Refinishing and reconfiguring a solidbody bass

As fate would have it, I didn’t plan on blogging this- but it seemed to be of interest to a number of folks.. So…


I didn’t get a shot of the bass as it arrived, but took some pics as the stripping was in progress..


This strong color wanted to soak into the white wood- going to a dark color would be simple, but going to a sunburst finish requires extremely clean wood, at least where the amber center will be.

Much hand sanding was necessary, along with some judicious scraping, raising the grain with water, and resanding to remove the color without contaminating the new wood surface. To chemically remove the green would have been much quicker, but would have made a lighter color impossible.

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Eventually, the surfaces were pretty good.

Then I sharpened up a bent chisel to razor sharpness, and went after the detailed area inside the control cavity. This also needed to be immaculate, or the green could creep into the new finish.

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Nice, clean lines now..





The fit of the cover plate looks great..



First coat of sanding sealer applied to the back and edges of the body. This will bring out any spots that may have been missed, and begin building the substrate for the ‘burst. A couple of minor spots will be resanded, and a second seal coat applied..


Overall, it’s almost ready for color. We will be reconfiguring the bridge pickup before going to paint, this has all been preliminary work. In the meantime, I’ll coat the front with sealer and allow the lacquer to dry overnight.

More to come!  😉


Repairing a crack and shrunken pickguard on 1970’s Martin D-35

A beautiful D-35 walked in the door, I repaired some unattached binding- then it came to my attention the shrunken pickguard had actually cracked the soundboard.. I had not planned on blogging this repair, so I didn’t take pics of the original binding repair or the heavy warpage of the pickguard. The project was challenging, but the outcome was worth the effort..  😉

Since the pickguard had let go around the edges and curled upward, it was pretty ugly. At the bottom edge it had curled up almost 3/8″ and become perpendicular to the top of the instrument. Where the glue was still intact, the shrinkage had pulled so hard against the wood that the wood cracked. This necessitated removal of the pickguard to unload the tension, as well as attempt to reverse the warpage,  repair the cracked wood beneath, and reattach it properly. That’s where this story begins..



I successfully removed the pickguard without damage to the substrate or the original finish.



The crack below the pickguard (right along the edge) was raised and unsupported from below.. the extended tiny crack was raised a bit, but is backed by the internal bridge plate, thus ugly- but stable.


This is the problematic area, right below the pickguard. Below is a shot of the same area with a high-power flashlight shining through the wood..


I then traced around the pickguard and made a template from 1/4″ Lexan- a smooth, fairly sigid plastic that will support the entire surface of the pickguard during glue-up.

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I raised the grain with a damp rag, to open the pores of the wood and allow the glue to penetrate deeper into the wood.20140626_051137


Then made sure the Lexan caul was a perfect fit to the body.


I cut pieces of thin card stock until the shape fit inside the instrument and avoided all the bracing. The pressure I need to get everything aligned and flat during gluing requires support from inside- there is no other way to get a flat, strong, permanent repair. Eventually, these shapes were cut from 3/4″ MDF and covered with waxed paper to keep the cauls from being glued inside the guitar (if glue seeped out).


Then I filled a hypodermic needle with wood glue, and injected/pushed glue into the voids. I worked from the interior and the exterior, using a flashlight, camera, and mirror.

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Once I was satisfied there was enough glue coverage, I applied the interior caul, a temporary Lexan caul, and a couple of clamps. Left that to dry completely.



As nicely as it turned out, I didn’t feel it was a strong repair. Yes, the crack was fixed, but further shrinkage of the pickguard over time would likely open up the repair- and it can only be glued one time. Cured glue will not stick to itself. Basically, do it right now.. One chance at it.

So I machined a little cleat from maple, with the grain running in the opposite direction, fitted it, and clamped/glued it in place. It is a very thin slice (about 1/32″ thick), but the crossgrain orientation and the natural strength of the maple will reinforce the top without significantly altering the sound of the instrument. Nice fit, tight, light, and strong. Mo’ better.. lol

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Pinpoint accuracy is key- don’t want anything rattling inside when I’m finished.


Once the cleat was in place and all excess glue had been cleaned, I painted the underside of the pickguard with Titebond glue and placed it carefully in its original footprint. Then I set the Lexan caul on top of the guard, and carefully fitted several clamps and interior cauls- adjusting the position along the way. Eventually, the entire pickguard was in place and flattened. Obviously, I try to clean up and excess glue as I go. The reason I chose Titebond as opposed to a solvent based glue is that Titebond is water based and will not damage the original finish. Wood fibers were still bonded to the underside of the pickguard- leftovers from the original attachment. The Titebond works great on wood, but not great on plastic. Since there was a coating of wood fibers stuck to the underside of the guard, the Titebond had plenty of wooden surface to create a durable bond.

