G&L Tribute Series Legacy

Repair log: a left handed June 2009 G&L Tribute Series Legacy, made in Indonesia 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.

G&L Tribute Series Legacy

G&L Tribute Series Legacy

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. 

Analysis

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

E 9

A 12

D 12

G 11 an oddity, it’s probably just a short 12

B 12

E 9

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

1000Hz3.5252.748.08

Parallel Rp

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

1000Hz3.3012.617.94

Parallel Rp

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

100Hz3.2320.2787.29

120Hz3.2320.3327.33

1000Hz3.2742.617.85

Parallel Rp

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

2005 LANEY VC30-112 GUITAR AMPLIFIER

Repair Log – 2005 Laney VC30-112, 30 Watt ‘class A’ combo 1 by 12 guitar amplifier Serial no JVxxxx. 

23/03/17 Copyright reserved Terry Relph-Knight

Value – As is, maybe – £ 300,  £480 to 500 (inc postage) new 

Description

The Laney VC30 is now a discontinued product. It is Laney’s version of the Vox AC30 configuration. Another model, the VC30-212, featured a larger cabinet with two 12 inch loudspeakers, just like the Vox. The Laney VC30 amplifier also appeared with a flat baffle and an HH loudspeaker, where the large magnet was so close to the valves that the magnetic field interfered with correct operation and caused red plating. Other versions with an HH loudspeaker, but mounted on a sloping recessed front panel, are apparently OK because the magnet is further away from the valves.

REPAIR LOG – 2005 LANEY VC30-112

REPAIR LOG – 2005 LANEY VC30-112

The Laney VC30-112 combo uses four EL84’s (TAD STR Selected S1’s) with no negative feedback around the power amplifier, running in ‘class A’ to produce 30Watts into a single 12 inch loudspeaker. The amp is fitted with a single Celestion Seventy 80 G12P-80 8ohm loudspeaker. The Laney tech department tell me the amplifier in for repair is 12 years old.

The VC30 has an Accutronics 16 ¾ inch, four spring (a pair of 2 springs in series) reverb tank. The tank output should be oriented at the power switch end of the amplifier to avoid feedback and connected to the red phono on the PCB. The white phono is the drive to the input of the tank. The amp has an FX loop for external effects and an external dual foot switch can be used to switch the reverb on and off and to switch between clean and drive. The Reverb level control runs directly into the power amp input and the reverb is in parallel with the effects loop.

This is a two channel amp with a clean and an over driven channel. Switched to the over driven channel with the Drive and Drive Volume at maximum there seems to be a ridiculous amount of gain and therefore quite a high level of noise from the input valve.

Valve complement – 3 x 12AX7, 4 x EL84, the two pre-amp valves and the four output valves appear original and are TAD brand. The phase splitter has a different appearance and no surviving brand or type markings (the Laney VC30 manual confirms that all three pre-amp valves are ECC83 / 12AX7s, so the phase splitter is not a different dual triode. The first 12AX7 is described as needing to be a ‘high grade’ by which they likely mean low noise, low microphonic’s).

Laney VC30 rear

Laney VC30 rear

The EL84s all have retaining clips (the retainers on output valve 2 and 4 have snapped in half) and the 12AX7s have sprung screening cans.

Laney number these valves as V1,V2,V3 (all 12AX7),V4,V5,V6 and V7 (all EL84) from right to left looking at the back of the amplifier.

Front panel controls – Input Lo, Input Hi, Clean Volume, Bright switch, Drive, Drive Volume, Drive switch, Drive LED, Bass, Middle, Treble, Reverb, FX Level (on some versions this was an extra tone control), Standby switch, Power Switch, Power LED. The front panel is mirror polished stainless steel with the control labels silk-screened in black, Unfortunately some of the silk-screening has started to flake away. Personally I do not see how any form of silk-screen printing can be expected to stick to a highly polished metal surface, but Laney say that these panels were printed with a 2 pack epoxy ink and that therefore ‘it is impossible’ for the lettering to just flake off (obviously, they are wrong).

NOTE – The tone control design on this amp is the configuration that passes no signal if all three tone stack control are set fully anti-clockwise.

Back Panel – IEC 3 pin fused mains socket, 20mm HT fuse, Internal ‘cabinet’ (loudspeaker) jack, 8ohm / 4ohm output impedance switch, FX Return jack, FX Send jack and Drive/ Reverb foot-switch jack.

A rather poor feature of the construction of this amplifier is the use of ¼ inch smooth shaft, grub-screw chicken head knobs fitted to 6mm, split shaft, knurled controls. Since the the knobs don’t fit properly they tend to fall off, or spin uselessly.

Another dumb thing, common to all Laney amplifiers, is having the internal loudspeaker cable threaded through one of the square perforations in the rear protective grille. Which means you cannot unscrew the grille and remove it completely, to get it out of the way during repairs, because it remains tethered to the amplifier by the loudspeaker cable. I cut out one side of the perforation so now the grille can easily be removed and replaced.

The original strap handle on the top of this amplifier has been removed and replaced, rather sloppily, with a larger handle. The new handle has been mounted with mismatched screws, off centre and at an angle. Apart from the problem with the handle, the flaking control labelling on the front panel, the burnt out output valves, the broken valve retainers, knobs that don’t fit the control shafts, a 230V power supply that runs HT and heaters way over the maximum specification and the chassis retaining screws that are too short, this amplifier is in very good condition.

Problems – Amplifier crackles after being left on for a while. There is also a lot of hum from the loudspeaker. Two of the EL84 spring retainer clips snapped in half while I was removing the output valves. Carrying handle has been replaced with a poorly mounted, off centre handle, held on with mismatched wood screws. The 6 bolts that hold the amplifier chassis in place aren’t long enough and only barely engage with the cage nuts on the chassis. In fact only 4 bolts can engage with the nuts. As usual with Laney the internal loudspeaker cable is threaded through the rear protective grille because they were too lazy to cut a notch in it.

Just about to ship the amplifier out of the door when I find there is a problem with the heaters not working on the (2nd set off replacements) output valve nearest the mains transformer (blown heater filament connection).

Oh for crying out loud!! Fitted the heater voltage dropping diodes and the four Electro Harmonix EL84s supplied by client and about to declare the repair done when I find that with the Reverb level at around 5 (all other knobs at zero) the reverb tank feeds back at around A 220Hz. 

Work done – Replaced the set of four matched TAD EL84 output tubes with a set of four matched JJ low dissipation EL84, Plate current 47.1mA, Transconductance 10. Output valves still red-plated so increased the cathode bias resistor from 56 to 68 ohms. I still had a red plating problem on one of the four valves so I returned the valves to Hot Rox for re-testing. 05/05/17 Received a replacement set of EL84’s PC 38.1, TC 9.7 from Hot Rox. These don’t red plate, however the heaters on one of the JJ EL84 exhibited a bright heater flare where one end of the filament was welded to the pins. After a short period of testing one end of the heater filament disconnected from the weld to the pin in the valve base. 

Eventually fitted two pairs of 6amp rated, back-to-back diodes mounted on a tag panel to drop the heater voltage down to something that won’t fry the valve heaters. The TAD EL84 data sheet gives the max and min ratings for the heater voltage as 6.8 to 5.8 volts. The measured heater voltage with the old set of TAD EL84s was 7.88V AC !!

Replaced all EL84s with a matched set of Electro Harmonix supplied by Folkies. Also replaced the first 12AX7 in the pre-amp which was very noisy and crackly.

Hum is much reduced. Replaced the broken valve retainer clips. I removed the poorly mounted handle, measured and drilled holes and refitted the handle with a pair of 5mm bolts. Tightened loose nuts on the two loudspeaker jacks. Added card inserts into the slots in the eight bifurcated control shafts in an attempt to stop the shaft closing up under pressure of the knob grub screws, with the knob loosening or falling off as a result. Cleaned a lot of dirt from the back side of the PCB.

Amplifier wiped clean on the outside and vacuumed inside to remove dust.

Reverb feedback problem – tried reversing the reverb tank in the cabinet. Feedback problem solved, even with the Reverb level at maximum – no feedback.

Oh… and … the six bolts that are supposed to hold the chassis into the cabinet by engaging with cage nuts, are just that little bit too short. You are lucky if you can even get a couple of turns of thread to engage and even then you cannot get all six bolts into all six nuts because the chassis is about 3mm narrower than the cabinet !!!!

I replaced the two bolts on input side of the cabinet with two M5 30mm. DO NOT put these bolts anywhere else they may short out the electronics in other positions.

Rather too many instances of shoddy, thrown together stuff that doesn’t quite fit on this amp if you ask me. Screwed up handle (probably an owner fix, although in that case the original handle likely failed as it was only held on with wood screws), silk screen labels flaking off the front panel, ¼ inch knobs that don’t fit 6mm knurled pot shafts, loudspeaker cable ‘trapped’ in rear mesh, bolts that are supposed to hold the chassis into the cabinet that are too short. Over high voltages from the power supply because the amp is designed for 230V AC and has no adjustment for real UK mains voltage (the power transformer also seems designed for and expectation of lower than 230V so the actual output voltages on real 240V are way over stressing the valves). And a reverb tank fitted the “wrong way round” that tended to feed back. 

A note on class ‘A amplifiers’

Most guitar amplifiers with a push-pull output stage operate in class B or class A/B. The Laney VC30, like the Vox AC30, runs the output stage in ‘class A’. This puts a lot of stress on the four output valves because, unlike most guitar amplifiers which idle the output valves at a lower power, the output valves in a class A design are biased to run flat out all the time. It’s a bit of a juggling act to design the output stage so that the valves are operated just at, or just below, their operating maximums. This is not helped by the fact that due to European Union legislation, most modern guitar amplifiers are designed to run on 230V mains. The mains voltage at most places in the UK is still 240V or higher. As a result the HT voltages (and heater voltages) for these valves amps run high. The HT is perhaps 20V higher than they were designed for. When you run a class A amplifier, already designed to run the output valves at close to maximum, with a higher HT voltage you are asking for trouble and heater voltages that exceed the specified maximum will cause the heaters to fail (Laney say otherwise on both counts).

There may also be variations between different valve brands in the degree to which they will withstand operation at or past their maximum ratings. In general, Class A amplifiers are likely to require their output valves be changed more frequently.

Diagnostics

Once the back grille was removed is was clear to see that, after the amplifier has been left on for while, the leftmost two EL84’s (viewed from the back of the amplifier) are red plating, so they are obviously passing too much current. This could mean that either the grid resistors or connections are bad, or that the output transformer has a short (transformer checks out OK). The odd crackling and popping noises are probably due to the overheating valves momentarily shorting internally – (it later turns out the first 12AX7 was in poor shape and making horrible noises).

Output transformer primary is Blue – Black CT – Red. Blue to Black 36.3 ohms, and Red to Black 38.4 ohms. It’s the blue side pair of valves that are red plating which do have the lower resistance half of the winding.

