Gibson ES125 Tune-Up

Dr. John has collected this beautiful ES-125 (a Gibson Electric Spanish guitar with an MSRP of $125 back when it was produced) but it sounded as if it were underwater. Could the Unbrokenstring Crew toss it a life saver?


This instrument is in collectable condition, with all original hardware. The finish is finely-checked as you would expect a seventy-year-old musical instrument to be. A new hand-wound pickup was included in the instrument case, if the original one was defective and could not be easily fixed.


Years of oxidation and skin oil had made the neck sticky, particularly when the humidity is high (which is all the time in Houston.)


The sticky finish ends at the head stock, which implies that the finish is OK but the skin oil is the culprit.


Here, fine polishing compound is mixed with Dr. Duck’s Axe Wax to rub out the finish and remove the oxidation.


Next, we will look under the pick guard to investigate where the underwater sound is coming from.


This pick guard is shaped in such a way that it holds all the controls, and only a hole for the ground wire to the bridge and a slot to clear the pickup is needed in the sound board to electrify this instrument.


The ground wire to the strings appears to be a piece of lamp cord. The solder joint around the ground wire did not alloy to the ground wire between the pots, but slides up and down the wire.


This ceramic cap is the tone cap. It bleeds off high frequency to ground under the control of the tone pot.


This tone cap is marked 0.02uF at 50 volts.


On the capacitor tester, the value is correct.


However, the dielectric is very leaky, which would probably change things in the tone circuit for the worse. This is probably where the ‘underwater’ sound comes from!


Some high quality film capacitors are retrieved from stock.


These are the same value, 0.02uF, but are rated at 400v in case the guitarist plugs the instrument into a wall socket. At least the capacitor will survive. The player, not so much…


Dr. John lives about seventy miles away. As each change was made, a sound file of the instrument was emailed to him to monitor progress.


A free copy of ProTools First and Ableton Live came with the interface, which will amazingly run pretty well on this old rack-mount controller PC that I have on the bench.


John decided that the new pickup didn’t add anything to this fine old instrument, so it remains in its original condition as of seventy years ago (with a new tone cap, of course.)

Thanks for reading all the way to the end!

CONTACT – David Latchaw EE

New Luna Ukulele Is Bent Out Of Shape

Sophie’s aunt wanted to do something to further her niece’s continuing education and eventual career in music therapy.  This nice Luna ukulele was a thoughtful gift.  Unfortunately, there were many dead notes.  Could the Unbrokenstring Crew bring those notes back to life?

Inside the bag is a ukulele, some picks, a tuner, and an instructional DVD!


The words for “Peace” in forty-four languages are engraved into the soundboard of this instrument. All you hippies will recognize the peace sign in the sound hole.


Sure enough, there are several notes on the fret board, near the nut, that are muted out.


Name, rank, and serial number, please.


I am not sure what this number is…


The fret rocker shows a very tiny difference in fret height, when checking between adjacent frets.


However, a straight edge reveals that the neck is back-bowed. The tape just keeps the machinist’s scale upright so I could take the picture.


I recorded the string height for all posterity. This is not far from right for a ukulele. Some authorities say it’s too high, others say too low. Whatever.


The fret wire height is not adequate to support a fret level job. The back bow is just too much. Yes, the back bow is more than 0.040 inch on each end of the fret board!


My guess is, the fret board will need to be reshaped. Here, I’m recording the width of the fret wires.


Concert ukuleles are tuned A – E – C – G, with the bottom string, sometimes called String 1, the highest pitch. This G string diameter is about 0.022 inch.


The C string is about 0.030 inch.


The E string is the largest, measuring about 0.035 inch.


The drone string is tuned to A above the G. This string measures about 0.025 inch.


Interestingly, the fret board has about a 20 inch radius, while the nut and saddle are absolutely flat. The Luna Guitars Web site specs this instrument with a flat fret board, too. I’ve decided to re-flatten the entire fret board. The nut must come off. Here, I’m cutting the finish so that the nut can be removed cleanly.


I love whacking musical instruments with a hammer. I find it strangely satisfying.


