Repair log: G&L Tribute Series Legacy by Cort Guitars
Copyright retained, Terry Relph-Knight 28/11/19
Value – Purchased for £200. The current version of this model is £479 new, might get £400 for it as left handed guitars are rare.
Weight – 3.75Kg 8.27lbs
Supplied with a Thomann gig bag, a set of D’Addario 10 to 46 strings and a black Tusq nut.
Hex keys required for adjustment – 4mm truss rod, 3mm bridge fulcrum posts, 1.5mm saddle height grub screws
Problems – In for a set-up and installation of a Tusq nut. Needs cleaning. The neck alignment places the high E very close to the edge of the fret board.
There is no wiggle room in the neck pocket so it needs to be re-shaped. The position of the four neck screws is offset to the long side of the neck pocket and the screw holes through the body are not perpendicular. The neck, body and bridge geometry does not duplicate the geometry of the U.S.A made guitars. The factory nut allows a lot of offset for the low E and has a slightly narrower overall string spacing than a Fender Strat. The three rotary controls fitted have track laws for a right handed guitar. The output jack is a low cost single leaf spring contact type. Analysis of the pickup measurements indicates the neck and bridge pickups have been fitted in reverse.
The treble bridge pivot is screwed down and locked tight in the brass body insert. The insert itself is loose in the body. The three screws that hold the bridge plate to the top of the inertia block are on the point of being loose.
A full analysis (see below) shows that the Cort factory made a complete botch of assembling this guitar.
Description – This guitar is a left handed Stratocaster style guitar with the essential components in good condition. While it was built according roughly to the pattern of the G&L Legacy USA instruments, certainly a lot less care and attention was applied to its assembly and a number of errors have been made.
The G&L company (George and Leo) was founded by George Fullerton, Leo Fender and Dale Hyatt in 1979, allowing Leo Fender to continue to develop electric guitars up until his death. Note that the symbol in the logo that is between the G and the L is in fact a treble clef, not an ampersand. Leo Fender had sold Fender Musical Instrument Corp. to the Canadian broadcasting service CBS in 1965 due to ill health. He was restricted by a ten year non compete agreement with CBS. Once that had lapsed and his health had improved, he started CLF Research and worked on designs for Music Man before starting G&L. Music Man was founded in 1971 by Forrest White and Tom Walker with Leo Fender as a silent partner. CLF made guitars and basses for Music Man while Music Man was primarily an amplifier manufacturer. Music Man did not pay CLF for its product until it passed Music Man quality control. Problems in the quality of the paint finish led to friction between CLF and Music Man and the two companies parted ways. Eventually in financial difficulty, Music Man was sold to Ernie Ball in 1984. Since then the Ernie Ball/Music Man brand has dropped the amplifier line and concentrated on making high quality, innovative guitars and basses.
Originally all G&L instruments were US made, using some of the old Fender tooling in factory buildings owned by Leo Fender on Fender Avenue, Fullerton, California. In 2003 G&L introduced the Tribute line, a lower cost range made in Korea and later Indonesia, by Cort Guitars. This instrument is one of the Indonesian Cort guitars.
Various features signal this instrument is from the budget line; the three piece body, no internal screening apart from the usual aluminium foil under the controls, a single swimming pool pickup route in the body to accommodate a range of pickup options, a simple flat sawn maple neck (not split along the centre and then glued back together like the original US necks) and the odd low cost component, such as the in-line PCB based pickup switch and the single leaf contact output jack. While it was built roughly according to the blueprint of the G&L Legacy USA instruments, certainly rather less care and attention was applied to its assembly.
Body – A three piece Stratocaster shaped ash body with forearm and belly contours, finished in a classic three colour sunburst (current US Legacy models appear to have two piece bodies) with a gloss poly clear coat. There is a rectangular ‘swimming pool’ route for the pickups, extending from just below the neck pocket to just above the bridge. No electrical screening in the cavities, although there is a completely non-functional screen connection lead with its solder tag screwed to the bottom of the swimming pool. No markings or shims were present in the neck pocket and no markings in the other body cavities.
