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News Info & Prods    Archive - Jan 2014 to Dec 2014 Tales from Workshop

December 2014 - Delays for all the right reasons.

Many of my customers that follow this blog will be wondering why there have been no entries recently. I do have October's edition yet to be published, in fact it needs a final read through. November I went on holiday so there was nothing to report. December was lined up to be the biggest influx of work for the past 10 years but unfortunately, when I arrived back in the UK I was told my mother (93) had collapsed from a heart attack so went racing up North Wales (150 miles/3hrs) to see her and my father. It wasn't as bad as reported but 3 days later I was told that my father had died suddenly. So as this blog is all about how things impact on the workshop, you no doubt appreciate that I have been issuing apologies and postponements to customers requesting work.

The customers that I have already acknowledged as being on my 'waiting list' will be contacted in due course after Christmas. New customers will unfortunately have to wait until February as we arrange the funeral, move my mother to a monitored care flat nearer to me and de-clutter their old bungalow. So in short, what started as being an incredible Christmas buildup, has, for all the right reasons become the quietest Christmas on record.

Wishing all my customers and Merry Christmas and A Happy Year

Peter Allen Custom Shop111119

November 2014 - Holiday

Nothing to report folks!.

Peter Allen Custom Shop111118

October 2014 - To be posted

Blog delayed.

Peter Allen Custom Shop111117

September 2014 - Nut slots

One of the reasons that guitars don't stay in tune is because of badly cut nut slots. This is especially true when technicians or customers have used V shaped files instead of the correct 'nut slot files' The O shaped string fitted into a V shaped slot causes a wedge effect. It also reduces the contact with the nut so that less tone is created. In addition to this, the string will wear into the slot quicker and as you see in the picture it may start to wear away the front. (See the grey area at the front of the slot.) This in turn moves the intonation backwards and also chokes the note.
Very often when this happens I have to replace the nut but this customer was lucky because the first few frets were very high and reducing their height eliminated the need to replace the nut.

September 2014  - (pic)    Nut slots

September 2014 - Knobs - not all the same size

One of the problems I encounter is the belief that all guitar knobs are the same size. Some of the components for Gibson and Fender guitars made in the USA fall into imperial sizes, whereas Epiphone and Squire/Japanese guitars will have metric sized pots and jack sockets as they are foreign to the USA. So the broad rule of thumb is Gibson and Fender USA = Imperial; Korea, China, Indonesia and Japan usually have metric parts.
Quite remarkably, in one week I had one customer who wanted Ibanez speed knobs that have a rubber band round the outside, fitted to his Gibson 335. Therefore I had to put metric pots into the Gibson just so that he could use this type of knobs. Then another customer came in with a Les Paul with two out of the four knobs sitting very high - see picture below. It was clear that the previous owner had probably broken two of the knobs and gone straight onto eBay and bought the cheapest replacements he could find. This is nearly always a metric knob, jack socket or pot, so the main reason that the knobs were sitting so high was because they were too small (metric) and had a narrower spline/shaft. Because the knobs had been forced on, they had to be broken to get them off. In the past I have tried to pull them off but they are often too tight resulting in pulling the shaft completely out of the pot and then you are into replacing the pots as well. The easiest way is to crack the knobs and fit new ones of the correct USA Gibson specification. Ironically, Imperial pots will actually fit onto metric knobs but this entails putting a couple of slivers of masking tape over the spline shaft before fitting the knob.
I get this 'cheap metric' versus 'expensive Imperial' issue all the time. Lately a customer was upset that the gold ABR-1 Gibson saddles cost £40 when his eBay search showed that they were £10. Well, I say 'best of luck' in getting the metric screws to fit the imperial holes, let alone the fact that the saddle dimensions are incompatible too! My answer was - well you buy them and try fitting them and let me know how you get on! It also underlines the eBay users choice of words like 'Gibson style' or 'Gibson type' to catch people out. Enough said.

