Adventures in Taylor Land
The last time I was in the U.S.A. (to see Jerry Douglas perform,) I happened upon the Taylor factory in El Cajun, Southern California. I had been impressed with Bob Taylor's non-traditional approach to making guitars. This innovation was not in the sense to make a weird instrument, but, to try new methods in creating the instrument, that is a world class instrument, that has as little effect on the environment as possible.
Such innovations are:
While I was waiting for the factory tour, I tried out many of the guitars that were hanging on the wall. The guitar that caught my attention was the T3/B, a semi acoustic guitar that had a most appealing physical presence. I wasn't in the market for a guitar at the time, so I put it back on the wall.
Some twelve months later I slowly warmed to the idea of purchasing one. Using a search engine it quickly became obvious that there weren't many in Australia. I managed to track one down and duly purchased it. The retailer was interstate, so I had them ship it to me.
The guitar arrived a few days later looking fantastic. On closer inspection I detected two issues:
With the first issue you can see the problem immediately. Rather damaged eh?
With the second issue, I tried to work out what was wrong. I took off the cover plate on the back of the guitar that covers the volume/tone control assembly. Very neat in there, everything except for one wire was connected to the board via plugs. Only one soldered wire. the circuit board was held phsically in place by the potentiometer shafts.
Removed the volume and tone buttons. Removed the nuts on the potentiometers and the circuit board came out with no effort at all. Inspecting the soldered connections quickly revealed the problem: Defective soldering and component placement.
This is a good clean job.
This is a mess.
The large oval hole at the bottom is for physical support of the switch/potentiometer component.
There is one switch for the neck pickup and one switch for the bridge pickup. Whilst the soldering for the neck switch is messy it's functional. The bridge pickup switch soldering has completely failed on the bottom hole..
A closeup of the lowest part of the volume switch reveals that the switch pin is completely floating, it's not connected to anything. Looking even closer reveals that when the switch pins were inserted there was physical trauma done to the board. Note the copper tracks protruding from the hole. Very sad to see.
The quality assurance at Taylor Guitars has completely failed on three levels:
I notified the Australian retailer of my issues and was promptly assured that guitar was in perfect condition when it left the shop. The manager of the store repeated the same story.
I sent the retailer a Word document containg all the details and pictures so that they could verify the problem. The retailer made no effort to keep me 'in the loop', I had to call them to find out what was going on.
It's been five weeks now and nothing has arrived. Very poor service.
In spite of all that, I am very impressed with the guitar.
24th April. (six weeks after reporting the problems)
Decided to become a bit more proactive and removed the circuit board assembly and sat down with an ohm meter and determined how everything was connected. I deduced that I needed one wire to run from the split switch to the humbucker pickup. Pleased to report that I can now split the bridge pickup. It's the yellow wire in the following image.
For the record, the lower two pins of the split switch in the above photograph aren't connected to anything. All the action happens from the middle pins of the switch, so there.
Received a call from the retailer and apparently the parts have arrived and they are going to post them to me A.S.A.P.
I had a chat with a Taylor repairer today and showed him the above pictures and he was adamant that my guitar would NOT have left the factory in that state, no way. Given that, who mucked up the soldering then? Very strange.
Played a gig in Morwell and inexpicably the neck pickup decided it wanted to be a split pickup regardless of what I told it. Weird or what?
Really looking forward to replacing that circuit board.
I was going to have a look at the circuit board again, but before I did I checked which pickups were active by touching the poles of each pickup with a metal knife. Sure enough the bridge pickup was split when the volume button was in the down position. I lifted the volume button and it sort of went click twice and the split/humbucking action works as it should. Weird stuff.
The replacement circuit boad arrived today for which I am thankful for.
I now have the smoking gun. Somewhere along the line the volume potentiometer/switch component has been clumsily replaced.
Weird, and no one is going to own up on this. Everything points to this guitar not being a NEW guitar.
Could have been worse.
I was toying with the plastic button on the pickup selector switch and noticed that it doesn't actually have a stop. You can keep on turning it until it's so low you can't use it. Odd!
I pushed some tissue paper into the button and now it's a firm fit, not loose as before.
Another thing I noticed was that one of the screws that holds the Bigsby arm in place wasn't screwed in all the way, so it wasn't doing anything. Tightened it up.
Here I was thinking everything was sorted out. The button problem has re-emerged.
Took the guitar to a gig, took it out of the case and lo and behold the button is pushed down again! Wasn't able to get the switch out of the middle position.
When I arrived home I had a good close look at the button and a solution to my problem. The top of the guitar case does not have a soft/plush lining, it's hard. Given that clearly there isn't enough room between the top of the case and the guitar I opted to cut a few millimetres off the bottom of the button, so that the top of the button sits lower. That may solve my problems.
