Thursday, June 9, 2011

An Alvarez refret with a nice surprise!

  Here's a 1973 Alvarez model 5075 made by luthier Kazuo Yairi. It came into the shop needing a complete overhaul. It's worn down frets called for a refret and a new bone nut and saddle. Here are a few of the cool things I found along the way:
Many times a refret will call for a new saddle. With a shim under the saddle and the saddle broken in two,there was no doubt about it. Time for a new saddle!

Here's something I see quite often on Japanese guitars of this era. There are no barbs in the tang of the fret wire. Instead,barbs are created by a good whack with a hammer and chisel.

Here's a good look at the fingerboard in it's "before" state. Under all those years of gunk,you can see that the fingerboard is stained black. Thanks to guitar makers like Larrivee,it is now more common to enjoy the natural beauty of the wood but during this time,uniformity of color was seen as desirable. There was a great piece of rosewood hiding under there!

As the process of truing up the radius of the fingerboard went on,I was more and more surprised as this great piece of what is undoubtedly Brazilian rosewood revealed itself. With a tiny bit of sadness for this wood being hidden away for a few decades,I was mostly glad that this fantastic piece of wood could finally show it's true colors.

With some nice medium frets and a bit of oil on the fingerboard,now we're starting to look like we have something!

Here's the original nut,next to my replacement. Replacing the nut on a refret has more to do with our nice new taller4 frets but it's also an opportunity to improve the nut material. As was common for nicer Japanese guitars,the nut was already bone,but certainly we can make a nicer looking nut than that!

Here's our new nut,in place,looking and sounding good.

Our nice new saddle,some new strings (silk and steels,the owners favorite) and this guys ready for a few more decades.

Here's a closeup of our finished fingerboard,in action.


David Smith said...

Beautiful work. How deep into the wood was the black? Maybe Macassar Ebony?

Phil Clark said...

Thanks David! The black stain used at this time doesn't penetrate very deeply. It almost like a coat of paint. If you look closely in the "before" pics,you can see the real color peeking through,just from finger wear. It could be Macassar,but I think that in the early 1970's,it's likely there was still plenty of Brazilian rosewood around.

Joe said...

I have the same guitar bought new in 73 or 74. Mine still plays great. Nice job on the rework. I'm in Allentown, Pa. and wondered if you know who might do nearly as nice work as you. Not sure if anything can be done about it but mine has a slight rise in the top just below the lower part of the bridge.

Anonymous said...

Curious if there was anything other than light sanding necessary to get the paint off of the fingerboard? What kind of oil did you use? No finish other than the oil? I am looking at one right now. The only difference is this one has a zero fret. It I buy it I will probably refret for practice and to uncover the fingerboard. The headstock has significant wood grain color variation so I am assuming/hoping that the fingerboard will be the same.

Phil Clark said...

Just the usual amount of leveling with a steel bar and adhesive sandpaper was used. It's common to true the finger board before a refret,this time it just had the added bonus of some beautiful wood underneath. Aside from maple boards,fingerboards are usually left unfinished. A little bit of linseed or lemon oil once or twice a year is all most boards need to look and feel their best.