The Gremlin Lives!

Gremlin Guitars

Gremlin Guitar pic

     In 2006, during my quest for the ultimate guitar tone, I saw a Gremlin guitar listed on Austin Craigslist for $15. I thought, "Fifteen bucks for an electric guitar, now there's a deal!" So, I went with a friend to the storage unit where it had been stuffed away for years to pick it up. I had no idea what I was going to be getting. I just knew that it was a black electric guitar in pretty good shape.

     Upon arrival, the guitar looked like an old, pint-sized, beat up guitar. I could instantly see it was the ultimate tone monster! Well, maybe it wasn't the ultimate, but more like just what you'd expect for fifteen bucks. [LOL]

     I could tell I had taken on a monster, if not a tone monster. So, I took this guitar restoration project on as a lesson of sorts. I was determined to make that electric guitar sound as good as I could possibly make it. It had all of the basics - or all of the "right" components, after all... 

Gremlin Guitar pic

      The Gremlin is made from a light-weight plywood body. It has one humbucker mounted in the bridge position, and a single tone volume circuit.  


     The bolt-on neck has a non-marked plate and the screws are in good, not great condition. At least the heads aren't stripped. The tuners (machine heads) are pretty bad. They are cast from a very pliable alloy that I'm not quite sure what it is. There is some damage to at least one tuner that will require some adjustment with prying and pressure using pliers.



Gremlin guitar Neck pic     The back of the neck had 2 paint chips and some minor scratches and scuffing. The frets are in OK shape, and can be re-conditioned without using any major effort. The fretboard, oh, the poor fretboard... The first time I played it, my fingers held up tiny, little STOP! signs. I could barely read the protests, but I think they said something like, "On Strike! Horrible Working Conditions!" ... or something like that, anyway!

 Gremlin guitar Neck pic

      Not being one to force horrible conditions on another, I plugged in the soldering iron, broke out the hand tools and set about making things as right as possible (considering I had only laid out $15)! I took the remaining strings off and discarded them, had the neck and body apart in about 35 seconds, turned the sad, sad neck in my hands (being careful not to subject my fingers to those unfair working conditions again), and proceeded to get after the body. I should probably be careful how I say that, huh?


Gremlin Guitar Electronics pic

      The electronics in the Gremlin are very simple. Since there is only one pickup there is no switch. Two 500K ohm pots Tone & Volume Controls and a tone capacitor. One output jack, and the basic ground and signal wires. Everything was intact and functional. The output jack was very corroded from non-use, so that needed reconditioning. I noted where everything was connected, took some pictures and set about the task of de-soldering the pickup and the jack. Some fine sandpaper, machine oil, pliers, and a little elbow grease got the output jack in fine shape in no time!
     Note:Just to keep everything where you can find it, always place all the screws, electronics, plates, and any other loose parts in a plastic zipper bag and set them aside.


Gremlin Guitar Tremolo pic


     Next, the tremolo assembly was removed and inspected. Everything was in great shape, except for some minor pitting on the bridge plate and corrosion on the bridge saddles. The saddles were brought back to very good condition with a wire brush and some machine oil. When using the oil, be sure to put some newspaper on the bench. You'll be really glad you did! I'll discuss my work area in another article. It's nothing special, but it works great, is very portable, and didn't cost an arm and a leg!


    The guitar body was amazingly light after all the parts were removed, and sad to say, I didn't weigh it. The body went through a detailed inspection to determine if there were any cracks, splitting, or any other defects in gluing, routs, stripped screw holes, etc. There was some wear on the surface and some paint chips on the edges, scratches on the front and back and overall scuffing. I just wiped the body down with some furniture spray wax, and that was my treatment for the body. Wax on - Wax off!

 Gremlin Guitar Front pic     Gremlin Guitar Back pic Ultimate Guitar Tone!

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