Most of the time I work on older guitars. (I'd say 'vintage' but that's getting so overused. I am now seeing stuff from the 1980s being referred to as 'vintage'!). But there are the occasions that I work on things that are recent. This is a case in point.
Wow. I am privileged to get to do this work.
The guitar was made in early 2014. It's so nice and shiny and new that I put a new carpet mat on the workbench to make extra sure it didn't get scratched.
The guitar is from H&D's 'Traditional' line - and this one is based largely on Martin's 00-18.
With one difference.
On the H&D, everything fits exactly. There are absolutely no flaws anywhere. Not a hint of a glue drip to be found.
And the best part might be the finish. It's just impeccable.
It's so glossy I had a hard time getting good pictures of it.
We are really in a golden age of lutherie. There are so many fine makers, small and larg(er) that quality is at an incredible peak. Makers are taking classic designs and elevating them to new heights.
And they look great. I love those small tuning knobs. And the brass gear.
Did I say the finish is amazing?
I measured the low E action at a crazy 9/64ths of an inch. My friend called the guitar "the cheese grater" because the action was so high.
This need-for-a-setup is not uncommon on new guitars, even such a fine one as this one. The guitar is still settling after it's built, and most builders figure that the dealer will do a setup to the individual's preference.
In this case, for whatever reason, the dealer did not set it up. But fortunately for me, I get to do it!
I'll adjust the truss rod, set the nut action, and set the action at the saddle if needed. Huss and Dalton provided a nice tall saddle for just that reason.
You can't get enough leverage on the nut with a short wrench to turn it much.
It also smells wonderful. I wish I could shrink myself (like Paul McCartney in Help! ) and crawl inside the guitar and spend some there. It's that inviting.
I'm not sure this guitar has a bolt-on neck, but if it does, I'm betting the screws holding the plate on cover the bolts for the neck. I need to look that up.
Ironically, there is a "use light strings" label there. The guitar shipped with .012s. I suppose they are light, but I'd call them more like medium-light.
At any rate, I'll be putting .012s on it. They're a good compromise between .011 or lighter (too light, thin and rattly-sounding) and .013s. I was an .013 adherent for decades, but now I think .012s work just as well.
I probably could have gone a tad straighter, but the neck may further settle, and the thing is pretty much perfect as is anyway.
I save 'absolutely straight' for Rickenbackers!
If you haven't played a guitar with proper nut action, you are missing out. Playing in the first position is effortless when the action is correct.
So I popped out the saddle and am going to take a bit off the bottom.
Check out the nice compensated bone saddle. It's marked for the bass ("B") and treble ("T") sides at H&D.
Be sure to watch the bottom as you go to ensure it stays square! I sometimes use a second block as a fence to keep the saddle upright.
And sometimes I carefully just wing it.
If it's still high, I'll repeat the whole process.
Taking off a small amount at a time (say a 64th of an inch or less) ensures you won't go too low.
In the end, I took about 1/32 off the bottom on the bass side and just about 3/64 off the treble.
The action at the 14th fret is now just below 5/64ths on the bass and exactly 4/64s on the treble. The guitar plays very well and the owner is happy!
I forgot to say how it sounds. It's very balanced and incredibly loud, especially for the smallish body size. I can only imagine how it will sound 10 years from now...it should be fantastic. It's not cheap, but you get what you pay for in workmanship and tone.
Check this out. It's on the inside of the guitar's top just below the soundhole.