Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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

Guild F-50 Neck Set and Restoration Complete

To paraphrase John Lennon in "A Hard Day's Night," I now declare this guitar finished!

Here we have the Guild F-50 (or is it F50?) in the garden.  I polished it with Virtuoso polish and it's super glossy.

This particular guitar is a 1977.  You may recall the earlier post with the neck off where we saw the "June 22 1977" stamp on the male part of the dovetail.  Based on that, I'd guess it was finished sometime in July or August of that year.

I've written the model number both with and without a hyphen in posts about the neck set and restoration process.  I believe the hyphen "F-50" is the official model designation, but this guitar has "F50bld" written on the inside label.

So there you have it.

Closer shot of the body.  The "F" indicates a jumbo body size.  It's big (17'' lower bout) and it's deep (over 4").  The "50" is the trim level - this is the most deluxe level and has body, neck and headstock binding, gold tuners, and those beautiful pearl-and-abalone fret markers.  Really spectacular, but not so over-the-top as a Gibson J-200.  (Nothing against the J-200 - I love them).

The body is all solid woods - the top is spruce and the sides and back are flamed maple.  The back has a pressed arch in the Guild tradition.  The guitar was made in the third Guild factory, where the vast majority of Guilds were made, in Westerly, Rhode Island.  (Short history: Guilds were made in Manhattan, New York from 1952-56; Hoboken, New Jersey 1956-1966; and Westerly 1966-2001).

Here's the beautiful maple back.  (The ground was a bit wet hence the cloth under the guitar).

You like flame?  Bwahahaha!  I love it.

I got the guitar from the original owner who bought it in 1977 from a store in southern California.  He took great care of it - there are very few nicks, dents or chips.

The maple F-50 was one of four deluxe jumbos Guild offered.  All had solid spruce tops. The four models were F-50 (6-string, maple back and sides); F-55  (6-string, rosewood back and sides); F-412 (12-string, maple); and F-512 (12-string, rosewood).

Gold Grover tuners, binding and the stylized pearl  Guild 'G' logo.

As you might guess, the guitar is super powerful and loud.  But it is also very responsive to picking dynamics.  The tone is on the bright side due to the maple, but it has a nice balance.  The bass is solid and not overpowering.

I would guess the rosewood model has more midrange and bass.
Closeup of the fret markers.  The main block is pearl, and the "V" inlay is abalone. 

The white stripes down the sides are strips of white-black-white plastic binding.  The neck is actually laminated ebony and binding.  There is a center section of solid ebony (the middle where the inlays are), then the binding strips, then strips of ebony.  Very fine craftsmanship.  It looks stunning.

Shot of the reset neck joint and the strap button.  I decided to go with an ebony one to contrast with the blond finish.

The neck is pretty big in depth - it comfortably fits my hand down near the nut, but it's a baseball bat (cricket bat?) size near the body.  I'd describe it as a Fender "D" shape.  But it's surprisingly fast.

I am fortunate to also own a 1970 F-412.  It too needs a neck reset - I'll be working on that later this year.  This one was a lot of work, so I need to recharge my Guild guitar skills before I tackle another one.


Installing Strap Button on Acoustic Guitar Neck

I didn't bother to post about the saddle creation and installation, since I've written about it before.  But the saddle is done, and the final setup is done.  So I have a playable Guild F-50 now!

While I had the guitar on the workbench, I went ahead and put a strap button on it.  There is one already on the end - the output jack - but I need one on the neck as well.

First we drill a pilot hole.  I made a small mark with an awl (see the arrow), and then drilled the hole.  I used a tape flag on the drill bit to mark the depth.

Couple of things here.  I debated about where to locate the button.  A lot of folks put them on the front edge of the heel - this is a good spot, but the button won't be level, and I think it looks bad.  I decided to put it on the bottom center of the heel - functional and symmetrical to boot.

If you plan to do more than, say, one of these, you might want to consider getting the drill bit and threaded tool from Stew-Mac.  It makes this job simple and virtually foolproof. 

After the pilot hole is drilled, we thread the hole with the threader tool.  This handy device has a threaded end, and a hex fitting on the other end.  Just thread the thing into the hole with a socket.

Do you need this tool?  Maybe not, but it sure makes this job easy.