Neck – One piece maple neck with a 12 inch radius, 22 big jumbo fret, slab rosewood fretboard, generic ‘C’profile. Thin matte sealer finish. White plastic dot fret markers. G&L necks have no overhang for the 22 fret, the neck is full thickness to the end of the neck pocket. Because of this they also have a longer neck pocket than a Fender Stratocaster.
Truss rod access is at the headstock, a 4mm hex key, single action rod. A single folded metal ‘butterfly’ string tree is fitted, with a spacer. Moulded white plastic nut. The headstock carries the G&L logo in white with a black outline, Tribute series and LEGACY in black. The neck is attached with a four bolt plate.
Hardware – Six on a side, chrome plated sealed case, metal button, unbranded tuners (HC mould mark, made by Hanchang in Korea) with hidden pin alignment (no rear screws). These have ‘normal’ posts with a waist and through hole and are all the same height. Three ply red brown ripple tortoiseshell pick guard. Three CLF-100 Alnico 5 rod magnet single coil pickups, flat stagger, no magnet bevels, in G&L branded black plastic covers. The orange / red pickup coil wire is almost certainly 42 awg heavy Formvar insulated (as the vast majority of the Fender pickups were up until 1965). The pickups don’t appear to be wax potted. They are fitted with cloth push-back wire, black (grounded) and white for the neck and bridge and red (red is grounded) and yellow for the middle pickup. Mounted with springs (not surgical rubber tubing). 5 way lever pickup switch, Volume, Treble and Bass rotary controls. The three controls, all branded MIGHTYMITE, look like very high quality, moulded track, sealed, pots. Mighty Mite brand pots like this are still available today from a few US suppliers.
The volume is stamped A250K (measured as 20% log curve) the treble is stamped A500K (measured as a 20% log curve) and the bass C1M (measured as 80% anti-log curve). A indicating a log curve and C an anti-log. This would be correct for a right handed guitar, not for a left handed. On a left handed G&L the Volume, Treble and Bass controls should be C250K Anti-Log, C500K Anti-Log and an A1Meg Log.
The treble cap for the PTB circuit should be 0.022uF and the bass cap 0.0022uF. The two original capacitors are both green resin dipped plastic film – a 223J100V (measured 0.02393 uF) on the treble and a 222J100V (measured 0.002313uF) on the bass. The volume control has a B201 (200pF measured 213.3pF) ceramic, treble bleed capacitor between the wiper and the anti-clockwise terminal.
The 5 way switch is a low cost PCB type with eight riveted tags in a line across the back edge of the PCB. Three black UFO knobs with white legends (numbered the wrong way around for a left handed guitar, 1 is maximum). G&L ‘Dual Fulcrum’ 2 5/32 inch string spacing, two point vibrato bridge with three, parallel, tension springs (the spring claw only has 3 spring hooks). The two height adjustment posts take a 3mm hex key. The bridge saddle height grub screws take a 1.5mm hex key. As noted on the G&L web site, over time the company has changed the diameter and material of its vibrato arms. This guitar has a stainless steel 0.239 inch diameter vibrato arm. My green G&L has a older 0.248 diameter arm. Recent G&L’s, according to the web site, have aluminium arms.
Note 1 – This Indonesian made Tribute guitar has 11.2mm wide nickel plated Zinc alloy saddles. The older USA guitars are supposed to have nickel plated brass saddles, although both version ship with zinc alloy inertia blocks (raw finish in the case of the USA models, nickel plate on the Indonesian). Much of the sound of this Indonesian made guitar may be coloured by these zinc saddles.
My 1996 USA made Legacy also had nickel plated die-cast zinc saddles, not brass as originally specified.
According to the G&L web site the most recent (2018) design for the DFL bridge uses a CNC machined cold rolled steel inertia block with shallow ball end recesses and saddles CNC machined from 303 non-magnetic stainless steel billet.