The saddle slips out of its slot. You can see that there is no radius in the saddle at all.


The Smoking Gun. There is not enough string tension in the world to straighten this neck. It also has a twist. It doesn’t matter that this instrument has no truss rod because it wouldn’t help.


Visually, we can see the wavy fret board and a clear radius. How did this instrument leave the factory?


Let’s get the tuners out of the way.


I made this fret remover from an inexpensive set of end nippers from Harbor Freight.


These frets over the body are easily removed.


Before the woodworking begins in earnest, let’s tape everything off.


Some cardboard protects the entire soundboard.


The strategy is to flatten the fret board on the belt sander.


This little belt sanding station came from Harbor Freight.


Some of the safety covers were removed to enable the instrument to set flat on the sanding belt. Do not attempt this at home, kids!


The eighty-grit sanding belt begins to make an impression on the fret board. This fret board appears to be rosewood, but the Web site says that this instrument is all mahogany. Dunno about that.


With a twist that bad, we can easily inspect our progress.


Now I am wondering what I got myself into.


Back to it! Many thanks to my wife Glenda for taking these pictures.


Serious amounts of sanding dust are produced, so we are outside today.


Another check shows that we are not there yet.


The sanding belt is doing its work.


What is it going to take to get this straight?


Sanding dust is going everywhere. No scorch marks yet!


I am pleased that the fret markers are still intact.


Very light pressure is used now to clean up the surface.


Now we’re getting somewhere.


Continuing on, producing sanding dust like crazy.


Now I’m thinking that I need to be careful not to go too far.


Most of the fret board is flat. There is still some fall-away over the body of the ukulele, which is OK with me.


Last few strokes on the belt.


The twist is gone and most of the fret board is absolutely flat. I thought that the noise of sanding would drive the cats away, but we see Jack on the bottom step in the lower left corner of this picture.


The luthier’s scraper shows that the fret board is flat.


The sharp scraper is an excellent tool to finish raw wood.


The fret slots at fret six and seven are almost gone. I really don’t think that this fret board is mahogany.


Fret slot ten is almost gone.


One end of the fret slots over the body IS gone. Yes, it was that bad.


My fret saw was set to 0.054 inch, which is the depth of the new fret tangs.


Every slot was taken down to about 0.055 inch.


These short sections of small fret wire are perfect for this instrument.


Each fret was installed, and nipped to length after installation. The long ends were the pieces at the end of the short strips that weren’t long enough to fill another fret. They get nipped off separately.


After nipping, this file embedded in a block of nylon files the fret ends 90 degrees to the fret board. Moving the file to another slot allows the fret crowns to be filed to a 60 degree angle to the fret board. I love eBay!


Checking for flatness, these frets are ABSOLUTELY flat, which is not surprising.


The fret ends are shaped and burnished by hand, and the fret wires are lightly sanded. As with a classical guitar, the frets are not polished, but finely sanded in the same direction as that of the string.


The original nut was reused, and re-slotted to restore the original 0.060 inch string height. The nut was just right as it was. The fret board was oiled. New strings complete the job. All the notes are present and accounted for!

Thanks for reading all the way to the end!

CONTACT – David Latchaw EE


Epiphone PR-5E Acoustic Gets New Electronics

This wonderful instrument was rescued from an abandoned house.  It sounded good acoustically, so the new owner asked if the Unbrokenstring Crew could repair the electronics and get it playable again?  Let’s get to work!

This instrument is only a few years old, purchased and then cast aside.


An online source for specialty guitar parts had a 2018 model of the electronics.  Can we make it work?


The mounting scheme uses four screws in the corners.  Cleats will be added to the guitar so that the screws hold.


But the REAL advantage of the 2018 electronics is that the enclosure matches the curve of the body.


Common wood items such as yard sticks, tongue depressors, popsicle sticks, and paint stirrers are made from birch, the straight-grained ‘poor relation’ to maple.  So the paint department lady at Home Depot gave me this stirrer.


Cleats to tightly hold the electronics in the body are fabricated by hand.


