It was his Father's, who passed in 1985. We first talked in July 2018, and I forgot about it. I was in the middle of many projects. I contacted him about 4 weeks ago to see if he was still interested. He was and sent it from Arizona 9 days ago. It arrived packed absolutely fantastic!!
The guitar is in pretty good shape, with many light dings and scratches all over, but nothing major. The action is definitely high, and the saddle is low. AND, the frets are low and very flat. Between .020" & .030", vs. the normal .040"/.045". There's nothing left to be able to crown. I could just replace the first 15 frets, or just do them all and sand the fretboard level. He also asked if I'd install an LR Baggs pickup.
I'll post pictures and hopefully take the neck off tomorrow.
The first step of a neck reset is to get the neck off. It is sometimes easy, sometimes brutal. This one has been a little of both.
ALWAYS cut the lacquer around the heel joint FIRST! Including the bottom.
Put tape around the fretboard, soundhole and bridge to protect them.
The heat shield to protect the top.
The heat from a 75W halogen bulb.
The steam generator (modified cappuccino machine) and the guitar clamped in the neck jig.
My FG-140 in the background.
And now the brutal part. Some fretboards separate clean, some do not. I could feel from the beginning the spatulas wouldn't go into the glue joint, they dove into the top. I tried probing from all sides at different angles. It was a tough one.
At least the neck joint came apart cleanly. Only a little of the side stuck to the heel.
And a chunk of the top is still on the fretboard extension. I'll remove that and reglue it to the top.
The heel and dovetail are pretty clean.
The top glued and clamped. Since the surface isn't flat (a piece is still stuck to the fretboard) I used a piece of cork and 4 clamps to hold it all down. A piece of wax paper is under the cork to keep it from getting glued to the top.
Tonight I'll unclamp it and see what it looks like. And remove the piece of top still attached to the fretboard and glue it back to the top. And maybe remove all the frets.
I did find the top had separated from the neck block. No big deal, I'll glue that back down after the next step. I need to add that to my Neck Reset Guide. Ignoring that can cause big problems down the road.
Removed the top stuck to the fretboard and glued it back to the top.
Removed all the frets!!! MAN, where some of them tough to get out!! There was absolutely no gap under most of them. I have the good Stew Mac fret removal pliers and I couldn't get under them. Many times I just clipped a bit off the top of the fret. I eventually got them all out!! No chips!!
And one more for the night! I epoxied the top to the neck block. Opened the gap with a spatula, stuck tooth picks in the corners, mixed some epoxy, heated the epoxy with a hair dryer to thin it, and wiped it into the crack with my finger. A few times. Then clean up, quickly remove the tape, clean up some more, clamp, and clean up some more. It cleans up nicely with isopropyl alcohol, before it cures.
It's been over a week since the last update! A week ago I started leveling the fretboard.
This shows how deeply the pressed the frets into the fretboard. No surprise the frets were so hard to get out!!
After 1 week of no progress today I decided to take a half day vacation and get something done. I had been working on leveling the fretboard. It was tough because there was a hump between the 12th & 15th frets. Using a 4" radius block just followed the contour. A longer block would keep it in line with the other end of the fretboard. Stew Mac sells an 18" long aluminum radius beam for $168!! That's nuts!! So I made my own out of 2 radius blocks and a piece of rectangular aluminum extrusion I got from work. I taped the radius blocks to the aluminum extrusion, then taped 80 grit emery paper to the 16" radius block. That brought the hump down quickly. Then I smoothed the whole surface with the 15" radius block.
Now I need to widen and deepen the tret tang slots. Then bang in the frets.
I just got home from taking the wife to see Ford vs. Ferrari. It was pretty good, although it started a bit slow.
But before I left I got all the fret slots opened. Fixed a couple of chips. AND, filled the 2 remaining fretboard divots. They're the slightly darker spots in the 1st & 2nd fret areas.
I also designed and 3D printed a drill jig for the tuner mounting holes. Here it is on a test block. The dowel pin sticks out the same amount on both sides. The jig flips over (LS) to drill the holes on the other side of the headstock. I'll be using it on the YamaXL this weekend. There's tab under the clamp. I'll take more pictures tomorrow. The arrow signifies the top of the headstock. The first version didn't have it and I drilled the holes upside down in the test block. Don't want to do that in an actual headstock.
Next, the frets need to be glued in, just in case. Some of the slots can be a little loose because I'm opening up existing slots, the saw tends to bind and is hard to control. I use super thin superglue, only available at good hobby stores, not the medium stuff you get at Home Depot or Walmart. It's actually thinner than water and will find and run into any crack. I use a "whip tip" to get a thinner line of glue.
When I've previously done this I had a long clean up because the glue would soak into the fretboard and get on the frets. Unfortunately, it's hard to hold the bottle steady while trying to move it sideways across the base of the fret. Some glue can end up where it isn't intended. Cleanup involves scraping, sanding, and steel wooling. But, as usual, I try to find ways to improve my process. I've used Renaissance Wax (courtesy of Beau Hannam) to coat a couple of bridges before gluing them on. This keeps the glue from sticking to the sides of the bridge, making cleanup easier. Why not do the same thing with frets???
Instead of just letting it rip on someone else's guitar, I took a few frets out of a scrap neck, sanded the fretboard clean, installed a couple of frets, and tested it. It worked fantastic!! The glue wicked under the fret and I wiped any excess away with a paper towel, leaving very little residue on the fretboard. Cleanup was easy!!! It's a winner!!!
Last night I taped the fretboard and filed the fret ends flush to the sides and added a slight bevel.
Tonight I leveled the fret tops. The one problem is the neck has a slight back bow, even with the truss rod loose. That will disappear once the strings are on, but I've been trying to taper the frets towards the first fret without taking too much off all the frets. Checking with the fret rocker and feeler gages I'm finding about a .002 gap at the high E & G 1st fret. I think I'll stop for the night and check it tomorrow.
I rechecked the fret level and found it was a little more off than I thought yesterday. So I did more sanding. And more sanding. And more sanding. Many of the frets look very flat, but the worst measure .035" high with the tape. They started at .045".
Then I moved on to crowning the frets. Here are all the tools. I used my new 3 corner Cant file from LMII and the 300 grit diamond crowning file from Stew Mac. There's no replacement for the right tools for the job.
Then I rounded over the fret ends with the Stew Mac Fret End Dressing file.
Then the fun fine sanding all the rough sanding marks with 600 grit wet/dry paper.
Done for the night. My hands are tired.
Tomorrow I'll sand the frets with 1500 grit. Then 0000 steel wool. Then the tape comes off and hit the fretboard and frets with 0000 steel wool.
Today I remembered I need to epoxy in a bridge plate patch to cover some splintered holes in the bridge plate. It's 1/16" thick maple. This is fun because I have to handle (with one hand) an epoxy covered piece of wood and place it accurately inside the guitar without dropping it or getting epoxy all over the place. And it's blind, I don't know if I got it in the right place until the epoxy is set. I also have to hold a wax paper covered block against it while clamping it with the other hand. Tomorrow I'll drill thru it, backing it up with a piece of wood so the holes don't splinter, and taper ream.
Then I sanded all the frets with 1500 grit. Fun stuff!!
I'll be getting back to the neck reset this weekend!! My goal is to have the neck on by the end of the month. Christmas is 2 weeks from today! Then let it hang at full tension for a month to let the guitar find it's new normal. Then finalize the setup.