Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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

Fixing Sagging Danelectro Bridge

You may recall that I installed a CJ Tooling bridge on the Cancer Killer Danelectro guitar. I had intended to put one on this guitar as well. Unfortunately, I don't have one for this guitar since CJ Tooling has been closed for a couple of months due to 'unforseen circumstances.' I hope all is well there.

In the meantime, I'm retrofitting this guitar with a stock Danelectro 6-saddle bridge of the type that's found on some other Danelectro models.

One of the issues with virtually any Danelectro bridge is their tendency to sag in the center under string tension. The stock bridge on this guitar was doing that. So in addition to having better intonation, I want to solve the sag problem.

Did a search of the interwebs and found a video by my guitar repair hero, Dan Erlewine, in which he modifies a stock Danelectro bridge to fix the sag. It's easy to do, and I simply followed his direction.

This is the new bridge in its factory packing. It comes with mounting screws and a hex wrench to adjust the height of the saddles.

TMD's parental units had a huge collection of allen wrenches like this which they willed to him. I'm going to donate this to the collection.

What we're going to do is put a Gibson Nashville-style Tune-o-Matic threaded bridge insert and stud on the guitar body to support the center of the bridge. Simple and effective, as well as adjustable.

First we make a center mark where we'll drill a 5/32 inch hole for the top of the stud to pass into.

Over on the drill press we drill the hole. Lookit that brass swarf coming up! (The bridge is chrome-plated brass and is very easy to drill).

I screwed the bridge down to a caul and clamped the caul to the drill press table so it wouldn't move while being drilled.

Now we put the stud through the bridge and make a mark level with the top of the bridge. I used a razor saw to scribe the stud.

The excess stud has to be cut off so it doesn't interfere with strings or the bridge saddles.

At this point, you can see how clever and simple the idea is and how well it will work. We'll have a support right at the point where the stock bridge tends to sag under tension.

Since the caul has a hole drilled in it which is the same size as the stud, we can use it as a support to cut the excess off.

It cut easily with the razor saw.

Take off any sharp edges left from the cut with a file.

Test fit - the stud is perfectly level with the top of the bridge.

I'm not a big fan of chrome bridges. It's hard to 'age' chrome (ferric chloride works on nickel but not so much on chrome). I guess I'll have to settle for natural aging over time.

Now we put the bridge on the guitar body temporarily using the mounting screws. I put a wedge under the rear of the bridge so the front of the bridge would be flat to the body of the guitar and the hole would be square.

Then I drilled the pilot hole for the threaded bushing that will be pressed in. The hole should be about 9/32 to have a tight fit for the bushing.

This is again a 5/32 inch bit. After this hole, I drilled it again with a 7/32 to open it up more. I don't have a 9/32 bit, so I used a 1/4 inch bit and then used a file to ream the hole large enough to press the bushing in.

The bushing should be a tight fit. I reamed the hole until I could get the bushing to sit about halfway down in the hole.

Then I used a rubber mallet to drive the bushing all the way in.

Thread the stud into the bushing, and then screw the bridge down. The bridge is very solid now that it's supported at 4 points.

I'll probably need to adjust the bridge height upward during the final setup. I'll be able to use the roller on the stud to adjust it to support the final bridge height exactly.


DIY Pearl Danelectro Pickguard

I'm not a big fan of the refrigerator-white color pickguards on Danelectro guitars. I wanted to put a pearloid pickguard on the DC-2, but it seems no one offers them commercially.

So I procured a hunk of pearloid material and set about making my own.

I'm going to bevel the edges, so I needed to make a wood template that my router bit could run on.

First step (surprise) was to make a tracking of the stock pickguard onto my selected piece of birch laminate.

Here we have it. The red dots are where the screw holes will be.

Now, I will warn you, dear reader, of the mistake I made before you read much further.

A piece of plywood/laminate is not the best choice for this operation. A solid piece of hardwood, maybe even MDF, would be better.

We'll find out why shortly.

Now we take our pattern to the dark recess of The Dungeon where the bandsaw lives.

I cut away most of the excess around the pattern.

Then I made some relief cuts to help with cutting the curves.

So far, so good.  It's going well.

You'll note that I didn't cut right down to the guide lines on the pattern. I was not so trusting of my skill with the bandsaw as to be so bold.

But we're close at this point. Just need some finessing.

Took the template over to the sander and got really close to the guideline.

Screwed down the original pickguard to the template, and filed and sanded the overhanging wood (which is still there in this shot) off the template.

I was only able to make straight cuts on the front pickup cutout with the bandsaw - I finished the rest of the curve with files. The radius is just too small to cut with the saw.

I like this set of files I got from Stew-Mac. Perfect for this kind of work.

STILL waiting for the endorsement deal.

Once the template matches the pickguard exactly, I move on to cutting the new pickguard itself.

Here you can see I traced the pattern onto the back of the pickguard material. Then I cut it on the bandsaw.