September 2014  - (pic)   Knobs - not all the same size

September 2014 - At odds with Polarity

Another misconception with fitting pickups is that they all have the same wiring. One of my customers, who plays a few archtop guitars, explained that his sound was awful when it was in the middle position - i.e. both pickups on.
When I checked the polarity, the neck pickup was a Gibson and the original Ibanez bridge pickup was completely the opposite. As there was only one conductor plus a shield wire, the pickup had to be cut open and the magnet reversed. This is the true out-of-phase sound.
Changing it requires flipping the magnet - which is not an easy job, especially for fitting the thing back together again. It is a delicate operation and also requires a reasonable amount of heat to solder the can/cover back on to the pickup bobbins without damaging the pickup. Picture of the operation below.

September 2014  - (pic)   At odds with Polarity

Peter Allen Custom Shop111116

August 2014 - A Big Rebuild on a Luthier.

As with any one-man business, if something affects your health then there is a good chance that you will not be able to work. About 8 months ago I injured my shoulder and even though I went through a course of physiotherapy, the shoulder got worse. The consultant sent me for an MRI scan with a follow-up appointment several weeks later where he explained that the shoulder needed some debris cleaning out of the joint and probably some bone chipping away as well. Ten days later I had the operation, which put me out of action for several weeks. On the positive side, I am glad to say that the operation was a success, and the follow up physiotherapy has given me 90% free movement - the rest I am still working on.

Peter Allen Custom Shop111112

July 2014 - A Big Repair Job

Most of this month was taken up with the repair of a Gibson Les Paul. It was the usual story - the guitar was put on a guitar stand, from which the customer watched it fall off as he sat at the bar a distance away. As I have said before, I no longer glue broken bits of guitar together due to the fact that they are most likely to come apart again given very little provocation. It would be ok if the repaired instrument was looked after with kid gloves but for some reason customers come out with statements like, "I read on the interweb that if it's repaired it would be stronger than before the break". Not true.
So I put together a quotation for the repair which was duly accepted by the insurance company and work began. This particular guitar suffered a heavy fall - so much so that the fibreboard on the head stock, which usually bends when the wood splits, had actually cracked open on this one. Usually I am able to cut away a slither of the faceplate to use as a template for the new headstock but, in this case, I had to glue back the parts, repair the faceplate and then cut away the faceplate. Even though I have been around the Gibson factory, I still do not know the reason why some guitars are given burst shading around the heel and neck area. It seemed to me that many of these guitars were in the rectification area but this might just be a coincidence. Knowing that Gibson do this shading allowed me to blend in the joint between the new head stock to the neck. So I leave you with a few pictures as a 'before and after' process. The one thing I did do was add a volute to the back of the head stock which people believe strengthens the neck. Ironically, guitars with volutes still break behind the nut.

July  2014 - (pic)   A Big Repair Job

July  2014 - (pic)   A Big Repair Job 2

July  2014 - (pic)   A Big Repair Job 3

July  2014 - (pic)   A Big Repair Job 4

July  2014 - (pic)   A Big Repair Job 5

Peter Allen Custom Shop111114

June 2014 - Fretting in the Dark

Occasionally, some of the requests I get seem to be quite small and may even be considered petty by some people but I do always try to help out if I possibly can. One of my customers plays in a band where the 'mood' lighting can be quite dark so he asked and I offered to make the side dots on the neck a little more obvious without them being ridiculously so. This is one stop short of putting LED lights on the side of the fret board -- which is expensive.
As you can see from the pictures, one of the problems I had was that the original dots were fitted into the white Maple -- probably the reason they couldn't really be seen in the first place! Using a 2 mm dot MOP, I overlapped the edge of the original hole so that the dot was more situated in the Rosewood than the Maple. The contrast allows it to be seen better and the customer was delighted - now he can see where he is playing.

