Then & Now: 1968 Fender Redondo

Since originally working on this guitar, I've tinkered and tinkered with it in an attempt to figure out what to do with it. I'd initially really enjoyed it as a couch-potato, easy-chording guitar that made its way into live performances with the help of a K&K acoustic pickup. It lacked treble strings that could be bitten into, however, and kept having stability issues with the action moving around from time to time.

I couldn't quite place what was driving me crazy about it, but somewhere in there (after trying various bridge and saddle modifications) I traded it after making a much better new saddle and shoring-up the stability issues (the neck seemed to pitch forward after sitting for a while). It came back to me some months later in another trade. Sometimes guitars just choose you!

The problem with the neck was that I was attempting to use basic shims to knock the neck angle back and it didn't occur to me that the neck block itself (a multi-piece hunk of tight-grain spruce) was actually compressing itself due to tension. A proper, made-for-the-job, wedge-shaped shim solved that.

My other frustration -- wussy treble response (though the lower-mids and mids feature a delicious whum sort-of sound "stock") -- was dealt-with by converting the instrument to a tailpiece load. The "zip" of the trebles was gone and the instrument now sits, acoustically, much more forward when playing with other folks. It sounds a bit like a more gypsy-jazz variant of a Gibson L-30. It's weird, chunky, and punchy. The adjustable, threaded, radiused, and compensated bizarro-saddle I installed seemed to help, too, compared to a rosewood adjustable saddle I'd made for it before.

Still, I wasn't picking it up much to plink around on, save from time to time when the jam group was in Saturday session here at the shop. It was nice to pound chords on a guitar a little smaller and with a very different palette from other guitars I was using for shows.

Being the sort of person that can't just leave something alone until it speaks to me, early last month I decided to add a magnetic pickup in addition to the acoustic one already onboard. I had a metal-covered Alnico-magnet P90 and fit it in the soundhole. The mount is reversible (two little bolts hold the cover secure to the rear of the soundhole edge) and solid (I bolted the cover to the pickup itself).

I think it's finally come into its own as an instrument, now. The acoustic side is loud and punchy and the electric side is a bit raunchy, growly, and with an indistinct air of vintage jazz when it's cleaned-up and the amp set somewhat "dark." The neck, of course, is the best feature of the whole guitar -- it's a tightly-radiused (~9" as I recall) board with a medium, C-profile, and 1 5/8" nut width. This screams "vintage Strat neck," and it sort-of plays/responds like a Fenderized Gibson ES-125 when plugged-in.

It's not the cleanest look, but it has style.

The saddle is simply threaded steel I recut and then "radiused." I couldn't resist the idea of doing a "threaded saddle" for a Fender product. The B-string area is compensated and it's nice to be able to change string-string spacing on the fly.

This is a funky 1930s tailpiece. I string it a little backwards -- the string goes into holes pointing to the butt-end of the guitar and then I wrap them 180-degrees and over to the bridge. You can just string it "as normal," but that didn't allow for overtone damping with foam under the tailpiece's front edge and the overtones were stacking-up a bit much.

I'm pretty sure that the back on this guitar is laminate, though the sides are solid mahogany.

Short for electric, tall for acoustic...


Christopher Billiau said...

Looks and sounds great! Is there a problem with strings skipping the threads on that bridge?

Jake Wildwood said...

Haven't had an issue. I think maybe with a much-heavier low E you might have skipping if you wail on it.