In the Taylor switch there is no raised section on the switch shaft as indicated by the blue arrow, consequently you screw the button down until the switch is trapped in the middle position.
Maybe this will be the end of this problem? Time will tell.
No, it's not over yet.
Yet again I have found the plastic pickup selector button pushed down stopping me from selecting either pickup.
With the guitar in the case, the case is very unstable and 'wants' to tip over. This tipping over I suspect is the active event that causes the button to be pushed down when the case hits the floor.
I did some further research and noted that the case wasn't supporting the back of the guitar allowing the guitar to rotate in the case. The 'floor' of the case has some support material that gets higher as you approach the neck end of the guitar. All good and fine, but, where the neck meets the body I can fit my fingers between the support and the back of the guitar! No support at all!
I took the guitar and case to a Taylor repairer and was told, "No, that's the way it is! No problem. " He demonstrated the issue with a Gibson Les Paul and yes, there was a small gap, but nothing as large as the gap I have with the Taylor case.
I was not convinced.
When I arrived home I checked my Les Paul case. The rising padding on the floor of the case perfectly matches the back of the guitar, as I would have expected.
I happened to be on the web and went to the Taylor site looking for some sort of support. In a small corner of the page I noticed a real-time chat option, so I gave it a go. We both had screen names of John which made communication a little ambiguous. John requested pictures, so I provided them. John mentioned something about 'different' T3 cases and suggested I contact the local distributor: Music Link. That's my job for tomorrow.
Let's see what happens.
Called MusicLink and explained my problem. They informed me that I would be better off going to the retailer first. Fine!
Called the retailer and explained in great detail my problem even giving them the type number of the case: T3/T5 2505-0068 A1 They would call me back soon after they have investigated the situation.
No phone call from the retailer.
What I have had to do to stop further damage is cut up a piece of foam to cover the pickup selector switch. I have a gig tonight, I'll see how it travels.
In place on the guitar
The foam block appears to be doing it's job, no more damage to the switch button.
Received an email from MusicLink to inform me that there is only ONE case and I have it. I'm underwhelmed!
Taylor have made a mistake with the guitar case in two areas:
This is just plain crazy! I spent good money on a professional instrument and the case does not protect the guitar.
The foam block seems to be doing it's job, but I am going to have to engineer a piece of foam that fills the gap between the back of the guitar and the floor padding. I should not need to do this. I am fixing a Taylor design fault.
I did a comparison test between the Taylor case and a Gibson case, with results as expected. I measured the distance to the tipping point.
|Guitar||Tip left distance||Tip right distance|
|Taylor||14 cm||7 cm|
|Gibson||11 cm||11 cm|
As is clearly seen, the Gibson has it's weight symetrically distributed. Not so with the Taylor, it's weight is not distributed evenly, it really wants to fall to the right as seen from the base of the case. Interestingly if I take the guitar out of the case, so the case is empty, the case still prefers to fall to the right. It's just not balanced.
I really have to accept that Taylor have got it wrong and there is no Taylor solution to the problem.
I'll just have to be very careful how I set the case down. Perhaps I should just lay the case flat on the ground instead of on its edge.
Visited the Taylor importer in Melbourne. Not much joy.
Published song Taylor Blues.
Did some measurements regarding the centre of gravity (COG) and found that the handle is inline with the COG as expected.
Comparing the feet to the COG shows how far to the right of the centre of the feet the COG is. No wonder it wants to fall!
You can see where the lid hinge is that there are two 'feet' built into the hinge. The foot on the case side is higher than the foot on the lid side, so the lid foot does nothing. By the time it starts to fall it's all too late.
Wrote an email to Bob Taylor in an effort to resolve the case issue.
Received a response, but not from Bob. They acknowledge the issues and they are sorry. No engagement, so it's the end of the road
I give up. That is I give up pursuing Taylor Guitars.
It will be interesting if in the future they do manufacture a better designed case that resolves all the mechanical issues, and then folks, it's warranty time..
What I am going to do is re-engineer the case.
Step 1 (completed)
I have added two extra feet to the case. The result, a very stable case that does not want to fall over. Yes, it's not asthetically pleasing, but it's a reminder to keep pushing Taylor for a properly designed case.
Step 2 (future)
I haven't done this as yet as the square block of foam that fits over the pickup selector switch is doing a great job. No damage since I've done that.
Eventually I will get around to extending the padding on the floor of the case and the lid of the case. It's not a priority at the moment.
Phew, I can have a rest now!
Finally tracked down a new T3B at a retailers store. I found the guitar at Allan's in the city.
I spent some time testing the case and it has all of the design flaws that my case has. The staff member attending me must have thought "Here's a loon" but he soon begain to appreciate what I was talking about.
How is it possible for the case, which has Taylor's name on it (it's not a third party case) have so many design defects?