rosewood

Unusual Acoustic Guitar Bridge Repair

Unusual Acoustic Guitar Bridge Repair

Ok, so you’ve got to admit that's a little unusual. 

What we’ve got is a tailpiece installed on this Takamine. It’s anchoring the strings which pass through the (pinless) bridge and up over the saddles. 

Whatever else, it’s an inventive solution to some sort of problem. 

Thing is, it’s not the best solution. The tailpiece is resting against the top of the guitar with isn’t the best for getting a good tone. Also, the guitar’s designed to have strings couple to the bridge for good transfer to the top. 

Bridge Collapse

The saddle slot in some bridges is quite close to the front edge. In an ideal world, this might not be too much of a problem because, even though there’s a lot of tension from the strings, most of that is ‘downwards’ towards the bottom of the bridge.

Of course, it’s not an ideal world and, even though most of the pressure goes down, there’s always some that’s trying to tip that saddle forwards too. Things like the strings ‘biting’ into the saddle and actually pulling it forwards as you tune up can add to the problem.

And sometimes the bridge gives way. Like this.

The front edge of this bridge has sheared off

Now, I could just smooth off the fracture line and glue in a new piece but I don’t want to trust the glued joint to take that strain. It might be fine but I want to give this repair as much of a chance as possible.

So, I’m going farther back into the saddle.

My plan is to remove wood to the back of the saddle slot. I’ll glue in some new wood and then re-rout a new slot into that new wood. This way, the glue-line won’t be taking the strain.

You can see what I mean in the sketches below.

'Grafting' new wood to broken guitar bridge

New saddle slot will have new wood in front of and below

So, below is the bridge with the wood removed. I’ve sloped a section from the front of the bridge to the back, bottom corner of the saddle slot.

You can see the (slightly out of focus—sorry) shape of the piece I’ll be glueing in.

By the way, that’s just a thin piece of sheet brass that’s taped down to the guitar. It’s there to protect the top as I work on this.

The photo on the right below gives you a better idea.

New wood to be grafted on to bridge

New section will fit in like this

Clamping this one needed a little thought. As well as clamping downwards, I have to keep a pressure towards the rear of the guitar. That’s tricky though. I came up with this:

Inventive clamping to keep it in place

I clamped a block in place near the front of the bridge. The new bridge piece will bear off this and, as I clamp it down, this new piece will ‘wedge’ into place against the block. I can now get good clamping pressure in all the right places. Yay.

Once done, it’s just a matter of shaping the glued-in wood to the right profile and routing a new saddle slot.

I decided to make a new saddle too. The old one was actually an un-radiused classical saddle and it was made from a pretty soft plastic (the strings were digging in as mentioned above). A nice bone saddle will sound, play, and wear much better.

Hopefully, there's a long life ahead for this guitar. 

Repair To Damaged Fingerboard

Rather invasive repair for cracked heel

This venerable old girl suffered a cracked heel at some stage in the distant past. As you can see, the repair wasn't the least invasive solution that could have been imagined at the time. 

These big-ass screws have kept it (sort of) together but the instrument deserves better. I'm not going into detail on the heel repair here—take my word that it's all glued up and sound. Instead I want to look at how we can minimise the damage those screws have caused.

Damaged guitar fingerboard repair

Damaged guitar fingerboard repair

With the screws removed, things don't look too pretty, do they? Incidentally, the two small holes in the fret slot are mine—I drilled them when trying to steam out the neck to repair the heel and they'll be plugged and covered by a fret. The medium hole is a loose pearl inlay dot that'll be replaced later. 

The holes we're worried about are those big, jagged ones.

Of course, we could squidge a pile of coloured filler into them and smooth off the top but that's not going to be the nicest looking repair. We could cut some plugs and glue them into the hole. If we get a reasonable grain match, that'd be a better option but still not the neatest. 

What we're going to do is to replace the entire section of fingerboard between these two fret slots. Effectively, we're going to remove the rectangular section with the damage and *inlay* new wood. 

A bit of digging around my rosewood stock (and scrap pile) turns up a piece with a similar colour and a pretty close grain match.

Inlay good wood to repair damage to guitar fingerboard

Splendid.

If you look closely in the photo, you can see that I've actually routed out the damaged part but left a tiny sliver along the sides of each side. That sliver will keep a nice contiguous look along the edge of the fingerboard and save messing about trying to match the aged lacquer.

As luck would have it, this instrument needed a refret too. It'd be much more difficult to accomplish this well without refretting.

You can see the new fingerboard wood in the photo below. It's a good match for colour and grain and, once it's all clean and oiled, it looks pretty damn good. Stung up, you'd be pretty hard-pressed to notice anything. 

Much better than filler.

Guitar fingerboard repair

Bespoke Bridge

IMG 2959

Let's be honest, that's not an attractive bridge. It's seen a lot of action over the years and it's cracked and, somewhere in the distant past, it's had some gunky filler splodged in to try extend its life. And it's actually a slightly odd bridge. Although it has six holes for bridge pins, you can see along the back there are some filled holes as if this bridge were once strung from the top. There are also two little pearl dots which are usually present to hide small bolts (as they do in this case). These bolts are generally used on bridges that string from the top. But, then, why the bridge-pin holes?

It seems likely that the manufacturer repurposed this bridge from another model, filled the string holes and installed with bolts as normal. Fair enough.

This is all an aside anyway. On to the real work.

The owner wants this sorted but I wasn't able to source an off-the-shelf replacement. This means custom-malking a replacement.

custom acoustic guitar bridge
acoustic guitar bridge fix

Getting these things off is a pain—as well as the two little bolts under the pearl, this manufacturer epoxies the bridge in position. I may have used swear words.

