Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

IconProjects, musings about guitar builds, guitar repairs, vintage tube amplifiers, old radios, travel, home renovation, and other stuff.

Threaded Inserts for Fender Guitar Neck

So I have this Lake Placid Blue Telecaster body and a maple neck.  And a bunch of parts.  I'm going to build put together a Telecaster!

I have some incredible Marc Rutters hardware that I'm replacing the stock hardware with.

You may also be surprised to read that I'm going to make some changes to the electronics too.

However, first things first.

I put threaded inserts on all my bolt-on neck guitars.  Leo Fender originally used wood screws on the Tele and subsequent guitars because it was effective and inexpensive to build.

Over time though, the wood screws have a tendency to strip out.  Enter the inserts.

On the right, we have a stock Fender neck "bolt."  It's actually a wood screw, but it gets called a bolt.

And on the left we have a machine screw (which is technically a bolt...go figure) we'll be using with the inserts.

By comparison, the wood screw looks a bit crude to me.

I've done this enough times that I've made a simple jig to hold Fender-style necks (or actual Fender necks...) squarely in place to be drilled for the inserts.

The inserts must go in square and level.  Period.  If the insert is mounted on an angle, it most likely will not work.

My jig is really just a piece of pine with some vertical "walls" to hold the neck square.  I use a couple of clamps to keep it in place.

If you look closely, you'll see a cedar shim (like a cabinet installer would use) stuck under the first fret to help level the neck in the horizontal plane.

I use a small level to ensure it's...well, level.  By adjusting the shim under the end of the neck as needed we can get it perfectly level.

There are probably more sophisticated ways of doing this, but this jig and method work well for me.

This is the next step in the process.  We'll be using a 6mm drill to make a hole for the insert to go it to.

It's essential that the drill goes exactly into the center of the existing screw holes.  If it's off by much at all, the bolt won't line up with the insert.

I use a 5/32 drill bit in the drill press to align the hole with the press.   The bit fits exactly into the hole.  I don't drill anything, I use use the bit as an alignment guide, or pin.   The metric equivalent is 3.9688mm; I think a 4mm bit would be perfect also.

Now, being careful not to shift anything on the jig or the drill press table, we put the proper size bit into the press and drill our holes.  The inserts you use will indicate the size of bit you need.

The inserts I use require a 6mm hole.  However, a 1/4 hole will work also - 1/4 is just a tiny bit (get it?  Bit!) larger.  If you don't have a 6mm, a 1/4 will work fine.

(Get this: I just looked these up on the McMaster-Carr web site and it indicates the hole required is 15/64...but the package I have says 6mm.  I think any of those sizes will work - they're all extremely close.  Since they're going into wood you have a tiny bit of leeway.)

Here I am drilling the first hole.  You'll see that I put a piece of tape on the bit to use as a depth gauge.  The heel of the neck is pretty thick, but you shouldn't just wing it!  You don't want to drill through the fingerboard.

Then we repeat the process for the other holes.  It's tedious, but again, you need to be precise in aligning and drilling the holes.

I use a little Pro-Cut to lubricate the threads on the inserts, and then screw them in.  A bit of wax will work fine too.  I just use Pro-Cut since I have it for my blades and files.

Don't be alarmed if you have a bit of chipping - the hole in the front got chipped out some when I drilled it.  No big deal.

We need to screw the inserts in so they are level with, or just below the surface of the wood.   If they stick up, the neck won't mount flush to the body.

Some notes about the type of inserts to use:  I've used stainless inserts and brass inserts with more threads than these, but I've switched over to these zinc alloy inserts for all my builds.

They go in much easier than stainless, having less threads also makes them go in easier, and finally, these inserts have a hex drive which is the best way to drive them in.  I get them from McMaster-Carr.

If you want to use stainless, or have more threads, go for it.  But I've used them all and these are the easiest to install.  Once that thing's bolted together, it's not coming apart in any event.  I don't think the material or the number of threads on the inserts is too critical.  Just my opinion. 

Here are the bolts in place.  They're square - the 24mm lens I'm using makes them look a little distorted.