G&L sell a set of their brass saddles for $39.95, plus shipping and import tax (this online shop listing may be out of date – possibly the saddles are now stainless steel). Any vintage Strat 2 7/32 spacing saddle would fit the Dual Fulcrum bridge. Wudtone vintage steel £39.99, or Highwood HG-11,20 mm / 0.441 inch Contoured Vintage Saddles 39.95 Euro, Graph Tech or even Fender.
Single ply narrow white vibrato cover. The four countersunk cross head neck attachment screws are chrome plated steel, 44mm long with 15mm of smooth shaft below the head. The 4 bolt neck plate is of plain chrome plated steel, no markings.
Note – 2 It may be that the original vintage style Fender neck screws were, and sometimes are, referred to as ‘bolts’ because one definition of ‘bolt’ is that a bolt is not threaded along its entire length, but has a smooth section of shaft below the head. This is intended to act as a locating pin in a tight clearance hole, drilled through the upper component that the bolt is intended to hold in place. In contrast a screw has a thread that runs all the way up to the head. On the other hand, while a bolt is clamped in place by an external nut, tightened on to the threaded section, a screw often threads in to a hole in the second of the two components fastened together by the screw. However a screw may be, and often is, used like a bolt, with clearance holes through the two pieces to be joined with a nut on the outside. Screws designed for fastening together two pieces of wood are usually tapered and have a section of smooth shaft or shank below the head. This type of wood screw was originally used on Fender ‘bolt’ neck guitars and the plain shaft led to the ‘bolt’ description, although it is properly described as a wood screw.
Comparison to my green U.S.A. made Legend
While not as carefully made as the U.S.A. guitar there are a lot of similarities; maple neck (although with a rosewood finger board), ash body, American made CLF-100 pickups and a G&L vibrato bridge. However the two guitars do sound distinctly different. The U.S.A guitar is clear with a wide frequency range and the characteristic glassy Strat top end. The Cort made guitar does not have that clear top end and has a thicker middle.
I had always thought that, as it says in the original specifications, the saddles on the U.S.A guitar were nickel plated brass. As it turns out my guitar was fitted with an identical bridge to the Cort made guitar; nickel plated zinc alloy saddles and a zinc alloy inertia block. Some time ago I changed the saddles on the U.S.A. guitar for Graph Tech black String Saver saddles and a brass inertia block from Killer Guitar Components. See – Note 1 above.
Work done – Measured and recorded the set up as delivered. Disassembled the guitar. Tapped down the two high frets. Cleaned and polished the frets and fretboard. Removed the truss rod nut, greased and replaced it, tightened it to get the neck close to flat while off the guitar (as received the neck was quite heavily forward bowed). Constructed a custom made sanding stick and sanded back the long cheek of the neck pocket to improve the opportunity for neck alignment. Also removed the paint from the short side of the pocket. Kept tweaking both sides until both E strings were equally spaced from the edge of the fret board. Placed a shim at the end of the neck pocket on the short side so that the neck naturally tends to pull to the long side of the neck pocket under string tension, even if there is any slip in the neck screws. Fitted the supplied Graph Tech saddle, shimming the over wide nut slot with a sliver of plastic sheet behind the nut. Filed the nut slots to match the fretboard radius.
Removed the vibrato bridge to clean it. Pulled the loose brass insert from the treble side out of the body and broke loose the stuck pivot post from the insert. Re-inserted the insert in the body with some epoxy to glue it in place. Also ran some water clear Superglue down the outside of the bass side brass insert to help lock it into the body. Checked the screws that hold the bridge plate onto the inertia block for tightness. They were barely snug, right on the point of being loose. Ground the top of the inertia block flat in an attempt to reduce the visible air gaps between the bridge plate and the block. Re-fitted the plate to the inertia block, tightened the three screws and re-installed the bridge.
Removed any remaining traces of the protective plastic film from the pick guard. Plugged and re-threaded the stripped out bottom screw hole for the output jack plate. Polished the heads of all the pick guard screws.
