Sunday, May 04, 2008

Anatomy of a Guitar Rebuild

As soon as I got to Ethan's we had the chocolate croissants I brought from Sweet Melissa. It's always a good idea to start with chocolate croissants.

Then Ethan took the neck off my guitar and started fitting the new neck.

But uh... something was wrong...

Ethan looks at the pre-drilled holes in the Warmoth neck.

The first thing that happened was we discovered that the body of the guitar, and the old neck, has holes drilled in non-standard places. Oops. That meant we (when I say "we" I mean "Ethan") had to fill the old holes on the neck and drill new holes.

Whew, that was better!

Now it was time for the real work to begin.

Ethan then glued up the piece of cow-bone to the neck and we let that set for a half hour and went into his living room and played some of his gazillions* of guitars.

Upon returning he carefully wrapped the guitar to protect it and then began the long and tedious job of filing and sanding and perfecting the nut. This took many hours and a trip to the local Thai restaurant. Much seltzer was consumed.

But the work is simply excellent. Getting all the grooves for the strings to be just right is part magic and part science and when done right (the old guitar neck's nut wasn't) makes all the difference in the world. And the work on this instrument is totally pro. It's beautiful. Wow.

Can you tell I'm impressed?

It took a long time of stringing the guitar, checking the action, unstringing, gently filing, rinse, wash, repeat. For each of the six strings.

Then, many hours later, Ethan started the setup of the instrument.

The first thing Ethan did with the guitar was to lower the pickups. That was totally counterintuitive to me. But it turned out to be an excellent idea and the guitar sounds much better for it. The strings interact with the pickups and the pickups can actually dampen the strings. But now I have sustain which lasts for days. Months maybe. I don't know, I haven't had the guitar for that long to test it.

Also, lucky for us, the guitar was shockingly close to being in intonation and setup when it was first strung. I said I'd played guitars in guitar shops that were "setup" as well. Ethan said he had too, just never bought any.

In any case, the setup was pretty painless and the intonation of the thing is fabulous. I played a really good '57 reissue at Matt Umanov's which felt very much what my new (and much better - looking) guitar feels like.

The sound of the guitar was instantly recognizable as being acoustically louder. Not only does it feel good, but it sounds fantastic. I can get a wider range of sound with it now, even without changing the pickups. When I switch different pickups on and off I can actually travel through time. . .

Now my guitar just needs a name.

*number is approximate but in the right ballpark


jengordonthomas said...

your guitar is VERY cool and i am very jealous. ack.
i think you should name her Carmella.

Andrew Bellware said...

No need to be jealous! We can get you the parts to make your very own guitar! ;-)

I don't generally like caramels, so even though it's the right color I just... I just don't know...

Anthony said...

The Drewinator? The Original Alfalfa? Charlene? Elspeth? I like Elspeth.