Yamaha LL16M Rescue & Upgrade

Worked on this LL16M a couple of weeks back.


The guitar came to me badly in need of help. The owner had brought it to a shop situated in our local guitar hub for a bone saddle & nut upgrade but it turned out to be a total nightmare.


Here’s a look at the solid mahogany body. It’s less striking than the rosewood sibling, but I can tell you the mahogany is definitely a great tone wood.

According to the owner, the shop had installed saddle and nut that were off-specs. Saddle was too short (generic 72mm vs  Yamaha spec 75mm) and moved in the slot, nut was too narrow (generic 43mm vs Yamaha L Series spec 44mm) screwing up string spacing.

Here you can see that the nut has an allowance of about 1mm on ether side. This threw off all specs and feel of the LL16M neck.



Guitarbear was appalled by the incident. Upon seeing the guitar, I feel very upset that someone would actually do that to nice guitar. If you don’t have the parts or the know-how/skills, please DON’T ruin other people’s guitar. 

Removing the blotched job and putting in the correct part. 

First step to this rescue operation was to remove this horrendous nut. Plenty of staged photos here, but how else could I show you? 🙂


I used a hairdryer to heat up the glued area so that it’d be easier to remove the “cancerous object”.


I used a small square chip board to gently tap out the nut. Again, this is a staged photo. 


Plenty of glue residue. There must have been a huge wad of superglue used. Whoever he/she is, the person who worked on the guitar is a loser. I wouldn’t let this loser come near my guitars even if you pay me.


Next I used 600 grit sandpaper to smooth out the nut slot for installation of new nut. You need to remove the glue residue to ensure a flat surface for the new nut.


The owner had to go all the way to Yamaha service centre to buy a new nut. Although it’s a plastic part, it is far better than one that was off-specs.

See the comparison photo. The differences in string spread and size are obvious.


Fast forward to show how much better the stock Yamaha nut looks and feel.


This is the right way to do things.

Dropping in a bone saddle


Time to shape a new bone saddle. Careful sanding and adjustments are done to get the best height and radius.


Final sanding using 2000 grit to get that smooth finish.


OK, we got a nice bone saddle installed. Owner also brought a set of bone pins for this.

Tip: Yamaha guitars use 75mm saddles, not 72mm.

Again, the same photo to show how important it is to have correct parts (dimensions) if you cannot craft them out from blanks.

Tip: Yamaha plastic nut for L series. 44mm, string spread is about 36-37mm.


Final clean up with Bearclaw Special. Guitar was shiny and happy. Action set up just slightly under 5/64 inch at 12th fret capo on 1.

Super playability and great sounds. Roger is smiling.


Alvarez PD311AV Refurbishing

I bought this old Alvarez for a refurbish because I simply love this brand.


The PD311AV was from the 2009 catalogue. This one was from the Professional Series which sat between the Masterworks and Artiste Series. Although China made, the Alvarez guitars I’ve tried (and owned) have been consistently well-built and always sound amazing for the money.

Solid top and solid back construction for the Professional Series. The antique violin finish would make everyone think that it has a mahogany top but no, this has a spruce top and rosewood body.


Beautiful maple binding all over the guitar – headstock, neck and body. Herringbone around the body as well.


There’s also abalone inlays on the rosette and headstock. Quite a bit of bling going on here.

The big and nasty surprise here was the plastic saddle. It seemed like a stock part and I would expect Alvarez to use bone saddle for this range. Well, Guitarbear can always get down to work on this new baby.

Slotting the bridge for high-E string

But we have a problem here. The high-E string rubs the bi-level bridge and there’s a need to slot the bridge so as to get a better break angle.


I use a needle file to make a slot for the string.


Final sanding using 2000 grit sandpaper. This ensures there are no rough edges that may cause the high-E to break.


Bone saddle

Now let’s craft a nice bone saddle for the guitar.


The stock saddle seems too curved for the fretboard. Using my radius gauges, I measured it to be about 12″ but the fretboard was more like 15″. No worries, we’ll just shape it according to the fretboard.


OK, we have a nicely shaped saddle with a more “correct” fret radius. Adjustments to be done later to get the best setup.


A new set of ebony bridge pins matches the abalone inlays perfectly. I’d prefer to have a taller saddle but sometimes the construction of the guitar (neck angle) may not allow that.

Bearclaw Special

It’s time to give the guitar a good cleanup and polish. I suspect the previous owner NEVER bothered to clean the guitar. Never mind, Guitarbear will give the guitar some TLC.