June 2014  - (pic)  Fretting in the Dark

Peter Allen Custom Shop111115

June 2014 - Loose Neck on a G & L

When customers come in for a setup they often think that their guitar is in otherwise perfect condition. In many cases customers don't take their guitar apart - and I wouldn't recommend them doing that anyway - so when a new G & L came in for a setup, everything looked fine.
Normally, I take the neck off in order to get good access to the upper frets as was the case with the G & L. You can see in the picture that there were obvious problems during production. Recently I am starting to adopt the phrase 'CSI guitar wise' because it is evident working backwards from what I see or find on the bench that there has been a problem previously and in most cases it's been badly sorted out.
Sometimes I have seen oversized holes and poor alignment of necks when there has been a problem in production and a neck from one guitar is fitted to another. Other times it's because a past owner has tinkered about and swapped necks that don't match up.
The idea of fitting the neck to the body is one of matching the centre holes on the neck from the drilling pilot holes in the body. If this has already been done on one neck and then the neck is moved to another guitar, there is a good chance that one or two of the holes may be out of alignment.
In the picture you can see that one of the new holes was adjacent to a previous one and this caused the neck bolt to turn around in situ. They tried to correct the situation by feeding wood into both the body and the neck hole and tightening up the screw and the result was that the screw still turn around in the hole but was less likely to fall out altogether!
I realised this left me with no alternative but to drill out the two holes, glue in a dowel and then go through the process of finding the centre of the hole so that this screw hole could be pilot drilled. The only niggle I have is that, once it had all been corrected, there was nothing to see from the customer's point of view. At least the neck doesn't wobble around in the neck slot, and yes I did explain what had happened to the customer.

June 2014  - (pic)  Loose Neck on a G & L

June 2014 - High & Low Bell Knobs.

I have had quite a few Gibson guitars in with the 'bell shaped' control knobs fitted. For some reason I thought I remembered these knobs sitting a nice distance away from the top of the guitar so, over the past few months, I have seen Gibson guitars fitted with the bell shaped knobs set rather high. My initial reaction was to think that Gibson had tried to fit the Japanese metric knobs onto their USA Imperial pots but this doesn't work.
When a customer brought me his Joe Bonamassa Gibson for me to set up, he too had been irritated by the height imbalance and requested that I take a look at the knobs in relation to the top of the guitar.
Seeing as I had Imperial pots, I tried these, only to find that they were way too small. Then I had a look at the knob itself and found that the inner boss section was much longer than it needs to be. With the aid of a Dremel tool I was able to reduce the centre by about 2 mm which in turn allowed the knob to fit closer to the guitar top. The customer also requested those vintage pointers, which were all the rage way back in the 70s.
From the pictures you will see that this small modification allowed the one type of bell knob to sit correctly in relation to the other type fitted to the Bonamassa guitar. The pointers are just the icing on the cake but it is a case of whether you like them or not.

June 2014  - (pic)  High & Low Bells Knobs.

Peter Allen Custom Shop111113

May 2014 - Looking for a Jazz Tone pickup

One of my customers who has a small collection of arched tops started off with an enquiry into changing the pickup on his Godin 7th Avenue Jazz guitar. He found this a little bit too chimey and enquired about a Kent Armstrong jazz pickup that he believed might suit his ear better. I enquired and found that Aaron Armstrong was able to make the pickup. In apology, I have to say that this guitar was with me the best part of three weeks when the job should have been done within a week - The saying 'what can go wrong will go wrong', seemed to apply to this guitar! Aaron very kindly made the pickup but, due to his computer being changed over, sent it to the wrong Peter Allen - amazingly there appears to be two of us out there! Then I looked for a modification to allow me to use this pickup on the Godin guitar. Godin had created a routed recess at the end of the neck so I felt duty-bound to try and make a similar construction for the suspended pickup and I needed to order some brass strip about 8 mm wide for it. This proved impossible to source locally, so I ordered some angled brass from the Internet, figuring I could cut it down in order to get the correct dimensions. The brass strip arrived but, thanks to the courier jumping up and down on it, it was not fit for purpose. The supplier provided another piece with better protection and then I was able to make a suitable harness. I had a couple goes before realising that I would have to make it in 2 sections and, thanks to the foresight of using brass, it was easy to solder together. The customer was delighted with the outcome - not only in how it looked but the wonderful woody tone, typical of a jazz sound. It's my belief that this suspended pickup also reduces a certain amount of feedback. Whatever, the setup on this guitar, a new bridge made of wood and a new pickup transformed it!

