Tips: Reviving a machine head

Here’s a tip if you’ve faced a screwed tuning key. Sometimes the machine head on your guitar may be “stuck” due to a dead or gasket as shown below.

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If you visit a shop or tech, chances are a full set replacement (all 6 tuners) will take place. That’s typically around $50-$70 including installation. Bad news.

The good news is you actually only need to replace the torn washer. You can get such parts easily online. A pack of 6 (including tuner buttons) costs less than $2 at the time of this blog post.

Here you can see the difference between a new washer and the one that’s shot.

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Use a jeweller’s screwdriver to remove and install the tuner button. This is the correct order. Headstock – white washer – metal washer – button – screw .

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Tighten according to your preference (not too loose not too tight) and you’re good to go.

You’re welcome. 🙂

 

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L.Luthier Cofe OCte Impressions

Got hold of this one last month. L.Luthier is Malaysian brand that’s been around for a while but I guess the instruments are made in China. The OCte is an OM shaped guitar with a cutaway.

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Design and craftsmanship

It’s an entry-level solid top guitar that comes with some interesting features such as soundport and neck volute.

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Here’s a look at the soundport that’s nicely cut out on the shoulder. Bindings seem to be just painted plastic and not wood. The white purfling lines that go on the top and sides are still quite nice though.

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Instead of a more familiar rosette, the soundhole has five motifs that look like burnt imprints. I’m pretty much OK with such designs, but more importantly, the workmanship here is really good. I ran my fingers round the cutout areas around the soundhole and soundport and found them to be very smooth. In fact, there’re more expensive guitars out there with rougher surfaces.

Playability and setup

Nut and saddle look, feel and sound like bone. But action from the factory needs some attention.

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Brought it down to around 2.5mm at 12th fret capo on 1st. Slapped on some Elixirs as well.

Tone

It’s an OM shape but volume is not lacking at all. The solid cedar top sounds less direct and less “in-your-face” than most spruce topped guitars which I feel may accompany singing better.

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Finger picking with bare flesh sounds controlled and has plenty of sustain. For heavy strumming, however, the cedar top sounds a lil’ “maxed out”, suggesting bigger guitars for doing the heavy work.

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All in all a very nice guitar for it’s price. This retails at US$299 (street price is lower) and comes with a really nice padded gig bag. Totally worth a look at.

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Latte says “keep it”.

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J&D DG-610 refurbish and setup

Brought this old guitar home last week. It’s a cheapo low-end dreadnought that comes with some unusual details.

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The most striking difference is the maple fretboard. In fact the neck wood and bridge are also maple. This is really unusual for acoustic guitars. Normally we’ll see mahogany or its close cousins such as okoume, nato, or khaya for the neck. But no, we have maple here.

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The back & sides are also quite unusual. It’s made of zebrawood laminate. I’d say the grains are quite interesting.

This one came covered with dust so there’s some work to be done. But first let’s take a look at the setup.

Nut replacement

The stock nut was rubbish. It’s badly cut and really hampers playing due to all the sharp/angular edges. We gotta remove this cancerous object.

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Since this is an old guitar, we use the hairdryer to heat up the glue to help the removal.

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Then I used a flat chip board to gently knock off the nut. Disclaimer: You have to be very careful here. If you’re not handy with such things, you should leave this to the pros. Broken headstocks are not cool.

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OK we got it out of the guitar. Now let’s compare and see how much nicer the new bone nut will be. The new bone is a pre-cut piece ready for drop-in with the right adjustments.

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Many rounds of careful measurements were made to get a good fit. The slight overhangs will be sanded out later too.

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Not too shabby. 🙂

Truss rod adjustment

I also gave the truss rod about 1/3 turn to reduce the relief.

New bone saddle

Next, I also dropped in a new bone saddle. Of course it started with measurements and sanding to get the desired height.

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The stock pins were terrible so I got some brass pins to match the gold machine heads.

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You’ll see two pearl inlaid dots at the maple bridge. Now I found out that these are not for decorative purpose. In fact, they conceal two screws that hold the bridge in place. So what the maker did was to screw in the bridge on top of gluing it in. Again very unusual for acoustic guitars. (Though this is a very common method for low end ukuleles).

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Now we gotta clean up the guitar.

Fretboard

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Fretboard was dirty and mouldy. The strings here are TETANUS brand. They sound rough and dark, and may induce blood. Not cool.

But after the clean up with lemon oil and steel wool, the fretboard was kinda darkened and looked stained. Not cool too. Wombat says these maple boards don’t like lemon oil. Ok, at least the frets are now shiny.

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Refurbish the tuners

The gold tuners were very tarnished and required some TLC to getting back in shape. No problems, Guitarbear can do it.

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Finally strung with Elixirs of course, and the kids like this one a lot.

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Closing notes:

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This is an awesome sounding guitar! It’s super loud and really holds its ground against more expensive/branded guitars. It’s full of power and sounds bright even with moderate strumming. The matte finish is also very comfy for holding. It has no sticky or slippery feel that can be common with badly done gloss finishes.

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The neck shape is certainly rounder and thicker, yet very comfy due to the very narrow nut width. I did a measurement and it’s under 43mm. I’d say it’s closer to a Strat’s 42mm. The new bone nut helped a lot. 🙂 By now it was nicely shaped and contoured along the neck/headstock area.

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Here’s a look at the nice wood rosette. It looks like a combination of maple and rosewood. Wow.

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And just look at the maple binding all around the guitar. This one has maple binding on the top, back, centre-strip and fretboard. This is uncommon for cheapo guitars.