EL84

Pin 1 Internal connection  82ohm to pin 9

Pin 2 Grid 1 1K5 to pin 6

Pin 3  Cathode and Grid 3

Pin 4 Filament

Pin 5 Filament

Pin 6 Internal connection 1K5 from pin 2

Pin 7 Anode

Pin 8 Internal connection – the internal connections on the TAD valves really don’t go anywhere

Pin 9 Grid 2 82ohm from pin 1

NOTE 1 – Laney have used pins 1 and pin 6 as support points for the control and screen grid 1.5K and 82 ohm resistor connections. THIS CAN BE DANGEROUS. These pins are marked as ‘Internal connection’ on many data sheets. Most new production valves have nothing internally connected to these pins. However some valves, particularly NOS, DO HAVE connections, for example Pin 1 is connected to Pin 2, the control grid. Damage will occur if valves that do have internal connections are plugged in to this amplifier.  

NOTE 2 – Some versions of this amplifier are fitted with a single HH loudspeaker (with a ‘flat’ baffle, sloping baffle version is OK). The magnet on these sits very close to the output valves. Close enough that the magnetic field from the loudspeaker influences the performance of the valves, causing low output power and early failure. Looking at the back of the amp the EL84 second from the right is the worst affected. Later versions of this amplifier use a Celestion Seventy 80 loudspeaker with a smaller magnet and are apparently not as badly affected (might still be a long term problem?).

According to the circuit diagram, all four output valves are cathode biased at 9V with a common 56ohm 5Watt resistor to ground (measures 10.7V). Combined cathode current at 9V would be 160mA or 40mA per EL84. At 10.7V across the cathode bias resistor, current is 191mA or 47.74mA per valve. In single valve operation, Ia is rated at 48mA.

Why one half of the push pull, red-plates, is a bit of a mystery (as noted previously it may be because these valves are connected to the lower resistance half of the output transformer primary) because all the grid resistors and connections seem to check out. All grid stoppers on pins 1 measure around 1.5K and the common ends of those to ground measure 220K. All suppressor grid (pins 9) resistors measure 82 ohms and are connected to B+. Most likely this set of valves is simply worn out.

Transformer Red is 317.5V (38.4 ohms to the CT) and Blue is 315.5V (36.3 ohms to the CT). Black (B+) is 318.2V.

For convenience I have numbered the output valves from left to right looking at the back of the amplifier as 1,2,3 &4. The spring valve retainers on output valve 2 and 4 have snapped in half.

All four valves have brown spots on the inside of the glass envelope opposite the grid alignment hole in the anode, so it certainly looks like all four have been working hard for some time.

As an experiment I swapped 3 and 4 for 1 and 2 to see if the red plating followed the valves or stayed on the same half of the output transformer primary.

With the valves swapped the red plating follows 3 & 4. 3 & 4  are running about 250 degrees on the glass while (4 is the most visible red) 1 & 2 are at 215 degrees. The red plating is most visible on the side of the amp that faces outwards when mounted in the cabinet.

Unfortunately the amp still red-plates with a brand new set of JJ EL84s.

An LTSpice computer simulation of the output stage shows it performing exactly as the circuit diagram indicates. The voltage drop across the common cathode bias resistor is 9.26V and the total cathode current is 165.5mA.

Measurements with the old set of TAD output valves.

Heaters – 7.74V AC this is very high, nominal is 6.3V

After the addition of the back-to-back diodes the heaters receive 6.36V.

B+ 321V – circuit shows 290V

Suppressor grid common 308.3V – circuit shows 280V

Input grid common for blue pair 4.2V !!!! (it is the blue pair that are obviously red plating)

Input grid common for red pair 0.75V !!!!

Voltage across the cathode bias resistor starts around 10 and then slowly keeps on rising.

The high heater and supply voltages are because this amp is designed for 230V mains and is running on 240V actual UK mains.

The only reason I can see for DC voltages on the common grid drives is that the coupling caps from the phase splitter are leaking. Certainly the LTSpice simulation shows no volts on the grids. The caps in the Laney are dark blue 22nF 630V plastic film. The PCB is printed with 400V for those caps.

Tried disconnecting the 22nF coupling caps C12 and C14.

With the caps disconnected and the back of the PCB cleaned, the pair of EL84’s that drive the blue side of the output transformer still have 1.9 odd volts on the common grid connection where it would normally connect with the phase splitter coupling cap.

With all 4 EL84’s unplugged and power applied there is no voltage on either the common grid connections or across the cathode bias resistor.

With the 4 new JJ EL84s each common grid connection has perhaps 30mV and the cathode bias sees about 10.8V. However this voltage does seem to slowly rise. It does seem as though the old valves are trashed and the voltages apparent on the grids are caused by the bad valves.

However the cathode bias level is high and the valves still red plate. I shall try a 68 ohm cathode bias.

With a 68 ohm cathode resistor the cathode bias is 11.83V

B+ 326V – circuit shows 290V

Suppressor grid common 315.7V – circuit shows 280V

Input grid common for blue pair 30mV

Input grid common for red pair 56mV

Red voltage is 324V 

Blue voltage is 323V

Valve temperature is between 220 and 240 degrees. 

Red drop 3.01V (38.4 ohms) current = 0.078385417 Amps = 23.932 Watts for the red pair

Blue drop 2.56 (36.3 ohms) current = 0.070523416 Amps = 21.509 Watts for the blue pair

Re-test

Red drop 3.111V (38.4 ohms) current =  0.081015625 Amps @ 311.9V drop across the valves =  25.268 Watts for the red pair (labelled 1 and 2 with silver marker)

Blue drop 2.571V (36.3 ohms) current =  0.070826446 Amps @ 312.3V drop across the valves =  22.119 Watts for the blue pair (labelled 3 and 4 with silver marker)

In an attempt to balanced the power of each pair I swapped 1 with 3.

Red drop 2.708V (38.4 ohms) current =  0.070520833 Amps @ 312.8V drop across the valves = 22.058 Watts for the red pair (labelled 3 and 2 with silver marker)

Blue drop 3.023V (36.3 ohms) current = 0.083278237 Amps @ 313.1V drop across the valves = 26.074  Watts for the blue pair (labelled 1 and 4 with silver marker)

Try 3,4,1,2

Red drop 2.705V (38.4 ohms) current =  0.070442708 Amps @ 307.7V drop across the valves = 21.675 Watts for the red pair (labelled 3 and 4 with silver marker)

Blue drop 2.938V (36.3 ohms) current =  0.080936639 Amps @ 307.5V drop across the valves = 24.88 Watts for the blue pair (labelled 1 and 2 with silver marker)

Re-tested with 230V AC mains set and supplied by Variac.

Even at 230V AC the second EL84 from the mains transformer still red plates. It has to be because the supposed matched set I purchased from Hot Rox just are not balanced.

05/05/17 Received a replacement set of EL84’s PC 38.1, TC 9.7 from Hot Rox.

29/08/17 Replaced output valves with a set of Electro Harmonix EL84s 

Valve temperature is around 220 to 190 degrees C.

Output power test

The amplifier develops 40.4 V peak to peak into an 8 ohm resistive load at 400Hz.

That’s 25.5 Watts.

I contacted Laney technical support about the red plating problem and this is what they said –

For the first 13 years of its life the VC30 had a HT of 320V and the were no problems encountered, this is a standard voltage for an amp of this type,

The voltages were lowered slightly due to power surges in Australia, as here the supply voltage is 240V, but their voltage does vary and can be as high as 260V, we had a few instances where the power fuse would blow for no apparent reason.

To rectify this we reduced the voltage and added a surge guard to the power supply, this does however come at a price and the output is reduced slightly below 30W output.

I do not think the transformer is a problem on your amp, but you are more than welcome to purchase a new transformer to try, another thing to check is the output tubes as we have seen matched sets that were very poorly matched.

 We can supply a new transformer for £46.99 shipped to a UK address.

 Regards

Dave Thompson

UK Service & Production Supervisor

http://www.facebook.com/laneyamplification

http://www.laney.co.uk

Parts – 2 x replacement valve clips £4, 4 x P600A 6A diodes £1.56, tag panel £1.0, spacers £0.50, bolts £2.50, 68ohm 5W wire wound resistor £0.50, JJ 12AX7 £13.00, 2 x Electro Harmonix 12AX7s £ 25.95

Total parts – £ 49.01

Repair Log: 1965 Epiphone Olympic Special (looks like a Gibson Melody Maker) SN:xxxxxx

Copyright reserved T Relph-Knight 19/09/17

Value – £750 to 800? although Reverb lists 1965s of this model @ £916, or in excellent condition (still showing a few chips and dings around the edges of the body and at the headstock) @ £1,453.

The New Kings Road Vintage Guitar Emporium UK listed a 1964 Epiphone Olympic (with a sprung steel Vibrola vibrato) for £1,115 in January of this year.

Weight – 2.7 kg 5.95 lbs

A quite heavily worn, double cutaway, Epiphone Olympic Special. The Olympic Special was introduced in 1962 and discontinued in 1970. The asymmetrical body with the bass horn slightly longer than the treble was introduced in 1965. The guitars serial number does not show a hit on the Epiphone serial number database. GuitarHQ.com states that Gibson made, Epiphone serials, in the range 250336 to 305983 are for 1965. These Olympic Specials were made in the Gibson Kalamazoo plant alongside the Gibson Melody Maker, using the same woods and other materials. At least one of these guitars is in circulation with the ‘Melody Maker’ name in block white letters on the strip of pick guard just below the end of the fret board, although it is possible these might be a pick guard swap from a Gibson guitar or a Gibson spare replacement. It’s likely that these guitars were produced with the Epiphone brand, simply because at the time it allowed Gibson to expand its distribution by running two brands. 

Epiphone has used the ‘Olympic’ name for quite a number of models over the years and there may even be some confusion among enthusiasts over which Epiphone’s truly are ‘Olympic’ models. Currently the Olympic name seems to apply to a flat top acoustic Epiphone guitar. 

Around 1965, the Olympic was also made with a six on a side batwing headstock and a ‘Crestwood’ / ‘Wilshire’ body shape (a blockier more square body shape with a long upper horn). It seems as though Gibson standardised on the one shape for Epiphone guitars and simply fitted extra pickups, fancier binding / inlays and vibratos to differentiate between the models. This may have been so that none of the Epiphone branded guitars looked quite so much like guitars in the Gibson range, in this case the Melody maker. 

Body – This guitar has a one piece mahogany body (1 3/8 inches thick, same as a Gibson SG) in a dark brown to yellow vintage sunburst finish. The thin celluloid, faux tortoise shell, pick guard is attached with seven small, blackened steel, wood screws. The pick guard has shrunken slightly, pulling the screws out of vertical in their holes. The single coil pickup at the bridge has no height adjustment, it is simply bolted to the pick guard. The guitar has 250K log Volume and Tone controls fitted with push on Gibson gold ‘bell’ knobs with the silver anodised metal inserts. The tone capacitor is a disc ceramic.