Next, the cleats are sanded to fit the curve of the body on the inside of the bout.


These are ready to trial-fit.  The bevel on the corner, lower-left side, clears an internal brace in the guitar.


One shim goes here.  Note the angled pieces, which will catch the screws in the electronics.


To protect the finish, low tack painter’s tape is used all around.


These clamps will hold the cleats in place as the hide glue sets up.


Both cleats are installed and the hide glue is curing.


Additional reinforcement is added in the corners to give the screws more material to grip.  These bits will be in compression, so they don’t need to be super-strong, only tough.


Before we get too far, we need to do another trial fit.


I think we’re going to be good here!


I will pre-drill the holes where the screws will be installed.  This should minimize splitting of the small cleats.


The actual drilling will be finger-powered, using this pin vise.


All four holes are pre-drilled.


Yes, I know.  This isn’t terribly interesting.


The screws are installed.  Not bad!


The jack plate holds the battery and has both 1/4th inch phone plug and balanced XLR connections.  It was temporarily removed to give more access to the interior of the instrument.  The new electronics hook right up to the jack plate.


This is a new one on me.  This battery was in the guitar when it came in.  The Golden Thumbs-Up Emoji Award!


And, while we’re here, we’ll clean the instrument, string it, and do a setup.


The electronics come alive!


This is a cool tuner.  The LCD screen has a pointer that swings across its face.


Beauty is skin-deep, but what really counts is just below the surface.  This rescued guitar is ready to make music!

Thanks for reading all the way to the end!

CONTACT – David Latchaw EE

Jasmine Classical Guitar Needs a Setup

Sophia’s classical guitar had developed a buzzing string.  Perhaps the humidity changes had changed the geometry of the instrument.  She immediately called The Unbrokenstring Crew to take a look at it!
This instrument has a truss rod, something a little out of the ordinary for classical guitars.


This is an Indonesian instrument, with lots of mahogany throughout.


Using the truss rod adjustment, we make the fret board as flat as we can get it.


My Super Duper Absolutely Flat sanding bar goes to work on some high frets.


Can you see where the metal has been removed?  This is near the tenth and eleventh frets.


One side of the fifth fret was particularly high.  This was the source of the original buzz.


The wreckage was bad over the body of the guitar, where the fret board was probably glued straight to the sound board.


Before we crown the frets, the fret board will be taped off.


To clean and condition the fret board, Dr. Duck’s Axe Wax goes to work.


These strings are going back on the instrument.


The strings are nicely tied off at the block here.


The stringing process is documented in earlier blog posts.  Everything is going well here!


Sophia performs live while standing.  So, we’ll add a strap button to the instrument lower bout here.


The hole for the pin clears the body of the screw.


This strap pin is just above the center line of the instrument. so that it will hang flat against her body.


This strap pin is from an inexpensive electric guitar that had strap locks installed.  It goes nicely with the binding.


At her favorite venue, Dunn Brothers Coffee in Friendswood TX, Sophia tunes up with an app on her phone.  Life Is Good!

Thanks for reading all the way to the end!

CONTACT – David Latchaw EE

Red Ibanez A200 Acoustic Electric Guitar Gets Fixed Right

Sophia called The Unbrokenstring Crew after her prized red Ibanez acoustic/electric quit during a gig.  Could we fix it?

This is a surprisingly solid instrument, with a red finish that just won’t quit.


I also have a similar Chinese acoustic electric which is a surprisingly good guitar for the money.


The tuner still worked although the output from the guitar was silent.  Therefore, the problem is between the electronics and the output jack.  The electronics and tuner are removed to gain access.


That didn’t take long to find.  Someone had just soldered the wire to the connector pin.  This eventually flexed and failed.


The other end of the broken cable goes to the output jack.  The balanced output jack is a nice touch.


Let’s try to take some pics inside the guitar.  But we need more light.  This LED flashlight will do the job.


This is inside the guitar.  The wire tie holds the harnesses in place so that they don’t rattle while the instrument is played.