Put a piece of felt on and then the strap button.  Pretty straightforward.

Stew-Mac just started selling these way cool wood and ivoroid strap buttons.  This one is snakewood.  I also have an ebony one which I may change to. 

Now that the guitar is done, the bench is cleared.  I'm a little tired of major guitar repairs (and I have three more in the wings...), so I may do something electronic next.


Making Bone Nut for Guild F50 Guitar

I need to give the lacquer I sprayed on the top of the guitar some time to dry before I can rub it out.  I'll probably wait at least two weeks, and the rest of the guitar will be done in the meantime.

Now I need to make a new bone nut and saddle.  The old saddle had been shaved down to compensate for the bad neck set.  Now we need a taller saddle.  I'm going to make a new bone nut to replace the old plastic factory nut.

The first order of business is to get the old nut out.  I use a wood block on the front and back of the nut as a caul and tap it a few times with a hammer.  Usually that pops the nut out.

In this case, however, the nut slot is fairly deep and the nut is in tight.  I can feel it wiggle a bit, but I can't pull it up from the top.  I decide to tap it out from the side.  Be careful if you try this - it's easy to have your drift slip and hack the guitar.

I taped the surrounding areas up and carefully used my Destructo screwdriver as a drift.  A few light but firm taps moved the nut sideways.  It doesn't look like it was glued in at all.

Here's the old plastic nut and saddle.  If you ever want to compare the tone and hardness of plastic to bone, do this experiment:  drop a plastic saddle onto a concrete floor.  Then drop a bone saddle.  The plastic just goes 'pink' and sounds thin.  The bone will go 'ponk' and will have better tone. 

Crazy?  Try it for yourself.  Once you hear the difference, you'll never use plastic again if you can help it.  Bone is also much harder and will last much longer than plastic as well.

Ok.  Now take your bone blank and sand or file it till it's a tight fit in the nut slot.

I put tape on the fingerboard and headstock to protect them from errant files.  Then I mark the tape to indicate the top edge of the fret end bevels, and then measure in about .055 of an inch.  These will be my outer two (e.g. the low and high E) string slots.

In this case, my measurement was probably closer to .070 - not a disaster but perhaps a bit too far in.  I'll have to see how it plays after it's strung up.

I use a razor saw to make an initial cut for the outside two strings.  Then I use the amazing, wonderful Stew-Mac nut slotting gauge to mark the rest of the slots.

If you make more than one nut in your life, you need this gauge.  It's proven to be such a time saver and has brought so much accuracy to my nut-making that it has become indispensable.

The gauge has a few dozen slots marked in it.  You align two of the marks exactly to your outside string slots.  Then use the four marks in the same row for your inside strings.  See how there are two rows of slots - on is closer to the edge than the other?  You need to make sure you use the same row for your slots.

They will then be perfectly laid out!  I put arrows on the picture above to illustrate.  A little hard to explain, but once you see it, you realize how wonderful the gauge is.

Now I line up my nut files and nut slot files.

Looks like surgery.  Am I a surgeon?

I think of myself more as a sturgeon?  I like caviar!

I've filed my slots by eye in the past, but this time I'm going to try a new approach.  I'm using a feeler gauge as a depth stop.

What I did was find the approximate height of a fret (about .038 of an inch).  Then I added a few thousands to that and stacked feeler gauge 'fingers' to get the height I wanted.  In this case, I went with .043 for the treble side, so I stacked an .020 and an .023 gauge.

Then I just filed down in the slot until the file just hit the gauge.  I added about .002 for each subsequent string across the fingerboard.   The strings vibrate in a bigger arc as you go from the G string across to the low E, so the height at the first fret (determined by the slot depth) needs to be a bit higher for each string.

Once I got the slots filed down close, I strung the guitar up and adjusted the truss rod.

Now I can do the final depth slotting.  I found that my estimates using the feeler gauges were very conservative and a bit high.  But it put me in the ballpark and I just gradually filed and adjusted the depth by eye for the final fit.

Each string now rides just a couple of thousandths of a inch above the first fret.   A lot of players don't realize how critical the nut slots are for good action low on the neck.  Most factory guitars I see have awful nut action.  It's understandable since most factories just crank out guitars, and fortunately it's easy to do a complete setup to get the guitar playing nicely.