Once off, though, I grab a nice piece of rosewood and thickness it to about the right height. I carefully measure and mark off the important dimensions, particularly the pin holes and the bolt holes—if these are misaligned or misplaced, the bridge has to go in the bin.

Some careful drilling and we're ready to shape the bridge. In this case, it's a (relatively) easy job as the original doesn't have a lot of sharp edges to curves that need to be replicated. It's easier to replicate those sweeping lines.

glue acoustic guitar bridge
acoustic guitar custom bridge

Re-attaching the bridge, in this case, means epoxy again. There's a major risk of the bridge sliding about as it's clamped so some very careful preparation was necessary to ensure this didn't happen. Pin-holes and the bolts came in useful in this.

And, you can see the end result in the last image. As it's a nicer piece of rosewood, I think the new bridge actually looks better than the original but, that aside, it's certainly more sound.

Haze Blue Collar On Sale

Blue Collar Guitar

Oh, man, you're gonna love this. Not content with offering half-price setups all this month but I can now announce the Haze Blue Collar will be on sale all through January too.

Any orders* for a Blue Collar build, placed in January, will be at the ridiculously low price of €950.

€950 for a hand-built Haze Blue Collar guitar.

When you place an order, you only pay a deposit of €350 with the balance payable when the guitar is completed. That's gotta be good news for your post-Christmas wallet.

Pretty cool, eh?

The Blue Collar

Stripped-back brilliance. That's what you get with a Haze Blue Collar. It's built to play, and play hard. A slab-body and a single pickup gets you to the music with the minimum of fuss. And, damn, this pickup can growl, howl and sing. It's a Duesenberg Domino—a fantastic P-90 style pickup with all of the tone and edge you'd expect.

Here, though, that P-90 sound is coupled to an ash body and a 25.5"-scale maple neck so the Blue Collar doesn't lose focus or get muddy. It keeps its composure when others turn to mush. This makes it one tough little bruiser with a lot more versatility than you'd expect.

Blue Collar playability is something else. An oil and wax finish plays fast and slick and easy while the neck-carve (my own secret-sauce shaping) gives you one of the most comfortable handfuls you've ever played.

Haze Blue Collar
Blue collar custom guitar

If you'd like to have a go on a Blue Collar to feel how great it plays and hear how great it sounds, pop into Some Neck Guitars on Aungier Street in Dublin. You can try out a Blue Collar there from Monday (and I'll begrudgingly tell you that there are usually a LOT of other tasty guitars there too—it's a place you really should check out).

How can I avail of this astounding value?

Good question.

To get your guitar-playing mitts on your very own Blue Collar, just drop me a line and we'll get the ball rolling.

Seriously? €950. You'd be mad not to.

Blue collar custom guitar
haze custom guitars blue collar

Haze Blue Collar Specification

2-piece solid ash body Maple neck (bolt-on) Rosewood fingerboard (12" radius) with 21 jumbo frets Bone nut Kluson tuners Intonable wraparound tailpiece/bridge B/W/B pickguard Side mounted output-jack Volume and tone control Duesenberg Domino P-90 style pickup Oil and wax finish.

*Sale offer applies to orders placed with deposit up to 31st of January, 2013.

The Future of Ebony: None More Black

Ebony conservation

Ebony conservation

The times, they are a changing folks. 

I recently watched a short talk by Bob Taylor (of Taylor Guitars fame) about the sustainability of ebony harvesting and what it means for guitar makers. It's pretty interesting and it's embedded below. You should really take a look as it's important on a number of levels—not least for the impact this will have on future guitars. 

The upshot of things is this:

To get you and me that, perfectly black, ebony fingerboard the guys cutting the trees have to cut down nine unsuitable trees for every one that's the right colour. These nine trees don't have enough return to make it profitable to haul them out of the forest so they're just left there to rot. 

Bob Taylor's made the (right) decision that this is idiotic. From now on, the ebony that would have been scrapped, purely because it's not uniformly black, will be harvested, distributed and used in instrument manufacture. And not just with Taylor Guitars. This will become industry-wide. 

What it means for you, the guitar-buying geek on the street, is that, in the future, any ebony parts (mainly fingerboards for the most part) may not be completely black but may contain streaks of lighter browns and even cream. Now, I've worked with 'B-grade' ebony before. Personally, I quite like a little colour and pattern in the wood. It doesn't bother me in the least and it has no discernible impact on the tone. If it bothers you, I think you'll have to work on getting over it.

Guitarists are, at heart, a conservative bunch. We don't like change. That may make the future tough for some of us as things are changing. This issue isn't new. Guitar-making contains more than a few species of wood that have been, all but, harvested to extinction. As well as ebony, we've chased rosewood and mahogany around the globe as it became too rare/expensive/restricted in different countries. Koa is getting harder and harder to source, as is adirondack spruce. Even sitka has a question mark attached. That's just off the top of my head. More and more species of tonewood are becoming hard or impossible to get. 

Obviously, this isn't just down to guitar manufacture but we've certainly played an increasing role in these problems as demand for instruments has grown and grown. The truth is, though, it doesn't matter whose fault this is. The situation is what it is. 

Things are changing. Different woods and even other materials will have to be used in guitar manufacture. There's no choice in this. 

So, to the conservatives (which sometimes includes myself), I would say this: Keep an open mind. Actually listen to the sound of new woods, materials and build-methods before heading off to the nearest forum to decry them. And I mean properly listen—organise a blind test if you have to because our brains aren't good at overcoming ideas that have already wormed their way into our heads. 

Bob Taylor's right: We can't fight this. And it's not just ebony so we've got to roll with the punches.