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 Post subject: Set-Up With a Pro
PostPosted: Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:31 am 

Joined: Thu May 24, 2012 8:03 am
Posts: 1061
Location: Chestertown Maryland
I hope this is the right place for this - I didn't see a category for "rambling dialogue".

I am new to building guitars - I have played for 45 years (some would call it playing) but finished my first guitar before Christmas. It is a copy of an early L-1 with the round lower bout. Maple and Sitka, and it sounds very sweet to my ear - no prejudice at all. I am sure like everyone else, I was concerned about the neck angle and how it would end up, so I had an adventure.

My youngest daughter is a blues woman in Brooklyn, NY, and has the dream job of head of repair at the best vintage instrument place in NYC. She has a guy in Belgium who send her necks to refret! The shop made it into the New York Times in November - check the slide show:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/11/nyreg ... d=fb-share

They have all manner of coolness in this little shop. Try:


D-18 from the 30's? Check. From the 40's? 2 to pick from from. The 50's? Do you need 3? Gibsons all over the place. Gibson made a run of 100 SJ-200's in 1991 when they moved to Bozeman. The point was to prove they could still make a good guitar. Here is #1 of the #100 - boy was it a boomer. They suspect it is Brazilian RW.

Les Paul's 300 guitar collection was recently auctioned, and several have shown up in this shop for repair and one is in there now. Here is the model:

http://www.vintageandrare.com/product/G ... -1953-5881

Les ordered his new in the 40's and altered it in his basement shop. It had electric pickups all over it and clumsy wiring inside. The saddle was aluminum in one of his early attempts to make the sound he wanted. Very cool.

They have a 1953 Gibson SJ that was found in a dumpster in Brooklyn - bridge missing, several cracks, neck needing some work, but when it is put back together it will be a very high end instrument. They also have an early Stella from the 20's that a customer bought for $75. It needed quite a bit of work, and it is almost done - it will bring close to $10,000. As you can see in the pictures, there are over 100 Martins, Gibsons, and everything elses just sitting around.

I brought my guitar up from Maryland for the final consult - the neck and bridge were not yet glued on. My goal was to get advice on the sequence to set it up - install neck, install bridge, use truss rod to bend neck appropriately, slot and shape nut, size and shape saddle? So we set up my stuff on her bench and started to play.

The coolest thing was that we had all those vintage guitars to compare. We measured the scale length/bridge placement on Martins and Gibsons from the teens, 20's 30's 40's, 50's, 60's, and 70'a, looked at the shape of the nuts over time, and the compensation for string diameter at the bridge over time, and my daughter said she learned a couple things she didn't know about these changes. We had the run of the place!!!

She had never dealt with a new neck - just repairs - but her suggestions was to assemble what I had because it looked fine, make the nut and saddle a little too tall, get the strings on and give the neck a couple of weeks to take a set, then make final adjustments. We finished up the nut and saddle, and I borrowed a couple of tools that I then sent back to her.

In all, we spent over 6 hours in the shop, going back and forth between my guitar on the bench, and looking, measuring, and playing things to get ideas. I played big guitars, little guitars, one just like mine from the 20's, banjos, ukelele's, and a 60's electric guitar that sounds like a sitar. I even got to play a $50,000 Gibson AJ from the 30's!

One of her best tips for setting up was this one for nut filing: get your neck relief proper and your saddle close, then put your finger on the first fret of the high E. The clearance at the second fret is the clearance you want at the first fret when you take your finger off - file the nut appropriately.

Nobody deserves to have that much fun.

Ed Minch
It's not a mistake unless you can't fix it

 Post subject: Re: Set-Up With a Pro
PostPosted: Sun May 05, 2013 2:09 pm 

Joined: Thu Dec 03, 2009 9:25 am
Posts: 477
Location: Nacogdoches, Tx
Great story, Ed. I like the tip on setting string height at the nut that your daughter gave. I'll be trying that out in a day or 2 on one I'm just finishing.

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