This was an Epiphone DR100 which came in recently, and (as you can make out) it was in need of some real TLC. The owner, in his bid to get the action lower, admitted that he had shaved the saddle down a tad too low. Thus, an irritating buzz had crept in which refused to go away try as he might.
At the very onset, I will warn you that this is the first among a string of like problems that came to me starting from early June. All of them showed symptoms of suffering from the extreme heat of May and the consequent dehydration.
I took one look at the saddle and told him that it would have to be changed. As you can see for yourself, it is not only short but it was even a bit thin for the slot, making it tilt in its housing when the strings were tensioned.
I gave the owner two very clear options: a) I could swap the micarta-type-material saddle for a bone saddle customised for its slot, or, b) I could slip in a cheap plastic saddle, which again would be short in length and thin for its slot (Generally cheap plastic and micarta saddles have been found to be only of one length – at least in this part of the world – 72mm).
He intelligently chose bone. At his response, I told him the difference a bone nut would make as opposed to a plastic/micarta nut that was already in place. Both elements – saddle and nut – being of bone, render a purer sound as opposed to one element being of one material and the other of a different one.
The two photographs on top show the two elements originally installed in the instrument.
Listening to my logic, he thought long and hard and decided to get a bone nut installed too. Then, he asked me, almost pleadingly, will the buzz in his guitar go away? I smiled at him and said confidently that yes, that will be sorted.
There was this also that I noticed and wondered if part of the raised action could be because of this. The owner sheepishly accepted experimenting with glue. The joint was structurally solid and there was no point in trying to make the slightly raised seams disappear and add to the expenses of the owner.
There was also this that I noticed:
an odd discolouration on the shoulders of the instrument. It was almost as if the instrument had been left out in the sun for days on end, or kept in room close to an open window through which the sun streamed in directly on it. I asked the owner if the instrument had been left in the sun, but he was categorical in denial.
A part reason for me asking him about the sun factor was the fact that the fretboard was exceedingly dry.
Dutifully, I took the old strings off, took out the saddle to measure it and
saw this in the saddle slot. Efforts had been made to raise the action.
I measured the saddle and the nut, dialled in those dimensions in their bone counterparts and fit them.
Then the entire fretboard was given a drink of the magic potion – twice – before it seemed to come to life. And while I was at it, the bridge too got some much-needed attention.
The neck was straightened and it was time to string it up.
The owner chose these strings
The instrument had amazing action and I was very happy with it. After stringing, I played and checked for a buzz, and sure enough it was there – more pronounced on the 6th, 5th, 2nd and 1st strings and lesser on the others.
The handy fretrocker, helped me find some high fretwires (marked in red).
I called up the owner and sent him this photo. He agreed to have these worked on. These were dealt with and the buzz seemed to have gone. Unfortunately, it had not.
When I checked again, the buzz was still there. As I went finding raised frets, the high ones seemed to be all on the tongue of the fretboard. Again, I called the owner to tell him about the situation.
This time he threw a fit and asked me to take back all that I had done in the instrument, blaming me of trying to make money by revealing one problem at a time.
He was correct to quite an extent, and yet, I would have been forgiven for not checking for a phenomenon that I knew existed but had never really come across in my 15 years of repairing instruments. I quietly took back the saddle and nut that I had so carefully cut to size and let him go after paying for just the strings.
Next time: Another guitar, same problem and an explanation of the raised fretwires on the tongue of the fretboard.