Battle Scars – the JR1 returns

Finally, the JR-1 (the James Ready signature model) has returned for its proper service.

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It came in briefly once before to repair a slightly raised fret, but not for its full setup post delivery. It’s been on the road about three and a half years now I think, and been featured very heavily on Walkway III as the main rhythm guitar – especially on anything drop D tuned.

It’s had an unbelievably hard life already, which was one of the reasons I originally wanted to work with James. Walkway is a proving ground for my building method, in that if it can survive that kind of heavy gigging then I’ve got it right.

The main issue was that James was reporting a little buzzing from the top E. I hit the strings fairly hard and it was rattling a bit, so I lifted the strings very slightly and the problem disappeared. The truss rod was just about right though, so I just unwound it about 1/4 turn, then slowly put the pressure back on a touch to add a little more clearance. That seemed to clear any buzz but the action was not noticeably higher.

Then it’s time to look at the bridge.

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The pickup and the bridge are carrying a fair amount of corrosion. Now destrung, its time to see what moves. The posts on the bridge are held tight with grub screws. I can’t adjust the height at the Bass end (though I’d already moved the treble end slightly) because the screws are rusted solid. In fact I can’t even get an allen key into one of them, so badly has the rot set in.

So I freed it up with a little heat and oil, then took the bridge off its posts to clean it up and try to stop the corrosion in its tracks. You can see how bad it is below.

Some of the rollers are seized, which rather defeats the object of the exercise to reduce breaking against bending. Although there aren’t any sharp edges, they have to be freed up.

The best way is just to soak them in oil, to dissolve any crud and hopefully soften any surface rust.

Everything that will come out goes in the oil bath. The saddles come off, but the grub screws were tight so I left them in initially for an hour, returning to them to unscrew them when the oil had done its job.

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After a couple of hours while I was working on something else, I came back to a much better situation. Putting the bridge back together, the screws went back in with almost no resistance at all which was rather more reassuring.

Of course, getting all the surface oil off was a bit of a task, but the best way is to leave a film on anything the hand doesn’t touch, which will repel at least some moisture for a while. There’s no harm in putting a little Vaseline into screw threads on a guitar, just to keep the rust away, when restringing – especially if you’re one of those players who rots guitars for fun every weekend.

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Next is to have a good clean up. You can see what looks like glitter on the headstock – that’s shredded string and metal pick from the last few gigs. There was lots of it all over the guitar. Then it was taped up and the frets polished. There’s a bit of wear, but nothing too serious and there’s no point in a dress at this point.

Considering the use it gets, the frets have held up fairly well – and possibly in some way aided by the use of elixirs because the string doesn’t become more abrasive on its underside through corrosion.

And so then it’s time to put it back together and set it up. With the bridge now working properly, it’s a piece of cake. Really, apart from the bridge the guitar has survived almost intact, and that will last a few more years before it needs replacing. The electronics are fine, and sounding great. The Bare Knuckles in this one are the VHII pair – bright and spanky, and apart from the Mules my favourite to fit.

The paintwork however….well that’s another story!

 

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