit you want to remove sticking out…

and file it down on a flat surface.

This leaves the bottom perfectly flat and square, easy paesy…..

I’ve changed the gauge of the strings which means the neck set will have changed.

so another slight change on the truss-rod.

Hopefully it all comes together with the right action back up at the 12th fret, which it did.

Then the action back up at the 1st fret.  That was a little high as well,

so cut the slots in the nut down a little…

And there it is, ready for action and playing nicely now.

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