Stay In Tune vol#7
By Luthier Patrick Podpadec
I hope that all has been well with all of the musicians and readers( and everyone else for that matter) in the past weeks. I would like to thank the many people that have given me very good feedback about the articles that I have been writing. I can only hope that I am making any sense to all of you. Sometimes I find it abit difficult to explain certain procedures that really have been learned by a lot of trial and error. Sometimes, after thousands of repairs you can develop a “feel” for an instrument or an “instinct” to go about a problem a certain way. So many things I do in my shop would make a lot more sense, if you were able to physically watch me repair it as I explained what and why I do the things I do. Since that is not possible, I will settle on doing the best I can at explaining things in a way that you won’t have a hard time visualizing it.
I have had a very busy week. I was fortunate enough this week to setup some very nice guitars, ranging from a gorgeous Martin dreadnaught to two beautiful vintage Fenders. One was a 72, faded cream Mustang, in mint condition and the other was a very early 70’s powder blue “Duo Sonic”, also in excellent condition. I always get excited when I get the chance to work and play ( I have to check them out, don’t I ? ) on these kind of “vintage” masterpieces. I can see why people like to collect them. I know that there are builders today that are producing fantastic sounding, and incredibly beautiful guitars, but they don’t have the one thing that the vintage ones have. That’s Mo-Jo! That’s right Baby! Mo- Jo! It’s that special quality that only time can stow upon something. It’s all of the experiences that have attached themselves to the instrument that makes it take a life on of it’s own. How cool is that? That’s what I call Mo-Jo baby! Sometimes, I swear I can almost feel it when I hold one of those special instruments in my hand.
I also had another interesting repair that involved me building a new headstock for a “Michael Kelly” fretless acoustic bass. That was a lot of fun, I didn’t have another one to copy the shape from so I looked up some pictures of one of them on the internet and copied it the best that I could. I believe I got it very close. I bound (binding is a term used for the materials used , usually made from either wood or plastic on the edges of instruments to protect the delicate woods or hide the end grain or simply to beautify them) the head stock and plan to put a small inlay of a “dragonfly” on the headstock because that is the “model” of the bass. I also had to find the electronics for it and was lucky enough to find exactly what I needed on E-bay. I don’t have a lot of experience with ebay purchases, so I was very glad that the parts made their way all the way here from China with no problem at all! I think that E-bay thing might catch on. It’s pretty cool!
I have been “rebuilding” a neck for a 5 string bass for a friend and have had some choice explicatives to say about that. It was very difficult to remove the fingerboard from the neck. I had to use more heat than I am normally used to. I was afraid that I might damage the fingerboard or the neck, but with a lot of patience and determination I was able to successfully separate them so that I can continue with my repair. The problem was that when I tightened the truss rod it created a “twist” in the neck, instead of a controlled “bow”. I have determined that to fix this I would remove the “single action” truss rod, located down the center of the neck and replace it with a very stiff, lightweight graphite bar. I will then rout out two channels, one on either side of the graphite bar and install “double action” truss rods. This will give me the capability of moving the fingerboard in any direction that I want to. This type of repair does come under the heading of “ Please! Don’t try this at home unless you really know what your doing ” category. It has been a challenging repair, but this is what I live for. It’s the times that you gain the most experience when you challenge your skill levels to heights that have not previously been met. I get extreme pleasure from these types of repairs or building and designing “custom” instruments that give me new insights to building techniques that I have not yet encountered. This is my “fun” and I hope to share as much of it as I can with any one who might be interested. I have received a few calls and e-mails with questions regarding subjects that I have talked about in my articles, but I would again like to encourage anyone to feel free to ask me about any thing regarding any stringed instrument repair. I would only be too happy to oblige. I’m not saying I know it all, but I have been lucky enough to have been taught the trade in the old fashioned “apprentice “ method and feel I developed a certain “niche” for many different types of repairs. Thanks again to the “Voice” for letting me express mine, and all of the support from the musicians that allowed me to fix (play) their instruments. Until next time…… Stay in Tune!
Patrick from Wood-n-Strings