Spotlight: Attack of the Mad Axe Son
A guitar in need of the Guitar Doctor (Doctor)
Michael Schenker's son Tyson is a good friend and he brought in one of his Vs for some much needed attention.
The guitar was a gift from his father and Tyson has owned it for the best part of 10 years.
The Gibson V had suffered a few injuries from all the travelling it had done and we knew we had a few things to do, but more issues reared their head and we agreed to do everything needed to make it work again, and maybe better than it ever had before.
Tyson was happy for us to share the workflow with you as it looked like it would be an involved job.....We promise not to overload this with too many puns based on UFO and MSG song titles (might break that promise a bit ;)
First things first
I think the writing under the truss rod cover saying Schenker #1 lets me know who this guitar belongs to.
Unfortunately the neck to body join had sustained a break that hadn't been dealt with. There was a small degree of flex which suggested that there was a break in the tenon inside. We were going to have to break the neck out to get a chance to fix it up properly.
Earlier we popped the frets out, as once we are done we will definitely need to re-level the board and refret this beast.
OK – getting the neck out was a bit of a task but we got there. Think I'll use this opportunity to true up the 12" fingerboard radius, as it's easier to handle it out of the body.
You can easily see the areas quickly touched by the radiusing beam, and those areas that we still need to keep sanding to reach. This process will prove to be very worthwhile to the final result.
We have the whole board levelled and radiused to a 12" camber. But we do want to add a little fallaway and compound radiussing at the top end so we can set the action low and still have the upper regions of the neck play without rattle and allow silky smooth string bends.
We've elevated one end of the neck and it makes it easy to get the higher fret areas to taper away just the right amount.
And here we go – lovely fallaway and now I just need to blend the two areas
All sanded and smoothed up to 2000 grit – much smoother than they do at the Gibson factory.
Ooh – silky, shiny wood!
Glued a chipped out piece of the tenon back on.
There is still part of the tenon firmly stuck in the body rebate, which will be good to help align the neck perfectly again.
Not pretty, but it mates perfectly with the body , so looking forward to getting a good glue joint.
Surfaces all clean and ready to take fresh glue. We had to remove any traces of the old glue as we want a good wood to wood joint.
We found the piece that was always loose in the body pocket and firmly reglued it back before proceeding with our body to neck repair.
And there she goes back together in a dry run before we glue her properly. I think we'll use a shaped radius block against the fingerboard to firmly hold that down when we glue her back together.
The pickguard with a pair of Seymour Duncan Alnico 2 pro humbuckers (again a present from Schenker senior). The guitar came in with failing electrics so we'll see what she needs to get her going.
Right – this is where the original problem was (all fixed up now).
Firstly – why do Gibson and Fender put such faith in the components being earthed simply from their contact with a flimsy bit of foil under a pickguard (or a metal control plate with fender). As soon as the guitar gets dirty or things come loose everything loses it's earth path and cuts out. A proper soldered wire is what was needed. We used clear heat shrink on that wire to stop it risking short circuiting against anything.
Also, Gibson had fitted 300k pots that were reading 220k and 240k (ohms) respectively. That wouldn't be good for the high end fidelity. We swapped them out for a more traditional 500k pair (reading 450k and 420k which is due to the -10% tolerance). That will restore some high end to the pickups' sound.
We now added some screening paint – a layer of nickel that will help keep noise and interference away from the pickups and wiring harness.
Neck all glued in and solid – Tyson asked us not to go too mad touching in the chips as he kind of likes the distressed look of the guitar – says it suits him and also it tells a story of the life the guitar has had.
When we cut the fretwire, we remove the tang for a small portion at each end. The wire is cut overlong and the tang is cut to exactly the width of the fingerboard or maybe just a whisker under. This means that we don't have tang sticking out the sides of the neck.
Here is the rack of wire being prepared.
You can see as we lay the fretwire on the neck that the tang is just long enough for the width of the fingerboard. The ends of the overhang will be pushed firmly down and then trimmed when the wire is installed.
For the main part of the fretboard we will use a mix of the fret press and a trusty hammer (mainly for the ends).
So here we go – most of the main part of the board is done. We will now have to switch to one of our other presses as the arbor press starts to risk fouling the body joint.
We pulled out one of our other specialised presses – known as Jaws 3 (the sequel).
This can be fixed to the neck and can apply downward pressure to the fret to fix in the slot (We ALWAYS use glue as well).
The brass former holds down at the correct radius and we can increase the pressure on this to ensure proper seating of the fret, although the hammer gets things started .
An aerial view of Jaws 3 doing it's work.
All the frets are now in, neatly seated and glued in place.
The fret ends are still quite square and will need the faces blending in with the sides so that they are smooth to the touch.
We use a specially modified Swiss needle file with a very fine cut to round in the corners of the wire. The sides of the file have been smoothed tomake them safe and no longer cut, although we still mask alongside the fret to be worked to protect the wood.
Here we go with the ends rounded in, so that only a triangular facet shows outwards. This will be further smoothed after we do the fret dressing.
To dress the frets perfectly we use the Dan Erlewine designed neck jig that was available from StewMac. We were early adopters of this method and this jig dates back over 20 years to the late 90s.
It allows us to simulate string tension on the neck and level the frets perfectly under the same conditions it will be under when the neck is fully strung.
Frets are now all dressed, re-crowned and polished and the guitar is ready to be reassembled.
On go the strings.
We installed an Earvana nut that will improve the intonation and how in tune the guitar sounds.
The evidence of the previous neck damage can still be seen.
Pleased with the strength of the redone neck joint. I would have liked to and done some refinishing, but Tyson favoured the beaten up/reliced look
A full shot of the rear.
And the front of the guitar – all 'Ready To Rock'
Got a message a few days later from Tyson: "Guitar is awesome. Thanks again"
Tyson has two Vs. The baby one was a present given to him when he accompanied his father on a MSG world tour as a child.
We also did some restoration on the Baby V for Tyson too as time had taken a toll on the childhood guitar so now both V's are back in full working order.
Here is a recent picture of Tyson back recording with the V again