Univox Coily electric guitar repair
- Inlay prep
- Fretboard planing
- Fretboard finishing
- Pickup rings
- New nut
- Refret, continued
- New nut, continued
- Rebuilding the vibrato tailpiece
- Another vibrato repair!
I've been amassing parts for this project for a while. One of the problems was this guitar used odd sized pickups and they're hard to find. So I decided to convert it to humbucker-sized pickups. But I needed pickup rings to make that happen. I poked around a little and dropped a line to Dave at fretsonthenet.com. I ended up sending him a drawing.
And 3 weeks and $40 later I had new rings.
Now it's starting to look like a real guitar again. I'd been wanting to try the GFS pickups out for a while, and they are relatively cheap. The neck is a "Mean 90" humbucker-sized P90, the bridge is a "Dream 180".
I've been waiting to refret this neck for a month because the fret tang nipper I ordered from a seller on ebay was taking forever to show up. The seller disappeared so I started looking around and found someone using a cheap tool for this.
It's called a nibbling tool and it cost me all of $12 (beats the stew-mac $50 tool and it actually works great). They're used for cutting sheet metal kind of like a jigsaw is used on wood. I had to grind one edge down so that the fret could lay right while I nip it. I should have instead cut a groove in it (closeup here) so the fret would have a hard time slipping around, but it works. Sometimes I have to file a bit afterwards but it's very usable. WAY faster than the dremel tool I used on my mandolin.
Starting off with the nut. The neck on this guitar is on the thin side, so I didn't have a nut to copy the slots from. The calculations are trivial but measuring and cutting the slots is tricky. The frets.com guy has a tool for slot placement but I used a CAD program to draw up a slot template.
With this template it's pretty easy to tape the nut down (double sided tape is good for so many things!) and use a straight edge to project the slot lines onto the nut. Then get the old nut files out and go at it.
My nut is way too tall because I wanted to slot it and see if the spacing seemed right. If I didn't like it I could sand it down and re-slot it. But it seems about right. I was able to string it up and play a little slide on this last night. The neck pickup really kicks ass, I am kind of surprised. Not yet sold on the bridge pup.
I got some nice big fret nippers from Stew-Mac. I'd been using wire cutters to trim the fret ends but it kills my hands. This is much better. I noticed a few frets sticking up a little bit...
... not any more they're not! That's my new neck caul. I need to mount it to something taller for it to be of any use, but it is handy for clamping operations.
I was getting ready to level the frets and noticed this. It seems to be a little back bow. It's probably fine, but I wanted to tighten up the truss rod to see if I could get the frets really level. But I can't find an allen wrench that would fit :(. I've tried 7/32" (too big), 3/16" (too small), and 5mm (too small). You'd think it'd be a metric size since it's a Japanese guitar.
Well I did get the truss rod turning. I had to sacrifice a 7/32" allen wrench and file it down to fit just right. That helped with the neck bow. Anywho, I leveled the frets and found out they weren't as evenly installed as they could have been.
That one fret was a real b****. You can see how flat part of it is. There were a couple other spots that had some buzzes but another pass of leveling cleared that all up. It helps to set the action really low to find those spots.
I haven't quite perfected my fretting skills. The fret ends are a bit ugly (though functional) and like the one above there's some really flat places...
... but you really can't tell without looking really hard, and everything feels fine.
I used a "vintage bone" blank from Stew-Mac, it's just unbleached bone. It looked really ugly to begin with (brownish, splotchy) but now that it's polished it looks great. One thing I learned is you don't want your nut blank any taller than it needs to be. When I cut the slots they tend to walk a little. The deeper the slot the more it can be off.