I didn’t need to remove the piezo pickup, but I’m taking it out of the guitar anyway so that it is not damaged.  The pickup and the tuner are one piece, so we can store them all safely while other work proceeds.


Meet Ms. Output Jack.


The broken cable solders to the circuit board.  The location and function of the wires is recorded in the notebook.


The unbalanced TRS output jack is wired to the circuit board as shown.  This picture is for documentation purposes.


Can you see a problem?  The TRS output jack should fit down inside bosses molded into the body of the output jack assembly.  Whoever tried to fix this before installed the TRS jack 90 degrees out from where it belonged.


This is the end of the broken cable.


A new cable was secured from a guitar junkyard on eBay.  Looks the same, doesn’t it?


The old cable was desoldered and the new one installed as shown.  We are ready to solder the wires to the PCB.


Soldering complete.  Note that the TRS jack, on the right, is correctly installed now.


The output jack goes where it belongs.


Before we install the electronics, let’s show a little love to the bridge with some Dr. Duck’s Axe Wax.


The new cable installs as shown.  I think this pic was taken while I was still testing everything out prior to reassembly.


I forgot to ask Sophia what gauge of strings she wanted.  These are probably 11s.


A phone call confirmed that these were what she wanted!  This guitar is repaired better than it was when Sophia purchased it.  The Unbrokenstring Crew makes the world just a little better than it was before.

Thanks for reading all the way to the end!

CONTACT – David Latchaw EE


Luna Gypsy Spalted Acoustic Guitar Needs Fretwork

Sophia of “Pretty In Punk” purchased this guitar new, but it was almost unplayable. Could the Unbrokenstring Crew get this beautiful instrument in shape?

Nearly every fret was higher or lower than the one next to it.  To mask the problem, the action was very high.

We straightened the neck itself so that it was absolutely flat, then used the Absolutely Flat sander across the frets.

Here, you can see the large amount of material removed from one fret, but not the others.

More material removed from the high frets.

Oh, look, here is another high fret.

Here, three frets in a row were high.

Getting close to the sound board, we’re running out of high frets to sand.

After sanding, we marked the top edge of the frets so we don’t take any more material from them.

This nifty fret file works only on the sides of the fret to round them over.  This file was reviewed in an earlier blog post.

Now, we’re getting somewhere.  This fret board is flat and the frets are even.

Sophia prefers these strings.

If you look closely, some of the over-wound strings at the end almost crested the top of the saddle.  If they get too close, I have some washers that slip over the string and sit on the ball end.  The string would then be passed thru the hole in the bridge from the inside of the guitar.  However, when tuned to standard pitch, we had no trouble here.  Missed It By That Much!


I think she’s happy with the results!

Thanks for reading all the way to the end!

CONTACT – David Latchaw EE

Breedlove 12 String Breaks Strings

I saw Leo Kottke in concert on a Thursday evening in 1975.  The next day, I gave up on the guitar solely because I felt so overwhelmed by his talent and felt unworthy to ever touch a guitar again. Confronting my sick, twisted fears from that traumatic experience included resuming my music studies thirty-five years later.  Doing her part to attack my illness, my Darling Bride, who went with me on that fateful night, purchased this Korean-made Breedlove Stage Concert guitar for me.

In standard tuning, the high G string broke more often than not. What to do?  I started by re-chamfer and polishing the edge of the hole in the tuner where the string passes.  The breaks appear to occur when the G string passes across the hole in the tuner.  When the string passes across the hole, a stress concentration could occur right at the chamfer.


Here is a bit copied out of my Breedlove’s Owners Manual.  The stock high G string is 0.008 inch.


These came from Strings By Mail. Many individual strings can be purchased ala-carte from them.


My plan is to throw conventional wisdom to the wind and add enough string to the post so that the portion of the string leaving the post only touches the round portion of the post, not the hole nor its chamfer.  Here, I am measuring the broken string to establish where the stress concentration occurred.