Neck – 22 jumbo frets on a rosewood fretboard, one piece mahogany, set neck. Some visible fret wear on the first 3 frets under the plain strings. The back of the neck has numerous finish chips and dents. A lot of the finish in missing on the treble side between the nut and the ninth fret. Two of the ¼ inch mother of pearl fret markers (there are markers above the 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15, 17, 19 and 21 frets) are missing; one above the third fret and one of the pair above the twelfth fret. Side dots are 1/8 inch white plastic. The narrow headstock is black painted and parallel sided, with an “open book” crest. The Epiphone name is printed in gold along the centre of the headstock. 

Fitted with two, three-on-a-strip, Kluson nickel plated, pressed steel tuners with oval white plastic buttons. These are stamped DELUXE on the back of each tuner shell. These are not the original tuners, as marks from six individual tuners appear in the finish, concealed under the 3 on a side strips. Although strip Kluson tuners were used on the Olympic, so the current tuners are correct to the model and may in fact be the third set on this guitar (original strip Klusons changed for individual tuners, then the individual tuners changed for the existing Kluson strips).

A single action truss rod adjusts with a 5/16” hex nut at the headstock, access covered by a large black/white plastic laminate cover, secured by two screws. The neck joins the body at the 18th fret.

The guitar is fitted with a nickel plated wrap around bridge with a “lightning bolt” ridge and two grub screws to angle the bridge at the posts. This is original to the guitar and model. The ‘lightning’ ridge is compensated for a wound third string and in the 1960s the guitar would originally have shipped with a set of 0.012 gauge strings, with a wound third.

Re-strung with Ernie Ball 2215 Nickel Wound Electric Guitar Strings 10-52 Skinny Top Heavy Bottom.

Problems – In for cleaning (the guitar is quite grubby) and a light restoration. Dots at the third fret and twelfth fret are missing and are to be replaced. Straplock buttons to be replaced with ‘normal’ strap buttons. The two bell knobs are quite battered and the tone knob is no longer secure on the pot shaft. A fret rocker test shows frets: 6, 11, 13, 14, 16 and 21 are high.

Work done – Guitar cleaned and polished. High frets hammered and filed down until a fret rocker test shows they are level with the other frets. Fretboard and frets cleaned and polished. Missing dots replaced. New volume and tone knobs. New standard strap buttons fitted in place of the locking buttons. The middle two screws on each strip of 3 tuners were a poor fit and screwed in at an angle. Screw holes plugged and re-drilled.

Replaced the old ‘lightning ridge compensated for a wound third’ wrap over bridge with a Wilkinson adjustable intonation bridge. The volume and tone controls were sprayed with De-Oxit to reduce track noise and the shafts were lubricated with WD-40. A new set of EB 2215 strings fitted and the action and intonation adjusted and checked.

Intonation after re-stringing and setting the high and low Es as accurately as possible.

Low Error in cents

E +2

A 0

D 0

G +3

B 0

E 0

high 

Parts – 

20/09/17

Ordered 2 sets of Ernie Ball 2215 strings £13.97 Strings Direct, one set for this guitar £6.98

2 black strap buttons and Gibson bell gold and silver knobs £11.80 from Axes R Us

Wilkinson wrap over bridge – £25 

Total – £43.78

 

Harley Benton PB-50 LH FR

Repair log: Harley Benton PB-50 LH FR (1950’s, Precision Bass, Left Handed in Fiesta Red) Vintage Series

Copyright retained, Terry Relph-Knight 20/06/18

Cost – £ 95.82 + shipping

Delivered with a black soft gig bag.

Fender do not currently make a single coil vintage precision bass in their standard range, let alone a left handed version. The closest is the Mike Dirnt Road Worn® Precision Bass® with a split humbucker pickup at £1,399.

A Fender 52 Precison Bass is only available from the Custom Shop.

The customer brought this bass to me because he wanted the headstock re-shaped from the Harley Benton outline to the correct shape for a Fender 50s Precision Bass.  

This bass is a Thomann in house brand, far east made, left handed version of the Fender 1951 Precision bass with the four pole single coil pickup and design features carried over from the Telecaster. It is a long scale instrument 864mm, 34 inches. It ships with D’Addario round wound strings 0.045, 0.065, 0.080, 0.100. Perhaps EXL170 ?, £22.99 of value just in the strings. 

This instrument represents astounding value for money. Like most low cost Chinese instruments it looks great and the paint finish is excellent, but there are signs of rapid finally assembly by semi-unskilled workers – the string tree barely attached by a very small screw at an odd angle, the untidy fit of the neck in the neck pocket and the neck screws fitted at odd angles.

Harley Benton PB-50 LH FR (1950’s

With just a little corrective work this bass is a unique looking instrument that plays well and sounds great.

Body – A basswood contoured body (probably in four or five pieces) in a Fiesta Red high gloss finish with a white vinyl single ply pick guard. Some of the countersinking for the pick guard attachment screws could be a little deeper. No neck shimming in the neck pocket. This body has forearm and belly contours and a fairly heavy edge radius, all of which the original 1951 instrument would not have had. 

Unlike the review of one of these basses on YouTube, this instrument does not have a hidden hole under the pickguard, the hole for the pickup lead is correctly drilled, from the pickup cavity through to the control cavity. Fair amount of dust under the pick guard. The control cavity is not screened.

Neck – A substantial modern C profile, two piece maple neck with a glued on 16 inch radius, 20 jumbo fret maple fret board (truss rod obviously routed and fitted from the front). Black plastic dot markers. Dual action truss rod adjusts at the headstock with a 4mm Hex key. Removed from the body the neck is almost flat with just a hint of forward bow. Rod had maybe 1 and ½ turns clockwise. White plastic 42mm nut. 4 bolt neck plate with a black plastic cushion. The four screws were very tight in their holes and had been drilled and fitted at odd angles. The corners of the heel are a bit sharp and the neck doesn’t fit all the way to the bottom of the neck pocket – there is about a 1mm gap.

Repair log: Harley Benton PB-50 LH FR

Hardware –  Pickup: Roswell VTN4 Vista Vintage PB Style single coil (specd. At 9Kohm DC resistance, actual DC resistance is 8.81K). Black Forbon flatwork, top printed with the Roswell logo in white, four ¼ inch Alnico 5 rod magnets, coil wrapped in black fabric tape.

L in HenrysQResistance

120Hz 4.114 0.3574 8.882

1000Hz 4.137 2.710 9.602

16mm Volume (B250K lin, 247.5K measured and treble A250K log, 257.6K measured) controls on a Tele prototype style chromed plate. Chromed dome knobs with plastic push on inserts. Wiring isn’t terrible. As this is left handed instrument the controls operate in reverse, so its anti-clockwise for more volume or treble. The linear volume is reasonably smooth but the log treble wired in reverse is of course, very on/off. The precision basses from the ‘50s had a 0.05uF (50nF) tone cap and today the nearest standard capacitor value would be a 0.047uf (47nF). The capacitor fitted is a 68nF nominal value plastic film capacitor which measures at 73.26nF. This larger value would also tend to exaggerate the on / of nature of the tone control.

The chromed 4 saddle bridge plate is probably a zinc alloy casting, but the barrel saddles are of chrome plated steel. 4 Kluson style elephant ear tuners with centre split posts. The tuner posts are steel, not zinc alloy, I don’t know if the chromed gear is cast zinc or brass. A single round string tree between the E and the A tuners. String tree screw is very small, is fitted at a weird angle, and barely bites into the headstock.

The strap buttons are rather notional – small and without much taper.

Problems / modifications – Customer wanted the Harley Benton headstock outline re-shaped to something closer to the original Telecaster shape. As became apparent, the Volume and Tone controls are unsuitable values and do not work well. The output jack is very cheap and flimsy.

Very poor intonation.

Work done – Disassembled the bass and checked for fit and finish. Deepened the pick guard screw countersinking a little, as a few of the screws were standing a little proud. Countersunk the screw holes in the body to minimise any possibility of finish cracking around the holes. Countersunk the screw holes in the neck to minimise tear out and ensure a flush fit to the bottom of the neck pocket.

Sanded a little more of a radius on to the corners and back of the heel to improve the neck fit.

Lubricated the four neck screws with candle wax so they aren’t quite so stiff to screw home.

Re-cut the outline of the headstock to be closer to a ‘53 precision bass, using a template for a Mike Dirnt signature bass. Sealed the cut surfaces with 3 coats of Danish oil. 

Plugged the string tree hole, re-drilled it and fitted a more robust screw. Fitted a matched pair of more robust screws to the jack plate. 

Replaced the volume and tone controls with Alpha 25mm 250K anti-logarithmic pots, the tone cap with a 0.047uF (46.22nF measured) plastic film capacitor and the output jack with a Switchcraft jack. Re-assembled and adjusted the intonation, which was way out. Also tweaked the action/saddle heights a little as the saddles were all at odd angles.

Intonation as delivered (now adjusted for zero error)

E +6

A +13

D +6

G +8

It doesn’t seem as though intonation was ever set on this instrument as it was a long way out. Probably the saddles were left in a what looked like a sensible stair step pattern as the bridge came off the factory pile. The saddle heights also don’t seem to have received much attention since all four are slightly tilted. 

As with most bass string sets the two low strings in the D’Addario set fitted are double wound while the two uppers are single wound. Consequently the intonation compensation for the two pairs of strings is almost the same, with the two single wound strings requiring a shorter string length than the two double wound. This explains why Leo Fender thought he could get away with only two saddles, each saddle sharing a pair of strings, for the original design of this bass. 

Action as delivered – open string action at the twelfth fret – G  2mm E 3mm

After adjustment G 2mm E 2.5mm

A fret rocker test did not reveal any high frets.

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Below is an examples of the detailed repair logs we issue with our repairs.

Repair Log: 2006 Epiphone Custom Shop Limited Edition Casino vintage sunburst SN:xxxxxx made by the Un Sung Musical Instrument Co., Ltd., Inchon, Korea.

Copyright retained by Terry Relph-Knight 17/09/17

Current value – purchased second hand for £450. Can be found on offer for as high as £799. Current production has a Casino VS (no Bigsby) which sells at a street price of £438.10.

Following the upgrade work perhaps £600

Delivered with a black, Epiphone branded, hard case.