The bolts are stainless steel oval heads.  Leo Fender liked oval head bolts, and I can see why.  They look great.

Then I did a quick bolt-up to make sure everything was aligned.  The bolts went in perfectly with no issues at all.

You can really torque these puppies down - some people claim the inserts and subsequent improvement in tightness of the joint improves sustain.  I'm not so sure about that, but I do like the peace of mind of having the thing put together as tightly as possible with no possibility of the screws coming loose.


Visit to the Station

I didn't want to do it, but I was forced to.

I think I've shown recently with the installation of a new handle on the old Gibson ukulele case that I like old instrument cases.

This one, however, is going to get tossed.  It's for a tenor banjo and, to be blunt, the lining stinks.  It smells like cat urine to be precise.

I tried some orange dog and kitty smell remover, but it did no good.  So I am reluctantly getting rid of it.

I also have some filthy old boards and a gallon of used motor oil from changing the oil in my lawnmower over the last few years.    So it's off to the dump...or as the Local Gummint calls it, the "Transfer Station."

I was on the lookout for some cool junk I might be able to salvage.  I slowed down and tried not to be too obvious as I went past the Computer and Electronics section.  Nothing looked to be worth taking.

I'm pretty sure the many people who were working there (on my tax dollars) on Sunday would have prevented me from taking anything away.  I think that's why it's called "transfer" - you transfer stuff to them.

Saw a couple of big piles of....junk.

These are the big bins where one dumps deposits transfers household waste-type-stuff.

Here's my chosen slot.

There's a big apron you sort of slide/toss your stuff over and then it goes into a big bin.


I pushed the smelly case over the edge.

It wound up down with some other trash.  The edge is set about six feet (couple meters) back, so you can't easily see down.

After about 15 seconds, you realize it smells bad too.


Installing a New Handle on a Vintage Instrument Case

Now I can start the process of putting the new handle on.

I've gotten a bit better at this, but it's still tricky.

It's easy enough to use the rivet setting tool to open up and flatten the split tabs in the rivet.  The hard part is that the rivet naturally wants to slide backward as you pound on it.

This time, I clamped a piece of wood over the head to hold it down.  You can see that caul held in by a clamp.

It worked okay, but the head drove into the wood, so I switched over to a piece of metal which worked much better.  Usually you'd do this on an anvil, but that's too awkward on this job.

In the picture, I'm holding the rivet tool, but you of course use a hammer to drive the thing in.

Here are the rivets after driving them in.

You may recall in the last post I said I hacked up the plywood some.  On the right side rivet in this picture, you can see where I glued in a small piece of wood to fill the hole.  The rivet tabs need to have enough material to 'lock' on to, so I patched that hole .

Not perfect, but they're tight and functional.

Now we apply some contact cement to put the linking back on.

And clamp it down with C-clamps and some cauls.

I now have a small box full of cauls for guitar repair...and case repair.  It's nice to just grab one and put it to use.

Note the scrap wood cauls on the outside of the case too - we don't want to mark that up after all this work.

The bracket for the handle from the outside.

I polished up the hardware.  Now it looks presentable.  I used nickel-plated rivets to match the hardware.

Isn't this better than using a nut and bolt?  I think so.

Here's the inside showing the reglued lining.  The lining's pretty worn, but it's still functional.

The lining on the bottom the case is very thin.  So thin, in fact, that the ukulele's tuners have rubbed through it in a couple spots in the headstock area.  So I cut a foam pad to fit it so it won't rub there.

I covered it with some vintage-looking green felt using contact cement to adhere it to the foam.

I'm going to make a couple more foam pads to stick around the curved part of the case too.

Here's the Gibson TU back in the case.  You can see some gaps around the ukulele - I'll make more felt-covered pieces to put in there.

The finished handle repair.  This is a 'sausage-shaped' handle I got from Elderly Instruments.  Looks appropriately 'vintage' for the case I think.

You can get replacement handles that will just buckle onto the case hardware, but I think a proper handle looks much better.


Removing a Vintage Instrument Case Handle

One of the things I enjoy about old instruments is that sometimes you get a cool old case as part of the deal.  In the case (ha) of my Gibson TU, I got a very neat case.