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It’s strange that for all it’s niceties (bindings, hardware, materials), the headstock logo would be so badly done.

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Perhaps that’s why no one pays much attention to these well-made and good sounding cheapos. I’m glad I took a chance. 🙂

 

 

Alvarez AU70C Setup & Pickup Installation

Worked on this uke last month.

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The AU70C belongs to the missus and it’s been sitting there for some time. I figured it’s time to install the last few pickups I have and do a setup too.

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It’s a pretty well-made uke with a solid spruce top and laminate rosewood b/s, and really aesthetically pleasing with the satin finish, abalone rosette and herringbone binding on the body.

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Lowering nut height

The strings at nut tend to sit a lil’ high so I guess it’s better to sand down the nut instead of filing each slot individually. I used a flat chip board and gently knocked off the nut.

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Warning: Be very gentle or you risk breaking off the headstock. Most nuts should have some glue to hold it in place and it may also be a good idea to heat up the area before removal.

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Sanding nut and saddle

So we got both the nut and saddle ready to be filed down.

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Just a tiny wad of glue will do.

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And we have the nut nicely glued in.

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I took the time to give the fretboard and frets some TLC. Ax Wax and steel wool perform their magic with Bowie overseeing the work.

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Installing JJB 110 pickup

Drilling for the end jack

We need a 12mm hole at the base. Always tape up to prevent cracks on the finish. The exact point to drill was located using a simple caliper and ruler.

I work from 3mm – 5mm – 8mm – 10mm and finally 12mm. This is actually faster than using a step bit. We’ll clean up the wood dust later.

OK, we got a nice 12mm hole.

Some filing is needed to smooth out the insides which will have some splinters. I use a cheap small file for this.

The trusted copper wire is inserted from the end…

Then it exits via the sound hole for me to attach the endjack…

And finally I “fish” it back out at the bottom end.

Screw in the end pin and it’s done.

Since there’s only one transducer to be glued, it’s a fairly easy job. But try to glue the single transducer as near as the centre of the bridge plate.

Restrung with Aquila Nylguts

Tune up, and we’re good to go. 🙂 Bowie had been the sole assistant for this project.

Let’s see when this will get a chance to be played plugged-in.

 

Seagull Maritime SWS Rosewood Setup

Brought this one back over the weekend.

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The Seagull Maritime SWS Rosewood is a recently discontinued model and I’ve always wanted to try one out for all the positive reviews of the brand. The SWS stands for Solid Wood Series so this one has a Sitka top and rosewood body.

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Quite a well built guitar with a nice satin finish. Seagull calls it the semi-gloss. I like it for its subtlety but I think it’s a fingerprint magnet. Herringbone binding on the top and backstrip. Cool.

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The Seagull headstock is infamous and you’d either love it or hate it. Honestly I think it’s unique and I feel pretty OK with it. Gold hardware and cream buttons look classy.

Guitar came to me with nonsense strings (sorry, I just don’t like certain brands), and rather high action. Plenty of areas to look into, such as neck relief and saddle height. We’ll get there.

Setup

This one needed some straightening to reduce the relief. Seagull has a two-way truss rod, but the rule remains – righty tighty, lefty loosy. I used a 4mm hex wrench. It needed about half turn to get it to reasonable state.

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Next I worked on the saddle. Some sanding to do on the stock TUSQ saddle. Will see if there are any drop-in bone saddles on the market for Seagull soon.

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Bearclaw Special

Condition was near mint so I had very little to do apart from the routine fretboard conditioning. Wombat and Bambi were assistants. They said the rosewood fingerboard looks rather “porous”. Perhaps less stain and fillers were used here. Certainly doesn’t affect playability or function.

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Interesting to to note that the bridge came slotted from the factory.

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I also took time to look at the the inside of the guitar. There are side bracings on this, and I feel they add to the overall weight of the guitar. This guitar does feel heavier than most dreadnoughts I’ve handled. Craftsmanship is good but there’s plenty of saw dust in here. They could’ve taken time to wipe clean the interior prior to gluing. OK I’m being fussy here. 🙂

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Final touches

Restrung with Elixirs (what else??) and swapped the stock plastic pins to brass.

Action is nice and easy to play at 2.5mm capo on 1st fret.

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Bowie and Harvey posed with the new member.

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The guitar astonishingly came to life after the setup and restring. I didn’t have high hopes but it turned out really well. It’s amazing what a good setup and new strings can do.

Closing notes:

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The Maritime SWS Rosewood is a worthy contender if you’re looking for a traditional spruce/rosewood dread. It offers plenty of bass and presence, as well as great playability. One thing that struck me really hard was how it transformed after a setup and a fresh set of my favourite strings. Now the missus says “keep it”.

Here’s a look at the rosewood grains. I really like the satin finish.

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The throaty voice you get from strumming makes singing with it a pleasure too. I’m liking it and I hope there’s enough storage space for it in the near future.

One slight drawback here is the weight. This is arguably the heaviest dread I’ve played, so a strap pin will be installed soon… if I don’t sell the guitar. 🙂

Additional notes:

To those who are asking about the specs due to the changes Seagull has made over the years, the Maritime SWS Rosewood has a 1.72″ nut width which is slimmer than the usual 1.8 found on the popular S6.

I did some measurements and observed these:

String spread at nut: 36.4mm

String spread at saddle: about 54.5mm

Scale length: 25.5 inch

Body dimensions are pretty standard dreadnought-ish, with lower just very slightly under 16″ (403mm). However, waist seems thicker than most standard dreads.