Replaced all three control pots with controls that have the correct laws for a left handed guitar and re-wired all the electronics. Replaced the single leaf spring output jack with a re-curved jack.
Adjusted the truss rod, action height, intonation and pickup heights. Lacquered over a chip below the vibrato arm under the bridge plate and placed a dab of lacquer on the output jack nut to help lock it in place.
All the controls seem in full working order (later examinations shows they are all the wrong track law for a left handed guitar), except the treble control is oddly spongy against the end stops – turns out the attachment nut is loose and the pot is held against rotation by the wiring. The bass roll off pot nut is also a little loose. The strings are really dead sounding. The neck alignment is way off and towards the body the high E almost runs off the edge of the fret board. With the four neck screws loosened, the neck angle does not auto correct, nor is there any significant movement in the neck pocket. The neck itself is not warped sideways so it would seem that this guitar has always had this poor alignment problem from the factory. The four screw holes rather than being centred in the neck, are offset quite a way towards the long side of the neck pocket. Also, they are not drilled perfectly straight and true through the body. With the neck screws removed, it is evident that the neck is a tight fit in the neck pocket and that the neck movement is not restricted by the pick guard overlapping the edge of the pocket. The pocket does have quite a thick coat of lacquer so sanding this back should help the fit. There is even a lip of finish at the end of the back edge of the pocket which may be the entire cause of the alignment problem.
There is some forward neck bow, in fact with the neck removed from the guitar there is a quite a large forward bow end to end, indicating that perhaps the truss rod has been too slack for quite some time. A fret rocker test shows fret 15 slightly high in the centre, 17 slightly high centre and treble.
As delivered the stainless steel vibrato arm (0.239 inch diameter, my green G&L has a older 0.248 diameter arm) is a very loose fit in the G&L dual fulcrum bridge (easily corrected by tightening the grub screw). The string radius / saddle heights at the bridge are off by quite a bit. With a 12 inch gauge resting on the two E strings none of the other four strings touches the gauge and they are all at varying distances below it.
The bridge plate is made of chrome plated hardened steel. The saddles and the inertia block are die cast zinc alloy, nickel plated. The inertia block is punch marked with the numbers 41.5. This is the depth of the block in millimetres, which probably indicates that G&L use different depth blocks for guitars with different body thicknesses. The block is 12 wide by 64 mm long. The spring claw is unusual as it only has attachment hooks for three springs although the inertia block has the more usual 5 holes for the springs.
Of the two nickel plated steel bridge pivot posts, the bass post turns easily and was set raised a little higher than the treble post, which has been screwed down to the point where it is locked tight in the threaded insert. So tight that any attempt to unscrew it just results in the knurled brass insert, which has become a loose fit, spinning in the hole in the body. The threaded brass insert are cross or diamond knurled rather than being straight knurled. A straight or linear knurl as used on most modern bridge inserts would be more secure as the diamond knurl tends to remove wood as it is pressed in, rather that cutting and compressing the wood fibres as straight knurl does.
Each post has two black felt vibration damping washers fitted underneath the bridge plate.
The three screws holding the inertia block to the bridge plate were only barely screwed home and all three unscrewed easily with no initial resistance. The block plus the three screws weighs 227gms. There are visible air gaps between the top of the block and the bottom of the bridge plate.
Bridge saddles assembled as delivered
All saddle screws are M3, all intonation screws are 17mm long and all grub screws are 6mm long
Spring in mm
G 11 an oddity, it’s probably just a short 12
One of the 9mm springs appears to be in the wrong place, the spring pattern it should be 9, 12, 12, 9, 12, 12. A short spring on the low E and on the G.
The guitar does not have screening paint applied to the cavities, but there is a completely useless ground wire and tag screening connection screwed to the bottom of the pickup route.
Action heights open string at the 17th fret as delivered are – low E 2.1mm, high E 2mm
After set up – low E 2.25mm, high E 1.75mm. Fender specs – 1.6 and 1.6 for 12 inch radius neck.
