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Help me think through this (making an old acoustic playable)

Discussion in 'Acoustic Heaven' started by SixStringSlinger, Apr 19, 2021.

  1. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's

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    I bought an old (1968, if the seller is to be believed) Goya dreadnaught in a (perhaps ill-advised) fit of "I can make this work!"

    I received it and immediately thought "I can't make this work".

    But, knowing myself, I put it in the closet and decided to wait until the new-toy-doesn't-work disappointment wore off.

    It's been a few months now, and I pulled it out over the weekend to give it an honest assessment uncovered by disappointment based on (likely unrealistic) expectations.

    Overall, I think there's hope. The guitar feels good in my hands. I appears structurally sound, for the most part. It sounds good. There are just a couple of issues that I think can be addressed without too much trouble or expense. This is where I can use any advice/thoughts.

    The nut slots are too low. Reasonable given the age of the guitar. Most of the strings buzz against the first fret. One actually rests on it. However, tuning down a half step and capo-ing the first fret sounds pretty good, so it would seem that addressing the nut would be worthwhile. I can, of course, just replace the nut with a new one with slots cut to the proper height. But this is a skill I don't have/have never practiced before, and it would involve investment in tools I honestly don't plan to need often, if ever again. I've also seen examples of shims being used underneath old nuts. aside from the slot height, the nuts seems OK to my inexperienced eye.

    My other concern is the bridge. the bridge itself seems fine, although it uses some weird individual saddles for each string. The action is also high up the neck. I've shaved down an acoustic saddle before and it worked out pretty well, but I don't see that happening with these ones. So maybe a new bridge with the one saddle for all six strings?

    I also think I'd have to get the saddle pretty low to get the action I want. Obviously there's only so low I can go before the saddle becomes a non-factor, which makes me concerned about the height of the bridge itself.

    I'm pretty confident about being able to get the old bridge off and out the new one on. It's mostly the measurements of the bridge and saddle that concern me. But if I can get the saddle low enough on a bridge that's low enough, I think that combined with a slightly higher nut will make this guitar more playable.

    Any thoughts/advice/admonishments welcome, as well as any questions.
     
  2. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's

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    I don't have my own pics of the guitar, but here are some of the pics from the Reverb listing I bought it from. Nothing to diagnose it by, I imagine, but you can see why I'd want to put some work into it.

    x6rrudepsugyiapb9lrv.jpg

    uj8an97cx63kk5na1xon.jpg

    i9ajbix4v4s8ocdmcb0i.jpg

    q0u7gou9pomgtevu1z6j.jpg

    The tuners can use some cleaning/lubing, which I'm fine with. And the guitar can use an overall cleaning and attention to minor cosmetic issues (like a little finish chip on the headstock). I'd probably also have to do something about the pick guard, which is lifting near the neck.
     
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  3. Lowerleftcoast

    Lowerleftcoast Friend of Leo's

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    I would work the saddle first then attack the nut.

    Hopefully the saddle can be adjusted to a proper height without going with a new bridge.

    The nut can be shimmed. If it is just a slot or two, the CA glue with baking soda trick is quick and easy. If you are not into doing the work yourself a new nut can be fashioned and paid for.

    The Goya looks like a worthwhile project.
     
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  4. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's

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    I hope so!

    Unfortunately the current saddles are really chewed up. Maybe I can experiment with lowering them/shaving them down, but I'm not certain that will be enough.

    I think I'll have to attack the nut somehow regardless, because every string save one or two buzzes against the first fret, and one straight-up rest on it. And I'm looking to lower the saddle(s), so that won't help there.
     
  5. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    OK, lets start from the beginning. Here are the things that I look for in an older guitar, pretty much in order of importance.

    - neck angle. Will it allow me to come up with playable action? If not, can I reset it?
    - top geometry. Does the top have the correct dome shape to allow the neck and bridge to work together. Often this is a humidity issue but on a guitar that old it could be structural too.
    - structural issues. Loose bridge, braces, significant cracks.
    - Frets, fretboard. Do I need to refret it?

