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