EBO Bass Bridge Whoas

The Gibson EBO, or “SG” bass as some call it, is one of my favorite vintage basses. I love old shots of Jack Bruce from Cream or Jim Lea from Slade (below) playing the bass.

Slade, Jimmy Lea

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But getting one to play right can be a big hassle. Especially the old, two post bridge. These bridges can tilt forward to the point where the bass is virtually unplayable. I’ve seen different ways of trying to remedy this; like a stack of quarters under the front side of the bridge, or a screw mounted underneath to push the front up. But these methods never seem to work.

The best way I have found to stabilize the bridge is to add pressure to the back of the bridge.

I do this by adding two 1 1/2″ sheet rock screws to the back of the bridge. My method does involves some alteration to the original parts but the holes that you need to drill are almost totally hidden. The first thing I do is to disassemble the bridge and remove the saddles. Then I drill two holes underneath the “G” and the “E” intonation adjustment screws at the back end of the bridge. Next thing to do is to put the bridge in place and drill holes into the body directly under the two new bridge holes for the 1 1/2″ sheet rock screws. Now I insert the screws through the bridge and into the new holes in the body.

photo 3 (2)

photo 2 (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new screws can be used to level and stablize the bridge. Then, I string up the bass with just the “A” and the “D” strings. I set the action with these two string only because I need to get to the new stabilizing screws to set the action, and the “G” and “E” strings get in the way. Once I have it set nicely, I add the “E” and the “G” strings. The new screws work like a charm, however they do make it very hard to adjust the action. You may have to remove the “E” and the “G” and couple of time before you get it. The extra set-up time is worth it becuase the bass will play like a dream and the bridge will never tilt again!!

photo 4 (1)

 

jack-bruce-630-80

“Brace Yourself” Guitar Repair with assistance from my iPhone

Old classic arch-tops are always coming into the shop here needing repair. Many of them have high action. Their bridges have been filed all the way down and yet they still have high action. This is a sure sign that the neck of the guitar is tilting and the guitar is in need of a neck-reset. But once in a while I get an old archtop that has super LOW action and the bridge is jacked all the way UP; the exact opposite situation.  I find myself thinking ”wow, no neck reset needed and we got tons of room to lower the action just in case the neck does decide to tilt!”

However, I’ve learned to look again when I see that happening. What that usually
means is a brace is either cracking or coming loose from the top. This is a very hard  fix since the braces are almost impossible to get to. Most repair people would opt to take the back off the guitar, exposing the entire interior of the guitar. I don’t like this option very much. It tends to be a gruesome and expensive job which always ends in a major re-fin. I try to think outside the box and since I’ve never really had any formal guitar repair training, I’ve been able to create lots of new ways of getting at old problems.

The latest patient I just worked on was an old 50′s Gibson ES-125 with low, low action and a bridge set as high as it could go. With my dental mirror I found what looked to be a crack in the brace on the bass side near the bridge. I decided I might be able to reach the crack with one of my U-clamps that I use for acoustic bridge resets. Even though these clamps are super long, it still wasn’t long enough to reach the crack through the F-hole. I was able to extend the clamp by taping an open ended wrench to the underside of the clamp and this work perfectly to put the pressure exactly where I need it.

My next problem was getting a better view of the crack and what my clamp was actually doing. The dental mirror is a useful tool but was not giving the optimal view needed to give me the confidence to start gluing. I decided to slip the edge of my super-slim iPhone 5 into the F-hole. The iPhone 5 has the camera lens and flash mounted right on the upper left hand corner so I didn’t have to drop it in too deep into the F-hole.  I was able to get a perfect shots of the crack (see pic 1).

Pic 1

In this picture you can see a long dark line running perpendicular across the brace. This is a “perforation” line that Gibson cut into the brace to help it bend and fit to the top. This
perforation point probably made installation easier but it  proved to be a weak point for the brace. The crack extends past on either side of the perforation. I set the clamp in place with no glue to be sure the crack was closing up and the iPhone got another great shot (pic 2). The pictures are so detailed, its almost like being inside the guitar!  At this point I was confident I could glue this brace back together…I just need to get the glue into the crack!

Pic 2

I decided that the tool for the job was a glue syringe with a tube mounted to the end…something I did not possess, however. I ended up buying something on eBay that shipped direct from China for a relatively low price. When it showed up it had the words “FOR PERSONAL USE ONLY” written on it. I guess it was some sort of medical device!

Whatever it was made for, it did the trick getting the glue into the crack. I cut the tube down to about 12″ and taped it to a piece of fret wire so I could direct the end of the tube to the area where the crack was. At this point, I just loaded the whole area up with wood glue and let it drip down into the crack. I took another pic to be sure I was hitting the right area (pic 3). Since there was no way of knowing if the glue was actually going into the crack I had to take a leap of faith. I waited a few minutes and then tightened the clamp. I cleaned of the excess glue with the end of the tube.