The edges of the plastic look a bit fuzzy, but that will get taken care of.

I screwed the pickguard down to the the template and then I did a pass with sandpaper to smooth the edge to align with the template.

Looks good at this point, and no acccidents.

I have a Whiteside 45 degree router bit to make the bevel cut with.

Since we're cutting plastic, we don't need a big router - I used my trim router, which is easy to handle.

This is a closeup of the bit in the router and being aligned with the template. The bearing on the bit will ride on the template while the router bit cuts the bevel on the pickguard.

It works.

But here's the catch I alluded to earlier. The edge of the template needs to be perfectly smooth - no bumps or divots. Since the bearing, and by extension, the bit itself, follows the edge of the template, any bumps will be cut into the material.

I was too stupid inexperienced to realize this. I did have a few places where the cut was not exactly smooth. Fortunately I was able to clean them up with a file and sandpaper.

But next time, I won't use plywood for the template. A solid smooth surface is key to getting a perfect cut.

Here's the completed pickguard. I had drilled the holes for the pots, switch and jack onto the template as well, so I just lined the pickguard up on the template and drilled those holes using forstner bits. If you're sharp-eyed, you'll notice there's an extra control hole. Hmmm.

The black marks near the one hole are on the protective plastic covering the pickguard, so they will be gone when I peel the plastic off.

It came out well I think. Stock Danelectro guards aren't beveled, so this is a different look - as is the pearloid.

This was a good learning experience. Next one I do will be perfect!


Guitar Screw Hole Fills on Daddy-O Yellow Danelectro DC-2

You may recall I mentioned 2 screw holes on the Daddy-O Yellow DC-2 where a synth pickup had been installed by a previous owner. Call me crazy, but I wanted to take a stab at filling the holes. I considered just putting a couple of screws in the holes, thus making it appear they belonged there, but nah, what fun would that be?

I used Stew-Mac thin CA to fill the holes.

I taped off the area around the holes to try and prevent CA from getting on the finish. I probably should have mixed the CA with sawdust to make a thicker mix of sorts - it took about 4 passes to fill the holes all the way up to the top with just thin CA alone.

But it (eventually) did work.

I realized I was going to need to scrape and sand the holes so I decided to take the pickguard off to make some more room to work.

Not to mention that I'm going to do some electronic mods and attempt to make a different pickguard. So it would have to come off sooner or later.

The knobs for the famous Danelectro concentric tone and volume controls pull right off.

Is it just me or does it seem unusual that a company that was trying to save production costs would use a more expensive component such as concentric pots rather than standard ones?

With the knobs off, we can undo the nuts for the selectror switch and the pots themselves.

Had to throw in this shot of the mismatched pickguard screws. Which one do you think is not original? Sometimes you find goofy stuff like this on instruments.

I'll remedy this when I put it back together.

There's some double-stick tape under the pickguard near the front pickup. I carefully pried up the guard using my famous screwdriver, Destructo.

Well, I was careful, but the thin masonite (!) pickguard still cracked a bit on the bottom - see the green arrow. It doesn't go though to the top side fortunately, so it still looks fine. But I did repair it anyway.

Some Titebond, two cauls and a big spring clamp and the crack was fixed. Not that I'm planning on reusing the pickguard.

Here's what the controls look like. Mounted to a panel, which is a nice touch. You can see I put the mounting nuts back on the switch, pots, and jack so I don't lose them.

The bottom of the control panel. I think the first numbers on that sticker are a date code - November 1998. I'd think.

Maybe the whole thing is a serial number.

I took a razor blade to the CA fills to level them. Note how I have Scotch tape wrapped around the ends - just exposing a small bit of blade in the middle to control how much area can be scraped.

Cut some narrow strips of sandpaper - 120, 220 and 320 grits - to sand the fills.

You can hold a finger down on the paper over the area you're working on, and pull the paper through with your other hand. If you're careful, you pretty much just sand a small spot.

With the spots levelled to the surface of the guitar, I feathered the area around the fills with 400 up to about 8000 grit paper.

Then polished the repairs with my small orbital machine and medium compound.

Looks shiny now, but of course it needs to be touched up. I decided to polish the whole area first since I thought I might be using acrylic paint which doesn't polish well.

If this was on an acoustic instrument and it was a shallow fill, the wood would show, you'd be done, and the repair would be almost invisible. But since these were screw holes and the body is painted a solid color, just filling and levelling them was not enough.

Long story short on how I touched them up.

First I tried yellow water-base acrylic craft paint mixed with white and a touch of green to try and match the color. I wasn't happy with the color match, so I took it off, and started with a medium yellow enamel as a base. That's what you see here.

Then I used a mix of white and yellow acrylic on top of the yellow enamel to get as close as I could. I actually searched the interwebs to find if the "Daddy-O Yellow" shade had a standard value in somebody's paint code, but it apparently does not.