After a further ¼ turn on the truss rod 1.6 and 2.
The G&L set up instructions are for setting the MFD pickups only, so I’m using the Fender pickup heights as a guide since the CFL-100 pickups are very similar to Fender standard single coils. String to top of pole, string depressed at the last fret – 2mm bass, 1.6mm treble. The G&L pickups are flat pole ‘stagger’ I set them for 2mm on both sides.
The replacement Graph Tech nut is manufactured for a 7.25 inch fret board radius and is 0.126 thick by 1.686 inches wide (note – Graph Tech do make a 12 inch radius flat bottom Strat nut the PT-5430-00, BUT only for right handed guitars). The G&L neck flat bottomed nut slot is 0.134 by 1.657 inches.
The G&L fretboard is supposed to have a 12 inch radius. While it does have a 12 inch radius at the 22nd fret, up by the nut it is closer to 14 inches.
So the Graph Tech PT-5000-LO nut is not a great fit for this guitar; it will need to be trimmed to length, the nut slots need to be re-cut to match the neck radius and for a tight fit in the nut slot a thin plastic shim will need to be added to fill the width of the slot. On the other hand the Graph Tech is better shaped than the existing nut, it is lower friction and has a very slightly wider string spacing of 34.62mm compared to 34.5mm for the old nut.
The white and yellow push back wires on the back of the pickup switch were crossed over and look as though they may have been shorting together.
Intonation as delivered
Error in centsBack of bridge to saddle front in mm New set of 10s
Set for 0 error
E +10 26.04 26.68
A +4 27.97 27.44
D +9 29.56 28.12
G +5 27.41 27.10
B +2 28.01 28.94
E +4 29.94 29.87
It looks like the saddle intonation setting may have been close to correct and measured error was due to old strings.
Replacement controls – Volume 250K Anti-log (measured 238.2K), Treble 500K Anti-log (measured 527K), Bass 1M Log (measured 1.017Meg). These old capacitors were re-used.
G&L Setup Notes
The G&L Dual Fulcrum vibrato bridge is a little unusual for a two pivot bridge because the pivot bevel is present on both the top and the bottom. The bridge plate is designed to float 3/16 of an inch above and parallel to the top of the guitar. This is intended to allow a wide range of bends both up and down. Many two pivot bridge plates only have the bevel on the bottom of the plate. Two black felt damping washers are fitted under the plate on both sides to minimise any higher frequency bounce from the bridge. Bounce or gargle is a characteristic of other vibrato bridges that some players use to make gargling noises by quickly releasing the bar.
So according to G&L the two pivot posts should be adjusted, along with string and spring tension, to parallel float the bridge plate at 3/16 (this does place the top of the saddles and therefore the string plane quite a long way from the top of the guitar). Adjusting the action on the U.S.A. guitars with the micro-tilt neck is relatively easy, but on the Tribute series it would be necessary to resort to shimming at the bottom of the neck pocket.
Open string spacing at the first fret should be 0.018 of an inch.
The U.S.A. guitars have both a micro-tilt neck so the action height can be easily adjusted and at least on my 1996 Legacy the neck is set relatively high in the neck pocket to match the elevation of the bridge. The pocket depth on my U.S.A. guitar is 1 5/32 inch from the back of the guitar to the bottom of the pocket and 15/16th of an inch from the back of the neck heel to the edge of the fretboard. However setting even the U.S.A guitar up with a 3/16 inch body to neck plate gap and 1/8th gap on the low E saddle does place the strings and pickups high above the body.
The pocket depth on the Indonesian guitar is 1 inch from the back of the guitar to the bottom of the pocket and 31/32 of an inch from the back of the neck heel to the edge of the fretboard.