Pic 3

All I could do at this point was wait 24hrs and hope I did it right. I came in the next day, took off the clamp and took another pic (pic 4). The crack was almost invisible. I strung it up and it played like a dream. The customer was very pleased since the repair cost a fraction of what it would have cost if the back had to come off. Thank you little iPhone!

Pic 4

Would’ve, Should’ve, Could’ve

When making a guitar, what wood should you use? No matter what you choose, someone will always  tell you that you should’ve used something else. If you decide to read up on the topic on the internet, everyone has an opinion. But I wouldn’t trust too many of them. The only people who can really know  how a guitar will resonate depending on the wood are the people who are playing a lot of guitars day in and day out. This means luthiers, repairman, set-up technicians at guitar factories.

2013 Los Straitjackets Galaxie 4 with a Mahogany body

 

I make and design guitars and I need to take a lot of things into account. The type of wood is important but other things can trump this. Many people will tell you that “mahogany is the best” or “you have to use “ash” and these are safe answers to this very complex question. Yet, the  tone of a guitar can be altered very dramatically by other factors.

When I first started to produce factory-made guitars in Korea, I insisted on using poplar. I owned an old 60′s Mustang that I thought sounded amazing. The guitar had its original finish stripped and I could clearly see the greenish tinge that told me it was poplar (as well as the smell when sanding it). Since I knew that Fender usually used ash or alder and Gibson used mahogany, I went for the poplar thinking this would give my brand its own sonic fingerprint.

This was working fine until the guitars started getting very heavy. I asked the factory to use lighter pieces of poplar but they were still showing up heavier than normal. I decided  to try other types of wood in the hopes of getting the weight down. I specified mahogany, ash, alder and basswood as well as poplar. The guitars became much lighter. Since 95% of my guitars have solid color finishes it was not always obvious what types wood were being used until I needed to do some routing for a custom job. I started noticing lots of mahogany and basswood bodies.

But to my surprise I did not notice a shift in tonality. The guitars were still sounding great and we were still getting the same great reviews. Also, at the time I was supplying the band Los Straitjackets with new guitars and they sounded just as good as ever through their old Fender Vibrolux amps.

Now, I’m not saying there is NO difference in the tonal qualities of different woods. There will always be subtle differences in different types of wood. But I also notice differences in tone when trying out two identical guitar made from the same wood, that came off the same assembly line.

I can tell you that I am not a fan of maple, it is very hard and bright, though it can be warmed up with the right pickup. And pine (from the hardware store) is a little too soft and kind of dead sounding. Any wood that is aged will always sound better. I rarely find and old solid body guitar from the sixties that I can’t get a cool sound out of, no matter who made it.

But that brings me to my last point. Along with the right pickup and decent hardware, the setup is key to the sound. If the strings are not set to the perfect height a guitar can feel and sound completely dead and off. I am fanatical about my set-ups. I do 90% of all the set-ups on our DiPinto guitars and the ones I don’t do I check over from head to toe. For this reason, you can find a guitar made by another company but made in the same factory as a DiPinto, and get far inferior sound quality and playability.

So if you are trying to figure out what wood to use on the guitars you plan to make, all I can tell you is that you should use the lightest and/or oldest available mahogany, alder, bass wood, poplar or ash that can be found. And if you ever decide to buy a DiPinto, you can be assured that the tone of your guitars will be killer because of any one of the light weight resonant woods we use, but also because of a great set-up, a well thought out design and great pickups!

Frankenstrat’s Monster

Old Fender strats are all too often the victim of bad “customization”. Don’t get me wrong, I love Eddies Frankenstrat but he was a genius and the rest of us just aren’t (at least when it comes to altering old strats).

Here is an old 3-bolt that has numerous routes including humbucker routes, battery compartments and a hole that housed 3 mini toggles.  The pickguard hid the former holes but the latter hole cut right into the top horn.

Strat route

 

 

 

 

 

The three holes filled easily with wood dowels. Then I had to devise a good way to cover the back hole. The finish was already stripped so I decided to do a solid color finish. The solid color would also help hide the repair work.

Now most people would just through a bunch of filler in there and sand it flat, and that would look pretty good…for about a month. After that the filler and the wood would start to move and the outline of the route would become clear. The only way to do it right as to make a new wood cap for the hole.

Cut down the backMy first step was to route a 1/2″ off the back of the horn with a nice straight edge. I then cut a piece of ash and cut it to fit over the horn, but just a little big. I glued it with wood glue so it was tight.

 

 

Glue in new piece of woodAfter it was glued on, I shaped the new piece with rasps and wood files. With the proper care and time I got a real nice fit.

 

Shape to finish

Next I plan to do it up in the same type of finish used in the seventies. I can’t decide on a color though…I’m thinking Uli John Roth yellow. What do ya think?

1968 Fender Rosewood Telecaster

Wow! This is one rare piece! All original. Sandwiched, chambered body. Very light weight and resonant. Amazing tone and perfect action. Pickguard shank over the years and has some cracks. Other than that, guitar is mind blowing! Like the ones used by George Harrison, Eric Clapton, etc…Very rare! $25,000. Original hard case. Buy: call 215-427-7805 or info at dipintoguitars.com