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I let the assembly dry for about 6 or 7 hours, pulled the clamps and cauls, then cleaned off the remainder of the excess glue with a slightly damp rag. Then I hand polished the finish and the pickguard to restore the original shine.

I then polished the fret tops, cleaned the gunk off the fretboard, oiled the ebony, checked the inlays, and installed a fresh set of Martin strings.

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I’m very happy with the result, this is a great guitar. Looks better than if I had just squeezed some glue into the open crack and stuck a new pickguard on it- it looks, sounds, plays and feels “right”.  Gorgeous.  😉







Construction of Rice Custom Osprey 205

I started out with some claro walnut, trued it up and clamped/glued it-

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Once the glue was completely dry, I sanded it down to a consistent thickness and set it aside to rest, under pressure.. I wanted to make certain it was stable before proceeding. The photo isn’t that great a quality, but the wood is breathtaking.


I then acquired a hefty slab of black limba.. Cool piece of wood.


I cut it to size, and machined it to be proper thickness.. DSCN1407 DSCN1408 DSCN1409 DSCN1410 DSCN1411 DSCN1412

Once everything was perfect, I mounted it on the CNC machine, and cut the chamber and wiring slots.. DSCN1415 DSCN1418

I then cut the walnut top to exact dimensions, and laminated it to the limba slab.  I used a second slab to keep everything stable, and 18 clamps. That should do the trick. Now I’ll leave it in the clamps and let the glue cure.  Worked out beautifully. 😉 DSCN1420 DSCN1421 20140613_191927_resized

OK.. I pulled the clamps early in the morning, and block sanded everything for a couple of hours. I don’t want to go too far, but I like to have the bulk of the block sanding finished before running the next steps.. Just seems to work out better this way for me.   I put the blank on the CNC, and did a whole bunch of work there..

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A trip to Mr. Bandsaw and edge sander.. DSCN1426 DSCN1427

And a bit of hand sanding- Leaves it here for the moment..

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I recessed the neck bolt holes, then did a deeper-than-normal radius around the front and back.  Feels real nice against my belly.. LOL DSCN1432 DSCN1435 DSCN1433 DSCN1434

————————————————————Beautiful mahogany! I prepared and sized/squared it up, and got it fitted for the machining.. 20140701_100011[1]

Then got everything going on the machine.. 20140702_075736 20140702_120817 Once it had been rough shaped and had the truss rod channel cut in, I separated the excess and hand shaped it. Much more refining to go, but the basic carving and shaping is roughed in now.

20140702_124638 20140702_124729   Hand fitted the neck to the neck pocket. Nice, tight fit.. 20140702_132238 20140702_132325 20140702_132317 20140702_132255 Next I’ll start carving the neck/headstock transitions- always done completely by hand- I’m very particular about the way that transition fits my hand.. 20140703_085320

Roughed in for the moment. I’ll refine it after the neck is complete. Pretty good start, though.. The next sequence are random shots taken along the process of truss rod channel prep and fitting the truss rod.. 20140703_091912 20140703_092024

Stepped hole drilled for the adjustment nut.. 20140703_092702

Fitting the rod

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Good fit now. 😉 I cut a filler strip from rock maple- very tight fit- and installed it. 20140703_113556 20140703_114549 20140703_114612 20140703_114724

Once the filler strip was in permanently, I mixed up a dollop of epoxy for the anchor point.  Not really necessary, but it always makes me feel better. I’ll grind off the excess and plane the strip flush prior to installation of the fretboard. 20140703_121754

OK.. the glue set up, I pulled the clamps, and whittled down the maple strip.. Takes a while..  😉 20140703_145351

I protected the edges when the strip got close- don’t want to disturb that surface. 20140703_145403 20140703_151404

Scraped it just about perfectly flush with a sharp blade.. 20140703_151652

Then sanded the surface flat on a big granite slab. Now it will sit for a day or so, to get used to being a neck (as opposed to some pieces of wood and metal).. I like to let it stabilize for a while, and will give it one more minor leveling right before attaching the fretboard.


The pistachio fretboard blank arrived, so I trued it up on the jointer, wetted it, and clamped it between two stout pieces of rock maple to allow it to equalize temperature/moisture. Leaving it loose would allow it to warp.. extreme pressure will help force the moisture into both flat sides..



After it sat for a day, I pulled the clamps and dimensioned the blank on the thickness sander..

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Measured the thickness, checked for warpage, then re-wetted both flat surfaces and clamped it up once more.

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It’s a gorgeous piece of wood. It will stay clamped for a few days, just to be certain it is stable, then be machined into a fretboard.



Machining the board..20140807_101749


Roughed in for radius, fret slots marked.

Hand sanding 16″ radius. This is very pretty wood…




Marked and drilled face dots..

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Installed the pearl face dots and sanded everything flush..




Outdoors shot for better color..



Prepped the fretboard and neck, aligned everything, glued and clamped it home..  Looks great!