But as you can see from the picture, the handle is shot.  So I'm going to replace it.

Since I find myself doing this periodically, I had purchased a rivet setting tool and a selection of rivets some time ago.  I believe this is the third handle I've replaced.

To remove the rivets holding the handle brackets on, we first need to be able to get to the back of them.  Here I'm using my trusty removal palette to gently separate the case lining from the sides of the case.

You may remember my removal palette from its roles in removing various bridges, fingerboards, and other seams on guitars and ukuleles as documented right here.  It is a wonderful little tool.

The glue is quite old and brittle, and the lining comes apart easily.  We need to be careful not to tear the fabric in the process.

I'm using a 1/4 inch chisel to get under the rivet's tabs to pry them up.  I've tried this with a screwdriver, but the chisel tip is thinner and will get under the rivet since it's sharp.

Be very careful when doing this.  Do not put your other hand in front of the chisel to get leverage!  I guarantee the chisel will slip and fly up and away from the rivet during the process.    This is the worst part of the process - it takes a while to get those tabs pried up.

You can see how far the rivet tabs were driven down into the plywood case sides.  On this case, the plywood is very thin - probably only 3/16 of an inch (maybe 4mm), and I wind up hacking some of the wood away unintentionally.

Once the tabs are straightened out, I can pull the rivets out from the front.    Notice also how corroded (ok, rusted) the hardware is.  I'm going to clean it up as much as possible.

Here's one of the old rivets after removal.

I suppose you could try to drill the rivets out, but I'm a little wary of using a drill around a vintage case.  I can just see the bit slipping and hacking up the case. 

Next I'll put new rivets on along with a new handle.


Rotted Exterior Wood Post Repair Completion

You may recall a few posts back I was starting the repair of a rotted section of wood on my sunroom exterior. 

Guess what?  It's DONE!

Here's what I did.

The section was fairly large, and when I went to the Despot to look for a hunk (chunk?) of wood to use as a suitable block section, I only found eight foot long pieces of 6x6 lumber.  Too much.

So I came home and found a piece of 2x6 board.  I cut it up into three appropriately-sized sections, and glued it together to make a big honkin' block!

You can see the massive glue-squeeze out that I wiped off.  And yes, I used Titebond to glue it together.

After the glue dried, and after some careful measuring and cutting, I had a block sized to slip into the gap where the old rotted wood had been.

The slits on the right are to fit into a flange from the window frame on the right.  I tried to make the gaps as small as I could.

You can see where I put construction adhesive on the right side and the back where it will meet the old wood.  I also put caulk on the top of the block.

If you look carefully, you'll also see the hole in the left in the old wood when I hacked out the old wood - I filled that gap with DAP Dynaflex 230 caulk.  Critters could previously craw up under the old post, through the rotted section, and enter the sunroom.

I have closed off their path forever!

Here's the new section glued into place.  You can see the top seam filled with caulk.  I would have liked that seam to be a bit tighter - but it's filled with caulk and nothing can get past it.

You'll also see how the right side slipped over the window frame - a pretty good fit overall.

At this point, I'm nearly down the home stretch.

A bit more caulk to fill that top seam, as well as the hole on the right of the new block where I pulled out all of the old caulk.

The left side stuck out a bit, so I shaved that off with my trusty coping saw.  Then I finish sanded it.

Then I primed it and used spackling to fill and imperfections - in this case, mainly that big seam.

The finished repair section after the final painting and caulking the bottom.

I'm fairly happy with it.  The block isn't perfect, but it's functional, and from a meter away (39 inches, or 3 feet 3 inches), it looks darn good.  Most people will only see it from much farther away.

If I was doing this job for a National Trust property, I would have kept at it until it was absolutely perfect, but since it's just my house...meh.

The main thing is that the rotted piece is gone, and it's all sealed from the elements, as well as crawling critters.


1927 Gibson TU Ukulele Visits the Garden

After the cleanup and polish, I took the Gibson TU out to the garden for some beauty shots.

I really like that 1920s Gibson sunburst.  They were a bit dark, and the center is really a golden color.  Their sunbursts evolved over the years.

