This guitar is in the throes of getting a little bit of french polish each day - which is a weird thing. Shellac gives you easy finishing. It has a property where a little bit of work with french polish loosens the shellac on the surface and it can be moved. But there is a point where it becomes a little soft, and you have to take what it gives you and then stop.
I usually am good at that.
the other day, I did something to mess up finish in the middle below the bridge and ruined the bargain, and then attempted to make up for it by flooding the repair area with shellac, which was fine, but that area dried a bit thicker than the rest of the area around it. Attempts to level it created a small near bare spot at the border and the nonsense continue (I will have to brush shellac in the dead spots and then continue on).
Why did I do that? i don't know - lack of care and then trying to work around the "easy gift" that french polishing gives - a reasonably vintage looking finish that is near gloss - no spraying, etc.
it should all be fixed by this weekend, then hardware goes in and start on the all cherry guitar next week - a little at a time.
I made a big leap this past week. Of all of the store-bought guitars that I have, none is close to the quality and workmanship of the collings. I sold my last gibson guitar in january, and this past week, I listed the last collings that I have (I guess based on the fact that I can't see a great reason to copy their pattern above and beyond any other pattern - the magic is in their work, not necessarily the pattern).
Having fought the gibsons and others at sale time to correct the problems of wood movement over time or poor quality at the outset, I've never needed to do more to a collings guitar than polish the frets and make sure none of the pots or switches have gotten scratchy. Every one of the 8 - used - is straighter than any guitar I've ever gotten from anyone else.
That said, i listed the guitar and it sold online in about 10 minutes. And that was that. It's definitely a good time to sell off excess guitars. It may not always be. Some of the guitars I ate s. on in the past unloading are up 50% now in just a matter of two years or so.
fitting out the hardware now - lots of stuff loose. The only thing not yet made is the truss rod cover (Which will probably also just be boxwood) and the knobs which I think I'll also turn out of boxwood. very 70s color scheme.
pickup rings need to be trimmed to the right angle (the neck angle is very slight), and the switch (this is switch, pickups and pots off of a les paul of some sort - probably an LPJ or some robot guitar or something as they're PCB based).
Somewhere along the way here, I got something off a half degree with the neck angle, so the bridge will be *almost* bottomed out once the saddles are slotted.
I didn't bother to sleeve the tailpiece posts, everything just goes right into the wood. Should be about 7 pounds 4 oz when done.
I mentioned losing the half degree here on the neck angle after planning for it already to be a low bridge. Well, it's just on the edge of biting me. The bridge that is unmarked is as far as I can tell, kluson (it looks identical after looking closer to last night, to the one that gibson uses).
So, I already have the bridge at the limit to get reasonable action and wanted to cut the saddles just a smidge deep to give a turn of room for them without sinking the bridge into the body a tenth of an inch or so.
However, the bridge design for kluson has the screws way up into the saddle profile (well above the bridge itself) When the saddles are back to intonate, the screws lean a little bit popping up even further - even a groove equal to string height only puts the strings very very close to the screws. I looked at gotoh's bridge, not the same thing (the screws are smaller and below the height of the bridge).
I found this out in the kluson bridge by filing a groove just over string height and the string is already laying on the bridge screw. That just sucks.
I have some spare kluson saddles for a dippy reason (some guy just sent them to me when I bought tuners - I guess he just figured he'd dump all of his extra parts in with the tuners after getting bridge saddles and tuners replaced) , so I'll fix the kluson bridge and go with gotoh from now on. I don't really see the point of having the screws sticking up so high above the bridge aside for being cheap (the kluson design allows the top of the bridge to be notched instead of having to drill holes through the bridge. )
Good lesson to be more careful about neck angle in the next guitar when pushing the limits to the same extent.
the kluson bridge itself is also taller than the gotoh (I don't keep spare bridges so I don't have others laying around to check). this build will be OK with the gotoh bridge but it's pushing the limits of taste when all is said and done and the guitar is neater all around than the first guitar but still more things to improve on. finishing the slots and playing it is on hold now until a bridge is delivered, though. Bummer.
lunch provided an opportunity today to swap saddles in the bridge as it is (for the one I filed low) and still not impressed - any saddle that's seated, the string tension from the stop bar pulls the saddle toward it slightly and lifts the screw a little bit.
The nut that I used is bone. It slotted a little to easy for my taste (it's not that hard, which probably has some effect on acoustic tone.
The guitar has a nice even sound. It's not a resonant boneshaker, but it's not weak anywhere (not as bright and more mid focused than guitar #1).
shellac on the fingerboard and neck will be nicer to play with the gloss knocked off of it. With the bridge bottomed out, the action is just where I would put it on purpose and all of the notes are clear despite no follow up truing of the frets (just leveling after installation and partial polishing just to test them).
short detour now that guitar 2 is done and guitar 3 is already halfway done in parts.