A 2006 Epiphone Custom Shop, Limited Edition, Casino thin-line, electric guitar. Two piece (scarfed headstock) mahogany D profile narrow neck, 41mm at the nut. Truss rod (4mm hex hey) adjusts at the nut, 3 screw access under an E branded cover plate. Hollow body of maple ply with basswood bracing. Cream binding top and bottom edge of the body and on the neck. 12 inch radius rosewood fretboard with off-white plastic dots and 22 medium jumbo frets. Body is finished in a black/brown to dark transparent yellow, vintage sunburst. The neck and headstock are painted black with the Epiphone brand inlaid in mother of pearl at the top of the headstock. The headstock is of the narrow style with in-curved sides and a pronounced ‘open book’ crest. The internal paper label shows the model as “Casino VS” (vintage sunburst). A round silver ink stamp on the back of the headstock just above the line of the nut, states the guitar is Limited Edition Custom Shop. The Epiphone Custom Shop brand is used on limited run models.

The specifications for the current Casino on the Epiphone web site give a neck width of 1.68 inches. The neck on this one measures 1.635 and the nut itself is just a little narrower than the neck.

Hardware – Epiphone Kluson style 18:1 tuners (stamped with the Epiphone epsilon brand) with integral nickel plate oval metal buttons. Epiphone licensed Bigsby B700 model trapeze vibrato tailpiece. Two Epiphone P90 pickups with chrome plated dog-ear covers (the base plates of the P90s have their two end tabs soldered to the inside of the dog ears on the covers), Epiphone ABR-1 style Tone-O-Matic bridge (nickel plated). The two bridge posts, which have a small slot in the top for height adjustment with a flat screwdriver, are M4 metric thread and they screw in to 12mm diameter metal inserts in the top of the guitar that seem to be set into the bracing. Unfortunately the guitar is missing the floating pickguard with the Epiphone E metal logo and these pickguards are hard to find and expensive to replace. Metal insert witch hat knobs (reflector knobs).

Problems – Brought in for reduction of the very high action (previous owner used it for rhythm playing) and a general check over.

Has a loose output jack, pickup switch and bridge tone control. The treble side bridge post is screwed much further into the guitars top than the post on the bass side. The bridge is set very high and is highest on the treble side. Guitar is generally a little dirty and the finish looks very dull. Judging by traces of an abrasive white power found under the Bigsby and by the state of the finish, the previous owner tried rubbing down the gloss of the finish, possibly to make it look like an older guitar. 

With the strings removed the neck had a tiny amount of forward bow. The truss rod was loose with no tension applied. I tightened the truss rod until the neck was flat and then applied a fret rocker test.

The test shows the following frets are high; 10 just a little on the high E side, 12 particularly on the low E side, 14, 18 and 20 a little in the middle.

Work done –  Fitted a Goldo Tune-o-Matic bridge with roller saddles with added M3 bridge locking grub screws. Dropped the bridge height from the high setting as received to adjust the action and adjusted the depth of the two threaded bridge posts that are screwed in to inserts in the top of the guitar.

Tightened up the nuts on all the controls, on the switch and on the output jack. Dabbed on some clear nail varnish to help lock the nuts in place.

Partial fret level – filed down the high frets with a crowning file and smoothed and buffed with Crimson fret rubbers.

Cleaned and polished the guitar, trying to buff out the fine scratches left by the previous owner.

Re-built the licensed Bigsby. Removed the old tension roller. Manufactured two plastic conversion sleeves to support the Callaham 3/16 tension roller axle in the 3/8 inch holes in the axle mounts. Drilled and tapped the back of the Bigsby frame for 3mm grub screws to lock the conversion sleeves and axle in place. Removed the inner circlip from the string roller to stop it binding against the bearing housing. Inserted two fibre washers to take up the slack between the bearing in the Bigsby arm and the inner face of the arm bracket. The string roller and the arm now swing with very low friction. Re-mounted the Bigby on the guitar and clipped a Vibromate String Spoiler to the string roller to make re-stringing easier.

Filed the nut slots to accommodate the heavy bottom / light top string set, to reduced string sticking and to reduce clearance over the first fret to improve intonation and ease of play.

The Bigsby – The ‘licensed’ Bigsby vibrato is a B700, trapeze tailpiece model. The main change that Epiphone have made to the design, presumably in order to save money, is that rather than drill the 3/16” holes in the aluminium frame for the front roller axle and drill and tap for a grub screw in the frame leg, Epiphone chose to cast larger 3/8” inch holes (roughly 3/8” the holes actually taper from the outside in). A 1/4” roller axle is used, running in push-in nylon bushings inserted, both into the frame and into the ends of the thin tension roller tube. The axle is retained by circlips at either end rather than the grub screw through the frame as on a geniune Bigsby.

I wanted to upgrade the Epiphone licensed Bigsby by fitting a Callaham solid, stainless steel tension roller (3/16” shaft 0.187 inch, roller is 2.215 long by ?? diam) and a drilled through string shaft (0.374 inch diam, Epiphone is 0.388, Bigsby is 0.373). These parts are designed to fit a genuine Bigsby and neither are a direct retro fit in the Epiphone licensed version of the Bigsby. The tension roller can perhaps be made to fit with suitable 3/8 to 3/16 reduction bushings. The string shaft is narrower (0.374 inches diameter compared to 0.388 inches of the existing Epiphone shaft) and would probably be too loose a fit. The options on the string shaft are, either remove all the string pins and the string roller from the frame, drill through the string roller and countersink the holes to allow the strings to be threaded through the roller. Or – to try fitting a Vibromate String Spoiler for easier string loading. I eventually settled for the Vibromate which seems to work OK without shifting and altering the tuning.

Unlike my Korean made, but genuine, Bigsby B5, on the Epiphone licensed version there are retaining circlips fitted on either end of the string shaft, holding it in place in the frame. My B5 has only one circlip on the outer end and its lateral movement is limited at the other end by the arm bracket that is attached to the string shaft with a grub screw running into a mating hole in the shaft. On the Epiphone the two circlips are too close to the roller bearings and they mechanically interfere with the bearing housings. As a result, when the Epiphone string shaft is rotated it feels like the bearings are full of sand. I removed the circlip on the arm bracket end and limited the side-to-side slack by fitting some washers on the shaft between the vibrato frame and the arm bracket. 

After removing the Epiphone tension roller, I reamed out the tapered holes in the vibrato frame with a 9.5mm drill. I manufactured two new plastic bushings from ABS 0.75 inch long 3/8” diameter spacers with centre hole drilled out to 5mm. These were cut down to 14mm long and a compression slot cut through one side.

Repair log – Tokai SS60 model Silver Star Stratocaster copy, SN: XXXXXXX, made in Japan between 1976 and 1982

© Terry Relph-Knight 09/01/18

Current value  – £ 500

Current weight = 3.6kg or 7.94lbs.

While still making excellent guitars today, Japanese maker Tokai became known in the 1970’s for their affordable copies of the iconic American electric guitars. This guitar was based on early copy of the Fender CBS era Stratocaster. The client had purchased this guitar quite recently with the intention of having it completely re-built, with many parts to be replaced with new modern equivalents. 

Tokai SS60 model Silver Star

Tokai SS60 model Silver Star

While these Tokai guitars are certainly very good copies, they are copies of US originals that were arguably at their lowest ebb in terms of quality. While the Tokai wooden parts and pickups are usually very good, some of the general hardware is of low quality. In particular the synchronised vibrato bridge, which on many Tokai S type guitars is a chrome plated, single piece, zinc alloy casting, with cast zinc alloy saddles. Some Fender guitars of the period also feature solid cast zinc bridges as a cost saving (the more complicated and expensive machined steel inertia block, bolted to a hardened steel bridge plate, with folded steel saddles was judged unnecessary by Fender management at the time) so exactly who was copying who isn’t clear.   

Discussed Modifications

Replace all the electronics with new CTS pots, Orange Drop tone cap, Oak switch etc.

New knobs

Replace all screws with new – black screws on the pickguard

New black conical strap studs

Electrically screen the guitar with copper tape

Replace the bridge with a Wilkinson steel block bridge with vintage saddles

Fit a new brass nut

New Grover locking tuners

Replace the old bent metal string trees with Graph Tech trees 

New Switchcraft output socket

New D’Addario waterfall swirl scratch plate

New silver mirror tremolo cavity cover

Fit a set of 10 to 46 strings

Set-up and adjust the intonation

Body – The body is 3 piece, probably of Sen Ash, finished in metallic silver. Body has 3 routes for single coil pickups. The control route is stamped with 12=1SG Y.

3 bolt, micro tilt, chrome  plated steel neck plate, 2.5mm hex key to adjust the micro-tilt. The neck pocket was shimmed with two pieces of paper so whoever did it, either did not understand the micro-tilt system, or couldn’t find a suitable hex key. There is no internal shielding. All the internal routing is extremely clean and tidy.

Neck – Maple, one piece, 3 bolt neck with black plastic dots finished in a high gloss poly that has darkened to a ‘vintage’ amber. The fret surface is 7.25 inch radius with 21 thin ‘vintage’ frets, a soft V profile, narrow 41mm nut width to 55mm at the last fret. Standard Fender necks are 43mm at the nut to 55mm at the last fret. The nut itself measures 39mm and may not be original. Quite heavy fret wear under the plain strings down to the eighth fret. Large Fender CBS style headstock.

Truss rod adjusts from the headstock with a 4mm hex key bullet nut with a 5mm thread. 12 = 2 is stamped on the end of the heal. Two bent metal string trees with a spacer. 

The Tokai logo in black with a gold outline, SILVER STAR in black and the serial number in black are printed on the front face of the headstock.

Hardware – The pick guard is a black three ply guard with 11 fixing screws. Strange little 5 way pickup switch. 

The bridge is an extremely poor, single piece Zinc casting, that combines the top plate and the inertia block. The entire thing is chrome plated (these single piece die cast bridges seem to be fitted to all the old Tokai Strats). It is fitted with block cast zinc alloy saddles. 

The bridge fixing screws and strings are on a 55mm spacing. The screw in vibrato arm is stainless steel with a white tip and obviously not the original.

Pots – Japanese, Vol 308.2K, tone 314.5K, tone 307.3K, all 20% law. 0.047uF plastic film tone cap.

Problems – In for a general re-build, cleaning and set-up.

Work done  Guitar disassembled, cleaned and polished. Body cavities lined with copper screening tape. New D’Andrea pick guard fitted with CTS pots – 250K 10% curve for volume and 250K 20% curve tone for a smoother control of tone, wired for first tone neck pickup, second tone bridge pickup. Tone cap – 0.022uf Orange Drop. Oak 5 way pickup selector switch fitted, with a black switch tip secured with a drop of superglue. Cheap Japanese output jack replaced with a Switchcraft, fitted with a screened cable. One piece Zinc alloy bridge replaced with a Wilkinson WV6SBCR (chrome plated steel bridge plate with a steel inertia block) which has the narrower 2 1/8 inch string spacing and the oval mounting holes that will allow for the odd Tokai bridge mounting screw spacing. The narrower string spacing reduces the likelihood of the strings falling off the edge of the fretboard. Tremolo springs replaced with the new Wilkinson, as the old Tokai springs had hooks that were too long for the Wilkinson block. Tokai spring claw retained as it matches the spacing of the original tremolo tension screws. Truss rod nut  removed, lubricated and replaced.  Original Tokai conical springs used for the pickup mounting the Tokai pickups rather than surgical tubing. 

