The two books Mrs F bought me for Christmas (The Les Paul Manual and the Stratocaster Manual) prompted me to spread the old rug over the dining table, dig out my shoe box containing my collection tools and polish etc. and have a go at some better set ups of the guitars.
Firstly – my dear old strat is showing it’s age (I bought it brand new in 82 so that means its now heading for 27 years!). I cleaned up the fretboard which was pretty grimy I’m afraid. But in doing this I realised that there are some flat spots on the frets. I might buy a fret cleaning system like the Planet Waves one but I think it might need an expert at some point soon if not a complete refret. However I tweaked the action a little bit lower, cleaned up the bridge etc. and found again that this is still one hell of a bloody good Strat despite it not being from the right country. I could probably pay a lot of money for not a lot extra in terms of playability or quality you know.
Right then on to the others. My Les Paul Special has had a slightly too high an action for a while now. I polished up the fretboard with some lemon oil which has improved the feeling of that area massively I tweaked the bridge a bit lower but still wasn’t happy. So into uncharted territory for me. I snapped an elastic capo onto the first fret found the feeler gauges I doubt I’ve used since the Mini Metro bit the dust and I bought cars you can’t do anything with any more and measured the neck relief. Hmm not too good, possibly as this is the faded finish model and therefore really almost bare wood I wonder if indoor life with central heating etc. is getting to it. No matter I’m a man with a book and the recommended Gibson tool so look out truss rod here I come! After a double check I tightened it a quarter turn, supped my cuppa to let it settle and tweaked it maybe an eighth more. Way better action and feel, backed up by a quick independent play test from Son-of-Furtheron. “That actions a lot better isn’t it”.
The Peter Cook was next on to the work bench. “My darling you don’t look bad after all these years” – I bought this in the mid 80s and it was already a few years old by then, either very late 70s or early 80s I believe. Okay – bastard crackly vol pot to deal with first – a flooding of switch cleaner later that was fixed thankfully as this being an active guitar I don’t really want to get into all that thank you. A tweak of action, a little push on the truss rod (getting cocky now aren’t we?) and viola I’m back again thinking – stop lusting over PRS and SGs etc. this old war horse is one hell of a guitar. I'm sure to get similar quality these days I'd be into four figures in a big way. Every man and his dog has a PRS etc. and I've got the classic Gibson/Strat combo already I should treasure this little beauty you know.
Unfortunately Mrs F tapping her watch and the smell of a curry from the kitchen meant the workshop had to pack away for the day but I’m now commissioned to clean up sons ESP EC1000 fingerboard and check his action etc. out – although a cursory look last night I doubt there’ll be much to do there. I’m also going to have a look at the Les Paul Custom as well although again I don’t think it needs much except a clean.
Well after this lot of work I’ve now got some essential new purchases… these for getting the action set right on all strings and this in case in the future I need to reset a Les Paul bridge.
Pictures of the guitars mentioned in this post are here.