I need to start unloading stuff and the reality with older guitars is that if you're honest, you have to fix things to list them for the condition they were advertised to be in when you bought them.
This guitar (SG700) was not expensive - $600 from japan (shipping and tariff made it more like $900 total, though). It's a guitar I'd like to copy (I have the up trim neck through version of this also). I bought it from ishibashi, who I have about 50/50 success with in getting a guitar in honest condition. The neck on this one is totally wonked, and the frets are half height. There's body hump (which is sort of always on old les paul pattern guitars that don't have laminated maple necks) and when the truss rod is set neutral on this guitar, there is a hump on the low 3 strings and a huge dip on the neck in the high 3 - there's no choice but to plane the neck and refret it (other order).
Just to sell it.
I think I can do it in about 3 hours total labor (building 10 guitars has made me a fast repair person). I planed the neck with a fresh new old stock atkins super shear (I'm sure nicholson made it) and then sanded the radius to make sure it was still in spec with the radius.
Jescal 47104 will be the frets for it (the modern jumbo frets are too tall).
markings basically show the truth - the low side is C shaped between the neck hump and the nut and going around the material being removed by the super shear on the low side.
On something like this, I'm not a fan of removing all of the material across the entire neck to get it perfect if getting it 80% good removes half as much. It probably won't move again given its age (40 years old or a little more) , but what's left (I did a lot more after this of course) is just a couple of thousandths here and there.
The super shear allows dealing with this with the nut on, but it didn't fight coming off ( nobody glued it) so I removed it. I don't remember the status of the nut work, but it may have been too low after the refret, anyway, despite the moderate high frets.
Closing these build threads off for now - you can't really see 8 guitar builds over a year and not start to think they all look the same. I'll post guitars as I finish them in the "what I did today" or whatever the thread is called where finished work is shown.
parting thought with the SG series of guitars like this - it's a guitar that sells cheap. The neck and body are true older mahogany and the top is maple. The pickups sound like pafs or close and the electronics all still work, and the workmanship is very high quality. This is a guitar that kind of got lost in the shuffle and the neck throughs were nosebleed price at the top end, but the street price in japan in the late 1970s would've been about $350 equivalent US. And it's at least as good as a les paul and sounds just like one - despite the name, it's basically a better than gibson les paul DC and not as ugly as gibson's DC. It doesn't at all feel or sound like an SG (one wouldn't expect it to given the weight bulk and construction almost identical to les pauls).
I finished refretting this guitar today at lunch. In total both days to plane the neck, install the frets (only one wobbly and rather than to fix it, I just remade it).
I'm less inclined to sell this guitar quickly now . The stability of the mahogany neck (which usually presents needs for significant work in a one piece mahogany electric guitar over what's probably 45 years in the case of this one) gave me a bit of a distaste for the guitar, but for what it cost to fix ($10 in frets and figure $5 of consumables all told), Now I suddenly like it.
The pickups are high quality and it looks like the pickups and the case by themselves would sell for near the street price of the entire guitar in japan.
It is pancake, though after staying away from pancakes because the internet said to, I'm more in favor of them than multi piece bodies with poor matching. The pancakes are well matched and the boards are dead quartered, straight and ribboned. The neck was the only real issue and now that's fixed thanks to some poor man's skill.
The frets are good enough to go and if needed to be made more perfect for the picky with a specific end treatment, there wouldn't be much to do.
Here's my regimen, the end part with the fingerboard is probably important:
* flatten the frets with a file glued to a board (figure about the size of a mailing envelope)
* file (with an older regular fret file, not a diamond fret file) crown into the frets - the older files can leave some chatter in heavy cuts, but they're fast and the file that I use is cheap.
* coarse sandflex block on the frets, but a bunch at a time, gradually moving the sandflex around
* 400 grit paper on the sandflex
* then a little automotive touch up handled thing with hook and loop - 1000, 5000, 10000. The amount of time spent after crowning to have the frets functionally polished is about 10 minutes. No taping off
* then when done, linseed oil (on rosewood) and p-1000 broken in used laterally all the way up to the frets to remove any small marks and cake the pores a little (I know this isn't typical)
* then one more shuffle with the padded disc across the tops of the frets in case the sanding left a stay bit here or there, and wipe off any excess oil or black stuff.
Out of pure luck, the nut was probably never filed lower on this guitar when the frets were redone. The neck was too far out of straight to ever notice. Now with frets installed, the nut height is ...like collings.
This guitar is made with more care and feels better than the early 2000s standard that I had as my first les paul, and it's a little better than the HLS tokai. Bonkers that the market things a 70s les paul is $3500 now and this guitar is $600 in japan. It's a better guitar.
it's 9 lbs 5 oz, uncanny les paul sound, too - as in, not obscenely heavy, but very robust. The neck profile is divine, but I find that to be the case for most japanese stuff that doesn't have an outright flat (stylish at the time) thin neck.
i'm starting to suspect the kluson stuff isn't "made in usa" based on klusons wording. I think it's mostly made overseas.
