Venerable Vanilla gets a new look

It is not uncommon for players to dress up their instruments: decals, stickers, signatures, et al, have decorated acoustic guitars, probably since the time they were begun to be made. A change of hardware on the guitar, then, is quite common to improve performance as well as the aesthetics of things.

I had to take off the gold hardware – the tuning machines and the strap buttons – on this milky beauty

and replace it with an all-black set. The new set had a gear ratio of 18:1 (to understand this concept, refer to my last post – ‘Wishing to buy a real guitar?’). Naturally, the strings too would have to be replaced. Though not a branded instrument and not made of solid wood, it played true, held tune properly, had excellent action at the 12th fret and at the bridge, and was an electro-acoustic guitar.

The most striking feature about the guitar was its abalone-like adornment and its f-shaped holes. F-shaped holes are a bit of a rarity in flat-top, American folk guitars with fixed bridges (bridges that are stuck to the top). Usually, one gets to see them on jazz guitars – quite a different set of strings – which have a completely different bracing pattern. The bridge on most jazz guitars is a floating one, which makes intonation adjustments a breeze, and strings just ride over it, being fixed at that end to a tailpiece and at the other, beyond the nut, to the tuning machines on the headstock.

The hardware that I was to put on it, looked like this:

I took off the strings and began taking off the gold hardware, when the thought struck me: what if the screw holes don’t match up with the new hardware? I took off one tuning machine and slipped in a new black one. Matching up the hole on the machine with the one on the guitar, I grimaced for, indeed, the holes were off by quite a bit.

I filled up the holes, painted each filling white and then let the guitar rest and dry. Then I marked the points where new holes would need to be drilled, measuring and cross-checking how the tuning machines sat in their slots and whether they were in line with those above and below them, as also whether they were in line with the ones opposite them. (I got so engrossed in the process that I forgot to take photographs of these steps – silly me!).

Anyway, new holes were drilled on the back of the headstock and the new tuning machines were screwed into place. This is what they looked like on the guitar.

Replacing the strap buttons was easy enough: unscrew old strap pin, take out, put new strap pin, screw on!

With new strings, the instrument was as good as new. And off went Venerable Vanilla home!

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:

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