New guitar project day (Grote hollowbody)

Discussion in 'Other Guitars, other instruments' started by kiwi blue, Sep 18, 2021.

  1. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,880
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    Lately I've been less involved in performance and recording projects and more in involved in working on guitars, and especially taking cheap guitars with good bones and learning how to make them play and sound much better. In the last couple of years I've upgraded an Artist Tele, a Samick LP, an ultra-budget Chinese made hollowbody, as well as putting together a nice partscaster Tele.

    So I stumbled on a left handed Grote thinline hollow body and it was too good to pass up. The nearest equivalent here in NZ is an Epi Century 66 (right handed) for well over twice the price and I still would have done similar mods to that as well as having to convert it to left handed.

    Ordered direct from Grote and it arrived a few weeks later packed in a styrofoam guitar case. I was able to tune it up and play straight away.

    Here are my thoughts about the guitar in stock form:
    • Out of the box set up was ok. The guitar was playable without major issues.
    • Pickup sounded decent but output level way too low because the pickup height is set too low.
    • Pickup measured 9.1k, which is more like a bridge pickup.
    • Neck felt good and comfortable. Not too slim.
    • I liked the physical feel of the, light, slim hollowbody
    • Tuners felt very bad and uneven. They have to go.
    • Strings catching on bridge saddles when tuning up.
    There's a T shaped soundpost under the bridge and no parallel bracing on the top. My other Chinese hollow body has the same thing. I'm sure the old Epi Century would have had parallel bracing, but I'd be interested to know whether the modern Chinese made reissue does. Since we're talking about laminated top electric instruments, it may not matter. The soundpost may even reduce feedback.

    Overall it's great value and I'm sure I can improve it.

    And it looks oright eh?

    grote and princeton.jpeg
     
  2. PhredE

    PhredE Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,633
    Joined:
    Sep 25, 2017
    Location:
    Suburban PDX, OR
    Thanks for the post.
    That same guitar is on my radar of late (not available here in US via Amazon.. yet).

    Been also working in the 'fixer-upper' mode as well. I learn more and end up with a great playing / great sounding instrument and save a few bucks that way too! :)
     
    nojazzhere likes this.
  3. Addnine

    Addnine Tele-Holic

    Posts:
    949
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2019
    Location:
    New England
    I have one of these. All it needed was a little nut work. I play it all the time. It plays well, and it sounds great. Why, it's plugged in as we speak!

    I put flatwounds on it, FWIW.
     
  4. peteycaster

    peteycaster Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    1,131
    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2008
    Location:
    Australia
    Looks nice. Should be a good project you'll have fun with. Is the bridge floating? I might check these out.
     
  5. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,880
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    I pretty much knew straight off I'd be replacing the tuners, TOM bridge saddle, internal electronics, and probably the pickup.

    I decided to do whatever I can to the guitar before ordering parts. So a couple of days after it arrived I had it on the "work bench". Actually it's the kitchen bench - one advantage of being single!

    First thing I noticed after taking off the strings was that the trapeze tailpiece was sitting wonky on the top. The wire frame that holds the mounting bar was twisted. I was able to twist it back into shape by hand and get it sitting level.

    Then I levelled the frets. This is something I've only recently learned how to do and it's is the third guitar I've levelled. The other two needed levelling pretty much all over. The Grote did have some high spots but wasn't nearly as uneven as the other two I've done. The fret ends are also much more nicely rounded than any other cheap guitar I've worked on.

    I also oiled the fretboard with lemon oil. I gave it a good clean up because I'd been getting black fingertips from the fretboard stain leeching. A week later that seems to have stopped happening.

    I haven't measured the height of the nut slots, etc, yet but it seems sturdy and well cut. I sanded a little off the top to sniff, and it didn't have that telltale smell of bone so it's some sort of synthetic. I'll probably leave it alone.

    I worked out a quick and dirty way of raising the pickup without having to make a shim for it. I just cut down some pickup springs and put them on the pickup mounting screws then used the screws to adjust the height. It was enough to get the extra 4mm I wanted. Of course the pickup then had a bad lean to it, so I packed some folded foam rubber under one side and got it level. It's probably not a long term fix but it's good enough to see how the pickup sounds closer to the strings.

