Quick Tip: Taylor Expression System AA Jack Removal

Quick Tip: Taylor Expression System AA Jack Removal

Another case of hidden screws. Because these are the sorts of things that slowed me up in the past, when I come across one (and when I remember to photograph it), I'll pass it on and hopefully help others in the future. 

The original Taylor Expression System used a pair of AA batteries. Usually, these are problem free but, sometimes, a battery can get stuck in its housing. Grrr.

Acoustic String Stash

Doing this job, you find some odd things inside acoustic guitars from time to time. 

The occasional string ball-end isn't terribly odd, though. 

However, I'll admit that this many is a little unusual. 

This equals a lot of broken strings on this acoustic guitar

In an ideal world, inside you acoustic guitar should be relatively detritus-free.  

Is this a problem?

Well, maybe not. I didn't get to deal with the owner of this particular guitar in person and I don't know if he/she was snipping the string ends and just letting them fall in or whether strings were breaking and the ends disappearing inside the guitar. There are some heavier strings in the horde so it may be the former but, if your guitar is consistently breaking strings, there may be some things we can do to address that. 

As to whether it's an issue if you've got a hundred string-ends in your guitar, some of that depends on you and whether you find it annoying to have your guitar rattle like a rainstick every time you move—it'd drive me insane but it's your guitar. 

More seriously, though, some acoustic pickups—like those in Taylor's Expression System have magnets. I've had a customer complain his Taylor was making weird microphonic crackling noises—turned out a ball-end had attached itself to the body sensor magnet and its tiny movements were making awful noises (see below). 

So, to sum up, maybe clean out the string ends now and then. Also, maybe the gum, half-eaten lollypops, dead spiders, pencil-sharpeners, and condoms—all of which I've found inside acoustic guitars. The condom was (thankfully) unused. I wish I could say the same for the gum. 


Microphonic Taylor Guitar

Update: Within days of publishing this post, the microphonic Taylor thing happened again with another customer. This time I took a photo (albeit a little blurry). You can see the string-end clinging to the body sensor.

The body sensor has a magnet and coil element—like a regular pickup—and this magnet can attract stray string ends. The string can move about and it'll cause terrible squeals/screeches/rustling/crackling/general-unpleasantness. 

Keep 'em clean, folks. 

String ends left inside an acoustic guitar can become magnetically attached to some pickups like this Taylor body sensor

Fretting an Acoustic Guitar

When you're fretting an acoustic guitar, there's an added complication: The fingerboard extension (that bit over the body). 

Mostly, this part of the fingerboard is glued to the guitar top and usually has very little support underneath. You can't just start hammering frets in here without running the risk of badly damaging the guitar top or the bracing beneath. 

There are ways of pressing frets into this section but they're slow and a little clumsy. What I (and most repairers) do is to use a 'ballast' of some sort to absorb some of the hammer-blows' energy. This means using one hand to hold a relatively massive (as in mass rather than size) object underneath the fingerboard extension as you hammer frets home with the other. This works but is also a bit clumsy and a bit awkward.

Years ago, Taylor Guitars went a long way towards solving the problem. They used a cast-iron device they called a Fret Buck. The buck sat on the guitar's face and an internal 'foot' clamped up underneath the fingerboard extension to support it. Hurrah for Bob Taylor.  

For a while, you could even buy a fret buck. I know because I kept saying to myself, "I must get one of those. I'll put one in my next order." I didn't though. I kept forgetting or putting it off. 

And then they disappeared. 

No longer available. Anywhere. About six or seven years ago, they vanished. I continued with my contortions, wishing I had a third hand, while fretting. No biggie. 

Then Stew Mac worked some magic and began offering their own version a few months ago. Hurrah for Stew Mac. The Fret Buck's not an absolutely essential tool but it does make an awkward and potentially damaging job a lot easier and safer. 

And quieter. Hammering frets over an acoustic body is a noisy job and the buck soaks up some of that noise too. 

I'm quite fond of my fret buck. Should have got one years ago.  ;-)

Neck Reset - The Theory

I’ll have a couple of articles about neck resets appearing in the near future, so I thought it might be an idea to discuss what they are and why they might be needed.

Why would I need a neck reset?

If you have almost any steel-string acoustic guitar for long enough, odds are it will need a neck reset at one (or some) point(s) in its life. Wood settles and string tension pulls the guitar’s geometry around over time. The upshot can be that the action gets slowly higher and higher so that it’s uncomfortable to play.

Often, you’ll find a saddle that’s been lowered, again and again, until it’s just a sliver of bone poking over the bridge. If this is the case, and the action’s still high, a reset might be on the cards.

What happens in a neck reset?

During a neck reset, the neck is removed and the angle at which it joins the body is modified to tilt it back a little. This means it follows the plane of the strings more closely. To try illustrate this, I’ve included one of my, patented, Haze Guitars Hastily And Clumsily-Drawn Exaggerated Diagrams.

On Guitar 1, the action is pretty high. Nobody wants to play Guitar 1 and, when he goes to the beach, Taylors come up and kick sand in his sound-hole. Poor Guitar 1 could use a neck reset.

Why you might need a neck reset and what happens during a neck reset

Off with his neck

The neck is removed so that we can alter the angle at which it connects to the body. We take some wood off the heel—removing a wedge so that the neck tilts backwards a little when it’s reattached.

What we have essentially done is pivot the neck at Point A. In doing so, we’ve moved it so it’s more in line with the plane of the strings and the action is magically reduced. Guitar 1 is transformed into Guitar 2. A shredder picks up Guitar 2 and plays so fast that he spontaneously combusts. All is well with the world.

Is it a big job?

Well, first know that removing a neck generally involves either undoing bolts or steaming glue-joints to soften the adhesive.

Neck resets, therefore, range from relatively-easy (Taylor NT necks), to a-bit-more-hassle (bolt-on necked guitars) to break-out-the-steamer-and-the-tea (Martins), to break-out-the-steamer-and-the-whiskey (Gibsons), to oh-god-not-a-bloody-Guild (Guilds).

Bear in mind, also, that neck resets will often require additional work afterwards. Fret work — likely a fret level or even a full refret is a strong possibility (and the latter may require a new nut too). Some finish touch-up might even be necessary (although this isn't needed too often).

A neck-set should generally be considered relatively serious surgery as it involves some invasive work (in removing the neck) and some potentially disastrous work if the modifications to the heel aren’t performed properly. I’m all in favour of people doing some DIY but a neck set might not be the job for that guy you know who's 'handy'.

Ask around, get some advice and have a good chat to whoever you approach to do the job. It's important to trust whoever you get to do this for you.