Fitted a thin plastic shim to the long edge of the neck pocket to reduce neck slop.

Brass nut fitted in place of the original too small and loose plastic nut. I used a standard 43mm wide nut with a 35mm string spacing and filed the ends down to match the narrow 40mm wide neck. This means the guitar now has the standard Fender string spacing at the nut, along with the narrow string spacing at the bridge. This places the strings across the the fretboard in a very comfortable position – wider at the nut for ease of fingering, but at the same time further from the fretboard edge on the higher frets.

Guitar re-assembled, set of RotoSound Yellows (10 to 46) fitted (twists soldered on the three plain strings) set-up and intonated. Tremolo cavity fitted with a silver mirror cover plate.

Painted on some clear nail varnish across a crack in the finish that runs from the lower corner of the neck pocket in an attempt to stabilise the finish and minimise the possibility of a large chip coming away.

Pickup measurements

Tokai

L (H) R (K) Q

Neck 2.206 6.205 0.2746 @ 120Hz

2.2116.4922.143@ 1000Hz

Middle 2.216 6.207 0.2755 @ 120Hz

2.2136.5162.137@ 1000Hz

Bridge 2.193 6.228 0.2718 @ 120Hz

  2.196 6.510 2.122 @ 1000Hz

0.186 inch diameter, I assume Alnico 5, unbevelled magnets, set flat on the bottom with a smooth 7.25inch radius stagger on top. Grey forbon top and bottom plates. The coil windings are sealed under black fabric tape and the coil lead outs are thin plastic insulated wire so I cannot make any comment on the coil wire type. Pickup wires are black and blue plastic insulated solid copper wire. The pickups are all the same polarity with the South pole uppermost, (no Reverse Wound Reverse Polarity – RWRP – here). These pickups are wax dipped. Pickup covers are black plastic. The covers don’t fit flush, they are short of the forbon baseplate by about 1mm which allows clearance for the two lead out wires.

All three pickups are manufactured to identical specifications. They are wound a little hotter than the Tokai pickups on the clients sunburst Tokai and would seem a close match to the early 50’s classic Fender Strat pickups.

Pickup heights recommended by Fender

With the strings depressed at the last fret. Measure clearance from the bottom of the string to the top of the pickup pole piece.

Bass Side Treble Side

Vintage style 6/64″ (2.4 mm) 5/64″ (2 mm)

Tools required for adjustment

5mm Hex Key for the truss rod

1.5mm Hex Key for the bridge saddle heights and for the arm tension

Pozidrive No.1 for the intonation screws

Parts –

£ 6.50 set of strings

£ 5.00 for copper tape

£ 4.50 for teflon insulated silver plated wire and tie wraps

£ 31.50 Wilkinson WV6SBCR vibrato bridge

£ 3.92 Set of 3 black Strat knobs with white legends

£ 5.25 One 250K 10% law CTS pot

£ 10.50 Two 250K 20% law CTS pots

£ 2.10 1 x Orange Drop 0.022uF capacitor for tone control

£ 5.42 Oak five way selector switch

£ 3.60 Switchcraft jack socket

£ 95.00 Set of Grover locking tuners

£ 2.00 Silver mirror finish tremolo cavity cover

£ 30.00 D’Andrea blue swirl pearl pick guard

£ 9.00 Brass replacement nut

£ 2.60 2 x conical black strap buttons

£ 2.47 19 x pickguard screws @ 13p each

£ 0.72 6 x M3 by 35mm black hex button screws for the pickups @ 12p each

Parts total – £ 220.08

Tokai Springy Sound model numbers – which are usually engraved on the last fret or on the neck heel – generally break down as follows:

  • ST-42 (1977 – 1979) – U-shaped neck, chrome hardware, non-Kluson type tuners, ceramic pickups, 3- or 4-piece sen ash body with poly finish 
  • ST-45 (1980 – 1981) – U-shaped neck, chrome hardware, non-Kluson type tuners, ceramic pickups, 3- or 4-piece alder body with poly finish 
  • ST-50 (1977 – 1984) – U-shaped neck, nickel hardware, Kluson-type tuners, alnico “E,” “U,” “V” or “VI” pickups, 3-piece alder or sen ash body with poly finish 
  • ST-60 (1977 – 1984) – V shaped neck, nickel hardware, Kluson-type tuners, alnico “E,” “U,” “V” or “VI” pickups, 2-piece sen ash or alder body with poly finish 
  • ST-70 (1982 – 1983) – U-shaped neck, nickel hardware, Kluson-type tuners, DiMarzio VS-1 alnico pickups, 2-piece sen ash or alder body with poly finish 
  • ST-80 (1979 – 1983) – V-shaped neck, nickel or gold hardware, Kluson-type tuners, DiMarzio VS-1 alnico pickups, 2-piece sen ash or alder body with nitro finish 
  • ST-100 (1979 – 1983) – V-shaped neck, gold hardware, Kluson-type tuners, DiMarzio VS1 alnico pickups, 1- or 2-piece sen ash body with nitro finish 
  • ST-120 (1982) – V-shaped neck, gold hardware, Kluson-type tuners, DiMarzio VS-1 alnico pickups, 1-piece ash body with nitro finish 

All of the above models were available with a rosewood fingerboard, but this feature is very rare on ST-80 and higher models. Tokais can also be identified through their serial numbers, but there are some instances of departures from this system. 

Repair log – 1963 Watkins Copicat MkII – tape loop echo/reverb unit SN: xxxx, made in London SW9, by Watkins Electric Music also known as WEM.

Repair Date – 09/09/16 Customer – xxxx xxxx

Terry Relph-Knight copyright retained

Price – The original price in 1962 was £38.10 (around £763 inflation adjusted). Today – £400 to £565, depending on condition. This one is graded as – ‘in good condition’

Description – A mechanical ¼ inch tape loop, valve, reverb / echo unit. This unit is a MkII valve unit, although the makers plate shows it as a ‘D.T.S.’ model (apparently D.T.S. means ‘death to Selmer’. Charlie Watkins was annoyed with Selmer because they had simply copied his earlier two head echo and this D.T.S. three head unit was his response).

Controls –  Motor only on / off toggle switch, incandescent 6.5V indicator lamp, Swell control with anticlockwise on/off mains switch for the entire unit, Reverb control, Gain 1 control (input 1), Gain 2 control (input 2). Two ¼ inch mono jack sockets for input 1 and 2. Three push button keys for ‘Halo’, ‘Echo’ and ‘Repet’ (short for repetition? Rather than a misspelling of repeat).

1963 Watkins Copicat MkII – tape loop echo/reverb unit

Hardware – Case is made from 6mm plywood covered in two tone oatmeal and turquoise flecked rexine, with ‘gold’ piping and fittings. The tape transport is of 18 gauge steel plate, painted turquoise and silk screened in white with the logos and control labels. Mounted on the left of the plate is a two roller, cast aluminium tension arm, incorporating a permanent magnet for erase. From left to right there is a record head followed by three playback heads. After the heads there is a fixed aluminium tape guide followed by the motor spindle / tape capstan. The electronics are mounted on a separate bent steel plate under the transport plate. A captive 2 core mains lead (replaced with a grounded 3 core) and two captive screened cables for a footswitch and the signal out, exit the left edge of the transport plate and are stored in a recess in the left end of the case.

Valves – This unit has a Mullard ECC83, a Brimar 6BR8 and a Mullard ECC83 – These may be the original valves. Each half of one ECC83 is used as an input amp for the two input channels (inputs are 1Meg each), the 6BR8 (a dual tetrode plus triode) is used for the record head driver and for the bias oscillator and the second ECC83 is used as the playback amplifier. All the signal mixing is by a passive resistor network, high impedance output.

Problems – Produces a horrible noise (hum) when the Echo push button (middle button of three) is depressed. No power indicator light. Bottom grille is smashed. Badly needs a new tape loop. Mirror insert missing from the middle of one of the knobs. Two core mains lead and the output cable has an ugly terminal block splice in it.

Work Done –  Unit disassembled and cleaned (the inside of the case under the transport had some rather alien looking dust bunnies in it). Heads cleaned with isopropyl alcohol. Middle playback head, bottom grille, indicator lamp and output cable replaced. Two core oval mains cable replaced with a three core Live, Neutral and Earth cable, so the unit complies with current safety regulations. Two mismatched securing screws replaced with matching screws. Tension arm bearings lubricated. Replacement Marriott head measures 1038 ohms, 589mH. Bad head is open circuit, shows more wear and a wider head gap.

Diagnostic notes – The circuit diagram of these Watkins units shows that the three playback heads, which are spaced along the tape path at increasing distances from the record head, are all wired in a series chain into the input of the playback amplifier. Three push button switches (labelled ‘Halo’, ‘Echo’ and Repet’ – yes it really is labelled Repet) are wired, in the up position, to short across each head winding. Pushing each switch down removes the short and includes each playback head in the playback circuit chain. If any of the play heads are open circuit the playback amplifier sees an open circuit when that head is selected by its push button, and the output produces a loud hum.

Parts replaced – Playback head, Bottom grille, lamp, 3 core mains cable, output cable, 2 fixing screws, knob insert. Note – Parts are extremely hard to find. There is now only one source.

Repair Log: 1968/71? Fender Coronado II in Antigua finish, hollow body, left handed SN:XXXXXX, according to the serial number look-up on http://www.guitardaterproject.org – made at the Fullerton Plant (Fender – CBS Era), USA in 1971. The neck date indicates 1968.

Copyright reserved by Terry Relph-Knight

Value – maybe £2,000, the guitar is not in mint condition, but it is left handed

Weight – 3.3Kg or 7.27lbs

In 2013 Fender released a Coronado re-issue (no trem) at around £592 street, now discontinued. Although some of these guitars are still in the retail chain. These are ‘modern player’ guitars. They keep the original aesthetic, but add ‘upgrades’ or changes to make the guitars more player friendly. The re-issue ‘modern player’ Coronado has a solid centre block, a pinned Gibson style Adjust-O-Matic bridge and two Fender Fidelitron humbucking pickups. The re-issues only have a trapeze tailpiece, no tremolo. This original guitar is likely of most interest to collectors since the design does not work well as a players guitar.

Fender Coronado II in Antigua finish

The Coronado is a Roger Rossmeisl design from the CBS years, produced from 1966 up to 1972. A German immigrant to the USA in 1953, Rossmeisl had trained as a luthiere in Mittenwald, Germany. He worked at Gibson and then Rickenbacker, where he had Mosrite founder Semie Mosely as an apprentice, before moving to Fender.