    While it was out I noticed there was a "bridge" sticker under the pickup, which confirms my suspicions. I dismantled the pickup. The bar magnets looked different to the known A5 magnets I have, so I assume they're ceramic. I tested the magnetic strength by hovering the magnet over a small screw on the bench. I had to get the A5 magnet quite a lot closer to the bench before it picked up the screw, so the stock magnet is a lot stronger and almost certainly ceramic.

    I decided to use the A5 magnets instead.

    I've been playing it for a week since then and the pickup certainly sounds a lot better. Surprisingly good actually. But there's a thick lower mid resonance I want to tame. I think it's as much to do with the thinline body resonance as anything, and a Faber TOM would probably solve some of that, but I decided to also go for a lower wind alnico pickup to reduce the mids.

    I ordered a pair of ceramic dogears from Donlis and some A2 magnets. The Donlis neck pickup is 7.8k and the bridge is 9.1k, same as the stock Grote pickup. They may even be the same pickup. A2 and a 7.8k wind is much more to my taste and more like classic 50s specs. I had to order a pair as they aren't sold separately. Even so it still worked out cheaper than any other suitable option. I'll update this thread when the pickups arrive. I'll also be ordering tuners and a bridge when funds allow.

    The guitar is fun to play around the house. I pick it up all the time. It can easily cop decent blues and jazz tones now. I suspect it would howl badly at bar gigs with a full rhythm section, but my days of doing that are over.
     
    PhredE likes this.
  6. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,880
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    You can probably order it direct from the Grote website like I did?

    Yeah it's worth doing if you have some basic skills and enjoy it. Not worth it if you have to pay a luthier to do it.

    I find the bridge has a much bigger effect on the tone and response of a guitar than a lot of people realise.
     
    PhredE likes this.
  7. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,880
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    I'm only just getting into flats. I dig them. I think they'd be a good choice on this guitar, depending on playing style. At the moment I'm using D'Addario XL 11s on the Grote just because I know them well.
     
  8. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,880
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    Yes floating. But because there's a soundpost under the top where the bridge is, the floating bridge may be a bit pointless. I don't have enough experience to know.

    I may try a fully wooden bridge rather than a TOM on a wooden base. They're cheap enough on Aliexpress to experiment with.
     
  9. peteycaster

    peteycaster Tele-Afflicted Silver Supporter

    Posts:
    1,131
    Joined:
    Jul 26, 2008
    Location:
    Australia
    I have an Ibanez Artcore with a floating bridge. I put a couple of barely noticeable pencil marks on the body so I can put the bridge back in place easily if it moves. I also replace strings one at a time on this guitar to avoid moving the bridge.
     
  10. kiwi blue

    kiwi blue Tele-Afflicted

    Posts:
    1,880
    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2005
    Location:
    Wellington, New Zealand
    The new pickup arrived. It measures 7.9k. First job was to open it up and replace the ceramic magnets with A2

    pickup 1.jpeg pickup 2.jpeg

    A very easy job. Just pull off the plastic cover, undo two screws, lift the baseplate away, then pull the magnets off and put new ones in the same place, being careful to orient the north/south poles correctly. There's a little bit of wax holding the magnets in place.

    I wish installing pickups in a thinline hollowbody was as easy ... Since I had to pull the whole wiring harness out to replace the pickup, I also replaced the pots and jack at the same time, using left handed CTS 500k pots and a sturdy looking recycled jack. After some tricky problem solving and some curly language, I finally managed to get it all together and discovered a wiring error meant the tone control wasn't working and I had to pull it all out and install it all over again. Duh-oh!

    But it was worth it. The new pickup sounds much better to my ears. Less mud, more top end, clearer mid-range, better overall balance. I'm having a ball playing the guitar now. With a Jnr Barnyard preamp/overdrive into a tweed Princeton clone, it's right in that 50s blues zone.

    Next stage of the upgrades will be tuners and bridge. The strings are catching on the bridge saddles (which look to be cheap zinc), and the tuners have too much play and feel gritty. The guitar stays in tune reasonably well, but getting it in tune is harder than it should be.
     
    Zepfan and 62 Jazzmaster like this.
IMPORTANT: Treat everyone here with respect, no matter how difficult!
No sex, drug, political, religion or hate discussion permitted here.