May 2014  - (pic)  Looking for a Jazz Tone pickup

May 2014 - Ernie Ball Musicman Silhouette 6 string Bass (Baritone) Guitar

Some months ago I was presented with a Shadows type guitar - possibly known as a 'Bass Six'. I had tremendous difficulty trying to work out what the correct gauge was, bearing in mind the customer wanted his usual plain top three strings. This wasn't going to work, given the extra scale lengths, but I did manage to work out the gauges he wanted relative to his normal tension on a Stratocaster.
Just to show that I am not some super-genius, I missed out on finding a set of strings which are designed for this type of scale length and pitch.
Then I got a call from a customer who had an Ernie Ball Bass 6 and asked me if I would set it up. He had been given several sets of strings with the guitar. I was truly shocked to find that the gauges I had calculated were actually out there already on the shelf waiting to be bought! In a sense, I complimented myself on coming up with the correct gauge set. The other interesting thing was that they are made up with the small ball ends. This is one aspect that eluded me when I was trying to find strings for the Baldwin Burns.
Only last week, the customer with the Baldwin Burns came back with yet another Bass 6 Squire and he too had found that D'Addario had got a pack of strings designed for this guitar. In previous blogs I have mentioned about corporation buses coming along in twos - and here again we have a similar coincidence. The lesson learned is that one should never be too humble to learn from your customers.

This guitar was sold with the usual lies on EBay - I quote "Shows signs of use……..the worst of which is a small amount of cracking to the surface of the paintwork around the Truss Rod adjuster. This is purely surface and cosmetic (I have removed the neck to check the solidity of it)" Lies lies lies!
From what you see below the guitar sustained an impact on the neck, cracking the body and hence the split in the wood shows as a surface crack. I could see no alterative but to glue it together and, as a quick solution, I put a thin acoustic scratchplate piece around the Truss rod and over the crack. Now it doesn't look so bad.

May 2014  - (pic)  Ernie Ball Musicman Silhouette 6 string Bass (Baritone) Guitar

May 2014 - Wudtone Temolo Debacle

As long as there are guitars there is going to be someone who believes that they can reinvent the wheel, so to speak, when it comes to tremolos. A customer brought me a guitar that had been converted using a Wudtone tremolo - I am not sure if it had been done by the company itself or someone else. Obviously, a lot of money has been paid out in engineering this tremolo but I take exception to the inference that Leo Fender got it so wrong when he made the original tremolo. In fact I would go as far as to say that the original was almost perfect in its design concept. To prove the point, I have set up many of these tremolos and they have worked very well indeed.

When this guitar came in I had never heard of Wudtone, so I ventured onto the interweb in order to find out more about the concept and tremolo. What you have to bear in mind is that the customer had told me that he was sold this as being a 'superior tremolo' because it stayed in tune. Taking up the challenge I actually found that it did not stay tune. Part of the Wudtone video demonstrates the Stratocaster tremolo moving up and down on the fulcrum screw as portrayal of its failure. Well, yes, a tremolo will go out of tune when it is setup in this fashion but that is the wrong way to set up a Fender tremolo anyway! This leads me to believe that if the inventor of this Wudtone tremolo believes this is how the Fender tremolo should be setup, then he has missed the point completely. It therefore follows that his concept of inventing a tremolo to get round this problem is seriously flawed to start with, as it isn't actually a problem!

There are two fundamental problems with copies of the Fender Stratocaster tremolo which are:
i) the lack of chamfer on the front lip/edge preventing downshift.
ii) lack of deep countersinking of the screw holes, preventing a clean sharp edge.
There is an additional problem that does occur when the string is impeded behind the saddle top but this can be rectified by elongating the saddle strings slot. Obviously these comments referred to be 'S' type saddle.

I personally don't like the latest stainless steel saddles because of their impaired tone and the fact that the strings seemed to stick, especially the wound strings, so these were upgraded/changed to the Graphtech String Saver Saddles.

The customer gave me the choice of fitting which ever tremolo I preferred. Ironically, I found that the Fender tremolo with stainless steel saddles actually stays in tune better than the Wudtone tremolo. I prefer to use the Graphtech 'string saver saddles' for better tone. Unfortunately, the original USA post inserts on this guitar had been butchered/modified in order to fit the Wudtone tremolo, so there was no alternative but to replace the inserts, tidy up the shabby routing for the Wudtone plate and filling in some chips in the paint previously done.
So, in conclusion, Leo Fender can rest happily in his grave in the knowledge that he invented an excellent piece of kit but, like anything mechanical, it is the way in which you set it up that can make it work or not. I did try with this Wudtone tremolo but my conclusion is I Wud-not use it - ever!