The Coronado was inspired by the Beatles use of the Epiphone Casino thin-line hollow guitar and the following fashion for Epiphone style thin-line hollow and semi-hollow guitars. Sales of Stratocasters had fallen away and Fender wanted a hollow body guitar to compete. It is a bolt neck, in this case left handed, thin-line hollow guitar (there is a block under the tremolo) with a bound body, two bound F holes and a floating pickguard. The II indicates this is a two pickup version, there was also a single pickup version, a twelve string and two basses.

The Coronado II’s were made with a number of variations and colours, such as a transparent pick guard (with black script) instead of the black burst white with the script ‘Antigua’ guard on this one, a two screws and a bar string retainer instead of a string tree, two smaller knobs for the tone controls and the addition of the lettering ‘Coronado II’ in black to the headstock. 

Some Coronados had a black/white chequerboard pattern in the binding. The chrome pickup surrounds have a point on one side and although these were usually fitted with the point down towards the tailpiece, some Coronado’s have them the other way up. Sometimes you will see them with one pickup pointing up and one down! These may simply be guitars where the owners have decided to rotate the pickups. Just about every picture on the web shows the floating bridge in a different place and angle. Assuming the dimensions and pickup positions weren’t changing a lot out of the factory then the intonation on most of these guitars must be way off.

It seems to have been a ‘thing’ for the Coranado’s to have the name of the finish written on the pick guard. Coronado’s in the Wildwood, dyed beechwood version, have ‘Wildwood’ on the guard.

Delivered with a solid Gator case and with a nylon strap. Missing a tremolo bar. Apparently these bar’s are the same as those used on Fender Mustangs, but replacements are extremely hard to find.

Body – The double cutaway, arched, thinline body is of beechwood ply with a white/black/white binding front and back. It is finished in a black to off-white (the white appears yellow under the aged clear coat) burst with black sides, a paint scheme known as Antigua. Trivia fact – the Antigua burst was apparently invented because of a manufacturing error. The glue Fender used to fix the body binding on some of the Coronado bodies left a stain, or chemical burn, around the edge of the body. The thin black burst was applied to hide this ‘burn’. 

Other paint schemes in the Coronado line feature more conventional sunbursts or solid colours. Coronado’s other than the Antigua had a black painted headstock and dot fret markers.

The finish on this guitar has a number of long cracks in it and the odd chip. Particularly under the bridge pucks and the trapeze tremolo pads where the paint has stuck to the rubber pads.

The neck pocket has three Fender, thin Forbon shims, two in red and one thicker shim in black.

The stamps for T OLLMER and D CRAWFORD are just visible in the neck pocket. Also a large hand scrawled T. 

Neck – A one piece, 25.5 inch scale, 7.25 inch radius, flame maple neck (some birdseye) with a bound, light reddish-brown rosewood board and MOTO block inlays. There are multiple cracks across the width of the binding and some sweat has penetrated through these and discoloured the edge of the maple neck. 21 small frets, some visible fret wear down to the seventh fret across all strings. The nut (width 1 and 19/32 inches, or 41mm) stops inside the binding, since this is already a narrow neck this makes for a slightly narrower string spacing (33.5mm E to E, standard is 34mm). The headstock is burst painted to match the body and carries a script Fender logo in black with a gold outline. Despite what the serial number seems to indicate, the end of the neck is stamped with 19FEB68B.

In February of 1964 (until around 1973) Fender introduced a selection of custom neck sizes:

A: A narrow 1 1/2″ neck, B: The standard 1 5/8″ neck, C: 1 3/4″ neck, D 1 7/8″ neck.

All non-standard necks (ie A,C, D) could be ordered for an extra 5% above the retail price.

A & C necks are rare, and D necks are very rare, as virtually no one ordered one. The letter code does not refer to neck shape, only width.

So this neck is supposedly a B, a standard width 1 5/8 neck. 

Hardware – One folded metal string tree on quite a tall plastic spacer on the E and B strings.  Fender branded, Grover six-on-a-side customised Rotomatic tuners, with rounded rectangular pearloid buttons. These are fitted closely together (the spacing along with the large buttons make this guitar hard to tune) and five of these tuners have a small bevel on the locating screw lug that allows it to tuck in under the next tuner. The sixth tuner for the low E does not have a lug bevel, so the tuners must be fitted in the order of – 5 bevelled and the sixth without the bevel. The holes for these tuners seem to have been drilled a little over size by mistake because the Grover bevelled washers under the threaded collars have been supplemented with larger washers to cover the oversized holes drilled in the headstock. The tuners seem to require a stepped hole.

Two single coil, surface mount pickups with screw poles, fairly ornate chromed mounts (with a split to avoid circulating eddy currents, from what would be effectively a shorted turn, damping the pickup response), black tops. The chrome surrounds sit on artificial rubber/PVC gaskets, which of course, over time, tend to stick to the finish on the top of the guitar. Some Coronados where fitted with DeArmond pickups with Alnico rod magnets on spring loaded carriers, adjusted by six separate screws. The pickups on this guitar, which seem to be fitted to the majority of Coronado’s on the web, are probably also DeArmond, but are simpler in construction. It appears there are six rod magnet mounted in threaded cylinders which appear at the top of the pickup as six small slot head screw poles.

With the Mustang and the Coronado, Fender introduced the Fender Dynamic Vibrato, a two part system where the tremolo mechanism is separated from the bridge. The Coronado has a completely floating bridge that balances on two needle point bearing screws that sit in chrome plated, cast zinc pucks. The bridge has six adjustable barrel saddles. The two point pivot tremolo system has a heavy chrome string anchor bar and is loose trapeze mounted to a hook plate screwed to the guitars end block. The string tension is balanced by a double leaf spring, concealed in the tailpiece. The Coronado trem is similar to that used on the Jazzmaster, but differs in having a leaf spring and the heavy string anchor bar. The original Fender Mustang has the same heavy string anchor bar and the same tremolo arm, but uses two coil springs to provide counter tension to the strings.

The Mustang was and is an entry level, beginners guitar which sold in large numbers. Despite that even replacement Mustang tremolo bars (left handed) are hard to find.

  

Floating, Antigua burst scratchplate with ‘Antigua’ in black script.

 

Controls are Gibson style two volumes, two tones (all wired in reverse – see Diagnosis) and a three way pickup selector switch.  

Problems – Entire guitar is very grubby, the bridge tone knob is loose and the intonation screw is missing from the bottom E saddle (a 4-40 5/8 apparently – available in packs of 12 from Strings Direct). On another saddle the intonation screw thread is damaged and the screw is jammed. Pickup switch seems stiff and unreliable. Top three tuners are loose on their locating screws and threaded collars. Oddly unbalanced output from the bridge pickup with the high E pole raised above the others. Missing the original left handed tremolo arm. Odd paint chips and surface marks where the guitar has knocked against white house-paint and this has transferred to the guitar surface. 

Work done – Disassembled, thoroughly cleaned and polished the guitar. Polished and waxed the fretboard. Reconditioned the heads of the four neck ‘bolts’ and all other bolts and screws.

Tightened the output jack nut and painted on a little clear nail varnish to help lock it in place.

Disassembled the tremolo, cleaned, lubricated and reassembled.

Disassembled the bridge and cleaned all the parts with WD-40, re-assembled and replaced the missing intonation screw with the nearest US thread screw I had. Also cleared a crossed thread on one of the saddles. Removed the 3/32 inch hex wrench stuck to the back of the bridge pickup. This is the size of wrench used to adjust the bridge height grub screws. 

Removed all six tuners, cleaned and replaced them on the headstock.

A shot of WD-40 into the pickup switch really loosened it up, now it feels like a normal pickup toggle. Similarly, isopropyl alcohol followed by a spot of light oil freed up all the controls. Electronics tested while the guitar was disassembled and it functioned with no faults, no crackles or dropouts (also later tested OK with the guitar plugged in), except for the discovery of the reversed control wiring.

Touched up some of the paint chips. 

Guitar re-strung with a set of D’Addario EXL110 nickel wound 10’s and truss rod and bridge adjusted for best action. Bridge saddles adjusted for intonation correction.

Diagnosis – The neck tone pot had a ‘frozen’ shaft due to the shaft lubricant having thickened. As a result excessive turning force applied to the knob had caused the knob to loosen and spin on the shaft. All four controls show signs of the lubricant thickening. 

For some bizarre reason all the controls are wired in reverse, so that maximum is anti-clockwise. Apparently the wiring harness used in the Fender Coronado line was manufactured by Rowe Industries of Toledo, Ohio and delivered as a completely pre-assembled set. Although there is no sign the wiring has been modified, the control reversal, if it is not original, could be the result of a re-wire.

Lifted the two pickups to clean under them and found a small hex wrench attached to the underside of the pickup poles by magnetic attraction. Obviously at some point someone had dropped the wrench inside the guitar and it ended up stuck to the pickup magnets.The top E pole screw had been noticeably raised to compensate for the higher volume from the other strings due to the increase in the upper magnetic field caused by the wrench.

The bridge, which has similarities to that used on the Fender Mustang, floats on two pointed pivot screws, one at either end, that sit in holes in two, completely floating, chromed pucks with rubber pads on their bases. Bridge height is adjusted through these two screws. The bridge should be oriented with the intonation screws towards the tailpiece. The saddles are hollow cylinders of nickel plated brass with string grooves, sitting in a trough in the bridge. These cylinders are graduated in three diameters – small, medium, large – to follow the fretboard radius – so small, medium, large, large, medium, small. They also have graduated string grooves, so each saddle is unique, one small saddle has a large groove for the bottom E and one a small groove for the top E. Small springs, with the intonation screws running through them, pass most of the way through the saddles. The screws and springs are all the same size. Unlike the Mustang / Jazzmaster bridges which are of folded steel, this bridge is cast from Zinc alloy and then chrome plated, as are the two pivot pucks. 

Setting intonation on a completely floating bridge can be a bit of a problem since, not only do the saddle adjustments set the string length, but the entire bridge can be moved back and forth, or even slanted. For simplicity I have placed the bridge with the two pivot pucks up against the back edge of the bridge pickup as a stable reference point. Fortunately the wide bridge then allows enough travel in the saddles to achieve correct intonation on all the strings. The pivot bridge is held against its pivot points purely by string pressure and any tilt backwards or forwards of the bridge will affect intonation. The bridge should be adjusted to close to vertical on its pivots. The bridge height adjustment wrench can be used to make fine adjustments to the bridge tilt on its pivots by inserting it into one of the height grub screws and using it as a lever. 

