Modernizing a Guild Ashbory

The 1980s Guild Ashborys have tuner and pickup deficincies solvable by adding DeArmond / Fender parts

Contributed by Fred Good on October 24, 2012. Introduction and bracketed notes by Brock Frazier.

Pickups going wrong on Guild Ashborys is very, very common. My Guild pickup was bad when I bought it used in the mid 1990s. The tuners are difficult to use and tend to bend or break. Fred had both problems with his Guild, so he decided to modernize it. Here is his experience.

Guild Ashbory Upgrade
Guild Ashbory after conversion involving retrofitting newer tuners and bridge/pickup assembly

I purchased my 1987 Guild Ashbory on Ebay with the understanding that other than several dings in the finish and a snapped string, the only problem stated was a broken tuner that was impossible to find. Regarding the electronics, they said they had plugged it in to make sure it worked and it did. It was, however sold "as-is", no returns.

Being thrifty and rather skilled with my little metal lathe, I figured I could fix the tuner. So, I was the high bid and a few hours after receiving it, had fixed the tuner and was playing it. BUT... Immediately I recognized that the A string was noticeably quieter than the others. Did some quick research and I found that this was one of the most common problems with the vintage Ashbory, along with broken tuners. Dang!

So I spoke with Brock at Large Sound and my fears were confirmed. No repairs possible, no replacement bridge available. I decided to make a run at fixing the existing bridge by carefully taking it apart to see if anything looked obvious. I was hoping I could identify something mechanical that might have been causing the problem in that the same piezo spans both the E and A strings. What I found was that it was mostly detached in the area under the A string. I did my best to re-attach it to look like the other attachment points and gave it a bit of support underneath (probably mistake #1). Re-assembled and epoxyed it together (mistake #2). The immediate result was terrific. All string plenty of volume and sounded pretty good... for about a day. Then, apparently my repair was not stable and within a few days the sound and volume level had degraded noticeably. The good news was that the strings seemed pretty balanced. The bad news was reduced sound output plus they all sounded pretty bad.

I saw no other option than to either:

  1. Sell it as is with a bad bridge. Probably no going to be worth much.
  2. Hang it on the wall.
  3. Fix it by trying to retrofit a newer bridge.

I'm all about redeeming old stuff, so I picked the 3rd option, but also decided to try retrofitting the tuners as well, hoping that I would end up with a nicely functioning Guild Ashbory on par with the current models. So, after talking it over with Brock at Large Sound, I ordered the bridge and tuners from them and received them promptly. Here's what I encountered as I went though the conversion/retrofit.

Tuner Conversion Issues

  1. Tuner shaft is larger in diameter than the original and did not fit through the existing sleeve/bushing. Solution: Carefully drilled out using size D bit. This bit is just a tad under 1/4 inch, which would also be fine to use. I just happened to have both and picked the smallest size that still allowed the tuner to slip through.
  2. Tuners are closer together on the Guild. Solution: Decided it is not a problem. They are far enough apart that I don't notice any difficulty to use at all.
  3. Holes in headstock are further away from the edge. On the DeArmond, the tuner holes are noticeably closer to the edge and knobs stick out considerably. Solution: The knobs just clear the edge of the headstock. I selected an orientation where the knob shafts are not quite perpendicular to the edge of the headstock (see pic below). This gives a little bit more clearance to the knob. In the end, I kind of like the look of the smaller headstock, combined with the knobs not sticking so far out as on the DeArmond.
  4. The length of the tuner spindles seemed to be fine and the small gap between the spindles and headstock looked about like pictures I've seen of the new models (see picture in right column) [The gap can be lessened by removing the spindle off the post of the tuner and then very carefully grinding some of the post down, then reinstalling the tuner on the instrument and putting the spendle back on the tuner. -Brock]

Bridge Conversion Issues

  1. Was concerned that the bridge height was higher than the old version. As near as I can tell, it is the same height as the original, so no worries there.
  2. Slots to hold strings are too long, almost covering the well that the knots sit inside. Although it was suggested to sand them down with a belt sander to shorten, I was uncomfortable with subjecting the new bridge to those sorts of vibrations. Solution: What I noted was that the bridge material is pretty soft plastic, which allowed me to simply clip them off with a good sharp side cutter and trim the edges with a razor blade.
  3. Cable lead hole did not line up with new lead wire. It is a little over 1 hole diameter off. Solution: Carefully ground the top of the hole with dremel to accommodate.
  4. Bridge mounting holes locations are different. Simply make sure that the saddle is in the same location as original and drill new holes. All original holes are hidden below the new bridge.
  5. Original bridge cover does not fit new bridge: Decided I just don't care. The newer versions do not have a cover either. [This could be fixed by adding new indents on the bridge cover to line up with the new bump positions on the DeArdmond / Fender bridge. -Brock]
  6. You will need to solder the leads from the new bridge to the same connection points as the original.

And the result: An American made Ashbory with updated bridge and tuners!

Click on the images below for larger views
Guild Ashbory with Fender Ashbory tuners
Guild Ashbory with Fender Ashbory tuners (back)
Guild Ashbory with Fender Ashbory tuners (sideview)
Decreasing length of Fender Ashbory bridge
Widening pickup lead whole in Guild Ashbory
Fender Ashbory bridge installed in Guild Ashbory