May 2014  - (pic)  Wudtone Temolo Debacle

May 2014  - (pic)  Wudtone Temolo Debacle1

May 2014  - (pic)  Wudtone Temolo Debacle2

Peter Allen Custom Shop111111

April 2014 - Les Paul Soapbar Pickups.

Sometimes I believe that things may get lost in communication during the production of some guitars. I had a Les Paul fitted with soapbar pickups. The first thing that I tried to do was adjust them for height due to the fact that they were very high. Past experience has shown that there have been problems due to the installation and this case was no exception. When I took the pickups out, I found they had improved the design by using a metal plate with threads in but had ignored the obvious engineering design of this plate that allows the cable from the pickup to go to one side or the other. Instead of which the pickup had been just fitted on top and the extra wire prevented the pickup from being lowered any further. It didn't take much to undo the two screws holding the plate down to allow the wire to move to one side, thus enabling the pickup to be lowered much further. So here we have a better design but poor execution of its use in assembly.

April 2014  - (pic)  Les Paul Soapbar Pickups.

April 2014 - Fred's Neck Carving

Sometimes a customer will come to me with their parents and then, years later, on they're back in their own right, presenting me with a guitar for set-up. The following customer went one stage further and brought various components of a guitar for me to put together. One of the things that he liked was the idea of the chamfered corner Fender neck plate. I first came across this type of neck plate decades ago when Fender used it on a Japanese guitar. I thought it was ironic that it raised it raised its head as a revamp for one of the Fender Deluxe guitars many years later.
Things hadn't been fully thought through because the body he had bought was already drilled with four holes for the normal neck plate. When he told me it didn't really matter and he was quite happy to see a hole, I explained that I would do my best to make it less of an eyesore. One of his requirements was that he wanted the body finished in a rubbed wax finish. From the pictures below you can see that I tried my level best to match the pattern of the grain. I used the piece that I cut off and shaped it into a round piece of dowel, trying to relate the grain to the original body. Whilst it wasn't a complete success, at least it was the same colour wood and doesn't stand out like it had got giant woodworm! Apart from having to take the neck socket depth down by 3 mm the whole project was a complete success.

April 2014  - (pic)  Fred's Neck Carving

April 2014 - Distractions and more Distractions

This blog has been mainly about things that have happened in the workshop or more widely affected the business. This month has being particularly traumatic because of Microsoft pulling the plug on XP, which made me go out and buy a new computer. The problem for my business was that many of my programs run on XP so, instead of having one main computer, I have ended up with two. One of them continues to run on XP with all its programmes and the other allows my gateway to the inter-web.
The reason for mentioning this is that, just like many of my customers, I am equally challenged when things go wrong with a new computer and that takes time out of the working day in order to resolve the problem. I suppose, in a way, this is an apology to the customers that have been getting e-mails with fonts of varying types and sizes. I cannot bring myself to explain the reason for this other than to say it was due to Microsoft Outllook online versus my preference for Windows Live Mail 2009 (as opposed to 2011). I could have given the computer to someone else to sort out but find it's quicker if I do it myself - plus I learn a thing or two along the way.

Peter Allen Custom Shop111110

March 2014 - Celebrations !

As I may have said before taking a holiday is something of mammoth proportions when you are a one man business. Often it takes two weeks to run the business down before you go and then another two weeks to get fully up to speed again when you come back.
March this year saw a couple of momentous milestones to celebrate - I have managed to clock up 40 years of marriage without being divorced for being fanatical about guitars and I have been trading on my own account for 20 years, since leaving Patrick Eggle guitars. I can't believe it myself how the years have flown by! Whilst have recently reached a point where I could have retired, I have to declare that I don't think it is going to happen any time soon especially given the concern expressed by my customers whenever I have mentioned the possibility!
So, in double celebration, the business was closed for the whole of March and we took a holiday to the Amazon, where I managed to catch 4 piranhas, which were photographed just to prove the point. On the subject of fishing, I have reduced my working week by one day so I can start enjoying this hobby again and I will see how this works out in the weeks ahead.
Finally, A very big thanks to all my customers that have been with me over the past 20 years. At the end of the day, most businesses rely on customer loyalty, which is why I am particularly grateful for the support that I have received over the years - and continue to receive - and will never take that support for granted.