Fret shine and fingerboard nourishing with steel wool, lemon oil and Dr Duck Ax Wax. Bowie was my assistant for the day. Here he is smiling away.


Lovely maple bindings and herringbone on display.


Fresh set of Elixirs as usual. By now, the pickguard was gone.

I had to re-adjust the saddle quite a bit because the stock saddle was way off.


High-E string doesn’t rub against the bridge anymore. Bridge is also taken care of now. No more dry and dirty rosewood. It’s all nice and shiny.

The entire guitar was cleaned up with Music Nomad and Dr Duck Ax Wax products.


I hope the guitar is happier now than before. It must be happier now. 🙂

Here’s a look at the dark rosewood back. It’s solid rosewood.


The not-so-attractive differing wood grains can be seen here on the multi-piece mahogany neck. OK, you get what you pay for.


But it does have some nice appointments. Abalone headstock inlays, maple bounded with gold tuners. Nice.


One more look at the maple binding. It’s all over the guitar. I love such things.


Maurice and Murphy were there to pose for shot. Let’s hope this one stays.







GS Mini Mahogany Bone Saddle Upgrade

Worked in this GS Mini mahogany a few weeks back. The guitar was buzzing due to an overly low saddle and the owner needed to get it fixed for his upcoming gig.


Here you can see that there is almost no break angle at the saddle so it’s no wonder the guitar buzzed when strummed even moderately. The saddle looked really dirty here due to the rust caused by sweaty palm.


The idea here was put in a bone saddle and get the optimum saddle height for best playability and tone. We got some Hosco Japan bone saddle for this project.


Carefully shaped to match the Taylor 15 inch radius and to fit the saddle slot.


Bearclaw Special

TLC for all nice guitars. Who likes shiny frets and moisturised fretboards? Wombat was my assistant here.


Pencil lead on nut slots and cleaned up the whole guitar. This was a gigging guitar and it needed some effort to clean off those beer stains. 🙂

Adjusting truss rod to add relief

I used the Taylor truss rod tool to get it a quarter turn. The GS Minis come stock with 13s so going to 12s will require a bit more relief for the thinner strings. (Note that this is a staged photo.)


Some final adjustments to the saddle height and we’re good to go. Action is now around 3/32 inch at 12th fret.


Roger came out to pose with the guitar. Let’s hope the gig goes well for the owner.



Closing notes:

This particular Mini sounds really good here. It’s got lots of presence and it’s one of the most lush sounding GS Mini I have worked with.

Guitarbear suspects this is due to the fact that it gets played all the time (owner is a gigging musician and doesn’t own too many guitars). So it is true that a played-in worn-in instrument sounds and feels better.


Yamaha LL16 bone saddle upgrade

Did a bone saddle upgrade for this LL16 ARE last week. The dark tint finish gave this guitar a vintage vibe, Back and sides looks the same as a regular LL16 with nice rosewood grains.


This one came to me with a saddle sanded way too low. The guitar had almost no sustain especially at the thinner strings. Here you can see that the saddle is almost level with the bridge slot. When you get such a shallow break angle, it’s always bad news. Granted action was very low here (about 3/64 inch), but the guitar actually sounded quite lifeless and certainly did not sound like what the LL16 is capable of.


The strings were also done in a weird manner. Perhaps the previous person knows something of a higher ordinance, but both E strings just look wrong.


No problems. Let’s start with some Bearclaw Special. A nice guitar deserves all the TLC from Guitarbear. Fingerboard and frets are cleaned and shiny after some massaging with lemon oil and steel wool.

Before (dry & rusty)


After (moisturised and shiny)


New Bone Saddle

Did some measurements and started work on shaping a new bone saddle.


OK, we got a good fit. All smooth after sanding up to 2000 grit.


I put in a new set of vintage coloured brass pins. They match this particular guitar very well. Action set to around 5/64 inch at 12th fret capo on 1st.


Latte the cowboy is happy with Guitarbear’s work.


Closing notes:

The Yamaha L Series continue to show very good build. This is not the first time I see a saddle sanded so low on the L series, yet the amazing thing is that fret buzz is quite minimal. There’s really some impressive fret work done at their China factory.

However, the overly low action had taken away all the guts and voice of this guitar when it came to me. Just a note to anyone who wishes to do their own setups, DO NOT neglect the importance of a healthy saddle height.