Archtop Guitars And Other Things That Purr

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This here is an Alden 9908 that I bought recently.  The guitar is about 40 years old and had significant mods done by previous owner.  The pickup hole was opened up to accept a single coil Tele type pickup.  Because the string E-E spacing is a bit smaller than most the pickup was angled to better align the pole pieces.  It actually sounded pretty good but I ended up changing to this Double Rail from Guitarfetish which doesn't have alignment issues and sounds at least as good--it is their Vintage wound.  The bigger aspect of this project is that the old pickguard was a fairly thin piece of silver celluloid--also fabricated by previous owner--not a bad job but time /shrinkage had taken its toll.  I decided to use this piece of spruce that was sold as low grade acoustic wood to replace it.  Frets were fine and a light levelling job brought it in perfect.  The neck was solid and needed no adjustment.  FYI , a really cool hollow sound.  The body is basically a thick Les Paul size and made with 1/4 ply.  It has a minimal sound block underneath the bridge.  I dug this one so much I found another that was just the body and neck in decent condition ...  Something to work on in retirement in about 7 years

Latest Completed Project
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Latest Completed Project
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A Previous project was this "very economical" acoustic archtop picked up on ebay from 2KOOL4SKOOL.


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This guitar had numerous serious issues.  But considering the cost ($130-free shipping) I chose not to waste my life and time doing returns and "resolutions" and simply fix the one I've got.  I really like the concept of this guitar:  a kind of throwback archtop with an acoustic pickup in a slightly scaled down package.  So I decided to keep it and try to fix things.   The 3 primary issues were 1)most obvious was that the neck was separating.  2) Secondly, when I tried playing it the intonation was atrocious.  I soon discovered the bridge was very poorly located (normally not a big deal with a floating bridge but this bridge has an underbridge pickup inside so it has a hole drilled through the body for the wire.  Therefore it cannot be moved very far from the installed position.  3) Finally, the ebay description said "Fingerboard:  Maple" quite clearly.  Yes I admit I was highly suspicious about that in advance since it is clearly the color of rosewood.  However when I got the guitar and found it was covered with plastic film that was simply the color of rosewood I was quite annoyed.    .... I decided not to return it --for I'd probably just get another one that is wacko in other ways.

Here is how I delt with the issues here described:   
Well ...  I couldn't really tell if the neck separation had changed the neck angle but the bridge was as low as possible and string height was a bit much for my tastes.  Also  I was able to actually apply pressure to the neck and see the joint move.  So it wasn't merely a finish defect.   Now some of you "strictly by the book" guitar techs will gasp at my repair method, but you see,  this is the nice thing about buying cheap guitars as I am apt to do. Sooooo  I worked carpenters glue into the neck joint (gaaaaasp!) --using a thin film of plastic, my patience, and gravity--and then I put a screw into the neck at an angle that in my best trigonometric estimation would best impede or resist separation of the kind caused by the string tension.  I made sure that the screw was long enough to get all the way into the block in the body and drilled a screw hole just a tad smaller than the root diameter of that screw.  I also worked wood filler into the screw hole as I inserted it.  Oh yea and I found the very smallest diameter screw that was the length needed (I believe it was a #6 x 2.5") because I figured its not real good to remove material from the dovetail and also because a bigger diameter screw would be more likely to crack the wood (my conjecture).   I made sure to install the screw before the glue dried so that it would have the advantage of the screw pulling things together into their final position. 

That was it for the neck ... and it seems to have done the trick.  The only thing I think I'd do differently next time is to use a pan head screw rather than a flat head.  I think the flat head will put more stress on the neck as its tapered head is pressed into the wood.

Now for the bridge.  I measured to the 12 fret and it was 12-5/8".  The bridge position was close to 24.5.  Seems like the neck was laid out for 25.5 scale and the bridge was installed for the 24.5-24.7 type scale.   I had to remove the pickup to free the bridge and find its correct position.  This correct position turned out to be about 3/8"-1/2" longer so I was able to leave the pickup wire hole alone and just route it through the side instead of under the saddle. 

The fretboard.  Not much to do here.  Buuuuut I was really curious about how long this plastic was going to last.  I decided to try to remove some of it from the highest fret position which I would never use of course .... once again (to quote myself about 300 words ago) "this is the nice thing about buying cheap guitars as I am apt to do" ... I don't mind scraping some finish off here or there just to learn a little about its construction.  I figured if I heated it up I could get the adhesive to dry of and the film to separate from the wood underneath (wood? I think).  I was surprised that holding a kitchen knife in the burner flame to heat up and then pressing it against the plastic was not enough to even damage the plastic ... ergo, its probably not plastic but telfon.  I was a bit less annoyed because I'm not necessarily a purist regarding guitars and think that modern man made materials should be explored.  I thought that if this teflon proved to be a decent surface for playing (feels fine under the fingers) and made assembly easier and good as or better neck / fret alignment I can't really knock it.  Soooo ..... I found a sharp knife could remove the teflon but it also removed some of the wood underneath.  I had to actually take a file to the teflon to remove it so as not to leave the wood gouged up.  When done I was actually impressed with its adhesion ( I do some adhesion testing as part of my job in materials research).   The frets and binding work is actually quite well.  No need to clean up fret ends or do any levelling.   I did adjust the neck truss rod a skosh and that got it to just the way I like it.

Epilogue:  The guitar now plays reasonably well.  Although I did have to remove the adjust nuts under the bridge to get it as low as I wanted.  (I shoved pieces of Starbuck coffee stirrers in their place which dropped things about 1/32nd)  The tuners are okay, one of them tends to bind at a certain position.  I actually like the sound of this thing unplugged.  It has good acoustics I think primarily due to the thin body wood.  Its like an old harmony archtop.  Its closer to that of a flat top than a modern hollowbody guitar (which is about twice the thickness of the flat top).  Amped its pretty loud too ... kind of comparable to the bite of a resonator.  Maybe I'll try recording some "Key To The Highway" and "Statesboro Blues" with it.

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Older project:  Broken Ibanez Tremolo unit on AFS85

Older Projects
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Previous Project:   Above is a repair I did of the Bigsby Tremolo Tailpiece on an Ibanez AFS85 that I bought on E-bay.  The AFS85 is basically an AFS75 (much more common) but the body is made with a wood from Mexico called Cordia.  It had been poorly boxed for shipping.  While it was in a case, they provided no additional packing, i.e., shock absorbing materials such as styrafoam peanuts.  I suspect it was dropped directly on the tremolo end because only the small portion of the "hinge" was broken.  My replacement is the brass colored piece.  I found the dimensions of a standard door hinge would work very well.   I just had to cut it to length and then drill the holes to match the old piece.  I actually thought this was Brass when I bought the hinge but realized as I started cutting with a hacksaw that it was steel.  Nevertheless, the finish matches the guitar color scheme quite well.  The pin in the hinge was actually a tad bigger but its hardly noticeable. .....  Next project I'll report on is my Hollowbody Hagstrom.  Its the natural mahogany (colored) guitar in the upper left of my home page.  It came with a Minihumbucker that is woefully lacking in punch.  I've got better jazz guitar sounds from numerous other "real" hollows (the hagstrom puts tone bars in the cavity just under the bridge) such as my Washburn J3, J5, J6 and my Ibanez AF75, AF95 and AF85 below ... sooooo what I need though is a rockabilly job, something like a Dean Palomino---and putting a P-90 on Hagstrom ought to foot the bill ... or is it flip the bill ... fit the bill?  aaaaaahhhh .... whatevuh! 

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Wild Ideas
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