Paul’s “Sovereign Hill”guitar.

Sometimes, as guitar makers, we have reservations about our instruments being returned to us for servicing or repair…

We worry about how the instrument is “surviving the journey”.

Is it not as good as we thought it was when we made it? Has the workmanship not been up to scratch? Does the owner- or worse still the maker- now hate it?

The “Sovereign Hill” guitar has been returned to me because of serious fret wear as a result of 19 years of constant playing in a challenging environment, walking the streets of Ballarat’s Sovereign Hill in the hands of my very old friend Paul Flowers, a long time member – 33 years, Paul told me today- of the Men o’the Hill.

The guitar was originally made last century(!) – No 35-1296- and has been in use constantly since I gave the guitar not to Sovereign Hill, but to Sovereign Hill’s wandering minstrels known as the Men o’ the Hill, in 1996.

The top is sitka spruce that I bought from David Churchill twenty years ago. The neck, back and sides are Honduras mahogany and the slotted- style machine heads are Schallers.

The fret board, headstock overlay and the bridge are all Macassar ebony.

The neck is reinforced Martin style using a non-adjustable strip of steel set into the neck on edge under the fretboard.

The logo in use by Sovereign Hill at the time was the image of a digger striking it rich and his mate leaping for joy and this image I inlaid into the headstock…

On presenting the guitar to the Men o’ the Hill, this photo appeared in the Ballarat Courier along with a nice little article…

The guitar made another appearance in the local paper some years later in the hands of it’s custodian Paul…

It was in my workshop in 2002 with a broken top brace and at the same time I refinished the top because of some wear around the sound hole and a scratch plate was fitted.

In 2009 it was given a major service and fret wear was removed and the guitar thoroughly cleaned and inspected and all seemed to be ok.

Paul again brought the guitar to me last Monday thinking that some frets would have to be replaced but again I could remove the considerable fret wear and could again thoroughly go over the guitar for signs of impending repair that might be required.

To my relief- and delight- nothing was needed.

Even though the environment that the guitar is in results in a fair degree of dust, sun and perhaps moisture, Paul’s care of the guitar is commendable and aside from clear evidence of considerable usage, the guitar is in fine shape.

And the sound of the little guitar is just wonderful. On first making this guitar, the sound left a bit to be desired but over the years the guitar has “opened up” most gratifyingly.

The work needed?

Well- the guitar has seen a lot of use…

The only concern really is the fret wear and I was able to remove most of it.

The finger board, although showing a considerable amount of wear, cleaned up well.

There is a small amount of wear around the sound hole, but not enough to worry about.

What is interesting though, is the wear that Paul’s thumb has created at the first fret, including reducing the first fret by about 3mm…

But the neck, although not fitted with a conventional truss rod, is as straight as the day it was made.

So after removing the fret wear and a thorough clean, the guitar is, to my way of thinking, better than new!

And Paul and I both still love this little guitar…

Lyndon was at my workshop before Paul had picked up the guitar and of course, I put it into his hands for his assessment of the qualities of the guitar.

I took a phone video of him playing it but he wanted to record the guitar in a more “professional” setting and the video is here….

Lyndon’s abilities as a guitarist never cease to amaze me, but I’m also delighted at how good the guitar sounds in his hands…