Check out this photo and see if you can see the problem. I will be honest, my tech didn't actually pick this up (the photo makes it look more obvious than what the naked eye would pick up I promise!) but following every quality control and setup I (Richard) personally play test the guitar to make sure it feels as I would expect based on the customers initial comments.
On playing the guitar I felt my hand "scratching" on something. You will see 2 fine "pimples" which are actually slightly raised. Probably dust or wood residue during production that got sprayed over and set into the finish.
The pimples are just in line with where your thumb rubs along as you play chords - or I may have missed it too and you could argue the problem would be less of an issue.
We can't remove these without having some cosmetic impact on the guitar so we had to reject it.
These kinds of rejections are the most painful as we spend so much time working on the guitar only to have it fall at the last hurdle. Customer then has to be patient BUT they receive a stunning instrument as a result.
If this guitar had been purchased from ANY other mail order company I can GUARANTEE this guitar would now be in the hands of a player, highly frustrated by something that looks sooooo small but impacts so heavily on the enjoyment of playing the instrument. Our customer however will receive his £750 Faith guitar setup to perfection and cosmetically perfect too!
OK - The Bi-Level bridge is designed to help ensure the correction amount of downward pressure is exerted on the saddle even when it has to be shaven down during the set up process (you know - the one most shops don't do anyway but just pretend they do for a moment!)
Now the principal is sound in theory but it depends on how low you have to get the saddle in the first place.
If you look at the following picture you will see that after the setup process the saddle is pretty much as low as we can take it and as a result the string is moving downward towards the lower level (which is where the extra pressure kicks in) BUT the wood from the higher level is spoiling the "mechanics" making the system redundant IE reducing the downward pressure.
(Wow thats a big pic....)
If you look at that top E string it is not in a straight line and is running over the top of the wooden bridge plate.
Depending on how bad this problem is at this point we either made a decision to reject the guitar (lots of time wasted of course getting it to this point to then have to reject it - but that all comes with the territory!) or we can actually reduce the height of the bridge plate itself.
In this case - we took the latter option. Now check out the final work here...
Now you can see the bridge itself is actually looking a lot cleaner on the angle - less roughly cut in fact that before due to all the sanding etc! But the most important aspect is that there is a straight line between the top of the saddle and the string peg.
This guitar now has better tuning stability and improved tone as a result.
The process of setting up this guitar, then refinishing the bridge and completing the job took over 2 hours. The guitar itself retails at £350.
As far as I am aware this level of detail is unheard of in the trade. The reason why I have posted this specific pic was because we rejected the first guitar - this is actually the second one and the distributor wanted me to explain what was wrong with the first one so I have killed two birds with one stone!
Apparently we are the only shop who ever returns any guitars... Well as a result of the work we do this brand is always seen in the very best light and the customers receive the ultimate in playability.
A: On MOST Stratocaster models sold under £200
Here is an example of a Cort G200 PRE set up. The G200 is a phenominal stratocaster guitar for £149 but of course like all production guitars at this price, limits have to be placed on the time spent setting the guitar up in the factory.
Balancing/floating the trem system is the last thing any brand name wants to spend time and money on when the retail value of the guitar is £149. It just cannot be done economically.
You will see from the photo that the trem lies flat to the body of the guitar. This does not allow for ANY backward or pulling up of the trem arm resulting in no upward tone bends.
What you cannot see is that the trem is also loaded with heavy springs making downward movement nigh on impossible too - due to the excessive pressure working in the opposite direction.
So what this picture is demonstrating is a tremolo system that may as well not exist at all.
Bought a Stratocaster style guitar recently? Check your trem now and see if it actually works!
OK, so thats the "normal production" trem system at work!
Now here is one of ours!
EVERY customer who purchases a strat style instrument from Richards Guitars will benefit massively from the time we take to set the trem up correctly. By removing a spring from the back of the guitar, and adjusting the spring tensions we can provide a guitar that operates with the gentlest of finger tip pressure both up and down for the smoothest tremolo tones around!
Also, the angle of the trem arm itself is lower and much more comfortable to hold in the playing position.
At Richards Guitars there is no two tier service. If you buy a guitar for £150 or one for £1500 the setup is performed to the same high standards.
If you want a perfect playing stratocaster style guitar I cannot recommend highly enough the combination of our in house setup with the G200 by Cort.
Yes its yet another issue relating to SADDLES!!!!
The Cort Luce L100C is one of my benchmark recommendations and is utterly wonderful. However, when a factory is making an acoustic guitar and they accidentally cut the saddle slot too deep, what do you think they do? Throw the guitar away?
No, of course not - its time for the "shim" to shine! The shim is a slither of ... well.. almost anything it seems from 18 years experience looking in these "holes"! The shims role is to provide additional height when a saddle is just not enough or when a saddle has been cut down too low and they don't want to use another one. In this case the slot is the issue - too deep hence requiring a shim.
This guitar had several shims and Chris wasn't happy with the way it looked and the saddle was still too low, so he created some shims that would be tidier and physically/geometrically sound.
This guitar will play better and believe it or not SOUND better due to the new shim at the right height.
This guitar retails at around £170 but every guitar we sell receives this meticulous attention to detail whether £1700 or £170.
OK - You may be looking at this blog and thinking its a repeat of the other blog I have done on incorrect intonation?
Well, if you study this picture you will notice that this guitar is actually left handed.
The nice people at Stonebridge who produce World Class acoustics had a rare Friday afternoon moment on this one as they have slipped in a right handed saddle on a left handed GS20 CM C.
Of course this is an intonation nightmare but its just simple human error - but it happens, and hopefully we are here as the last line of defense in ensuring a World Class acoustic guitar SOUNDS like a World Class acoustic guitar.
The saddle shown below is the correct Stonebridge saddle for right handed guitars, sent to us from the distributor (in fact we keep a good supply for replacing saddles for a number of reasons).
One happy customer saved! He may not know it - but we do!
I am very proud of this particular save (or proud of my tech at least!). This particular issue was a "batch" issue which meant a number of guitars were effected - but not customers!
My technician checks the intonation of on every guitar - acoustic or electric - that goes out the door to ensure that the geometry of the guitar is correct. Although limited in what we can do to an acoustic guitar to improve intonation if it has been made poorly, we of course reject the guitar to ensure you don't get a "bad" one.
In this example Chris has found that an incorrect saddle has been fitted in the factory resulting in poor intonation.
The photo shows the incorrect saddle and the correct saddle which is about to replace it! The replacement saddle has been sourced from the supplier to ensure that the saddle is the "official" saddle designed to be fitted in the guitar which provides accurate intonation.
This customer (and all the others who had a similar problem) has been saved from many hours of frustration trying to tune his guitar!!
To our knowledge NO other shop in the UK had noticed this issue or reported any problem despite the clear intonation issue.
We saved a customer on deciding this guitar needed to be rejected. Following the full setup the saddle was left with so little height that there was insufficient downward pressure for the pickup to work properly. Poor downward pressure is also very bad news for acoustic tone too. This will require returning to our supplier and replacing for one with the correct geometry.