Yamaha DW-5S bone saddle & JJB 330 pickup installation

Worked on this old Yamaha a couple of months back.

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Owner wanted to put in a bone saddle and install the JJB 330 passive pickup for his vintage piece. The DW-5S is a 90’s model which was made in Taiwan. It has a pretty standard solid spruce top with laminate rosewood body.

Let’s work on the pickup installation first.

Preparing the hole for end-jack

We gotta drill a 12mm hole for the generic end-jack. Remember to use tape to prevent chips and cracks.

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These days I drill a smaller pilot hole first, then work upwards from  3-6-10 and finally 12mm. It’s faster and safer this way than using a step bit.

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Some sanding to do especially on the inside because there could be splinters. I use a small file for this purpose.

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Okay, we got the end-jack nicely done. The dust and all can be cleaned up later.

Mounting the transducers

It’s time to get some cardboard to make a jig.

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I marked out the spots along the saddle line where the transducers will be with X. This gives a very clear idea of where the correct placements should be – between E/A, between D/G, and between B/e (but slightly closer to e).

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Reverse the anchoring bridge pins and use some blu-tak to stick on the transducers. Now we have a really useful jig for mounting them. Do many dry runs to ensure you get a good sensing of where to place your hand. You’ll mess things up if you miss or drop those anchoring bridge pins. Finally, apply gel superglue on the shiny sides of the transducers and stick them in.

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It’s all good when you see this. This means everything is nicely in place. I still prefer to hold the entire assembly in position for a minute or so as the glue dries.

Fitting a new bone saddle

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The guitar came with a badly fitted saddle. It was too short and could moved along the slot. No worries, Guitarbear can adjust a bone saddle to fit properly. It’s important to mark out the string positions in order to get a good fret radius.

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OK, we have a nice smooth bone saddle installed. Fresh Elixirs installed as well.

Bearclaw Special

Time to pamper the guitar with some TLC. Fretboard and bridge to get some lemon oil and Ax Wax. Edward was assistant today.

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Gave the guitar a good clean and polish after the soundcheck. IMG_7464

Some parts of the finish have become cloudy but that’s the way it is with some older guitars if you didn’t do due maintenance.

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Scotty was happy to pose with the old guy. 🙂

 

 

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Installing JJB 330 on Taylor 714ce

Did an installation on this older Taylor guitar last month.

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This 714ce has various features that are very different from current guitars. It has dot inlays and the ancient ES System that uses AA batteries.

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The ES System has failed and owner wanted to have a passive pickup which doesn’t require any batteries. Of course the JJB 330 is a good choice. There are some opinions on such passive pickups but I reckon they sound very natural and great when paired with a DI/EQ.

Removing the ES System

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The first hurdle would be deciding what to to do with the existing ES System. There is no way the current end block can be used to install the new end-jack, and drilling a separate hole would be nothing short of a disaster cosmetically.

So, we had to purchase a set of ES Plug. This thing costs US$35 but the shipping was about US$46 (ouch!!). Full marks to the guys from Stratosphere Part who shipped this to SG in record three days.

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We”ll see why these two pieces of wood are so important later. Now, we need to remove the ES System.

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After unscrewing the end-jack and removing the battery cover, gently pull the plastic frame which is attached via double tape. Yes, this thing was fixed at the factory using double tape.

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The four screws holding the end block are now visible so we gotta remove those.

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The entire end block will slide out nicely after the screws are removed. Bear in mind that the RJ19-looking connector can be disconnected, so DO NOT cut anything here.

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WHOAA!!! We got a huge gaping hole in the guitar now.

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So that’s where the Plug comes in. You need to replace the end block and also provide the screw holes and a 12mm hole for the new end-jack which could be of any pickup you like.

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Lousy photo showing the body sensor mounted under the guitar top. Simply pull and wiggle gently for it to come off. They come off fairly easily.

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Next, we gotta remove these knobs which are also linked to the preamp unit. Pop off the rubber knobs (just pull them off).

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These collars must be unscrewed and NOT pulled out. They are screwed in, so if you try to yank them out with pliers, good luck. Upon unscrewing the collars, the entire preamp assembly can be removed from the inside. Here we need to disconnect some cables as well.

