Hear ye, hear ye my tale of woe and redemption concerning the Eastwood Guitars Airline Folkstar.
So there I was lusting after a resonator guitar and came across this interesting specimen online, and found a shop that would sell it to me for a more than seemingly decent knock-down price.
Being the innocent lad (and mostly because I was drunk – both with enthusiasm and literally), and having read the positive reviews, I poked-in my credit card details and took the punt.
Sure enough, next day the package arrived.
First-off, what a beauty!. I can’t deny that the look of this guitar contributed to my lust. Buying on the internet and all that.
My camera can’t do better than the stock photos above, but it’s quite dazzling in real life. Closer inspection did reveal some rather surprising construction flaws, however. Doubts creep in.
Sound-wise: Long story short, when plugged-in to an amp this guitar sounds wonderful. Mixing between the Humbucker and the Piezo pickups with the blend knob produces a huge range of tones, from chugging rock, jazz and the high-frequency zing of delta blues. Played with a slide in open D tuning, and with a touch of overdrive and reverb – great fun.
Plugged-out it retains the bluesy vibe with a touch of banjo, which sounds pretty nice, isn’t too loud, and yet entices to fondle.
…although the guitar seemed to be well setup out-of-the-box, and according to these instructions, it was immediately obvious to my uncultured bony ass that the intonation was waaaaay off.
Essentially, although the open strings are tuned correctly, moving up the fretboard caused notes to become progressively sharper. At the 12th fret the 3rd string is a full semitone sharp when fretted (harmonic is OK though), and it doesn’t sound good. I re-checked the neck and action (which is low anyway), I tried different strings and angled the bridge as much as possible…
No matter what, the strings always sounded sharp up the fretboard, and some more than others. OK then, onward to Google, the chief answerer of all these periodic inane questions.
What I found online was mostly guitar-geek forum posts where opinion lazily conceded that resonator guitars were always destined to sound a little out of tune at the higher frets (due to high action), and that intonation problems on fixed-bridge guitars are generally intractable without the surgical intervention of an experienced luthier.
The construction flaws I can live with, the intonation problems not. Do I send it back for a refund?
Being a stubborn bastard and not wanting to give-up, I did take it to a luthier. After less than 30 seconds of inspection he sighed and gave that disappointed look of ‘poor child, what a dumbass’.
But even this didn’t calm my hubris. Why? Because Youtube always comes to the rescue!:
Paco’s brilliantly simple solution rang a bell, flashed a light, and struck a chord. I would try this.
And indeed it works! Instead of the metal screws used by Paco, I wanted to use something softer to avoid possible fretboard damage. A quick dig around my junk stash came up with using only the plastic parts from header pins. Just cut to size and yank out the pins. Comes with a complimentary built-in string notch!
And there you go, a quick ‘n easy way to fix intonation on any fixed-bridge guitar. Thanks Paco!
One minor, concern is that these ‘floating nuts’ will move when bending, so periodic checks and readjustments are advised. None needed here so far.
This is not to excuse the poor quality control at Eastwood. Judging by the the adjustments needed, the guitar seems to have some fundamental issues and thus it will sent back. Shame really.