Fender: A set-up, some touch-up and all’s well with the world!

Stylistic elements are great brand identifiers. Take the Gibson headstock. You can recognise a Gibson headstock from miles off, but there’s something about it that makes it snap exactly at the point where the headstock meets the neck. Yet, Gibson refuses to modify the design or incorporate something in the area that would prevent its headstocks from breaking.

Another example is where Fender places the strap button on its acoustic instruments.

Fender owners and particularly those that play the instrument standing up, will concur that while playing, their instrument has a tendancy to fall forward. That is due to the placement of the strap button – right on the shoulder of the guitar closest to the player.

I am sure that the fact has been brought to the attention of Fender but since it has become a stylistic thing, the company is sticking on with it.

Not on the shoulder, not even on the heel but the ideal placement for the strap button is on the opposite face of the heel, ie, the face of the heel farthest from you when you hold the guitar in playing position. Placing the strap button here ensures that the strap, passing over the heel as it rises to lie on your shoulder, locks the instrument against your belly.

This instrument came to me recently for a set-up and I explained my strap button theory to the owner. He confessed that indeed, his guitar had a tendancy to fall forward, and agreed when I suggested that the strap button be moved to its rightful place.

But that would come later.

First, I decided to focus on something that was marring the overall look of the guitar.

Some wood plaster, some paint and some colourless lacquer and

it looked much better. At least the chip would no longer draw your eye to it!

Next, it was the turn of the spot on the shoulder of the guitar, from where I removed the strap button. More wood plaster, paint and a drop of super glue.

Certainly not an invisible repair but structurally sound and something that would prevent moisture from getting into the open wood.

Next came the strap buttons (yes, plural). The one placed at the end block was not of a very good quality and had certainly seen better days. It made little sense to have a shiny, new strap button on the neck heel and an old one at the end block (unless one was sentimentally attached to the strap button).

So, I changed that

while at the shoulder, I placed this

It was now the turn to swap out the plastic/micarta/nubone saddle and nut with pure bone elements. The sound that you get out of cattle bone, no man-made substance can provide. Buffalo horn, too, falls in the same category of great, naturally occurring nut and saddle material.

Action was measured, noted, measurements of both the old and new elements were jotted down, some substraction, and once the magic numbers were in hand, the bone elements were dialled down to near perfect dimensions.

With the strings off, I had access to the fretboard and because it looked as dry as a twig, I nourished it with some love potion and shone up the fretwires. Also, I rubbed some of the potion on the bridge to make it a little prettier.

And those are the bone nut and saddle in place you see in the photographs.

A fresh set of strings and the beauty was ready to go home with a lovely, low action!



Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me: guitarguyhelp@gmail.com

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