Seagull Maritime SWS Rosewood Setup

Brought this one back over the weekend.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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. πŸ™‚


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.


Bowie and Harvey posed with the new member.


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:


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.


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. πŸ™‚

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.



Alvarez MDA70 Setup

This came home last month because I’m a big fan of Alvarez and the MDA70 is just too beautiful to pass.


First launched in 2014, the revamped Masterworks Series features some cool appointments such as gold tuners and abalone body binding.


The MDA70 is the all-solid dread with Sitka top and rosewood body. Here’s a look at the beautiful maple binding with 1.5mm abalone lines. Wow.

Let’s get down to dialing in a good setup.

Nut slots


The thicker strings A & E seem to sit too high so I used a needle file to sand down the slots. How do you determine if the slots are high? Capo on the middle of 3rd fret and check for clearance between string and 1st fretwire. The clearance here should be minimal.

Neck Relief


I also straightened the neck a lil’ on this. Stock relief seem a tad too high. Remember, righty tightey, lefty loosey.

Saddle height


Not sure if its intentional, but the stock saddle is too “straight” at the thicker strings. So I dropped in a generic bone saddle that has a 16″ radius. Of course, further adjustments will be made later to achieve a better setup. That’ll be the last few steps.

Bearclaw Special


The rosewood fretboard got some TLC from steel wool, lemon oil and Ax Wax. Harvey was assistant today. He said the 12th fret inlay looks classy. I agree.


Pencil lead for the nut slots.


Restrung with Elixirs and added new plastic bridge pins. Yes, you read correctly, I have been turning to plastic pins lately. I actually prefer them over the stock ebony pins. I know, strange but true.


Just look at the sexy chocolate grains on the back. Wow. Alvarez will not make anymore guitars with rosewood due to CITES, so I’m just gonna keep this one for collection’s sake.


One more look at the maple/abalone binding.


My humble No.1 came out to pose. I love Alvarez. They make really nice stuff for the money.


Bob was happy to pose with the new kid on the sofa.

Closing notes:

Retailing at $990, the MDA70 really changes the game. For the money, you’re getting similar specs as American-made guitars in the $4-$5k zone. I would say that’s pretty impressive and one wouldn’t be able to hear or feel the big difference in price by playing them.

This guitar is very loud and powerful. Ironically, I find that it lends itself more towards plucking than strumming.

I do wish that it’s more “opened”. Perhaps that can be solved as it gets played more. But that probably won’t happen because I’d very much prefer the guitar to have a narrower 1-11/16 nut instead of the 1-3/4 found here.

Oh well, what to do? Guitars makers need to make what the majority wants.

I’m just glad to have this to accompany my No.1. πŸ™‚




Tips – installing new tuner buttons

Got an email from a reader requesting for a tutorial on how to change out old tuner buttons. So here it is.


I got some cheapo white acrylic tuners buttons to replace the black ones on my guitar. First we gotta remove the buttons. Unscrew using a suitable jeweler’s screwdriver. I use the cheap ones, no need for fancy stuff.


Simply unscrew the old buttons.


Most tuner buttons come with two washers (one plastic and one metal) and a screw to hold them in place. But we’ll be using the new ones that come with the new buttons.


Note the order here – it usually goes like this. Machine head – plastic washer – metal ring washer – button itself – screw to hold in place.


Screw the buttons in. Tighten accordingly. Too tight or too loose won’t work.


OK, we got new tuner buttons.






Walden D710ce refurbish and setup

Worked on a Walden D710ce last month.

IMG_8005.JPGThe 700 series guitars came with solid top and back construction and I was eager to try out the Engelmann spruce top and rosewood combination. The D710ce has a cutaway and electronics. Here’s a look at the cutaway and the rosewood laminate sides.

IMG_8006.JPGI have good impression of Walden guitars and it’s a pity they have ceased operation. Fit and finish are always good for their price range, and the bolt-on neck system is quite similar to Taylor.

Bearclaw Special

Let’s start with the fretboard and bridge. They need lots of TLC and nourishment.

IMG_8039.JPGSo the dirty fretboard will be polished and moisturised with Ax Wax and 0000 steel wool.

IMG_8041.JPGClover was helping. He was ready to pounce as if he sensed that something was coming his way.

Stripping the dead electronics

This one had its B-Band preamp and later Fishman Infinity system fried so I decided to remove them all once and for all. Yes, you read correctly, the second pickup which previous owner had installed also went kaput.