March 2014  - (pic) Celebrations

Peter Allen Custom Shop11118

February 2014 - Delightful Banjolele

With the guitarists' fascination for the humble ukulele as a knockabout instrument, I am seeing more and more variations, such as the banjolele - or for those who can't come to terms with the name - banjo ukulele.
One of the reasons that I am making a feature of this banjolele is the quality of the build is outstanding. Furthermore, it is my guess that it is quite an old instrument. The particular thing that drew my attention to it being unique is the patented design of the 'neck tilt' mechanism, which doesn't incorporate the usual 2 rod system. When I got the instrument, it was clear that the person who tried to set up the banjolele had no clue how to use the mechanism. It took me all of a few seconds to realise that the centre screw had been tightened up giving the neck no backward movement whatsoever. This person's motto was obviously to tighten everything! Undoing the adjuster screw causes the metal bar to bend and, in so doing, pull the neck backwards. Ingenious!
As you will see from the headstock label, this banjolele was made in America and, I would guess, in the early part of the last century. I would also guess that in the day, it was the Gibson of its time. For once, it was a pleasure to work on a 'class' Uke instrument. This banjolele now joins many other instruments in my regular customer's arsenal.

February 2014  - (pic)   Delightful Banjolele

February 2014 - A turn for the worse.

Some time ago I showed how I was able to get the wooden dowel out of a USA Fender headstock by using a soldering iron. Well, it worked the last time but this time I am afraid that it all went pear shaped. It did look simple but when I tried it this time round I failed to budge the offending dowel. Grrrrr! All I was left with was a terrible smell of burnt wood and frustration - burnt frustration? So I had to go to plan B and do things the hard way, which was to cut out the dowel.
The customer that presented me with this guitar explained how his guitar teacher had tried to set-up the instrument. The customer was too nice a chap to tell the guitar teacher it now buzzed and had made things worse! He raised the action and then brought the guitar to me to see what I could do to rectify it. After finding a list of things that needed attention, there was also a massive forward bow in the neck. I checked the truss rod for adjustment only to find that the Allen key didn't fit and just wobbled around - another Grrrrr! Obviously, the truss rod been over adjusted. I keep warning people about adjusting the USA truss rods because there is only a shallow broached keyway and using too much force damages the shoulders of the hexagon, so you are left with a round circle and damaged guitar. The only resolution is to cut out the dowel, remove the truss rod adjuster and replace it with a new one. Then the equally hard bit is to fit a new dowel and carve it into shape, blending in with the original head stock design. This one had me on my toes from beginning to end. I am happy to report that it all worked out in the end.

February  2014 - (pic)  A turn for the worse.

February 2014 - The price of fame.

As I have name-dropped in the past, Mick Smitham - The Fortunes, has brought me various guitars in the past. One of the new additions to his collection was a Corona DB by Fret King. The guitar was set up but the switching was not to Mick's preference. Yes, it had some convoluted, complicated wiring but he preferred the simple Stratocaster selections. This was duly rewired and sent out. It wasn't long before the guitar came back again with the comment he "couldn't play on stage because it howled like a hound dog". Sure enough, all the pickups were microphonic - apparently the pickups are not normally potted/wax dipped and this was what was causing the problem. I took the pickups out and vacuum wax dipped at least twice - just to be on the safe side! See pictures below.
I refitted the pickups and found that, although the squealing had stopped, they still sounded like an acoustic sound-hole pickup. In order to try and dampen this down, I did a quick visit to my loft and pinched some loft insulation, which was then packed into the huge pickup route. This seemed to be successful and the guitar went back out on the road but then Mick e-mailed me to say that the bridge pickup - a P90 - was still causing a problem. The difference with this pickup was that it was screwed directly into the wood and suspended by two springs. For the umpteenth time the pickups were removed and this time I used some dense foam as a spring for the P90 to sit on.
A few days later I got an e-mail saying - 'Hi Peter, Just a quickie to say that I used the blue DB Corona last night and had no problems whatsoever! Another job well done!! Thanks mate!' My thought was - Phew! Thank goodness for that!
It is ironic that anyone should make an electric guitar that cannot be used on stage. I have never really thought about the acoustics of machining all the guts out of the body such as the Fender Strat swimming pool route. Clearly this is a lesson for anyone taking too much of the wood away from the centre of the guitar and creating a soundboard from the scratch plate!

February 2014 -  (pic)  The price of fame.

