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Baritone guitar with dead second string

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Baritone guitar with dead second string

Postby George Reiswig » Sat Aug 13, 2016 3:04 pm

Hello, all. First post here. I'm not a luthier, but I did a bit of training under one when I used to work at a music store. So I know just enough to be dangerous, more than likely.

I have done a fair amount of work on my own instruments, though, including basic fret leveling and crowning, and some repairs.

Enough intro: I have a baritone acoustic guitar made by Andy Manson that has me a little puzzled. It has a 27.5" scale length, and I've been using .014-.070 strings. So the second string is a .018 plain string. It was neglected in the case for the better part of a year, with no strings on it and the truss rod fully loosened. I thought that was the way to store it. It was in a cool place, and I live in Oregon so dryness isn't much of an issue.

I recently took it out and found that there were a couple of obvious issues: the fingerboard above the body joint had started to come off, leaving a gap on the bass side. I visited a luthier locally, and he encouraged me to do the repair myself, since I seemed to know what I was doing. So I made a couple of cauls squeezed fish glue into he joint, then clamped it. Even so, it needed a bit of fret work up above that joint, but it seemed to work fine.

Next issue was backbow. This luthier said there wasn't anything to be done about it, but I have had success in the past with low heat and clamping. So I carefully placed some cloth under the strings at reduced tension to force some re-bow in the neck, then slowly brought the neck up to 135F with radiant heat. I let it cool in that position, and it did the trick. However, now I believe that the truss rod wasn't doing anything before, and still doesn't seem to be doing anything. I can see the nut thread on the rod, but it doesn't seem to have an affect.

And then there is the dead string. Several string changes, as well as changing the saddle, but the second string in particular is behaving strangely: open string sounds nice, full and resonant. Fret on frets 1-5 in particular, and the string sounds dead: loss of low end resonance, loss of highs. Almost sounds like loose frets, but for all 5 of those to be loose seems strange. As I said, string changes and saddle change don't affect it. The first string, however, seems to not have the same issue.

So I am wondering if there is something else wrong: maybe the fingerboard itself isn't glued well to the neck? Maybe a faulty truss rod is giving me problems? I am open for suggestions. Hopefully I've included enough detail to steer someone in the right direction. Thank you in advance!!
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Re: Baritone guitar with dead second string

Postby Barry Daniels » Sat Aug 13, 2016 4:30 pm

If the truss rod nut is bottomed out on the threads, you can add a washer to give a bit of adjustment. Does the nut get tight suddenly as you tighten it down?
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Re: Baritone guitar with dead second string

Postby Gordon Bellerose » Sat Aug 13, 2016 6:22 pm

You mentioned that there was backbow. When you bent it back, did you re-level the frets?
Do you think the string is being killed by a high fret, up the neck somewhere? It doesn't take much contact to stop the string from ringing.
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Re: Baritone guitar with dead second string

Postby George Reiswig » Sat Aug 13, 2016 7:15 pm

All good questions.

Truss rod: I have not gotten adventurous enough to try bottoming it out. But based on other instruments, I would have expected something to start happening by the time there is a 1/4" of rod exposed beyond the nut. Maybe I am being too timid?

Fret leveling after correcting backbow: the only place that seemed to need leveling after the neck work was high up...beyond the 12th fret. In fact, there is almost too much bow between about fret 1 and 7. Hence the need for a working truss rod. But based on the bow and lack of buzz, I'm pretty confident that high frets aren't the issue.

I forgot to mention that there isn't any finish damage that might indicate that the fingerboard is less attached to the neck than it used to be. If it were coming loose from working on the neck, I guess I would expect to see finish cracking.

Really strange. I'm tempted to try seating one of the problem frets with some ultrathin CA glue and a clamp, just to see if that fixes the issue for that one fret. I have heard of luthiers fixing dead frets that way, but it seems like you would have to heat the frets with a soldering iron or something if you wanted to pull the fret later on, just to avoid ripping up the fingerboard.

Thank you again!
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Re: Baritone guitar with dead second string

Postby Jason Rodgers » Sat Aug 13, 2016 7:28 pm

Couple thoughts:

Tune the string in question up a little and play, then down a little and play. Is the problem on the same frets, or the same pitches? If it's the same frets, you have fret problems. If it's the same pitches, you have some sort of wolf tone(s) problem (though I think if it was a wolf issue, those same pitches would be dead on other strings... and I don't know if a wolf issue can stretch over a major 3rd).

When you corrected the back-bow, how severely did you force up-bow? It's possible that you compressed the wood around those frets, and now they're loose. You could wick some very thin CA under those frets to see if it fixes the dead zone.
-Ruining perfectly good wood, one day at a time.
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Re: Baritone guitar with dead second string

Postby George Reiswig » Sat Aug 13, 2016 7:40 pm

Jason, based on what you just wrote, I think yours must have been the posts I was reading when I first started researching this issue. I did try retuning up and down a step, and although the string seems to like more tension, that doesn't feel like the issue: the deadness seems to stay in the same locale on the fingerboard, not move with the pitch. I had also tried putting some capos on the headstock to act as weights to see if it changed the resonance enough to get rid of the effect. It didn't seem to change it.

As I mentioned above, I am tempted to try the CA trick on at least one fret to see if that fixes it, but I'm worried about the ramifications on later refrets if I do that. Heck, I'm reluctant to even superglue the K&K pickups to the bridge plate of a guitar...there's just something so permanent about that. Again, maybe I'm just being too timid.
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Re: Baritone guitar with dead second string

Postby Barry Daniels » Sat Aug 13, 2016 8:33 pm

You should be able to look closely at the frets and see if they are seated well or if there is a gap under the edges. If they are making good contact with the surface of the fretboard, then they should not be the problem. If there is a gap and you can push it down with finger pressure then do the CA/clamp thing.

A lot of these kind of problems are diagnosed by careful and close inspection. If you are an old guy like me then an Optivisor may be useful.
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Re: Baritone guitar with dead second string

Postby Bob Gramann » Sat Aug 13, 2016 10:59 pm

And, don't worry about having to heat the fret to release the glue on a later refret. You ought to be doing that anyway to avoid fingerboard damage. Frets on many guitars are both glued and pressed.
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Re: Baritone guitar with dead second string

Postby George Reiswig » Sat Aug 13, 2016 11:12 pm

Thanks, all. I will try to get some decent glue and report back. I very much appreciate the insights!
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Re: Baritone guitar with dead second string

Postby Clay Schaeffer » Sun Aug 14, 2016 9:30 am

You could also try changing out the plain second .018 string for a wound .020 gauge string. Thick unwound strings are pretty stiff.
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Re: Baritone guitar with dead second string

Postby George Reiswig » Sun Aug 14, 2016 10:04 am

Clay Schaeffer wrote:You could also try changing out the plain second .018 string for a wound .020 gauge string. Thick unwound strings are pretty stiff.


I had wondered about this as a possibility. It always seemed a little strange to me that the second string was plain steel...as if the makers of the sets were simply trying to make it mirror a standard acoustic set instead of treating the set more like a standard set of strings 6-2 plus a new, lower string.

And by the time you get to a .070+ wound string, the bend radius on that guy is pretty large, making it tricky to set action height at the nut and saddle.

Interesting instruments.
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