Alright Foundry Fans, this had to be the most intense build ever. I will never again think, “This’ll be a piece of cake”
We started with Brian asking if I could install a Fishman Matrix blend peizo/mic set up. That was when the over confidence began, “No problem. Ship it out, I said.” Eagerly awaiting a slam dunk electronics install and a quick and easy set up. Well….
In July, August, September ’12
I opened the case for the first time in July. I found a very nice looking, sweet sounding big fat Japanese acoustic. Upon inspection I notice the bridge is warped and lifting on the treble side. Alright, I’ll heat up the knife and slide that puppy off, make it right and “Bob’s yer uncle”, we’re back in business. Wrong!
The bridge has had a previous reset. Lots of polymer filled, water resistant glue that whispers a sweet f#*k off to my heated knife. When I finally free the beast there are several 1/2″ wide voids in the surface, gory cuts in the finish around the perimeter (from the previous botched deal) and black spots that may be mold, or possibly the witch who cursed the guitar sneezed during the last bridge reset. Okay, after steaming, clamping, leveling, resetting, replacing the piece of MOP inlay I sanded through making the bridge “cosmetically” perfect and weeks of surgical touch up painting, I’m ready to route for the peizo. I widened the route, cut a fresh compensated bone saddle, pop in the rest of the Fishman bits and I’m off to the races. Nope, piezo’s dead. How you ask? I start troubleshooting wiring. No issues there. I pull out the saddle. I gouged the piezo putting the saddle in the final time. (Insert cuss words here) I find a source online and have a new piezo overnighted. Done at last…
Not even close!
September / October 12′ The set up:
Nothing routine about it. The guitar is buzzing all over hell. The neck is clearly on its way to a back bow after acclimating to West Coast without string tension. I go for the truss rod wrench.. Won’t budge. (Now remember I’m loosening not tightening) “Never ever muscle a truss rod” rings in my head as I fantasize about pnuematic impact wrenches with 4 mm Allen heads. Whilst finishing the beer I clearly needed I’m thinking “the threads might have glue on them”. I can see that someone recently installed crown inlays in the fretboard and it looks like they went pretty wild with the router and the super glue. Maybe they went through the board into the rod channel. Off to bed hoping the answer comes in a dream. Okay, it didn’t come in a dream but I’ve got it. I’ll heat up the 900 degree monster iron I use for desoldering, jam it in the sound hole and go for broke. Yes! My luck is turning and so is the f’ing rod.
November / December ’12
Now I’m gonna level and dress and get her moving. Getting into the neck work it’s apparent the guitar has been refretted. (Not the best work either). The ends are ugly and the wire itself is extremely narrow. “Once I dress them they’ll be fine. Right”… of course not. The hump at the body frets is high enough that the ends of the 14th fret almost disappeared during leveling. I know what you’re thinking, “He’s never gonna use those frets anyway” The poor condition of the other frets truly necessitated a total refret at this point . I’m ready for this not to be straight forward. Out the gate we invest in StewMac’s Jaws 2 fret press. Good call. Great tool as always and way safer over the body. First thing. Pull the nut. The fun continues! The previous fellow painted over about 1/8″ of glue/filler which was used to raise the nut. So when I scored the nut before tapping it out it made no difference. The first tap pulled off 1/8″ of finish on the headstock. This required maple shims, super glue, scraping, sealing, and more spot finishing! Other than that, the 12th fret slot being cut crooked and the nut end of the board being bevelled off on one corner the job was completed fairly quickly. Oh the power of super glue, veneer, and rosewood dust!
Okay, refretted/perfectly adjusted neck, perfectly mounted bridge, butt tight saddle slot with reasonable break angle, fresh nut. Perfect tone recipe on paper. Yet I now have visions of Ravi Shankar on the plain strings. (Rest his beautiful soul) Where is this amazing sitar buzz coming from??? Well, as I’m terminally anal retentive I decide I’ll check the under side of the bridge pins to see if we have good seating. Excellent in fact, especially considering the age of the piece and it’s history. “I’ll just back cut the string grooves to obtain a 45 degree break angle, ream the bridge pin holes, and install nice new tight Martin bridge pins. Problem solved”… 90%ish. (At this point it actually rings as clean as most acoustics I’ve played.) But still there is a nagging buzz on the high E when played open. Ends up it was about .020″ of the nut slot not angled properly. I literally angled the file a hair too much on the final cuts. The string would buzz as it decayed, ringing against the bone in the tiny gap before the end of the nut. Just like a sitar, the string has a tiny gap between the string break and the end of the “jawari” or bridge. Perfect conditions for groovy buzzing.
I know you might be thinking, “bad trouble shooting. Should’ve checked the nut first.” I actually did check it first. The issue was checking it with my naked eye. Missed it completely! Magnified it was glaringly obvious. I will admit to thinking.”I just cut those slots and they’re perfect” (Pride cometh before a shit ton of extra work!) I will always check under magnification going forward. I am anal retentive remember!
I have to say how cool it is to have become such good friends with Brian. He was patient and super cool through all of the ups and downs of the never ending resurrection. I’m proud to say together we made a gorgeous sweet sounding vintage import piece! Wait until you see Brian’s next piece. A highly customized, and totally unique take on a Les Paul Goldtop. Hint, It was born without binding…but now has it! It’s also in a fresh sealer coat as we speak!
List of Parts:
Fishman matrix blend pickup
.092 / .045 fret wire
New Bridge pins
Lots of sandpaper and nitro lacquer
Bridge reset (make and set an inlay!)
Spot Refinishing top around bridge and various dings and chips.
Debur G string tuner (breaking strings during restringing)
Cut nut ( rebuild slot, respray headstock face)
Refret (including filling & reslotting the 12th fret as the previous chap cut it crooked)
Fill crazy bevel at nut end of fretboard (see pics)
Back cut string holes
Ream bridge pin holes
I now truly believe instruments have souls. This one liked me and wanted to stay with me…forever!!!
Bridge removed and patched
Steamed and clamped before planing
Slick homemade clamping!
Mounted before finish repairs
Overcut and filled with glue when I got to it. This is in the middle of drop filling.
saddle making fun
more saddle fun
It just vanished!
It’s back. (before leveling)
See that crazy bevel on the treble side?
Lay out and trimming
More fret foreplay. Notice the weird bevel is gone and the headstock is ready for the nut!
crooked slot. Intonation does matter!
maple veneer glued in!
rosewood dust and stewmac 10 super glue
Scraped down with a look at how off it was!
Level at last
Dead nuts! Straight edges don’t lie.
Dig the notes on the tape!
Yes I glued them all in!
Nothing compares to frets installed by a player!!
I do love glue and tiny bits of wood!
That’s the height of the best of the old frets.
Finally on her way home!
Nut slot silliness
Drop filling with nitro is SLOW!
SLOW but worth it!