Stay in Tune
By Luthier Patrick Podpadec
Where did the summer go? Kids are back to school. The nights are getting cooler and the the days are getting shorter. I don't even remember getting any vegetables out of my garden yet. How can time fly by so fast? Well I'm glad I have a lot of things to do so that I cannot watch the time go by like a freight train.
I have done a couple of festival shows this summer and they seem to have paid off well for my business. I have worked up quite a bit of business from the festival patrons that I have met . I always have a good time at the shows that I attend because it gives me an opportunity to meet a lot of different musicians. There are all types of players out there and many different styles of music that they play. For instance, you might meet a guitar player that plays bluegrass and then a mandolin player that plays Irish jigs or a violin player that plays classical or a bass player that plays rockabilly. The funny thing is they are all at the same “bluegrass” festival or a “folk” festival . It doesn’t' seem to matter much to musicians as long as it has the word “festival” at the end . I think we all like to have a good time and festivals seem to do that for us. The music (most any kind) brings out the curiosity of the musician .Everyone wants to know what other people are playing and who is the the one playing it the best. At least I know that's what I like.
The past couple of weeks have been packed full of some common repairs beginning with a couple neck resets. I have finished up a n acoustic Gibson Country Gentleman from the early 70's. The bridge design on these guitars have adjustable saddles that have a wide ceramic saddle that is raised and lowered in a cavity that has been routed out of the bridge. This is not my favorite design because it has a few things that can go wrong with it. For one, the machine screws that adjust the saddle have a threaded insert that is set into the soft spruce top that often becomes loose and renders the “adjust ability” to pretty much useless. I find that the ceramic saddle produces a sound that has a “bell like” tone that is sometimes overwhelming to my ears. I'm sure that not everyone will agree with that, but that is why there is so many different styles of instruments out there, so that we can all be satisfied with our individual musical tastes. All and all though, the guitar is a well built instrument and this particular one has not suffered any of the saddle problems as others I've seen.
Last week I had a gentleman bring me a guitar that should have been used as the poster child of what could be wrong with your guitar. Everything that could be wrong, was. It was an mid 50's Harmony archtop style that looked like it had been in a car wreck. The nut was broken, the neck needed reset, the frets needed replaced, the top was severely cracked ( but epoxied back together ,badly) and the homemade bridge was glued to the top and was not adjustable even if it wasn't glued on. The action was pretty low, but the neck was so warped that I had to remove the last 3 frets on the fingerboard so that the strings would not buzzzz when you played it. After I replaced the nut and the bridge and adjusted it , I actually got it to play pretty well up most of the neck. Not bad for 40.00 bucks ( new strings too) . The next day I guy brought me an almost identical Harmony archtop guitar from the 50's that was in the best condition I have ever seen. More times than not , I see older Harmony guitars that have not fared well over time. This guitar was an exception. It was in nearly mint condition. Everything about it was nice. The original adjustable bridge had been replaced with a ebony Fishman piezo style bridge. It was in great shape except that the jack that comes with this product has to be mounted on the outside of the guitar on the bottom of the tailpiece. The owner was having trouble with it pulling out of the bracket while installing or removing the cord. The only thing I did to it was replace an output jack with the style that is threaded into the the end pin so that the wire from the bridge is now inside the instrument and putting in or taking out the cord is not a problem. It turned out beautifully.
Another gem that came in is a 66-67 Fender 12 string . This instrument is in nearly mint condition and only came in for a good cleaning and set up. I can't wait to start in on that one. Well, with so many guitars and so little time I must get back to to making all of these instruments “Stay in Tune” See you next time!
Patrick from Wood-n-Strings/Liam Guitars