The chrome bar, trapeze mount, two point pivot tremolo, has a blued steel, string tension balance leaf spring, concealed in the hollow chrome plated, pressed steel tailpiece. This leaf spring is bolted to the bottom of the string anchor bar with two bolts on spacers that pass through two holes in the pressed steel tailpiece.  A further two holes serve as ‘knife edge’ bearing points for the two tremolo pivots which are two short hex rods with a turned waist serving as a V pivot. These two rods screw in to the underside of the string anchor bar at either end. A small grub screw at the bottom of the tailpiece allows adjustment for the spring tension. The grub screw shifts a small roller up and down that is mounted on a further V shaped spring. The roller supports the end of the two layer, blued steel, leaf spring. Clockwise turns on the screw reduces tension on the leaf spring, the chromed bar string anchor tilts forwards and the notes flatten. Modern light gauge strings probably do not apply enough tension to apply the load this tremolo was designed for. It is likely that the tremolo was intended to be set by adjusting the screw so that the anchor pivot pillars sit at right angles to the tremolo shell. With 10s on the guitar maximum clockwise on the screw doesn’t quite achieve this.

Strings are loaded with the ball end towards the neck, run through and folded under the chrome bar tremolo string anchor, then up to run over the floating bridge. 

As the trem arm is moved down, with the strings wrapped under the curved bottom of the string anchor, you might expect the strings to tighten and go sharp as the anchor rotates slightly anticlockwise. But in practice it is the movement of the anchor forwards (flat) and backwards (sharp) that dominates the tremolos action. In use the tremolo is quite gentle and, because of the long arm and the leaf spring, feels quite spongy, rather like a Bigsby. 

Apparently a trem arm from a vintage Fender Mustang should fit the Coronado trem. Although the Mustang sold in much greater numbers than the Coronado Fender no longer supports spare parts for either of these guitars. Since the Coronado here is left handed that makes replacement arms even rarer. Allparts USA does carry a right-handed Mustang arm – BP-0274-005 Tremolo Arm for Vintage Mustang®.

The original arms apparently have a groove in them near the end of that leg and there is a 10-32 grub screw, threaded in to the end of the string anchor, that should be tightened to push on a pin encased in graphite loaded rubber that engages in the groove. This small rubber plug and pin from the original tremolo fell out and fell apart when I screwed the grub screw all the way in.  

The G and D strings could do with a string tree because the tuner posts are quite tall and you have to be careful to wind the strings on so the turns pack neatly down the post to get any break angle across the nut. Either of these strings may exhibit nut buzz if the string comes off the post near the top, rather than winding smoothly  down the post.

Repair log – 1980s? Bradley RoadRunner 100W 2 x 12 combo guitar amplifier SN: XXX

Date – 21/01/16. Copyright reserved, Terry Relph-Knight

Description – Bradley amplifiers are an early example of a hybrid valve / solid state design. Apparently they were made in Scotland and are extremely rare. They were made as 1 by 12 and 2 by 12 combos.

REPAIR LOG – 1980S? BRADLEY ROADRUNNER 100W 2 X 12 COMBO GUITAR AMPLIFIER

REPAIR LOG – 1980S? BRADLEY ROADRUNNER 100W 2 X 12 COMBO GUITAR AMPLIFIER

This example is a three channel, 2 by 12 combo amp with channel volumes and Master volume control. There are 3 dual triode valves (12AX7A) plus various op-amps in the pre-amp and the solid state 100W output stage uses a pair of complementary power MOSFETs (output transistors Exicon 10P20, 10N20 – £11.80 a pair on ebay). The plywood cabinet is covered in black tolex with chromed steel corner protectors. Size – 67cm long x 23.5 to 21.5cm tapered width x 38.5cm high.

3 Channels – Red channel with its own Drive, tone controls and Volume and a Blue channel with either Clean or Dirty with shared tone controls and Volumes for Clean and Dirty.

Cabinet fitted with two Eminence 12 inch SPK100 121505 8 ohm parallel wired to present a 4 ohm load to the amp.

Controls – Red channel drive, treble, middle, bass, volume, ch switch, Blue channel drive, Drive / Clean switch, treble, middle, bass, drive volume, clean volume, master volume. And an effects level return on the back panel.

Input jack on top panel. Effects loop send, series return, parallel return and foot switch on back panel. Also a jack for external loudspeaker.

Mains input through 3 pin IEC fused (T2A to T4A fuse) socket.

4 status LEDs –   

A Red LED for the red channel a Blue LED for the blue channel, an Orange LED for blue drive and a Green LED for blue clean

Foot switch – The foot switch uses a stereo jack connection to switch from blue to the red channel when the ring is grounded, and from blue channel clean to drive when the tip is grounded. The foot switch is active when both push/push buttons are up (blue and green LEDs on).

With both buttons down the foot switch is defeated and the amp is switched to red channel and the blue channel, although not selected, is switched to drive (red and orange LEDs on).

Problems – Customer suspected problems with the loudspeakers. The loudspeakers were tested by connecting them to another amplifier – they are fine.

Amp shows no sign of life when plugged in and switched on.  Front panel Drive / Clean push switch is jammed. Push on knobs onto round shaft pots don’t lock to the shafts, so control knobs tend to just spin round and round.

Mains fuse blown as well as several internal fuses.

It turns out the power transformer had developed an internal short.

Following the main repair work –

All the drive and volume controls including the Return level crackled when rotated and if the amp was switched to the Blue channel, with Drive selected, the Drive control turned up and the Drive Volume and Master Volume turned up, it went into internal feedback.

 BRADLEY ROADRUNNER 100W 2 X 12 COMBO GUITAR AMPLIFIER

Work Done – The original custom mains transformer was replaced with three, off-the-shelf, toroidal transformers. Safety of internal mains wiring was improved. The mains input originally passed through two PC mount connectors and some PCB tracks. These connections were rewired directly to the power transformers. All blown fuses replaced. Entire amplifier cleaned. All 13 control knobs replaced with grub screw locked knobs. Rust around the hole in the front panel jamming the Drive / Clean push-push switch removed so the switch can move freely.

V2 replaced with a N.O.S Brimar ECC83 – the heaters of the old valve were open circuit. V1 replaced with a new Electro-Harmonix 12AX7 – the old valve was microphonic, the amp went into acoustic feedback oscillation when switched to the blue channel with the drive engaged.

Injected contact cleaner into all the pots to fix crackles.

The control panel Lexan decal was a little oversize and had chipped and split where it protruded. Improved its appearance by using a craft knife to trim away a straight strip of Lexan including the chips.

All of the electronics of the Bradley 100W Roadrunner is mounted onto the back panel with the original square frame power transformer bolted to the bottom of the cabinet. Here the three replacement toroidal transformers can be seen mounted along the bottom of the back panel. The MOSFET power amp stage and heatsink is visible in the middle of the panel. The controls and pre-amp PCB with the three valves are at the top of the panel. 

Diagnostic notes

Mains T2A slo-blo fuse is blown. Removed the amp chassis from the cabinet. This connects to the power transformer and the loudspeakers through 2 PCB mounted SIL Molex connectors through a short cable harness. The PCB mount pins on these are rather flexible and the PCB mount part moves around by a worrying amount.

Front panel Drive / Clean push-push switch was jammed because of rust around the hole for the push button in the front panel. Reaming out the hole slightly removed the rust and freed the switch so the button can move through its full travel.

F1 and F2 on the main PCB are blown. These feed 14V AC power to the bridge rectifier that feeds a 12 V DC regulator that powers the valve heaters with the two heaters in each dual triode wired in series. This supply is also used to feed the front panel LEDs. Also  blown – F4 which appears to feed the rectifiers for the high voltage supply to the pre-amp valves and F80 which appears to feed the rectifier for the power to the transistor power amplifier.

To sum up, in addition to the mains fuse, one fuse in each pair for every supply rail in the amp – the supply for the valve heaters in the pre-amp, the high voltage supply for the valve sections of the pre-amp and the supply for the power amplifier, is blown.

Heaters are pins 4 (for the triode on pins 1,2,3) 5 (for the triode on pins 6,7,8) and 9 (center tap). Pins numbered clockwise looking up at the base of the valve. In this amp the heaters are run off a regulated 12V DC feed and the heaters centre tap on pin 9 is not connected.

Probably the next thing to do is to remove the power transformer from the cabinet, temporarily hook it up to mains and check the voltages coming out of it. Also hook up the loudspeakers (they already seem to respond correctly to a simple test with 3V DC from a continuity tester) to my 5W amp and run some audio through them.

Transformer disconnected and removed from the amp. When connected to mains power the secondary windings started smoking, so there is obviously a short in one of the secondaries. Continuity testing shows all the secondary windings are shorted together.

Testing across all the various power rails on the amplifier doesn’t show any shorts. With luck the only fault was in the transformer and the fuses protected all the electronics from permanent harm.

Old Transformer windings –

Wired for 240V AC in

32 – 0 – 32 V AC @ 2A (128VA so buy a 150VA) for the MOSFET power amplifier – orange – black – orange

14V AC @ 0.7A (9.8VA so 10VA) for the 12AX7 pre-amp valve series heaters (pins 4 & 5) pair of white wires

250V @ 75mA (18.75VA so 20VA) for the valve HT – pair of yellow wires

Connectors

CON81 (on power amp PCB) Numbered left to right on pin side

1 – Amp output

2 – Ground

3 – 32 V AC goes to F81 T2AL250V NOT blown

4 – 32 V AC goes to F80 T2AL250V blown

5 – Live 240V AC mains input !!!!! – Rewired exposed Live to go straight to the transformers.

6 – Neutral 240V AC main – Rewired exposed neutral to go straight to the transformers.

CON 1 (on pre-amp PCB)

1 – 14V AC to F2 T2AL250V blown – to 12V regulator for valve htrs and front panel LEDs

2 – 14V AC to F1 T2AL250V blown – to 12V regulator for valve htrs and front panel LEDs

3 – NC

4 – NC

5 – 250V AC goes to F4 T500mAL250V blown

6 – 250V AC goes to F3 T500mAL250V NOT blown

Measured voltages

1 to 2 = 14.76 V AC no valves plugged in. 14.2 V AC with all valves plugged in.

Valve heaters regulator = 11.8V DC no valves plugged in.

5 to 6 = 274V AC no valves plugged in

+344V across C23 no valves plugged in, 263V with V1, V2 no sign of heaters, 207V V3, 188V with 3 valves in

Replacement transformers

32 – 0 – 32 from http://www.airlinktransformers.com/ model CM0120233 120VA 230v to 2x33v £19 + VAT and shipping

Also a 12V and a 230V at £12 each

So £43 + 20% + post = £64.20

Fuses needed –

Mains – T2A L250V …. mains in

F1 – T2A L250V …. 14V AC – via a diode bridge rec. and DC regulator to valve heaters

F2 – T2A L250V …. 14V AC – via a diode bridge rec. and DC regulator to valve heaters

F3 – T500mA L250V …. 250V AC supply – rectified and smoothed for valve HT

F4 – T500mA L250V …. 250V AC supply – rectified and smoothed for valve HT

F80 – T2A L250V …. 32V AC for power amp – rectified to plus and minus 40V DC

F81 – T2A L250V …. 32V AC for power amp – rectified to plus and minus 40V DC

T = slow blow

L = Low breaking or glass fuse

So all these fuses are slow blow 20mm glass fuses rated at 250V. They are rated at either 500mA (Maplin 10pk GL56L £3.19) or 2A (Maplin 10pk GL62S £3.19).

