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Thread: Yamaha 12 string conversion

  1. Default Yamaha 12 string conversion

    Several years ago, I saw a post on the FLATPICK-L list. The guy who posted stated that he had several old Yamaha guitars in the closet that he had been holding, thinking they would be good candidates to use as learning tools for his interest in luthiery. He said he had come to the realization that he was never going to do anything about it, and wanted the closet space, and that the guitars were offered free to anyone who wanted them. I contacted him and asked for the 70's 12 string and he emailed back saying "It's yours!". It showed up and was actually pretty nice, save it badly needed a neck reset. I flipped the strings and played with the neck relief and lowered the saddle down to the point that it buzzed, but it was basically still unplayable. My friend Skip asked about 6 months ago if I had any guitar work we needed to do and I jokingly suggested this one and he said bring it on! We pulled the neck (a torturous process with this guitar), reset it, installed new frets, filled the saddle slot and reslotted it for lefty. I have it here to do setup and such now. I just got done replacing the fret we pulled at the neck joint to drill holes to apply steam into the dovetail. I was looking at the guitar and started thinking about the pick guard. I don't much care for the two pick guard look, so, I have a question for those of you who have an opinion. Would you just leave it upside down, ala Paul McCartney and the Epiphone Texan, or pull it off and try to let the sun darken the light spot by just covering the rest of the top like Rick was doing on that old Martin he posted about a while back. If you picked the remove it and let the bare spot "tan", would you put a lefty pick guard on it, or leave it w/o one?

    I'm kind of looking forward to hearing the old girl sing again! I have a new nut and saddle in place, but need to do the setup. I'm in the information acquisition phase on 12 string setup. I have some concerns about saddle intonation and nut slot depth. It seems to me that, especially with the wound string non wound string pairs, the saddle would need to be compensated for each string? I also wonder about string depth on the lower strings. It seems like the lighter gauge strings would need to be lower to prevent them being pulled sharp while fretting? One other question would be, should I string it like the old Guilds with the lighter of the octave strings on top, or like the Rics with the heavy string on top?

    Yet one other question. There are some milky white areas on the top caused by the steam and moisture associated with the neck removal. Any ideas on what would fix that? I'm thinking light wet sanding with maybe 1000 grit paper, then trying to buff it out. Good idea? Bad?

    Should the first song be Norwegian Wood or Turn, Turn, Turn?
    Last edited by Mark the Magnificent!; 09-14-2015 at 11:04 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Smithfield Va
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    976

    Default

    Have you tried a hot iron over an old t shirt for just a few seconds? Is the finish poly or lacquer?
    How much aging has this 30 something year old top done? Might be one heck of a tan line underneath that pickguard, assuming you can get that old glue to soften.
    Can only say that my 12 saddle is intonated just like a normal 6 without any additional compensation for the harmonic strings. But that might not be right.
    Stairway To Heaven. Its the only song my 12 string will play. Maybe I need a new one.

  3. Default

    I put the saddle and nut in, got it pretty much right, sans intonation, and tuned it up. I ended up with the intro part of Hotel California. It just sort of happened. I thought about Turn, Turn, Turn, but my brain wasn't working well enough to remember it , so I went on to Norwegian Wood. In the middle of that I heard a loud pop, and all the strings went out of tune. The nut cracked. I've never seen that before. Poor old cow must have had osteoporosis I need to get some more bone and try again. It sounded OK, but I don't think I'm in any danger of forgoing my 6 string interests to embark on a career as a Roger McGuinn wannabe!!!!

    It is 40+ years old. The top is pretty much pumpkin orange. It no doubt would leave a very noticeable tan line, assuming the original glue could be loosened enough to get the guard off w/o damaging the top. I haven't heard of the damp T-Shirt and clothes iron thing. Are you suggesting it to loosen the old glue on the pick guard, or as a way to remove the milky white areas the steaming out of the neck caused?

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2009
    Location
    Smithfield Va
    Posts
    976

    Default

    I googled "removing milky white stains on guitar tops" and read threads from several different forums on the subject. What I came away with was that the hot iron-t shirt technique works well on poly finishes which your old Yamaha should be.
    If by chance it's nitro, wiping naptha on and allowing it to dry or using a polish such as Virtuoso are the methods that were recomended but there seemed to be varying results as nitro being such a thin coating that the moisture can be trapped underneath the finish.

    Sorry to hear about your nut. Cutting a 12 string nut is lots of fun, especially if you get to do it twice!

    Did you cut your nut so that the tops of each pair of strings were level? Just curious as that is how I did mine not knowing if there is a more "correct" way.

  5. Default

    I cut the nut so that the bottoms of the strings were the same distance above the fretboard. My theory was that if I lined them up so that the tops of the strings were the same height, it might feel better, but the octave strings would have to travel further down to fret cleanly, and would be more likely to fret sharp. It seemed to make sense as I thought about it, but might not actually be valid in the real world. Interestingly, I have found that I can capo it at the first fret, retune it, and get it to play and stay in tune pretty well. The bridge has NO compensation in it currently, other than the angle of the recut saddle slot. The only downside is the fretboard markers mess with my mind This time I think I'm just going to cut the slots and get the string heights right before I worry about getting the nut all shaped and smoothed properly. I spent a LOT of time making it pretty before I did the setup, and it hurt my feelings that it broke after all that! I never even thought to google removing water spots from guitar finishes. I'm going to have to do that and see if there are any videos documenting the process. I had never heard of it. I was talking with my son about it today while we were riding between yards, and he said I should just yank the guard, sand the finish off the top, respray it, and put on a new LH guard. That would work, but it would destroy that lovely pumpkin orange the top has turned, that only years can do!

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