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At this point, Guitarbear reckons those three little holes make a nice soundport. But owner thinks it’s better to just use the plug to fill them up. There are also two loose cables coming from the neck pickup sensor that needed to be anchored.

A look at all the ES components are were removed.

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Absolutely no cutting of wires in such projects. You either remove cleanly or you tape them down. No butchering allowed in Guitarbear’s work ethics.

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I used thick foam double tape for mounting the plugs.

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This is how it looks with the holes plugged.

Installing JJB 330 pickup. 

We start with installing the end-jack. There is no drilling required as the plug already has those holes drilled out nicely.

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Insert the sensors from the end. (Staged photo here, I’m very much right-handed)

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Screw in the end plate.

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Mounting the sensors

Use some old cardboard to prepare the mounting jig.

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Mark the spots where the sensors will be. After many dry runs, use gel superglue to mount them.

A detailed post on this can be read here:

https://guitarbear.wordpress.com/2016/11/09/installing-jjb-330-on-ayers-07-cx/

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Once the anchors are in place, we know for sure the sensors are also in place.

Bearclaw Special

Gave the guitar a good clean and polish. This is a player’s guitar so there’s quite a bit of “mojo” to clean up.

Scotty helped with oiling the fretboard.

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Restrung with fresh Elixirs and guitar was good to go. It weighs much lighter now that the ES components are removed.

Edward and Clover posed for this.

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A look at the rosewood back.

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Owner was happy to do away with all the hassles of the previous pickup.

Setup for Yamaha LS-TA

Did a setup for this new model over the weekend.

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The TransAcoustic series was released late last year and they have getting rave reviews online. So now you can play with some reverb and chorus added without having to hook up pedals, effects or amps.

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The build is fantastic on this guitar which is essentially an LS-16 ARE with the actuator installed. Also, the TA series get a clear pickguard instead of the tortoise variant. Another feature on the LS-TA is the vintage tinted Engelmann top.

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Guitar was sent for a bone saddle installation elsewhere and owner still prefers a slightly lower action. Sometimes player’s preference still matters so the aim here was to go from about 7/64 to about 5/64 inch. Easy job.

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I must say that the bone saddle is very well-crafted. It’s nicely shaped with the correct radius and finished to a high gloss. Good job by the previous guitar guy! Now let’s shave a lil off the bottom.

Bearclaw Special

TLC for all guitars from Guitarbear.

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Let’s start with the nut slots. Pencil lead will do the job. No need for fancy stuffs here.

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Fretboard and bridge were moisturised to a nice sheen. Can you see which part just got pampered? Koala fell asleep while checking the guitar.

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So Miffy was ready to pose after her shower. She says this one sounds good!

Closing thoughts

The LS-TA sounds wonderful even without the the effects. In my opinion, the L series are really great guitars for the money. The 5-piece neck just looks beautiful and usually belong to guitars at higher price brackets.

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The room reverb is pleasing and sounds natural, but it may sound quite harsh if you go beyond 3 o’clock on the dial. Same for the chorus dial that is best left under 12 o’clock.

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Another thing to consider is the weight of the guitar. The LS-TA is significantly heavier than a stock LS16. No prizes for guessing that this is due the actuator for the effects. Oh well, you can’t win them all.

 

 

 

 

 

Alvarez MD70 Bone Saddle Installation

Did a drop-in bone saddle project on this Alvarez MD70 last week.

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This is a previous model from 2013 but this guitar is just stunning in terms of value, quality and tone. While the latest MDA70 gets a wider nut width and abalone bindings, the MD70 still carries attractive appointments like flame maple bindings.

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Guitarbear still prefers the older 43mm nut widths over the latest guitars.

Here you can see that the saddle doesn’t have the suitable curve. The thicker strings sit too “straight” and a new saddle with the correct radius is required. While it is easy to simply drop in a saddle, it takes more time and effort to get the best curve for playing comfort.

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There are also too many shims being used. Not sure how much tone is lost here, but it is always good to make a new saddle with the correct measurements.

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A comparison photo where you can see that the original saddle was way too straight at the thicker strings.

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No problems. We got sandpaper from 100 to 2000 grit, as well as the good ol’ jeweler’s file to craft the new saddle.

