Taylor K26ce Setup

Did a setup for this gorgeous guitar last week.


This 2011 model is all-bling and exotic woods. One of those guitars when you buy in and just admire it for its beauty.


Sexy 3-piece back. Plenty of bling going on with all the abalone inlays and bindings too. Crazy level of bling.


Entire guitar is bound with flame maple. Even the sound hole is bound. Guitarbear was drooling profusely. Pardon the dust. Owner probably doesn’t believe in squeaky clean guitars.

Bearclaw Special

We start with some guitar TLC. Fretboard and frets shine. No prizes for guessing which part had some love from Guitarbear. 🙂 The ebony fretboard and bridge just feel solid and smooth. Thumbs ups!



Brownie was helping me check the fretboard after oiling. It looks like he likes all the beautiful binding too.

Let’s work on the setup. 

Saddle needed some sanding for lower action. The base was sanded with 100 grit sandpaper and final sanding with 2000 grit for a baby smooth finish.


I also gave the truss rod a 1/8 turn to straighten the neck a lil’.


Restrung with Elixirs (what else?), and  we got a really low action here just slightly above 1/16 inch on 12th fret capo on one.

I gave the whole guitar a good clean and polish. It’s a world of a difference from what I received. All the dust and grime had gone and we now have a shiny clean guitar.

The kids came out to pose with it. They love guitars.


Closing notes:

The K26ce is what a high-end guitar is all about – exotic wood (as can be seen), great fretwork (action was low without buzz) and total eye-candy.


Sure, the koa construction meant that it doesn’t sound as punchy and direct as a spruce-topped guitar. But the warmth and slight “reverb” (akin to mahogany) make this guitar a joy to play. It still responds very well to strumming because the GS body is definitely a force to be reckoned with.

Guitarbear can see why the GS shape hasn’t been too popular in this part of the world. The wide lower bout may cause some smaller players to struggle. There’re also players who’d choose the GA and D shapes for reasons ranging from comfort to familiarity.


Having said that, this K26ce is still a great guitar and would probably justify its price tag for being so beautiful in both looks and sound.


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.







Installing JJB 220 pickup on Cort Earth Mini

Installed the JJB 220 pickup on a Cort Earth Mini last month.


The Cort Earth is the brand’s answer to uber popular travel guitars such as Baby Taylor and Little Martin. This one’s got the usual solid spruce top/laminated mahogany body construction.

The owner had taken time to install a bone saddle and some new gold hardware to the guitar prior to the pickup installation, and I must say that he did some great job.


One thing to note is that this model (2012 made) has a very pronounced V shaped neck. Guitarbear cannot remember if any baby guitars from any brand that come with such a neck profile. All others seem to have that usual C profile.

On to the project…

Installing the end-jack

We got to drill a 12mm hole. The Cort has a really thick end block.


Carefully sand the rough edges for easier end-jack installation. I use a copper wire to help “fish out” the end-jack into position.


Okay, we got the end-jack nicely screwed on.


Mounting the transducers

Make a jig from some cardboard. Cereal boxes are really good for this purpose. Trace out the saddle line and poke through the bridge pin holes.


Mark “x” on the spaces between E/A and B/e strings. Then use two bridge pins as anchors for easy mounting.


In the photo above, you’d see that the bridge pins are now poked in on the reverse and now we have a useful jig to help. I use BluTack to set the transducers on the desired positions marked earlier. At this point, it’s a good idea to clean the contacts using Zippo fluid.

Carefully apply some gel super glue and mount the transducers through the sound hole. It’s important that you do plenty of dry runs so that you get a good sensing of how best to mount the entire jig. The end result should look like this.


(photo from previous installation)

Let the glue set while we work on some guitar TLC.

Bearclaw Special

Lemon oil and 0000 steel wool for that fretboard massage.

Before: Dry and dirty


After: Cleaned and nourished


Pencil lead on nut slots and saddle crown, and final clean up on the satin body of the guitar before restringing and tune up.

Soundcheck went great, and Scotty was happy to pose with it.




Squier Classic Vibe 50s Refurbishing

Brought home this Classic Vibe Strat last week. I’ve been wanting a white Strat recently and this could be useful in scratching the itch. 🙂 The Classic Vibes are proven gems in the budget range so I figured there’s no harm in having one more.


This one is the Olympic White version that comes with a gold anodized pickguard. Not sure if the pickguard will stay, but let’s give some TLC to the new guy.


While the overall condition was excellent without a single scratch or dent, the hardware was getting rusty from neglect. The previous owner had obviously not played it for some time and there was dust and rust all over.


Just look at the dust here.


These strings just spell TETANUS. This guitar was banned from going near my sofa or bed before the cleanup.


OK, we removed those horrible rusty strings. But it seems like the rust had spread to the frets. No problems, Guitarbear can solve this.

Bearclaw Special


I gave the entire guitar a good wipe and massage with Music Nomad ONE followed by Dr Duck Ax Wax. Final buffing and it’s all good and shiny again.

Let’s work on the rusty frets. I used masking tape to shield the gloss maple fretboard. It took some time, but it’s necessary to prevent damage to the finish.


Light polishing using Dr Duck Ax Wax and 0000 steel wool.

Tada! Who likes shiny frets? Clover was there to supervise the project.


Final cleanup and restrung with D’addario 9-42. I added some relief to the neck since I’m going with 9-42 these days. Saddles were also lowered to get a better action.

Here’s a buddy shot with Goldie, my other CV50 Strat.


Edward was happy to see a guitar with similar colour scheme as him. 🙂


Closing note:

The Classic Vibe 50s are consistently good. In terms of workmanship, feel and tone, I’d rate these guitars on par or slightly better than MIM Strats. While there are divided opinions about the tinted glossy neck and “featherweight” body, the CV50 displays superb playability and tones. The Alnico 3 pickups here sound really glassy and classy. These are probably a safe catch for anyone who wants to try out a Strat.