So the on the U.S.A guitar, roughly speaking, the neck is set 5/32 of an inch higher in the pocket than on the Indonesian guitar. The only way for the Indonesian guitar to meet the same setup specifications as the U.S.A. made guitar for the bridge and saddle heights, is for the neck pocket to be slightly angled or to shim the bottom of the neck pocket. Checking with a straight edge set on the frets doesn’t show any appreciable angle on the Indonesian neck pocket.
Totalling up the measurement from the G&L set up notes with the dimensions of the bridge plate and saddles we get – 3/16 of float plus the 3/32 thickness (roughly) of the bridge plate plus a 1/8 gap between the top of the bridge plate and the underside of the saddle plus the 3/16 of saddle thickness, putting the plane of the strings at 19/32 inches above the body. The G&L specs out at 1/8 higher than the typical 15/32 inches for the string plane of a Fender Strat. This also means the pickups need to be set quite high above the pick guard and just doesn’t seem very comfortable to me. So I plan to float the bridge a little lower and set the saddles a little lower to arrive at something closer to a ‘normal’ Strat set up. Bridge float of 9/64 and 3/64 on the low E saddle plus 3/32 for the plate and 3/16 for the saddle equals 15/32 to the plane of the strings.
For reference for the nut slot depth the fret height is between 0.05 and 0.053 inches.
Pickup measurements –
Flat stagger, unbevelled, Alnico 5 rod magnets, level with the tops of the G&L branded black plastic pickup covers. Black Forbon vulcanised fibre flatware bobbins, no wax potting. Cloth ‘push back’ pickup wire coded white/black for the neck and bridge, yellow/red for the middle.
Apart from the different wire colours used on the middle pickup, the three pickups are not marked or identified in any way. From the measurements it looks as though the Cort factory has made yet another mistake. Normally if the pickups in a pickup set show any significant difference in inductance they would be arranged with the highest value at the bridge position. The neck and middle pickups would either be around the same value, or the middle pickup would be perhaps slightly higher than the neck. The pickups do seem to have been wound so that one of them was higher inductance than the other two, as the measured difference is greater than would occur by chance and manufacturing variation. The G&L on-line shop confirms this, as the CLF-100 Alnico Single Coil pickups listing for this model of guitar notes that the bridge pickup has more turns on the coil than the neck pickup.
The third pickup is RWRP and obviously intended for hum cancellation in the middle position because of its differently colour coded wires and the pole magnets being South up, while the other two pickups poles are North up.
Therefore I think it not unreasonable of me to reverse the positions of the pickups originally fitted at the ‘neck’ and ‘bridge’ position so that the highest inductance pickup is in the bridge position.
This puts the neck and middle roughly equal at approximately 3.3H and the bridge at roughly 3.5H.
Even with this more sensible positioning of the pickups this pickup set is on slightly high side of inductance values for Strat pickups and along with the flat magnet stagger I would expect this pickup set to produce a darker, higher output than the classic glassy Strat sound.
Neck – measured without strings white/black connections
Note – this pickup now exchanged with the pickup at the bridge position.
Capacitance = 144.4pF
L in HenrysQESR in Kohm
100Hz 3.459 0.298 7.49
120Hz 3.455 0.35 7.43
1000Hz 3.983 2.8 70K
Magnet orientation – North up Magnet size = 0.186 by 0.658 inches
Low E = 1070, 960, 1090, 840, 980, High E = 1150 Gauss measured at the top of each pole, without strings
Middle – measured without strings yellow/red connections
Capacitance = 199.11pF
L in HenrysQESR in Kohm
100Hz 3.241 0.278 7.32
120Hz 3.242 0.334 7.31
1000Hz 3.787 2.61 62.1K
Magnet orientation – South up
Low E = 990, 910, 920, 890, 880, High E = 1120 Gauss measured at top of pole, without strings
Bridge – measured without strings white/black connections
Capacitance = 103.5pF
L in HenrysQESR in Kohm
1000Hz 3.753 2.61 61.7K
Magnet orientation – North up
Low E = 940, 930, 690, 740, 820, High E = 920 Gauss measured at top of pole, without strings