Front of body with bridge pickup set in place- nice fit. 😉


Rear of body, sealer coats sanded and first coat of semigloss lacquer applied..



Restoration of 1961 Hammond A-100

I will be building this thread as time allows. A labor of love, this organ has been in my family since it was new. Originally purchased for Marguerite Wahlborg, my grandmother, in 1961. Upon her passing in 1967, I inherited it.  I recently went through the organ and corrected the problems that come with the passage of time, and restored it to full working order.  It is a wonderful instrument, and my restoration efforts have afforded me a serious dose of reality. I just love this thing, and am thrilled to have it working beautifully again.


Rehairing a bow.. My first successful attempt. ;)

Well, I have been blessed with an overabundance of ancient bows. Most of them need to be rehaired, and have damage in different areas. Here’s an account of my journey- good, bad, and ugly.. 😉


This bow had a few hairs still attached, with a damaged wooden wedge trying desperately to hang on. 20140324_091658_resized


I dug the wedge and old hair out, then cleaned out the cavity in the bow tip as well as I could.



Then I went to work on the frog. First thing was to convince the metal sleeve to come off without damaging the ebony frog or scratching/deforming the ring. Took a while, but eventually it slid off.20140324_092620_resized


Then I slid the slide off, which again didn’t want to budge. I managed to get it off, but the shell delaminated from the wooden portion of the slide. I glued it back on, and set the slide aside



Once that was apart, I lifted the old hair out of the way and pried the wedge from the interior of the frog.20140324_092957_resized


It was pretty tightly wedged in, but came out without damage. Thank Heaven. 😉



Here are the parts..

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Not every day you get to see the insides of a frog- Very precision chambers and channels in there…



I cut a piece of maple to make a new wedge for the tip. The wedge from the frog was fine, it’s better to reuse the original when possible (these are a pain to carve from scratch).20140324_095942_resized


Previously I mentioned gluing the shell to the slide of the frog- I guess this is when I actually did it. A couple drops of cyanoacrylate glue put it back in short order.



I gently placed the frog in a vise, and pressed the ends of the hair into the cavity, followed by the wooden wedge. Looks easier than it was.. 20140324_105328_resized


Then I flattened out the hair, straightened it out to be as uniform as I could get it, and ot the slide into place. The slide clamps the hair and the wedge in place, and is very effective.



Once the hair, wedge, and the slide were in place, I slid the metal sleeve back onto the frog, which holds the slide in place. It also provides a platform that is straight and rigid on which the hair will rest.

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At this point, I drove a very thin wedge above the hair, which keeps everything nice and tight, as well as keeping it as close to a consistently flat plane as I could get.  It is very securely anchored in the frog at this point.


I cut the loose end of the  hair to length, and combed it as neatly as I could. Horsehair is really coarse, tough hair. By the way, this hair was removed from a clunky fiberglass bow that I didn’t care for.  The old wooden bow is thinner, lighter, and more resonant than fiberglass. Each bow needs to be responsive and balanced, it has a huge impact on the sound and playability of the violin.



I got a length of cotton thread ready, as well as some CA glue and a toothpick.



I held the hair as straight as I could while tying the ends together, adjusted the knot, and put a drop of CA glue on the ends of the hair and thread. Once it had hardened, I trimmed it back to keep it as small as possible, without breaking the bond.




At this point, I spent a couple of hours carving a new wedge, but neglected to take pics- it was intense, and the fit is critical. Eventually, I got it to fit well into the cavity, holding the hair in place. Once I was satisfied with the fit, I put a tiny drop of hot hide glue into the cavity, inserted the hair and wedge, then pressed it into place. Held it tightly until the glue set.. then filed the underside of the wedge dead flush with the bow tip. I’m trying to keep the hair flat, flush, and straight. Reminiscent of running a six-burner stove with a one-track mind. Looks pretty good in the end, though. 😉



Once the hair was seated in the tip, I reattached the frog to the stick, trimmed a few loose/wild hairs, and ran an open flame along the length of the hair. No pics, as I really couldn’t shoot anything while holding a moving flame along the hair. I’d hate to set it on fire.. lol

The heat helped bring the hair to a more uniform tension, and helped set the bend in the tip. Turned out nicely. This took some practice to get it nice and flat, but it affects the way the bow grips the string, and I’m very picky about having the hair straight and even. Any deviation is maddening, and wrecks the response of the bow- adversely affecting both the feel and the tone.20140326_151045_resized_1



Double click the pic, and you can see the hair is pretty darn flat- which is what it must be. You may also see a bit of discoloration near the frog, this is a carbon deposit from the flame.. Luckily, I was able to clean this off with denatured alcohol. Gotta keep that fire moving at all times.



That’s it- this bow is better than it has been in decades. Still nice and straight, also has a nice curve to the stick, giving a good amount of tension to the hair. Turned out very well. 😉20140326_151141_resized_1