A couple of final steps: I file down the top of the nut to follow the fingerboard radius (12 inches in this case) and to get the strings to lie perfectly in the slots.

Unwound strings should lie with their top just even or just slightly below the top of the nut.  Wound strings should sit with half of their height above the nut.  Making sure the strings are correctly set up in the nut helps them slide smoothly through the nut when tuning or when bending strings.  If the slots aren't right, the strings will hang up and not return to pitch correctly.

I also make sure the slot bottoms are rounded and are smooth.  I run 600 grit paper through the slots to make sure they're smooth.  I also generally dress the tuner side of the slots outward a little (think of almost a 'V' shape) so the strings won't hang up on that side of the slot.

Then we sand and polish the nut.  On this nut, I used 800 up to 3400 grit paper to polish, and then finished with fine and extra fine hand polish.

And here's the finished nut.  Nice and smooth and shiny.  Next up is the saddle.


Guitar Finish Touch-Up Using Preval Sprayer

You know sometimes when you're getting close to finishing a project and you're thinking "yes! this is going to be done soon!"?  Well I was there a couple of days ago.

I was actually finish sanding the spot on the top of the Guild that I had touched up.  Only thing is, I had touched it up with a brush.  So it was not level, and I had to keep sanding...and I sanded through to the bare spruce.  And, the goalpost got moved a bit.

So I needed to spray the touch-up instead.  Aside from the fact that it put me another week behind (not like there's a deadline...), it actually gave me a chance to try out something for the first time.

I masked the guitar, except for the spot that needs to be touched up and also the binding on the side of the fingerboard.  That too, was uneven where I touched it up, so I sanded it flat and will spray it as well.

In the picture above, the Guild emulates Boris Karloff in The Mummy!

Here's the new thing I want to try.  This is the Preval sprayer.  You may have read about them on the interwebs, seen them in a store, or used one.

It's a clever idea.  The Preval is a sprayer unit like a 'rattle can' of spray paint.  Except that you can put whatever liquid you would like in a jar which attaches to the bottom of the sprayer.  In my case, this would be my yellow nitro lacquer binding paint. 

The top part, which Preval calls a "Power Unit," is replaceable when it runs out.  You can see that it probably runs out a lot, since it's not that big.

I've wanted to try this for some time, as I have some guitars and radio cabinets to finish.  So this is a good test run.

Here we spray the Preval.  The spray pattern is a small circle - smaller than your average rattle can.  But it's pretty controllable, and good for small jobs like this.  Especially where you have mixed a custom color paint.

However.  I wouldn't recommend painting a whole guitar with it.  It's just too small.  That much I learned from my trial.  It was perfect for the painting the binding, and the small area on the guitar top though.

You can see the card stock 'mask' on the right I made to touch up the spot on the guitar.  It's working well.  Now I just need to hit the guitar with a few passes of lacquer and I should be ok.


Fret Level and Crown on Guild F50

I've done a bunch of stuff to the Guild since the last post.  For one thing, I glued the little chunk of inlay in the fingerboard.  I need to get a picture of that and will soon.

The main progress has been on the frets and fingerboard.  I recut the fret slot for the 15th fret using my trusty humongous and very sharp Japanese fret slotting saw.  That thing is scary just to look at.

Then I put on the three frets I had previously removed - those would be numbers 14, 15 and 16.  Fortunately I numbered them and marked their bass sides so I could get them back in the right places.

Now I'm going to level and crown them.

What we do first is adjust the truss rod so the neck is straight.  I use a long straightedge (you can see it in the background) to ensure the frets all touch it.

Then I mark the fret tops with a marker.

I put a piece of 320 grit paper on my famous fret levelling block.  It's a piece of stone ground so it's super flat.  I use 3M adhesive to temporarily attach the sandpaper to the stone.  I've written a lot more about this process elsewhere on the blog, so I won't rewrite it all here.

What we're doing here is getting all the fret tops level with each other.  I sand with the block until all the marks are gone from the frets.  The fret tops are now level - but are flat on top.  They need to be crowned.

Armed with a crowning file, some fret files, file cleaners (aka file card) and cutting lubricant, I go to it.

