Stay in Tune vol# 94
By Luthier Patrick Podpadec
It's funny how the changing of the seasons affects how the guitars and other stringed instruments play. The wood is very sensitive to the relative humidity levels in the air and react sometimes to the smallest changes. This of course can cause action problems and neck movement which results in needing truss rod adjustments and can also add to intonation problems. That is why I always stress that when ever you are able, make sure that you put your instrument away in it's case.
I've had a busy week with a variety of different repairs that have visited my shop A twelve string Fender from the 90's came in for a good tune up and bone nut replacement. I was surprised how nice the action was on this guitar after 20 some yrs of play. A lot of 12 strings (due to the extra string tension) develop neck problems and often need to have the necks reset to the proper angle. This one surprisingly escaped that destiny. I also got in a auto harp in that someone had taken the cover plate off of the chord buttons and lost all of the small springs that set under the bars to keep them elevated off the strings. It was an easy fix, but the trouble lies in tuning the 26 strings. You have to go back a couple of times through the tunings to get it right. There always seems to be that one or two pesky tuning peg that doesn't want to hold properly. It's not hard to understand why so many auto harps now sit abandoned in the corner of some closet somewhere. They can be very laborious to tune . And when there out of tune you don't even want to get close to them. If you know how bad 6 strings can sound when their is a couple out of tune, just imagine 26 of them.
A “ Seagull” made in Canada from the Godin company came in for a setup. I have been very impressed with these guitars that have come in my shop. For an intermediate level guitar (price range under 800.00, and often much less) these guitars are very well built. The construction inside is very clean and it seams as though they add a few things to ensure that the stability of the top stays intact. With a thicker than normal bridge plate, (like some that I have seen on older Guild guitars) and come thin spruce patches near the stress points of the “X” bracing all add up to a quality job. They all seem to come with bolt on necks, which is not a bad thing . I have been starting to become a little more accustom to “bolt on” necks in the past few years. I have always held a firm hand when it came to the traditional dovetail joint . I was, and still am a believer that it is a better joint, but having said that, I find myself tolerating the bolt on neck with new found affection. It is certainly easier to repair in the terms of a neck set. And for the most part they stay together very good . They transfer tone from the neck to body very well ( at least I have never been able to hear a difference). They are also much easier to build from a manufacture's perspective.
I had a beautiful Guild from the 70's come in to get a new bone nut. I cant' tell you how much I love Guild guitars. I had one ( and still do, I couldn't sell it cause it has to many good memories attached) that I traveled all over out west in the late 70's. This guitar held up and played great for many years of traveling and climate changes. I feel that some day in the future that “Guild “ guitars will someday share the same respect of craftsmanship and quality that the Martin guitar company has held for over a century.
I also just fixed (I hope) a very pesky “phantom” pickup problem on a nice American made Fender Strat. The guitar was sent to me a couple of months ago with the front pickup not working. When I took it apart to check the problem I noticed the 5-way switch was very dirty and seemed to be all gummed up. I'm not sure why, because the rest of the guitar was in immaculate shape, but I cleaned all of the contact points on the switch very good and sprayed it very good with some DeOx-It contact cleaner. ( I think this stuff is the best). At that point I checked the pickup with an ohm meter and got a good reading. I turned over the pickguard and everything was working fine. I put it all together and gave it back to the customer. About a month later he called and said he was still having the original problem of the front pickup not working again. So I got it back and rechecked the pickup for an ohm's reading and got a good strong resistance . Thinking then that the problem must somehow be in the switch I replaced the switch. Put it all together again and everything works well. I was waiting about a week for the customer to come and pick it up and the day he called to do so , I went to check it one last time just to make sure things were good.. IT DIDN'T WORK! I was about ready to pull the last 3 hairs that I have left on my bald head out ! (I cooled down and then decided to keep em , there's only 3 ) So I take it back apart again and check everything that I could. All of the solder joints looked great, all of the pickups were working fine. So I turned it back over and everything is working fine again. What's Up? I then slowly re-assemble the guitar one screw at a time just to make sure I wasn't pinching a wire or something. I got it all back together and have been playing the guitar in every possible position that you could think of , Upside down, sideways, I even shook it pretty hard to see if it would intermittently stop working. It is working fine. I have checked it several times a day for over a week now and it is still working fine. I have been told that it is possible that a wire is broken somewhere in the winding and could cause the pickup to cut out sometimes. Well I'll be #$%^&%! After all of the checking that I have done it still is working good so unless it quits working again, I don't want to change the pickup. Sometimes problems like this happen and can be very frustrating to figure out, I just don't want to keep replacing parts if they all seem to check out to be okay. So you may be hearing me talk about this guitar again in the future, until then Please Stay in Tune!
Patrick from Liam Guitars/ Wood-n-Strings