Wire and fuses from Maplin (R.I.P.) – £12.39

A further 6 way connector CON80 on the power amp board connects the output of the pre-amp to the input of the power amp and feeds plus and minus, zener regulated supplies, for the pre-amp ICs (blue and red wires) derivedfrom the power amp 32-0-32 V supplies.

CON80

Pin 1 – signal – thin screened cable

Pin 2 – signal ground

Pin 3 – + 15V (?) Zener regulated, from power amp 40V through R105 100ohm – red wire

Pin 4 – -15V (?) Zener regulated, from power amp 40V through R106 100 ohm – blue wire

Pin 5 – Red ch / Blue ch switch – green wire

Pin 6 – Drive / Clean switch – white wire

Transformers

Airlink colour code – Sec1 start Orange finish Yellow, Sec 2 start Black finish Red

0160233

Brown Live 240V in White from power switch

Blue Neutral 240V in Black from IEC neutral

Black 33V Orange connector 81 pin 3  Power amp

Red & Orange C.T. Black  connector 81 pin 2 ground

Yellow 33V Orange connector 81 pin 4  Power amp

0030206

Brown Live 240V in White from power switch

Blue Neutral 240V in Black from IEC neutral

Orange 12V White connector 1 pin 1  valve heaters

Yellow / Black C/T connected together

Red 12V White connector 1 pin 2  valve heaters

0030172

Brown Live 240V in White from power switch

Blue Neutral 240V in Black from IEC neutral

Black 230V Yellow connector 1 pin 5  valve HT

Red 230V Yellow connector 1 pin 6  valve HT

Repair Log: 1968 to 1972 Höfner violin bass model 500/1 SN: none visible

Copyright reserved T Relph-Knight 18/01/18

Value – £1,250 to 1,600

A new Höfner 500/1-64-0 can be purchased for £ 2,106.98

or the Höfner Vintage 500/1-62 Mersey for £ 1,842.50

The Hofner HCT-500 1-SB Contemporary Violin Bass Sunburst may be had for £499 inc VAT.

Known today as the ‘Beatle Bass’, originally designed by Walter Hofner in 1955 and launched at the Frankfurt Musikmesse in 1956, the Hofner 500/1 is a four string, short scale, electric bass guitar with a hollow violin style body. 

HÖFNER VIOLIN BASS MODEL

HÖFNER VIOLIN BASS MODEL

The design suited the skills of the Hofner workforce, which had been making instruments of the violin family, and was intended to provide the bass player, who would previously have played an acoustic upright bass, with a very lightweight and compact electric alternative.

This version is fitted with two Hofner 512B single coil ‘blade’ pickups (Hofner Blade H512 £87.58 each, originally made from 1967 until 1970) with chrome plated metal covers mounted in black plastic rings, a wooden floating bridge and a nickel plated trapeze tailpiece. Originally fitted with a pearloid pick guard, the guard is missing from this bass (replacement H65/36 £27.33). The floating wooden bridge has a base and upper section mounted on two height adjustment thumb wheels, which as delivered, are screwed all the way down. The top of the bridge has four 5cm long sections of fret wire as saddles, mounted in four slots that run across the top of the bridge. The bridge is made of very dark rosewood.  The narrow neck and 30 inch short scale makes this bass very comfortable to play even with a relatively high action. The light weight also helps with comfort. With the flat wound strings this instrument has a very fundamental rich, dark tone.

Neck – The one piece, glued in neck, of maple (or possibly sycamore) has 22 thin vintage frets and round pearloid markers on a rosewood fretboard. Nut width is 40mm. The neck is bound in white plastic with large oval black edge markers. The headstock has a thin black/white celluloid facing with the brand ‘Hofner’ in reflective gold script. A three screw cover allows access to the truss rod. ‘Genuine Hofner Original Made in Germany’ is stamped on the back of the headstock. The nut of laminated white / black / white celluloid only sets string spacing, as there is a jumbo zero fret. 

The tuners are small and of an unusual ‘humped’ design made of nickel plated folded steel. The back of the tuner is a V shaped piece of spring steel that is rolled over at either end. The U shaped folded baseplate supports the worm gear shaft which passes through two holes in the upright folds. A further two holes on the other end of the baseplate support a steel pin. The sprung back is then hooked over the pin at one end and pushed down until it clips around the outside of the worm. The spring tension in this back clip pulls the worm tight up against the crown gear that is riveted to the end of the tuner post. Apart from a slight peening of the ends, there is nothing to hold these pins in place other than the tension of the spring. The pin on the D tuner had slipped out of its support hole at one end. The tuner pegs have fixed white plastic buttons. 

With relatively small posts with small holes for the string ends, these tuners are designed to be used with custom made strings that transition into tapered ends that will fit the posts. The strings are described as 34 inch strings, which is the distance from the trapeze tail piece to ¾ of an inch past the nut, just below the tuners. LaBella make bass strings specifically for this instrument.

Body – The totally enclosed, but hollow body, has a book matched two piece spruce top plate, a one piece flamed maple back and flamed maple sides (may actually be European sycamore). The construction actually appears to be of laminated 4 ply with the maple backed by mahogany veneer. It is finished with a brown burst lacquer and bound top and bottom with white plastic with a black/white inner purfling. Two small white plastic strap buttons are screwed to the body, one to the heel and one to the end of the trapeze tailpiece.

Controls – The controls are mounted on a rectangular laminated MOTO celluloid plate fixed with four small screws over a hole in the lower bout. There’s a rotary volume for the neck pickup, three slide switches and rotary volume for the bridge pickup. The volume and tone have small round ivory plastic ‘teacup’ knobs with gold anodised central concave metal inserts (the Hofner Potiknob H909/15 replacements £9.43 each). The three slide switches switch between  Solo / Rhythm, Bass (off) On and Treble (off) On. The Rhythm position drops the volume a little and the other two switches are for pickup selection (up is on). There is no control over tone. The electronics seem to function OK with no crackling (wrong – neither volume control actually provides any control over volume). The output jack is mounted on the side of the body.

String spacing at the nut is 32mm and the scale length is 30 inches (although the custom string length from the ball end to the start of the silk wound string taper is 34 inches).

Action at the twelfth fret is 3.5mm on open strings. Hofner specify 3mm E and 2mm G.

The aluminium height thumb wheels on the bridge were set as low as they will go so the only way to get a slightly lower action is to remove those wheels altogether. Either the bridge on the bass isn’t original, its feet had not been sanded to fit the curve of the top, or the intended factory action was always quite high. It really does not look as though this bridge has been properly fitted to this bass.

Delivered strung with flatwound strings 0.043, 0.061, 0.078, 0.100 as measured. The strings are old, worn and filthy. The low E string looks as though it was never suitable for this bass because there is no taper, the string at full diameter is fitted through the tuner (which has been drilled out).

Official Hofner strings

H1133B Beatle Bass Strings flat wound nickel 0.040, 0.055, 0.070, 0.100 £48.47+10 Thomman 

The LaBella range of ‘Beatle’ bass string sets

760FHBB “Beatle” Bass Stainless Flats 50-100 (0.050, 0.065, 0.080, 0.100)

760FHB2 “Beatle” Bass Stainless Flats 39-96 £36 + 2 Bass Direct UK

760RHBB “Beatle” Bass Stainless Rounds 50-100

760NHBB “Beatle” Bass Black Nylon Tape 50-100 £25.17 + 6.26 post from USA

760THBB “Beatle” Bass White Nylon Tape 50-100

The light gauge stainless flats in 39 to 96, apparently are the strings used by Paul McCartney. 

McCartney has also used Rotosound RS88LD Tru Bass flat wound black nylon strings 0.065, 0.075, 0.100, 0.115 £36.99 from Strings Direct.

You need Rotosound ‘Medium’ scale 35.25 inches from ball to silk. Rotosound print the scale on the string packets in small print.

 

Problems – In for cleaning (the bass is very grubby) and a set-up. D tuner was starting to fall apart. Volume controls do not work – on or off is about the best you can get. Bridge seems never to have been properly fitted, consequently the action is only just about low enough even with the height adjustment thumb wheels all the way down. The strings are completely dead and don’t appear to be a set that would correctly fit this bass.

Work done – Body and neck cleaned and polished. Fretboard buffed clean and polished. Strings cleaned. Re-positioned the tension pin on the D tuner and dabbed a little nail polish on either end to ‘glue’ it in place.

Intonation as delivered After re-stringing   saddles moved

Low Error in cents

E +30 +10 +10 slot 4

A +25 -12 +3 slot 1

D +12 +5 0 slot 3

G +15 0 0 front slot 1

high 

So with the old strings fitted, the intonation is generally very sharp – the bridge is too near the neck. 

Bass returned on 15/02/18

Work to be done – The neck pickup has come loose and dropped into the body, control plate to be swapped for a new one supplied by the client, bridge to be properly fitted to the body/ Re-string with new LaBella 760FHB2 “Beatle” Bass Stainless Flats 39-96. Set up and intonate.

Fret 22 is loose on the treble side and needs glueing down. Case is falling apart. Some work done on restoring it.

Replacement controls

The replacement control panel is for a more ‘modern’ version of the bass, the circuitry is simpler (it has two 14mm diameter 500K controls – 443K and 485K 10% log curve – three 2 way slide switches and a 0.047uF tone cap, no other components). 

The old panel has an 8.2K resistor, a 0.033uF cap, 250K pots and the top of the pearloid plate is engraved with the legends – Volume 2, Rhythm/Solo, Bass on, Treble on and Volume 1.

Unfortunately the new panel has no engraving and the three switches are attached with countersunk screws running through the panel. The old panel has the switches riveted to a brass sub-panel that is held in place by the pot nuts, which means that the new components cannot easily be transferred to the old panel to preserve the old look and the engraving.

Hofner seem to have used quite a variety of circuit configurations over the years and the new panel is not wired the same as the old one. The switches on the new panel simply switch either the bass/neck pickup or the treble/ bridge pickup on (or both on) with no extra tone or level shaping components switched in or out. The Rhythm/Solo switch either connects the selected pickup/s directly to the output or via the 0.047uF for a more treble tone.  

Parts – LaBella 760FHB2 strings – £36 + 2 post

Returned on 16/04/18 

The neck pickup had dropped out again. The screws, springs and threaded holes in the pickup all seem in good order. The only problem is that the two 25mm height adjustment screws only have 2mm extending past the threads in the pickup legs so if the pickup loosens at all the screws don’t have far to go before they come loose and the pickup falls out. Even so there should be enough thread and the pressure from the springs should stop the screws from loosening.

I added a couple of lock nuts to the protruding ends of the screws and as a further precaution painted these nuts with clear nail polish to glue them in place.

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