The crowning file has a rounded shape - file the fret tops and they become rounded.

For some reason, I can't get a good picture of a freshly crowned fret, but this may help if you look at it closely.

The two frets on the right are crowned, and the ones on the left are not.  See how the ones on the left are flat on top?  Compare those to the crowned frets which have a nice rounded top.  That's the shape they all should be.

You gotta have crowns if you want to play in tune.

Then some polishing with the wonderful fret erasers.

When you work up to the 800 grit, the frets are nice and shiny and smooth and most of the file marks are gone.

I like to file the fret ends so they're nice and smooth too - you can't snag your finger on one.

After the level and recrown, I clean the fingerboard with the amazing Dunlop Fingerboard Cleaner and Prep.  This stuff takes off grime like crazy.  See the cloth to get an idea of what comes off.

I did 5 passes on this guitar - 30 years of dirt is gone.  The board looks like new.

Nice shiny frets and a clean fingerboard.   The inlays look great too.  The whole thing is as smooth as a polar bear sliding on ice.

The binding on the edge - the double lines - were filthy.  Now they're white again!

I'll use a conditioner and some lemon oil on the board as well and it will look even better.

All the handling made some of the old lacquer on the bindings rub off and now the binding is white in some places.

It had yellowed over time, so I'm hitting the fingerboard binding with a couple of coats of yellow nitro toner I mixed up.  It matches the yellowed bindings perfectly.   I think it looks strange to have white and yellowed bindings on the same guitar, so this will make it all match again.

The fingerboard is masked so I don't get toner on it.


Fingerboard and Inlay Fixes on the Guild F50 Guitar

I'm making good progress on filling the gaps and breaks and stuff on the fingerboard extension.

But that sure is ugly right now, innit?

Fortunately I have most of the pieces that came off.   Just you wait, it's going to look a lot better soon.

So I get out some Titebond and go at it.

Another reason the fingerboard was so weak at that 15th fret joint is because of the binding that's inlaid into the edges of the board.  It looks wonderful, but since the board had to be routed for it, that area that was removed makes it that much weaker.  You can really see how it was put together in that shot above.

Here's what it looks like when glued all back together.  Much better, huh?

I had filled the access holes for the steamer hose earlier.  They just need another layer of filler on the top.

Magic dust, that is.  Black wood.  Ebony tea.

We pack that into the holes and cracks on the fingerboard.

Apply some thin CA (super glue) to the ebony sawdust fill.  Let it dry for a few hours.

Then it's hard enough to scrape down level to the fingerboard surface and then be sanded. 

Lookit that.  Much better than the first picture, huh?

You can see some small cracks and some additional levelling to be done.  I will do a second pass with the filler, but first I need to repair the little missing corner of the pearl inlay.

The piece broke off, and I actually had it stuck on a piece of tape on the workbench.  But it somehow vanished off the workbench!  I was not happy.  On the other hand, I didn't lose all the other little bits of fingerboard that were far more critical, so I'm not too upset.

And so, armed with a piece of pearl blank and a scribing tool, I attempt to fabricate a replacement for the chunk of missing pearl.

You can see the little triangle I scribed on the pearl.  It's bigger than I need it - I figure I can sand it to a more exact fit later.

I've wanted to learn how to do inlay for a long time.  This may (or may not) be a good start.

With my newly acquired Grobet jewelers saw and a pearl cutting jig, I cut out the pearl.

This is fun!  Now I'm getting all kinds of ideas for instruments I have built only in my mind.

The saw blades are extremely fine.  I used a medium blade and it worked well. 

Here's the piece of pearl I cut.  A lot larger than what I need, but I'm fairly confident I can sand it to fit. 

I realize some folks would look at this and think that corner is not a big deal, and they would leave it as is.  But this is the kind of thing that will make me crazy every time I see it.  Better to try and fix it, I think.


1924 Weymann Model 180 Tenor Banjo

Holy ploink-ploink!  What the heck is that?

That, dear reader, is my latest musical acquistion.  It's a 1924 Weymann Model 180 tenor banjo.

In case you're wondering, I have not totally lost my mind.  I have found that lately I've developed a taste for slightly eccentric instruments.

Especially ones that are high quality.