It took me numerous attempts (as in dozens...), but I finally got as close as I could. It's hard to see the repairs in this shot, I think.

From six feet away you can't tell. From a couple feet, it's not bad. Not perfect, but far better than the ugly holes I started with. (Which is why I really refrain from drilling holes in places where they may cause a repair headache later...but I digress).

If you're right on top of the guitar, you can see the touchups, but they're not awful. And they're as close as I can get.

Now let's do some upgrades!


Neck Shim for Danelectro Guitar

You may recall the pink Danelectro DC-2 Cancer Killer I customized for a friend. I had so much fun working on it and playing it I had to procure a Danelectro for myself.

It might be hard to tell in the picture, but it's what Danelectro called "Daddy-O Yellow." A cool pale yellow color, and I admit it's the first yellow guitar I've owned.

Someone stuck a decal of a half-nekkid woman on it. I covered it up in Photoshop because I cannot stand it. It's just too crass and lame imho. It will be removed soon.

If it was like "Peace" or "Rock Out" or the flag of some cool country, I might have left it.

A previous owner had also stuck a guitar synthesizer pickup on it, and then removed it. So I have 2 holes I'll be filling.

I'm going to put inserts into the neck as I do with all my bolt-on guitars (and I did with the Cancer Killer too). So I took the neck off.

Bzzzt whirrrr! goes the drill.
Put some Goo-Gone on the decal, let it soak for a while, and peeled it off.

One good think about poly finishes is that they're pretty much indestructible, so the decal didn't leave any marks.

Somebody put a shim of cardboard and electrical tape on the neck to change the angle of the neck a bit. You sometimes see this (or you might do this...) on bolt-on neck guitars since the neck angle is so shallow that angling the neck back might improve playability.

I didn't shim my friend's guitar, but it could be improved a tad with a shim. When I see the guitar again I may shim it.

At any rate, I had already decided I would shim this one. Clearly someone beat me to it - but WAIT! I'm going to cook up a slightly more elegant shim.

Now, this is not my idea exactly. I recently saw where Stew-Mac is offering nice wood neck shims. I thought about getting some, but I realized they're really shaped for Fender neck pockets and the Danelectro is a different shape.

Plus, they're $14 for 2 of them, I said to myself, "Self, surely you could make your own exactly to suit your guitar!"

Fourteen bucks? Really? I love Stew-Mac and own tons of their tools but that's crazy money. You gotta stop somewhere.

So I grabbed a hunk of scrap maple and headed off to the dark corner of The Dungeon where the bandsaw lives.

Set a 1 degree angle on our Incra miter gauge.
Put the hunk of maple into resaw position on the saw. I did a test run with a 1/4 inch wide blade as you can see here. The cut edge of the maple was (predictably) a bit too rough so I changed to a more resaw-appropriate 1/2 inch blade (about 12mm in new money measure).

You can see in the foreground I have a wood fence bolted to the miter gauge to keep the maple block on target as it gets cut. So the block is actually 1 degree off square in relation to the blade.

Here's the proper 1/2 inch blade ready to chow down on some maple.

You can see the mark I made indicating where to start the cut. The cut will go from that 'wide' end on a 1 degree angle down to virtually no width at the wood fence end.

I did the maths to calculate all of this. Don't want to bore you - just find a triangle equation calculator online. One angle is 90 degrees, one is 1 degree, and one side for me was 5 inches long. From that you'll get how much the width to start the cut will be (ok, it was like 0.1 inch).

Then I just cut out the shape I needed to fit the Danelectro neck pocket. The maple is a thin triangle in cross-section at this point. Here it's on a wood caul to cut with a razor saw - it looks thick but that's the caul under the shim.

The maple is that nice flamed piece I found at Home Despot (!) to make the frame for Amp 42 from. (I built that amp 6 years ago! Wow.)

Here's the shim, sized to go into the neck pocket. The pocket has rounded corners on the body side, so I radiused the shim to fit them.

You can see the triangle shape cross-section better (I think) in this shot. Easier to show than describe.

Looks like a very thin slice of maple cheese.

Here's the test fit in the pocket. The wide end goes toward the body. This way the neck will have a slight back tilt to it - we'll wind up with a better downward angle over the back of the bridge and maybe get better tone and sustain.

It's a bit more elegant than putting a piece of electrical tape, a guitar pick, or cardboard in there.

I could probably market these things for Danelectros and undercut Stew-Mac by a couple bucks!

And here's the shim drilled for the two mounting bolts that will pass through it. I have some other work to do on the guitar before I can give the final verdict but I'd guess it will work well.

The only bad part is the maple has a nice flame and won't be seen again. I contemplated putting some Tru-Oil on it to bring out the grain...but why bother?

You could make one of these without a bandsaw - a belt sander would work or even a hand plane, but it was fast and easy (and accurate) with the bandsaw.

And just think - I saved $14 by making my own!