IMG_8043.JPGUnscrew the unsightly B-Band preamp and remove from the inside of the guitar. Here’s a tip, use a jeweler’s screwdriver.

The badly installed endjack was also removed and replaced with a new 3-screw endjack. Matching coloured hardware of course. πŸ™‚Β 

By now I have stripped off the electronic components. Guitar is noticeably lighter in weight. This paves the way for future pickup installs which is likely to be something simpler.

Nothing was cut or butchered in this project. All wires were properly detached or taped down.

Getting a good setup and action

The guitar came with ZERO relief and it was quite amazing I don’t hear much buzzing. So I added a lil’ bit of relief and went on to lower the saddle.

Action set to about 2.5mm (3/32inch) at 12th, capo on 1st fret. Nice and easy to play.

New bridge pins and fresh Elixirs added.

I also swapped out the sticky black tuner buttons with some new cheap white acrylic ones.

From this

To this

The fun part begins… You’ll now see why Clover was getting ready.

He loves soundports.

Bowie was also happy to pose.

Here’s a look at the solid rosewood back.

It does look quite handsome with the binding and cutaway.

We shall see if it stays.

Closing notes:

The solid rosewood back may have contributed to the powerful bass coming fromΒ  this guitar. Sure, it’s no Martin D28, but it’s decent and plays well with low action and zero fret buzz. One could certainly do much worse at this price range. I think the guitar retailed around $500-$700 new.

Build is really good, with the nitro satin finish. It’s not too thick and plasticky to touch and really stands out from those on poly finish.

Probably a good alternative to the various solid tops from many brands that tend to sound overly bright to some players.

Oh, the smaller kids love the makeshift soundport. πŸ™‚





Cort Earth 70 Mahogany Bone Saddle Setup

This was the last purchase of 2017. This Earth 70 had just been put on display at the store and I happened to bring it home.

Weird looking grains aside, I’ve always wanted to try out a mahogany-top dreadnought to compare and contrast with the usual spruce-top ones.


This one comes with a solid mahogany top in open pore finish. To be honest, I find that the stain actually draws polarising opinions about the looks. Perhaps a lighter shade may work better here.


The back is a more familiar affair since it’s just a veneer. Streaky grains on mahogany laminates seem to be a staple of Cort and many affordable guitars.


Serial number starts with 17 – this means it’s a freshly made guitar.


These new chrome tuner buttons are definitely preferred to the previous black rubbery ones that come on older guitars. Good move by Cort. The pearl/abalone inlays may look very artificial, but they are quite a nice touch to something so affordable.

Bearclaw Special

We start with moisturising the fretboard and bridge. Not sure if they are made of rosewood due to the current CITES situation, but they sure are heavily stained to achieve the darker shade.


Here you can see that even without steel wool, the napkin became really dirty after wiping down.

Fretwork is good and deserves mention at this price. No rough ends and all frets sit well and tidy. Good stuff!

Rainbow helped with oiling the fretboard. This untidy boy really needs a haricut.


Bone saddle


Stock saddle was some plastic stuff so it’s best to drop in a bone saddle. We got some sanding to do to get a good action.


After several adjustments, action is sat at 3/32 inch at 12th fret. Fresh Elixirs and black bridge pins also dropped in. Can you see the wood grains in this photo? There’s a missing abalone dot on the low E and I can’t find it.


Here’s another photo where you can see the open pore finish in full glory. Also the nicely done fret ends.


Pickguard was gone as usual. πŸ™‚ I’m still undecided on that weird looking stain on the top.


Brownie hopes this one stays in the family. He likes brown guitars. Maybe that’s because his name is Brownie.

Closing note:

The Cort Earth 70 is a no-frills entry level guitar to the world of hog top dreadnoughts. At $219 retail from Swee Lee, you won’t burn a big hole in your pocket.

It’s early days to fully appraise its tone because the guitar needs more time to forget that it’s wood and metal and start to become a guitar. πŸ™‚Β I’d probably need to have a few more beers to strum it hard enough and run it in.

On hand, it does appreciate a lighter touch and sounds much better with a pick than with bare fingers. The usual cliche comments such as “dark”, “mellow” or “bluesy” don’t strike me yet because the dreadnought body means that the guitar is still very loud and direct. If anything, it is still as loud and brash as any spruce top dreads I own.

Time will tell if this one stays.

Note: Special thanks to the Swee Lee staff, both online and at the store front, for their help during this purchase. Awesome service from the team.