The whole ukulele from the front.

I had a hard time photographing it without getting glare from the finish.  This shot makes it look bad, when in reality it looks nice.  The crack on the top doesn't look that bad in person.

Those Virtuoso polish products are just fabulous.  The uku looked nice when I first got it, but now it's pretty amazing.

Compared to an all-mahogany Martin, this uku is much louder and brighter - mainly due to the spruce top.

Brazilian rosewood fingerboard.  Very nice.

Gibson used this "The Gibson" logo until the early 1930s.

There's a lot of finish cracking, but again, the picture makes it look worse than it appears in person.

One other note:  it's heavier than a Martin.  That big rosewood bridge adds a lot of mass and weight.


1927 Gibson TU Tenor Ukulele Clean Up

Hmmm, this is interesting.  It looks like an old violin case.

But as much as I love violins (can't play one, and I am learning too many other instruments to justify one), I don't think it's a violin.

Whoa.  It's an ukulele, it's sunburst...and it's a Gibson!

It's a Gibson TU tenor ukulele from 1927-29.  Crazy!
Gibson was very late getting into the ukulele business.  In fact, by the time this uku was made, the 1920s ukulele craze (aka the First Wave), was subsiding.

Ironically, Gibson contacted Martin for advice on ukulele building!  Martin offered to help them source small parts.  It's not known if they followed through, but we know Gibson made three soprano uku models, and this extremely rare TU, or "tenor ukulele."  The TU was in production for just about 2  years, 1927-9.

The TU features a spruce top over mahogany back and sides.   The neck is also mahogany.  The bridge and fingerboard are Brazilian rosewood.  You can see the lovely celluloid binding on the front and back.

One of the most interesting features is this double-layer bridge.  I thought it was a replacement, but the 1927 Gibson catalog pictures the TU with this bridge, so it is original.

There are four tiny bridge pins and a fifth decorative pin.  Very unusual.

Here are the pins removed.  They're hand carved of bone - you can see how the taper is not consistent.

I sanded just a touch off that fifth pin - it stuck up way too high for my taste.  (In the picture above, you can see how high up it was).  I had visions of that little piece snapping off.

The saddle and nut are also bone.

The instrument is in wonderful condition.  There is some wear on the back of the neck - it was played a lot.  There are also a few well-repaired cracks - the worst is this triangular-shaped one on the top.

It looks worse in the photos than it really is.

The interior bracing is spruce, and it's very light.  This picture is a mirror image looking up a the top.

There are 2 thin braces that are similar to fan braces on a classical guitar which are alongside the bridge plate.  The plate could be maple - it's hard to tell.

In addition to the top cracks, there are 2 cracks in the back that were nicely repaired.  The glue used on all of the repairs appears to be hide glue - whoopee!  Nicely done.
There are also 2 thin back braces.  You can see the 2 back cracks at the top of the picture on the left.  Nice clean repair.  Not easy to do on such a small instrument.

While the bracing appears to me to be lighter than a Martin, the ukulele is almost twice the weight of a Martin due to that relatively massive bridge.

Gibson sopranos use a much lighter and more conventional bridge.  I can only guess that Gibson was concerned about the longer tenor scale length needing a stronger bridge.

There are no serial numbers or other markings inside the instrument that I could see.

The ukulele is in very fine shape.  I'm just going to clean it up and restring it.

I like Dunlop fingerboard cleaner for boards like this.  You can see some of the grime that came off.  Not too bad.

I used to use lemon oil on fingerboards, but lately I've been using this ColorTone fretboard finishing oil.  I like it a lot.  It really enhances the wood, and helps to keep it from drying out.

This picture was taken while the oil was still soaking in a bit - I wiped the excess off.

Then a clean and polish with Virtuoso cleaner and polish.

The Virtuoso polish is fantastic, but the cleaner is even better.  I can't imagine using anything else.

You can see the gloss on the old finish really coming alive.  Remember, this finish was put on about 87 years ago!

Compare this picture to the picture of the back at the top of this post.  The Virtuoso cleaner gives a cloudy finish terrific clarity.  The polish is the the final touch.