Thursday, May 30, 2013

Old neighbours & unexpected surprises

I'll give you a little back story first.

Prior to moving here and constructing my secret lair, I lived on the ground floor of a former toy pram factory, which was nestled behind a row of shops in a working class neighbourhood. The neighbourhood has been transformed through gentrification, but is still a hive of scum and villainy. Anyway, that's not the story.

The story is that, the guys who lived above me were also musicians.

We occupied the same building for a number of years, and frequently met at the bottom of the stairs. This happened to be because I'd setup a workbench down there and would tinker as often as the sun would shine.

One of the two gents had a bedroom window above my work area, so I was always careful to keep the noise down in the morning. Nobody I know appreciates hammering and power tool noises, when they're trying to have a bit of a kip on a Sunday morning.

It was this fine chap who befriended my family.
We bonded over a love of old guitars, effects pedals, good vittles, bad neighbours, leaky light fittings, rising damp and mushrooms growing in the ceiling (not to forget, a plethora of dead birds, vomit, human poop and young men who clearly missed the point of fight club).

Oh yes, it was a cracking place to live, in the heart of hipsterville.

He left the apartment block close to a year before me, and even though there was a bit of electronic communication, we never managed to get together, like the good old days.

A week or so ago, I saw a message in my inbox stating that he's leaving the country and would like to give me an old beat up guitar that needed some work.

This was quite a surprise, and extremely pleasant surprise mind you and I would not have cared if it was a broken down old $2 shop guitar. I was chuffed to be the person that he decided to bestow an instrument on.

It was an awesome gesture and I will always be grateful to be the lucky recipient.

The guitar, as it turns out is a seemingly rare beast from the dawn of Australian guitar manufacturing, from somewhere between 1959 and 1963. At least 15 years older than yours truly.

It's apparently an EG75 Single cutaway made by Maton.
Similar to the guitar pictured on this page: 1962 Maton EG75 (about half way down the page in a nice tobacco burst).
And according to this page it has a steel reinforced neck.

I mention this, because I can't find anywhere to adjust a truss rod.

My old neighbour mentioned that he thought that the pick guard might have been made by someone else. However, having seen the pictures in the above links and the quality of the workmanship on the guitar I have in hand, I believe that the guard is indeed original.

The pickups measure around 3.2k ohms each and drops down to 1.2k ohms. Going by experience, this is pretty low compared to modern pickups. That said, I have other low output pickup guitars and they have a certain charm, which work wonderfully with fuzz units.

I haven't got that far yet though as there is some work to be done. The first order of business in getting this instrument up and running was to fill the screw holes. Most of the scratch plate screws are missing and the ones that are there, don't bite into the wood anymore.

After that I checked the electrics with the multimeter, and everything seemed ok. Since the guitar doesn't have a truss rod, I decided to go with 11-50's. When it came to tuning up, the machines were pretty stiff, and the A tuner had me convinced that it'd snap if I tried to get to A440. So I settled for tuning half a step down, which seems ok.

The bridge is really basic, with little slots underneath to anchor the strings to the tail piece, not quite as annoying as stringing a Bigsby, but not far off.

Where the strings wrap over the bridge, there is a bit of wear and rust pitting. I'll need to tackle it sooner rather than later as some of the strings buzz like a broken sitar. Can be tamed with a bit of a palm mute.

When it came time to plug the guitar in, only one pickup worked.
It sounded pretty nice though, and as expected was very low in output. My Fender Princeton was set on 3, which is just at the beginning of the sweet spot, going from clean to crunchy, depending on playing dynamics (it's also fairly loud at this point). Not so with this guitar. It stayed clean no matter how hard I strummed. That's fine, it was a pleasant clean tone. Not particularly loud either.

When I re-opened the guts of the guitar I noticed that one of the leads had come off the pickup switch, which explained the dead pickup from before.

It took a bit of filling to get all of the wired back in, and to ensure the uninsulated braid wasn't shorting anything out. The latter of which was taken care of by a bit of electrical tape.

Anyway after wrestling the plate back into place and screwing it down, I finally got to play the guitar properly. The strings are still stretching in and time has been short so far, but my initial impression is mixed.

The neck pickup is big and robust sounding, while the bridge pickup is reminiscent of an old portable radio. The bridge itself has many burrs which need to be filed/polished out. Hopefully that will reduce the tendency to buzz on open strings.

 The body weighs barely anything (I think there's more heft to my open back banjo) but it sits comfortably when using a strap. I'll definitely find musical pockets for it, even if it isn't destined to be my main guitar.

I doubt that it'll ever be regarded in the same way that early Fenders & Gibsons are.
Its a nice piece of Australian history none the less.
The guitars worth for me is not in the monetary sense, but in appreciation of the awesome gesture that was the gift from an old neighbour.

UPDATE: 10 June 2013

I left the guitar hanging on the wall for a week or so and tried tuning up from Eb (where it wouldn't stay in tune) to E.

Now I'm not sure if the strings took longer than usual to settle, or of that extra bit of tension was needed to stop slipping, but now the guitar stays in tune for longer than 20 seconds.

It's still a little rough on the hands due to the action and lack of truss rod, but I've played worse.

The guitar sounds old and with a little bit of a short delay, is excellent for old timey surf riffs.


  1. Over $4ooo if sold in America - wish I still had mine !!

    1. Wow, that's way more than I would have expected!
      I've recently changed out some parts (non destructive) to make it playable. It now intonates properly and sounds great.