Looking up where kluson tuners are made - the "company" is WD in florida, bringing in tuners from korea (vs. what used to be made in the USA).
When they talk about their line of hardware, they call it Kluson USA (R), which means that the name is a registered trademark. Grobet taught us a lesson about this by retailing Grobet Swiss and Grobet USA. Grobet USA products are generally made in india.
Kluson's page talks about the bridges being "US Made". but they never use the phrase "Made in USA or Made in the United States" which have a legal definition here.
I'm fumbling around looking for saddles for their bridges - the bridge saddles and screws cost more than the bridge itself does (with them included). Annoyed only because I want to raise the saddles from where I filed them due to their propensity to tip and sitar the strings.
I guess I"ll just buy a whole other bridge and throw out the one I have (not the end of the world), but I have to admit I'm also annoyed that they use the name Kluson USA as a registered trademark when they could say "Made in USA kluson hardware", but they would have to meet a legal standard. You can say "US made" for stuff you take out of a box and wipe with a rag.
I just looked at the tuners - they state lots of bits about being distributed by WD in florida, and then at the very end in mice type "made in korea". That's fine, I figured all of the tuners were made in korea other than waverly and their days are probably numbered. Schallers may be made in germany, too, who knows.
I wish I'd have kept the top cardboard fold from the bridge packaging (but I didn't).
I'm also annoyed by the Kluson bridge as someone sent me tuners from a USA gibson bridge, but for some reason they included all kinds of rubbish (including saddles). The screws that gibson used on a black custom from an ABR-1 bridge aren't the same as those on the "US made" kluson bridge and the saddles don't quite fit right. I'll bet the gibson bridge and the blank bridges aren't made in the same place, but wary also that gibson doesn't use all US parts in their guitars, either - I don't think the bobbins and parts in their pickups are made in the US - the pickups are, but the parts are foreign.
Where does this land in materiality? The bridge can be distributed by WD and retailed for $27 or something, and if it were truly made in the US, it would be more. If you get kluson tuners (the set I just put on the LP project are iffy - typical - 5 have even tension and the 6th (the G of all strings) is loose) for $40 per set but they'd be $85 made in the US, nobody would buy them.
The gotoh stuff made in japan may be made in japan (the average wage is a lot lower there than the US, especially in manufacturing), but japan has low standards for origin labeling so I kind of doubt it's actually made in japan. If you ever get seiko watches, they're all labeled made in japan above a fairly low price point, but only the stuff made in house is actually fully made in japan (grand seiko, etc). The price difference is a factor of 10 or more.
well, luckily I'm at least wrong about the bridge - I found a stock listing of a new bridge showing the whole packaging and top left, it says "made in USA", which does have an allowance for partially foreign made, but it's as good as you'll get in the USA where we don't really make anything end to end in all parts any longer.
well, I ordered another kluson bridge after fighting this one and received three gotohs in the mail. Two are hybrid ABR1 posts with nashville bridge. I kind of like this. The other is an ABR-1 sized bridge.
They are the same width as kluson and I don't know if there's any tonal compromise, but the gotoh bridge has saddles that sit lower, the screw is entirely retained in the bridge and can't tip up and out, and the saddles adjust very smoothly.
That'll be my last kluson bridge - and for now, I'll neglect to read what people don't like about the gotoh as I like it, the guitar sounds great and with BB pros has so much brightness (along with plenty of bass) that on my go to quick amp (marshall lead 12), the tone needs to be rolled back a little. I like this flexibility rather than having a guitar that's dark and you can't get enough tone on the neck pickup.
I'm sure there are people who don't like the gotoh bridge, though - there's someone who doesn't like everything, and with bridges into the hundreds, you can find likes and dislikes for everything. I'm getting older and when I get something that I like, I appreciate not going to the internet to read reviews and find out why I shouldn't.
I like the 80s better solid state circuits, too - for whatever reason, they respond differently to increases in master volume vs. gain (sort of like a tube amp - not quite as warm, but interestingly similar) and the gain level responds a lot to the volume knob (like a real tube amp).
This guitar is definitely more resonant and fuller than the hard maple neck and rosewood topped LP that is a bit stiff and hard for an LP despite not being that heavy. I'll give that guitar more bottom and mids and less top end by replacing the antiquity pickups with something potted, and it'll be fine.
But I do like the LP special pattern body resonance and sound profile better than the "Real les pauls". The special just has the potential to be stronger sounding when unplugged and it's easier to find the tonal profile when the body is just a body and not a bottom and top sandwich.
I forgot about something earlier this year - both of my kids are on sports teams. My hobbies in general are just about to die for a 2 1/2 month period as there are literally 60 practices and games for the two kids between then and now. Time management will dictate mostly just work and hauling kids around. But the wood and parts will age just fine until then.