Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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Guitar Liposuction

Hi kids! It's me, Yr Fthfl Blggr!

I finally got a few minutes to head down to the dark recesses of the workbench and work on a geetar! Can you say "What fun, Mr. Yr Fthfl Blggr?" I knew you could!

Seems like working on that tile has made me a bit punchy, yes? Who knows what I'll write next.

ld lasjdfl flaskjdfla sjfleafsmdfl lasdjflaskfjd mcldkepw-90aqiermccm!


What we have here is Ms. Yr Fthfl Blggr's guitar - one Guild D4-NT. According to the serial number, it was built in 1991. This is pretty much your garden-variety American-made solid-top dreadnought geetar. It was actually a Christmas present to her from Someone Who Shall Remain Nameless a few years back. It was used at the time, and was played a fair bit by the PO, I would say. In this day of 'relic' guitars, this one is actually a natural relic, with its dents, nicks and wear. Very cool.

However, it has some playability issues. It plays fine down the neck (first through about fifth positions), but higher up, the action is too high.

When I first got it for her (guess the giver's identity is out now, huh?), I figured it needed a truss rod adjustment and that was that.

Ha ha.

Turns out it has a somewhat bellied bridge and possibly needs a neck reset. These are fairly major, but not terminal, issues. Especially since I am armed with a copy of Dan Erlewine's repair book.

I tell choo, comrades. A man with a book in one hand and a tool in the other can be a very dangerous thing, yes?


Let's take a look at the belly issue first, since it's the easiest of the two to repair. In the picture of the bridge, you can see the belly (green circle). Bellying is very common on 'flat-top' acoustic guitars. It's a 'rise' in the top behind the bridge - caused by the pull of the strings. The result is that the bridge begins to raise up, causing the action (height of the strings above the fretboard) to gradually increase. This makes the guitar progressively harder to play. In fact, I have provided for your enjoyment a picture of the neck where it joins the body and you can see the action is indeed A Mile High.

To compensate, a typical repair might be lowering the nut and/or saddle. It looks to me as if the Guild's saddle may have been shaved a bit, since it's sitting pretty low in the bridge.

The traditional way to repair the belly is usually to reglue the top down to it's braces - as it may have pulled up.

However, in perusing the Stewart-MacDonald luthier catalog, I discover the JLD Bridge Doctor. This clever device is designed to be mounted under the bridge. It uses a rod against the tailblock as a lever to flatten the belly in the top. It's made of spruce so it's quite light, and since spruce is a good tonewood (it's what Our Guild's top is made of), this whole enchilada may be not such a bad idea.

Three other factors: first, it costs only 23 smackers. Second, it's actually patented. Third, and this was the deciding factor for me, it's made in Roswell, New Mexico. Me likey New Mexico, and Roswell...let's just say that is beyond cool.

So now we have the Bridge Doctor on the bench and we go at it.

Basically, one makes a hole through the bridge and the top of the guitar, and positions the Bridge Doctor inside the guitar with the top of the spruce block under the saddle. The screw goes down through the bridge into the post on the Bridge Doctor. Then a dowel goes lengthwise through the block and contacts the end block of the guitar. There is an allen screw that fits in over the rod to adjust tension. Ingenious, but will it work?

First thing we gotta do is take the strings off the guitar so's we can get inside it. I don't think I've ever changed the strings on this puppy and they are old and dead dead dead. Here choo see my trusty string crank-and-bridge-pin puller. Do not, Dr Rdr, use pliers for this!

Wit de strings off, ve get to look at de inside, ja?

What I really need is onna dem neato lighted mirrors from Stew-Mac, but I don't do enough work like this to really justify having one. So I make due with my 3 D cell (count 'em) Maglite flashlight and my $2.50 telescoping mirror. I can see well enough inside the geetar with this arrangement.

Whatcha do is invert the Bridge Doctor on the top of the guitar's bridge so you can line it up and decide where you're a-gonna drill the hole.

Word to the squeamish. If you are concerned about drilling into your fine acoustic guitar, you probably shouldn't be doing a job like this. However, if you're careful, and check yourself 900 times as I did, you should be ok.

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, use a power drill for this!

I have a very nice old 'eggbeater' hand drill (get this), Made In England, that is perfect for this job.

First we drill a 1/4" hole - the instructions say to make it about 1/8" deep. You need to allow for the screw head and for the pearl dot that will cover it. Essentially we are making a countersink with the 1/4" bit.