Then I added the length of the string that was broken off, then estimated the circumference of the hourglass-shaped tuning post and multiplied times 12.  The plan is to get enough static string on the post to cover the hole, preventing the portion of the string leaving the post on a tangent from getting anywhere near the hole.  Putting more than three or four wraps of string around a tuning post is generally frowned on, because the more string wound on the post, the longer it takes for the tuning to stabilize.  We’ll see…


I love the bridge on my Breedlove.  I don’t have to reach inside the guitar to push the bridge pegs out nor verify that the ball ends are up against the peg and bottom of the sound board..


The ala-carte strings have ball ends that do not necessarily match the color codes used in the sets.  Who would notice??


I polished and chamfered the hole edge to the best of my ability.


To keep the loose string end under control while fiddling with the length of the new string, I put my classical guitar capo across the neck to corral the G string.


Here’s the G string.  I can grab it, pull it, handle it, measure it, trim it, pull it, and it won’t get away from me.


I estimated the additional string length in a previous step, and am adding it here.


We have all been here.  Wish me luck!


Here is eleven turns of the G string around the post.  Uh oh.  I am a little short of covering the hole.


But, tuned up to pitch, the portion of the string that tangentially leaves the tuning post is no where near the hole.


Here is another view, showing the smooth transition from the last wrap.  I don’t think we will see the sharp bend in the portion of the string that leaves the tuning post tangentially that would occur if the guitar were tuned and the string were bent over the edge of the hole in the tuner.

My original goal was to load up the tuning post with enough string to cover the hole entirely, thus eliminating the chance that the portion of the string leaving on a tangent toward the nut would experience a sharp bend across the tuning post hole.  But, I lucked out this time, and now the string is no where near the hole.  Thus, I could have reduced the number of turns of string on the post.  Not too bad for my first investigation.

I have not broken the high G string on my 12 string guitar since these pictures were taken.  The high G string has stayed in tune while playing and does not appear to de-tune between sessions any more so than the other strings.

Thanks for reading all the way to the bottom!

CONTACT – David Latchaw EE

Plato de Golpeado On Highly-Figured Wood

While lost in conversation with a friend, I picked up this guitar and started playing a few scales. The guitar was FANTASTIC!  Had I not been distracted, I never would have picked up such a presumptuous, pimped-out guitar. But this guitar will replace my stolen Rogue RD-80 acoustic.

I’m not too proud to show off the price tag. Minnie Pearl would be proud!

This thing is so flashy, traffic will pull off the road to let it drive by!

Eye candy all around!

Even the head stock is done in figured wood and mother of pearl.

While we’re gawking, check out these tuners; Really nice for an inexpensive guitar.

But, the darned thing was made in China. Gotta take the good with the bad.

Note that the nut is stepped, not uncommon on Ibanez guitars.

The intonated saddle is apparently made of the same stuff as the nut.  Ibanez calls this “Ivorex II”

My bride purchased this guitar. I took it home and did a setup. The fret board was as dry as the Sahara.

Likewise, the bridge hadn’t seen much care in a few years.

The previous owner was a smoker. Everything was covered with nicotine.

Something else that hadn’t seen much care in the last few years was the battery compartment.

The battery box needed a big clean-up.

Let’s string it up!

Among flamenco enthusiasts, the plato de golpeado, or tap plate, protects the sound board of the guitar from the finger taps, or golpes, a rhythmic percussive element of flamenco music.

This guitar has no pick guard, and I don’t want to put a pick guard that would hide the view.  However, a clear tap plate may be just the ticket to protect the sound board.

This product is a simple way to add a pick guard and not spoil the view.

A pair of scissors works this material easily.

Here is the other side cut to shape.  I rounded the corners to avoid sharp corners that would snag something.

One end is stuck down, and the rest of the backing is removed.

Another view of the peel and stick process.

In this view, you can see tiny air bubbles under the pick guard.  We can burnish these away.

A lint-free rag and some elbow grease is necessary at this step.

That’s better!

Jen puts this wonderful guitar through its paces.  No pick scratches on this guitar’s sound board!

Here is another review:

And a little bit more about how this model sounds (mine sounds like this but I can’t play it as well…)

Thanks for reading to the end!