I have a few friends who play banjo, and it has whetted my interest in them.  Banjos have always seemed like something from a way-off planet to me, what with all that hardware, a skin head, and a tuner in the middle of the neck.

Anyways.  I have acquired a couple of tenor guitars and it turns out that tenor guitars and tenor banjos (generally) use the same tuning.  So I said to myself, "Self, you could buy a neato tenor banjo and actually learn to play it and put your new skills to use on both banjo AND tenor guitar!"

Erase all that.  It's partially true, but the main thing is I needed an excuse to get another fine old instrument.

The tenor banjo was primarily a rhythm instrument in early jazz - New Orleans/dixieland bands.  When guitars started to become more prevalent in jazz in the 1930s, the tenor banjo faded in popularity.  And the tenor guitar was developed as a way for tenor banjo players to transistion to guitar.

The tenor banjo has 4 strings and is played with a pick, unlike the traditional banjo you hear in bluegrass.  That would be a 5-string banjo - longer scale, played with the fingers, and having, well, 5 strings.  And scads of tunings.

Weymann was based in Philadelphia and made instruments from the early 1900s though about 1960.  Their stuff was high quality, and used by a lot of professionals. 

Check out this headstock inlay!  That is art.

I admit I'm a sucker for this stuff.

More really beautiful inlays on the fretboard as well.

I snagged this from the famous Jake Wildwood at Antebellum Instruments.  First-class guy, great player and restorer of way cool stringed instruments.

Jake had put a new synthetic head on, and done a fret level and crown and general set up.  The action is super low and it sounds wonderful.

Because I'm an idiot a novice to tenor banjo, I broke the A string when I first sat down to play it.  Since I needed to restring it, I used that as an excuse to clean and polish it up a bit more.  Mainly I wanted to polish all that hardware and clean and oil the fingerboard - to get a little more familiar with this beast.

Here's the Weymann decal on the back of the headstock.  Perfectly preserved after all these years.

Notice the neck lamination - it seems this is a hallmark of Weymann instruments.

The neck is maple - check out that flame! 

More detail with the resonator removed.

The rim is laminated.  The outermost layer is clearly flame maple.  I'm not sure about the other layers.  There is also a slight 'megaphone' angle to the inside of the rim - to enable more volume and projection.

The center post is adjustable to raise or lower the string action.

This is a whole new world to me, I'm still pretty gaga over the whole thing.

The neck also has a lamination running along its width which extends to the headstock.

This is a just a beautiful, quality instrument.

The resonator is laminated maple.  It's fairly scratched up from use, but you can see the beautiful figure from certain angles.

The toning on the rim, resonator and neck are all very violin-ish colors.  Simply gorgeous.


Regluing Fingerboard Extension on Guild F50

For what it's worth, I figured out why the fingerboard extension broke off the fingerboard.

There are two reasons actually.  The first is the join at the 15th fret was weakened because I had to drill 5 holes to get the steamer into the dovetail.  Now that I know how it was glued, I also know not to drill more than 2 holes as I usually would.

The other reason is that the wood around the same fret had swelled quite a bit - due to the steam.  So the extension curved downward more than usual.  When I reglued it, the angle made it such that it simply wouldn't stay glued - the joint wouldn't flex, so it just snapped.

Anyway, it's not a disaster. 

And now I'm going to reglue it to the body and fill the join.

I had lightly scraped the top of the guitar where the extension goes, as well as the bottom surface of the extension itself.

I also did some test fittings and measuring to ensure it lines up.  The drafting tape you see is there to use as an alignment.

Ready to glue!

I like to heat up the mating surfaces where possible with a heat gun - not to get them hot, but to get them warm so the glue has a bit more setting time.

After that, spread the hot hide glue onto the extension and the guitar top.

And clamp it down.

There's a caul inside the body to protect the big brace that runs under the extension from getting dented.

The radius block serves as the top caul.

A repair like this is an ideal place to use hide glue.  It has a high initial tack, and won't let pieces slide like an aliphatic glue would (e.g. Titebond). 

As an aside - I mis-wrote something in an earlier post.  Hide glue is made from bovine hide, at least in the US.  Not equine hide.

Here's the extension after the glue has dried.  Looks good, I think.

Now I'll glue the two chunks you see on the guitar top back into place, and fill any gaps.