Peter Allen Custom Shop11119

January 2014 - C F Martin - Screw Loose.

It was something of a shock when I was undoing the strings on this Martin acoustic to see out the corner of my eye some sort of shrapnel flying off over my shoulder. I checked out the machine-head area to find that one of the screws holding the 3rd string machine-head in place had sheared off leaving the stub behind. From the colour of the material it was obvious that the screw was made of brass. As yet I haven't seen any small screw extractor to buy so I make my own. Trying to make the wall material thin enough often results in breaking the tool before I even start. In this case I wanted to keep the cutting area as small as possible so that the footprint of the machine-head would hide the repair. From the pictures below you will see that I was able to achieve this.
And I never did find the head of the screw that flew off over my shoulder!

January 2014 - (pic)   C F Martin  - Screw Loose.

January 2014 - A country too far.

One of my customers asked me to build him a guitar and he said that he liked the look of the Wiltshire Epiphone model. Yes, I could have built it but I felt that the quality out of China was so good that he could buy the whole guitar for less than the cost of the materials bought in - before I even start work on building the guitar!
It was because I had had a fantastic quality Epiphone DOT two weeks previously that apparently sold for £200 brand-new that I recommended the customer get the Wiltshire Epiphone and let me do my magic on it which would give him a great guitar without having to spend too much.

The one problem with this advice was that my customer is in Germany! - not a quick up the road visit. He took delivery of his new guitar and was dismayed, upon opening the box, by the high action and atrociously damaged frets. A problem with e-mails is getting the balance right - trying to work out whether the customer has exaggerated or understated the problem being communicated.

The customer couriered the guitar to me and I have to concur that the guitar was as bad as he had stated. In fact it was so bad I thought it was a 'knock-off' of a Gibson Epiphone.
There were other issues with the nut and the setup but eventually I rectified the guitar and set it up.

Having worked in the industry where guitars were sent away for finishing and having also done refinishing myself, it is my opinion that the damage done to the frets was due to a careless worker unmasking at the edges. When a guitar is sprayed and it has an untreated fingerboard such as rosewood, all the frets and wood are masked off to prevent the lacquer adhering to it. After the process has been completed the fretboard area is mummified and the usual method is to file/sand the edges until the masking tape can be lifted away from the fingerboard - often in one piece. Now I guess that the lack of care in de-masking resulted in damaging the frets, which were probably in good shape before it was sprayed with lacquer.

From the picture below you can see how I scraped about 1 mm of lacquer from the edge where there had been a massive build-up. I guess someone flipped into a daydream whilst spraying the guitar. Clearly the Epiphone DOT worker needs to teach the Epiphone Wiltshire worker out a thing or two.

January 2014 - (pic)   A country too far.

January 2014 - Highest action yet - Sky's the limit !

Very often I will explain to a customer the importance of the neck rake angle when requesting a set up on an acoustic. I have even written a PDF to try and help people when they buy an acoustic to ensure that they get a guitar with reasonably good geometry.
A great many acoustics are made in such a way that the lacquer would be damaged if an attempt was made to take the neck out of the body. In fact I have known some guitars to actually use glue that is impervious to steam or water. This causes a serious problem when you're trying to take a neck out of a body. In latter years I have decided that it's more trouble than it's worth.
There are some guitar necks which are bolted on and others which are hybrid bolt and glue-on. The Simon and Patrick guitars have the 'tongue section' of the fretboard glued onto the soundboard and the neck heel bolted on with two bolts.
The picture below shows that undoing the bolts and using a slither of sand paper - boy, does this take some time to do - it is possible to adjust the rake angle of the neck without actually needing to take the whole neck off the guitar. In fact, I read somewhere that Collings actually showed Bob Taylor how to adjust the early versions of the Taylor which were made in a similar fashion to this Simon and Patrick. How true that is I don't know.
The thing that made me want to comment on this particular Simon and Patrick was the action. It was the highest I have ever seen on an acoustic! How it managed to get out of the factory in such condition is anyone's guess. The customer loved the tone but literally couldn't play it due to its condition. Happily, I was able to give him a playable guitar with an action lower than that found on a 'low action CF Martin'.

January 2014 - (pic)   Highest action yet  - Sky's the limit !

Peter Allen Custom Shop1119

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