Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Better intonation and setup again

So way back when, about a post ago, when I fretted the bass strings at the twelfth fret, it looked like this on my chromatic tuner:

My saddle was about 0.5mm - 1.0mm short on the bass side. In order to remedy the situation, I knew I was going to have to rout a wider saddle slot, but how to do it?

I wound up making this saddle slot jig. Stewmac's is $150. Mine cost $0.30. While I was working on that, I also had my Porter Cable laminate trimmer repaired. Thankfully, when I took the router apart earlier in the summer, and the springs and motor bushings flew out all over the place, the local Porter Cable center chose not to later void my warranty.

Here's my jig:

It took me weeks to plan it out and set it up. But doing the deed was a simple outpatient procedure. I used a Whiteside 1/8" spiral downcut bit. Took just a few minutes.

I was sweatin' bullets while I was cutting the new slot, but measuring it 449 times paid off. It worked!

After routing the new slot, I made a new bone saddle. And having the strings off again for so long, gave me the opportunity to really go over the frets and level them as well as I could. Setup and playability, as well as intonation, are now much improved.

Here's what the new saddle looks like. It's kinda wide. But I have seen wider. If Don doesn't like it, I can fill in the front and install a narrow saddle again. As is, will be more stable, though.

Another thing I did while I had the strings off during the month of August, was go over and over (and over) the finish, trying to gloss up everything and remove funky spots.

It is a hand-rubbed finish, so you can't really compare it to a factory sprayed finish, in regards to looks. Doing so is an exercise in frustration, I've learned. But I'm really pleased with the overall look, more or less. And I love the sound. It's a real gem of a guitar.

I'm giving it to Don on Saturday, three days from now...

So here are the first and second acoustic guitars I ever built, side by side. (This picture was taken before I fixed the pickguard, and widened the saddle on #2).


  1. absolutely beautiful. I have a story to share regarding your comment about the finish. I was in an acoustic guitar building class with about 12 other people. After about 15 weeks I wandered around looking at these incredible creations that came from a bunch of boards. I commented to each of the people what a beautiful guitar it was, 11 people responded with "Oh, thanks, but..." and went on to list the several challenges that each of them were presented with. Only one said "thanks, I really like the way it came out". Not that the others didn't like it, they were just focused on the challenges it presented. So now at the end of every project, I still go through my challenge list, but at the end I try to absorb and appreciate what it is I have created. An individual acoustic guitar with charecteristics so individual it cannot be replicated. And that's what keeps me coming back.

    Again, beautiful guitar, I only wish I could hear her...