The wire anchor of the LR Baggs Anthem (previously installed by owner) came off so we need to tape it back. Easy job here.

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Remove the anchor, remove the old tape, and clean up the contact. Then, cut some new double-sided tape to reinstall the anchor. Just use a pair scissors to snip off the excess bits.

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Okay, all neat and tidy now. Nothing loose or rattling anymore.

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Bearclaw Special

Let’s do some TLC for this lovely guitar.

Fretboard wasn’t too dirty in the first place, but all guitars deserve a good massage and moisturising session. Steel wool and Ax Wax are good friends here. Bowie was assistant today.

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Bridge was also nourished with Ax Wax, while nut slots were lubricated with pencil lead.

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We got a good fit on the new saddle. Restrung with Elixirs in owner’s preferred super light gauge 10-47.

Gave the guitar an overall clean and polish and we’re good to go. Miffy was ready to pose.

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It’s a lovely guitar. I asked the owner if he would sell it to me, and I got a flat “NO”.

Nevertheless, my trusted AD30, my No.1, came out to pose with his cousin from the same year (2013).

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Giveaway sign would be the fret markers. High end models have only the 12th marker and not the dots.

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MD70 has solid rosewood body while the humble AD30 has laminate mahogany. Both just beautiful to me. I love Alvarez.

One more shot of the MD70 that mesmerized me. Sexy back.

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Owner was really happy to get back his guitar with the improved playing comfort.

 

 

Installing JJB330 pickup on Taylor Big Baby

Did a JJB330 installation last week on the Big Baby.

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This guitar previously had an LR Baggs Element system in it but the owner wanted something that requires no batteries, so the passive JJB system seems the right choice. Here’s a well-used guitar that has really opened up. Plenty of marks on the top that kinda adds character.

Mounting the end jack.

Since the guitar already had a 12mm hole drilled due to the previous pickup, we can go straight to work without bringing out the drill.

I use a copper wire to enter through the base and exit the soundhole.

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Here I attach the end jack of the JJB 330.

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Pull out through the base again.

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Okay, we got the end jack screwed in nicely.

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Mounting the transducers

Let’s make a jig from the good ol’ cereal box.

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Trace out the saddle line and punch through the bridge pin holes. Mark X on the spots the transducers are mounted. Note that one marking is a bit nearer to the high E to accentuate the thinnest string.

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Use some blu-tak to mount the transducers on the jig. It’s a good idea to clean the shiny contact surfaces with Zippo fluid at this time.

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Do many dry runs to ensure you get a good sensing of how the jig would fit before applying the glue. Once you’re confident, apply gel superglue on the shiny surfaces and stick it in!

When you see this, you know that everything is in the right place. No mirrors needed.

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Hold the jog in place for a few minutes while the glue dries.

Bearclaw Special

It’s time to pamper the guitar. Let’s start with the fretboard and bridge.

Steel wool and Ax Wax to the party.

From this:

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To this:

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Bob was assistant today.

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Pencil lead on nut slots and saddle crown. 

I also took time to tighten some of the tuner buttons. I actually find the Taylor stock tuners quite well-made.

Fresh Elixirs, what else?

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Guitar was ready to go on stage. 🙂

Cookie came out to pose.

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Closing note:

The Big Baby is a fun guitar that can fill the gap between a full-sized dreadnought and a Baby Taylor/Little Martin genre. It’s main strength is the full 25.5″ scale. Some players may find the extremely cramped 22.5″ too uncomfy and the Big Baby fits the bill perfectly here.

In the tone department, don’t expect this to sound as full as a 110e. But hey, it still has decent bass and does have the dreadnought sound to it. I’d say it’s a better strummer than an OM or 000 type.

If you really need the smaller bodyshape, this is actually a good idea.

See some pictures for comparison with a regular dread. Here you see that it is just a bit shorter in terms of overall length.

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The BBT is also shallower. However, the bowl back creates more volume and bass than you’d expect.

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Perhaps the only thing going against the BBT is the $599 retail price here in SG. In today’s market, many full solid guitars (albeit China made) can be had for $699 onwards if one were to look beyond the brand name.

With the introduction of the Academy Series in 2017, one wonders if the Big Baby will be discontinued.