Here's the hole after drilling with the 1/4" bit. Looks like it's deep enough. Now we drill a 5/32 hole in the center of that - through the bridge and the top of the guitar - that the screw will go through.

See how the Bridge Doctor will go under the bridge? The screw goes through our new hole, and the wood post goes under the saddle. Let's get to it!

After putting the Bridge Doctor into place, and screwing the screw down, we slide the rod through the lateral hole and run it up against the tail block. This is the best I could do with a picture - tried to take a shot in the mirror, but that just wasn't working out.

We mark the point where the rod contacts the body of the Bridge Doctor. Then we make a cut 3/8" past that. This is to provide room inside the hole for the adjustment set screw to go in. The end of the lateral hole is threaded for the screw.

This is the allen adjusting screw. Calls for a 3/16 wrench, which I don't have - but I found a 4.5mm is almost perfect. Close enough for guitar repairs anyway.

With the cut post in the slot, we can adjust. Notice the 'alien' light in the body of the guitar. I think that has something to do with Roswell.

What happens is the leverage on the post pulls the whole Bridge Doctor down, which in turns pulls the 'belly' down.

Guess what? It works! :-)

Amazing. I can tension the top flat again.

The Bridge Doctor comes with a pearl 'button' to put in the hole to cover the screw, but I've opted for a piece of abalone. I love that stuff, and it's a little cooler looking that the pearl, imho.

That is the good news. After setting the adjustment, and resetting the truss rod in the neck, I'm still finding the action is higher than it should be. It's improved, but it looks like the neck will need a reset. Or I can shave the bridge down to lower the action.

This I will have to ponder.

In the meantime, I'm gonna put a new end pin and a strap button on the guitar. These are nicely made of snakewood, and look better than the old plastic end pin that was there.

For the strap button, I'm putting it just above the neck block on the bass side of the guitar. I'm gluing a support block (leftover pine from the sunroom renovation) just to the left of the neck block and will run the screw from the strap button into that.

Here's the strap button mounted.

Now I can borrow the guitar to play out with and use a strap on it. If I ask nicely.

While I had the strings off, I took a shot of the label inside the guitar so we can see indeed it is a "Westerly" Guild. These days, Guild, which is now owned by Fender, makes guitars in Korea mainly. (Although there is a US-made high end line). The 'Westerly' Guilds are considered to be the last 'real' Guilds by some.

While I was working on the guitar, I was thinking a bit about how this guitar came into our possession. When Ms Yr Fthfl Blggr said she wanted to learn to play, I went out looking for a decent, but not too expensive, solid-top guitar. When looking at guitars, price always plays a factor. I was willing to go up to $300.

I played a couple of new guitars in the $200-250 range and was just not impressed. These had plywood (not solid, in other words...) tops, and just sound like...well, plywood guitars. The playability was quite good, but they just didn't have "it" in terms of sound. These, as I recall, were low-end Takamines (their 'Jasmine' line). Now, this same company makes some very fine solid-top, quality guitars, so I am not trashing them at all. And, to be honest, I probably expected too much for $300.

But I wanted a quality guitar, so I went for this used Guild. Of course, it turns out it needs some work, but even out of the box, it was not a piece of unplayable junk. For a beginner, the action at the low end of the neck, where we all start, is perfect. And it sounds wonderful. My main acoustic has been a Taylor I bought new, and this Guild actually sounds better than my Taylor.

All of which brings me to my question, cause it kind bugs me. Why is it that Bruce Springsteen, Mr. "Working Class," plays a Japanese acoustic guitar? If *I*, musician of moderate means, can afford (and prefer) to play American-made guitars, why can't he? Is this hypocrisy? Or am I just too touchy?

After all, he does play a vintage Telecaster...what if he played a Yamaha tele copy instead? Isn't he supposed to be this great American artist?

Why is it that I went off on this riff about the great Springteen?

Part of what made me think about all of this was the picture I shot of the Guild's maker's label and something I just read. I'm reading the great Jim Walsh book on the Replacements now. It's an 'oral history,' and there are quotes from 'Mats fans about how/when they first heard the band and their reaction. One guy says something like "I was a huge Springsteen fan...I was wearing nothing but white T-shirts and jeans. And my friend played 'I Will Dare' for me. Suddenly Springsteen seemed beside the point."

That hit home for me too. Think about that next time "Bruuuuce" tours and you can't afford the $250 tickets. In the back of the hall.


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  • Roman lesnar said...
    June 6, 2016 at 4:21 AM
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