By the winter of 2009, my venerable 1976 Guild F-512 12 string was in desperate need of attention. It badly needed a neck reset and the back of the neck was worn through to bare wood in places. The finish on the soundboard was a mess, a combination of hauling it in and out of a variety of climates for decades, and simple neglect. In places it was gooey from sweat and had chipped, crazed, cracked or worn off sufficiently to, in my opinion, require a refinish. I determined the options before me were:
For reasons still unknown (I told myself I was “too busy”), I chose to be inventive and selected a (disastrous) variation of options 2 and 4. Instead of doing the work myself, I contacted a local guitar repair shop. The proprietor had worked for a well-respected local luthier and repairman, someone who had worked on my guitars years earlier, and who had indicated to me he was trying to get away from the business for health reasons. I conveyed my desire(s) regarding my 12 string to this former colleague of his who informed me he was quite familiar with Guild guitars. So I authorized an effort to correct finish issues as well as set up the guitar.
One year later...
Several phone calls over several months eventually led to the delivery of my guitar. The fingerboard had been reduced to nearly half it’s original thickness. The entire guitar was now (spray tinted) a horrific mustard yellow, and the soundboard had visual thick / thin, high / low peaks and valleys where it had been hand sanded using fingertips instead of a sanding block.
In three words: It Was Ruined!
Without going into details, after heavy consideration and consultation it was determined there was little to no recourse option available. The entire scenario was screaming Caveat Emptor and I was stuck with an instrument that was in worse condition than when I started. My options, this time:
Of course I had to make it right, as I was unwilling to live with this guitar in such condition. The soundboard had been destroyed from hand sanding (it was paper-thin in places). The mustard yellow tinting was definitely ‘creative’, at best, the only reasonable explanation for which would be the presence of consciousness-altering chemicals during the artistic portion of the endeavor.
Well, overhaul it was. Since that meant adding a new soundboard, I would take the opportunity to add Paua inlay, clean up the inside of the box, do a proper neck reset, add a new fingerboard, add a new bridge, and completely re-bind the guitar - this Guild was getting the works!
My new (old) 12 string:
This is the guitar I always wanted my 12 string to be.
By paying a little extra attention to the Rosewood back and sides, the beauty of the wood was perfectly captured under the new lacquer finish,.
I installed an L.R Baggs Anthem pickup and performed with the guitar for about a year. I had grown dissatisfied with my (one year-old) fretboard, both mechanically and aesthetically. It featured a tight 12″ radius and was fitted with nickel fretwire. I wanted to alter the radius to a combination of the rounder 12″ at the first fret and graduating to a flatter 20″ as I moved toward the bridge, an approach referred to as a compound radius. I re-fretted the guitar with EVO Gold fretwire (a super-hard material and tough on my tools, but really pretty stuff). Having now changed both the radius and fretwire, I fashioned a brand new bone nut and saddle and adjusted the action as low as I could get it for my style of playing.
Before (nickel frets on a 12″ radius):
After (gold frets on a 12/20″ compound radius):
I replaced the ancient and heavy Grover Rotomatics with Sperzel black and gold, open-back, locking tuners. I love these things!
I replaced the LR Baggs Anthem with a James May Ultra Tonic Pickup with onboard Feedback Suppression. This is such an impressive pickup - very accurate in its response. Imagine your favorite K&K pickup, but with onboard feedback suppression. If you are interested, I wrote an article on it, here:
The Ultra Tonic pickup