Thursday, 6 November 2008

Yamaha FG-260 12-string

This is a lovely old guitar that came to me with an unplayable action. 12 string guitars often suffer from problems related to string tension and this one had really suffered. The top was bellying and needed the bridge plate replacing - I'll go into that one at a later date. Even with the top stable and the belly reduced the action was still too high. The bridge saddle was right down low so it wasn't going to be an easy one.The neck had to be re-set. Over years the neck had moved with string tension and was now leaning forward a little. This was giving the guitar too high an action. There are a few ways to re-angle a neck; the traditional way is to completely remove the neck from its socket and re-cut the dovetail joint to the correctangle. The main problem with this is damage to the finish around the heel. I chose a different way - its called 'slipping the block'. With this method the neck stays in the body and the back of the guitar is removed (peeled away) between the guitar's shoulders. Once the back is seperated from the block the neck becomes 'wobbly'. The back can then be clamped in place with the neck at the correct angle. Ok, so here's how its done. First the binding had to be removed so the back could come off cleanly. I scrape the finish away from the binding with a blade - if I left it on it'd crack and make a mess when the binding came off. Then the binding can be peeled away carefully using the blade.

I don't take it right off, just as far as the shoulders. Guitars are always put together using heat reversable glue which means if you warm them up they come apart. To seperate the back I use heat lamps which gently warm the glue from the back. If it gets too hot the finish can get damaged so its a gentle slow process. When I feel its warm enough I start pushing a spatula into the joint to ease it apart. Push too hard and the wood can split - too soft and nothing happens. In this pic the green tape is holding the binding out of the way. A butter knife is just great for this job.

When the back's off its time to get the action right. I put two E-strings on the guitar and a bridge saddle of the ideal height. Then I clamp the guitar from bum to heel. As the clamp tightens the action lowers.
Once its right its simply a case of regluing the back. .

The back will now be overhanging the sides a little so it needs trimming before the binding goes back.

There's no easy way to re-angle a neck but for me this is the easiest.



  1. I bought a pawn shop Yamaha FG-260 for $50 US. It could have ended up as firewood. It was in bad shape as yours. Neck bowed, top bellying and someone had already "chewed" on the bridge with a dull chisel, but something told me to buy it. I have local luthier at Sound Repair in Arlington Texas. Frank is a magician. He steamed/clamped out the bellying. He decided to do the neck removal for re-angleing and you can't tell it's been off. He also re-carved and inlayed the bridge saddle and it looks brand new. He only charged me $125, but I gave him a a little extra because he went above and beyond. The action now is as good as my Martin or Gibson. SO, for less than $200 I have a beautiful playing, beautiful sounding old guitar that didn't end up in the scrap pile.

    Brian Herring TX. USA

  2. Great info, I have one right here I got from a chruch in Osaka in the 90's. I can only string up 6 strings without the bridge, but it really booms. Ive had several of the old 60's/70s's yamaha fg's and theyre awesome.

  3. yamaha builds some great guitars and their prices make them affordable to beginner and intermediate players - personally, i own two yamaha classical guitars and leave them laying around on the couch for rapid access ( aka "not having to open a guiater case" ) - i use D'Adario HARD TENSION nylon strings and they sound GREAT - it's amazing how easy it is to write songs on these kind of guitars while watching TV and sitting on your couch

  4. I'm with you there - the ideal domestic guitar.

  5. I bought a old Yamaha G-60A NIPPON GAKKI classisal for $115 U.S. and it is my favorite "NEW" toy. I'm upgrading the nut and saddle with black graph tech TUSQ XL and replacing the broken amber tuning knobs with new black knobs. This will make my vintage guitar look unique and sound better than it ever has before.

  6. I wish I had found your blog before I cut the neck off my FG110!

    Whats the longevity for a repair like yours??


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