    Once I have proper neck angle and geometry, know that it is structural sound and has decent frets then I make a nut and saddle, set the relief, make it playable. I'll add that I automatically assume that a guitar that old needs a neck reset until I know other wise. I also assume it needs frets. Nut and saddle are automatic, that is just part of doing a setup.

    ps - personally I would consider replacing the little cylindrical saddles with a one piece "normal" one that can be easily adjusted for height and intonation unless you absolutely wanted to keep it "original"
     
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2021
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  6. schmee

    schmee Doctor of Teleocity

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    Well, it's easy to shim the nut. I've used thin brass shim stock from NAPA, you can cut it with scissors. But that clear plastic on small packaged items works well, It seems to run either .005" or .010" thick.

    -remove the nut. Clean the slot and nut base well of any debris.
    -Try a cut piece of paper or two as temporary shim and see how much you need to have when tested by capo'ing at fret 3 and looking at clearance on fret 1. I want just a tiny bit of clearance. One paper thickness is about .005
    -Cut the shim to fit closely
    -Use a tiny drop or two of CA glue on each side of the plastic/shim when you put the nut back, make sure it's centered and use a few strings to hold it tight.

    Bridge:
    Those inserts are unique. Do they come out? Why not try to use them? How high is the action? Is there enough insert height above the rosewood bridge to shave them?
     
  7. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    Second part of this first - a good rule of thumb is that if you have acceptable action AND you have at least 1/8 saddle height THEN your neck angle is acceptable. I sounds like you fail that test. The other check of neck angle is to lay a straight edge on the frets between the 3rd and 4th string - the end should just touch the top of the bridge. If its lower (closer to the top) you need a neck reset.

    First part - as I said in my other post I would consider replacing the individual saddles with a single one. The separate ones is a good idea in theory but a real hassle in practice. I would fill the holes with some rosewood and route a new slot properly compensated, then make a bone saddle to fit. Here is the jig I use to route saddle slots with the bridge on the guitar

    IMG_2724.JPG

    What ever you do, please don't shave the bridge to get lower action. You greatly weaken the bridge - the proper fix is resetting the neck.
     
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  8. SixStringSlinger

    SixStringSlinger Friend of Leo's

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    I don't care about keeping the guitar original. I'd like to preserves its looks as much as possible, but the individual saddles don't figure into that for me.

    Not sure how to go about determining neck angle. The neck itself seems straight. Very little relief in the middle of the neck while first and last frets are fretted. I'm hoping a neck reset won't be necessary, as I'm under the impression that's pretty expensive (and probably not something I should take on myself.

    I haven't checked fret-by-fret, but with a capo at the first fret (cancelling out the nut issue) makes it play just fine for me, minus the high action at the high end.

    Not sure what you mean about the dome shape. Do you mean the "belly" an acoustic can have? There isn't much, if any. But I don't think humidity is an issue. I live in South Florida :lol:

    There appears to be a (possibly addressed?) crack behind the bridge. I'll get a pic of that later.
     
  9. Freeman Keller

    Freeman Keller Poster Extraordinaire

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    I just described the two tests for neck angle - that is the very most important part of this equation. Bad neck angle will compromise everything else you try to do. Here is the straightedge on the fret test. This guitar fails, the straighedge is about 1/8 inch below the top of the bridge. In order to get playable action you would need to lower the saddle(s) until their was basically nothing left.

    IMG_5711.JPG

    Here is a guitar with proper geometry, the straight edge is right on top of the bridge

    IMG_4051.JPG


    As far as the dome shape, flat top guitars are not flat on top. If you put your straightedge across the lower bout behind the bridge the ends should be maybe 1/8 above the binding. Too much dome can indicate some structural issues, not enough is almost always a sign of a dry guitar.

    In my opinion the most important part of doing this kind of work is evaluating the guitar before you start. You might find this helpful

    https://www.tdpri.com/threads/basic-setup.952636/
     
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