CONTACT : David Latchaw EE

Gibson C-0 Classical Guitar Fret Dress

An interesting tool came in the mail from the good folks at Grizzly Tools. This file is polished smooth, with two quarter-round concave file surfaces on opposing corners. It can be used as an alternative to the traditional fret dressing file. Let’s try it out on my 1968 Gibson C-0 classical guitar, that was cleaned up in an earlier post but could still benefit from a thorough fret dressing.  (Photo courtesy of Stewart McDonald.)

I’ve recently added a leather sandbag to my luthiere tool set. The little bunny ears really hold the neck securely. NOTE: Be Aware that this bag is sold as a rest for use at the gun range, but makes an awesome neck support.

The mat is a section of a floor covering used in gyms.  These mats are often used underneath workout machines and in the free weight areas.  They are tough and plenty cushy, just the thing for your luthier’s workbench.  And one mat can be slit into enough pieces to outfit four or five guitar workstations.

I covered the sound board with a sheet of corrugated cardboard. No sense in risking any damage to that fifty-year-old piece of cedar!  A pair of heavy-duty scissors is barely adequate for the job.

So here’s the cardboard sound board cover at work.  This will keep stuff out of the sound hole as well as help prevent gouging the guitar.

The frets are leveled with emery paper glued to this straight edge.

Here we are going to work with the new file. The file works best with the wide part of the blade vertical to the fret board when going along the length of the fret wire.  You can see a little black magic marker on the tops of each fret wire, which serves as a visual indicator on where (and where not) to remove material.

With this file, I did not feel it was necessary to tape off the fret board because the filed particles were not small enough to lodge in the grain of the rosewood. Also, the thickness of a layer of tape would have held the blade of the file away from the corners of the fret wire ends that needed to be dressed. The fret wires were very smooth after the filing was complete, so the fret polishing was almost trivial.

The creation of this saddle was documented in an earlier post. We’re ready to restring!

I can say that these strings are excellent! They are just a tiny bit smaller in diameter than the Augustine strings I had been using, and no intonation problems. These are a keeper!

Some customers wanted more pictures of how I tie off the classical guitar strings at the bridge tie block. Note that the ends of each string is tied underneath the loop of the string next to it.  I start at string one (high E) and then secure the end in the loop of the next lower string.  This looks neat and really assures me that the knot will not come loose and the string come untied.

Here, I’m taking my time to show how the last string (string six or low E) is tied off.  The direction of the wrap forming the loop is in the opposite direction of the wrap used on the higher strings.  This causes the free end of the E string to ‘point’ in the direction of the A string, in whose loop it shall be secured.

Now the knots in both strings are pulled tight. You can now see how the A string really holds everything in place.  The end of the A string projects through the loop of string six (the low E.)  We’re done here.

As I work on this guitar more and more, it gets better and better. These new strings sound wonderful. Leveling and dressing the frets make every note crisp and clean all the way up and down the fret board. The Grizzly fret file is a keeper!

Thanks for reading all the way to the end!


CONTACT: David Latchaw EE


Yamaha G240 Classical Guitar Refurb

Donny mentioned that this beautiful 1970s era Yamaha needed a set of strings.  Turns out, it could use a little TLC.  The Unbrokenstring Crew steps up to the plate to bring this classical guitar up to speed!


Intended as a student guitar, these wonderful old Yamaha guitars rival many medium priced guitars found today.


The serial number is hand-stamped on a soundboard brace.


At the time, we considered Made In Taiwan as junk.  Nowadays, that was the Good Stuff!  How times change…


Obviously the nut is unglued, but note that the rosewood fingerboard had been painted black, to give the appearance of ebony.  Such was the snobbery found in the classical guitar world back in the 1970’s.  My first classical guitar sported a black painted fingerboard, and it looked a lot like this after years of playing.  Nothing to be ashamed of nowadays.  In another fifty years, we’ll be playing guitars with synthetic Richlite fingerboards, and consider rosewood fingerboards as ‘high end’ and collectible.


This diamond file is removing the old glue and truing up the gluing surface on the neck.


The diamond file is working on the end grain of the fingerboard.  That little cavity under the nut is not for a truss rod, but rather appears to be a slot for a stiffener of some sort.  Classical guitars seldom use truss rods to counteract string tension, as nylon string tension is about a third of the tension created by steel strings.


Any glue remaining on the nut itself comes off using the mill file.


Some alcohol on a rag cleans off residue on the nut.


Time to clear out the old DNA and tune up the string slots in the nut.


This is a serrated wire used to clean orifices on cutting torch tips.  They are often re-sold for many times the price by companies servicing the luthier craft.  Just get yours from the car parts store or a good tool store.


The tip cleaners come in many sizes, so just use a micrometer to select the correct size for your application.  Here, I’ve moved to the B string.  The rest of the slots are clean and smooth, so I’m done here once this slot is smooth.


Looks good!  We’re ready for some hide glue.  But how do I clamp it down?


How about using a couple of the old strings, brought up to tension, to keep the nut in place for a day or so?


This guitar was missing the saddle.  Here, I’m shaping a piece of Vietnamese water buffalo bone on the belt sander.


The water buffalo bone is incredibly hard, a natural material, and a renewable resource as opposed to ivory.  Some of the new synthetics are good, but I have this in stock and I love grossing out the other Unbrokenstring Crew members.  Bone? Dead animals?  Yuck!


The Yamaha saddle is about 0.100 inch thick.  These blanks are about 0.140 inch thick to start.  After a few minutes, I’m down to 0.137 inch.


We are at 0.131 inch.


Down to 0.121 inch.


Can you read this one?  0.115 inch.


Almost there!  We’re at 0.103 inch thick.


As George Bush would say, we have destinated!


The trial-fit part of our program is complete.  Note that the saddle is a little long.  There is a method in my madness here.  Let me introduce you to a real luthier who can explain what I’m trying to accomplishing here:

Q: Why do the British like Lucas refrigerators?

A: Because they like warm beer.

Seriously, the last thing I want to use on a fine musical instrument is lubricant that oxidizes and turns into gum.  Synthetic lubricants don’t oxidize, and so make a better choice when metal-to-metal lubrication is needed.  Such as in tuning machines.  This Lucas product is thick enough to stay in place when assembling engines.  This lubricant will stay in place on a musical instrument.


I need to install some strings in order to set the action at the twelfth fret.  Before I do much more with these tuning machines, I will lubricate them and set the gear mesh so that the guitar will stay in tune yet the tuners will run smoothly.


I re-used a couple of the old strings to accomplish the string height setup.  One of them has a ball end!


Stupid Me.  The old strings were worn and did not have a constant cross section.  Thus, I got weird, inconsistent readings.  I’ll use a new string.


Same with the high E string.  A new string is pressed into service in order to complete the setup.


The top edge of the saddle will be rounded off in order to remove any sharp edges that may cut the strings.  A rounded top edge also allows a single point to support the string, resulting in better sustain.


Now that we have the saddle to the proper dimensions, every surface will be polished with a high speed buffer.


The bottom edge of the saddle blank gets special attention.  Here the blank is set level with the jaws of the vise.  The jaws will act as a guide to keep everything straight and true.  A polished, flat surface against the bridge will permit the best transfer of energy from the strings to the soundboard.  The variation in color in this piece of bone is due to the changes in orientation of the grain of the calcium in the bone.  This gives an almost opalescent appearance to the saddle.


The top of the blank is polished, yielding a hard surface to support the strings.  Note that this end of the blank is curved.  This marks the orientation of the saddle; the rounded end points in the direction of string 1 (high E.)


The faces of the saddle are polished as well, mainly for appearance.  Note again the presence of the calcium grain.


Time to string it up.  Here you can see the wedge shape of the saddle, which allows the user to set the action height.


All laced up!  The free end of the adjacent string is secured in the loop of the next string over.  I’ve never had to retie a string or tie an additional knot when tying the string ends off in this manner.


She plays beautifully and the intonation is perfect!

Thanks for reading all the way to the end!

David Latchaw  EE