I am a product of my upbringing, and, although I have grown to prefer quality over quantity, I still love a good bargain. So, my interest was piqued when I learned that Stockport’s Fab Music Store had a very cheap 12-string electric in the shop.
It was on sale for a mere £75. Scanning the internet, I found that it was only another £24 brand new. Ugh! I bet it’s awful! Well, hang on… not according to some of the reviews. This required a shop visit.
Sure enough, in person, it looked cheap and plasticky. The strings were held down on the headstock with a bar held in by 2 woodscrews which looked like they could fly out at any minute. The neck was pretty huge, but I guess it had to be for the extra strings. It clearly needed a set-up. However, it was in mint condition, and there was still cellophane on the pickguard. I bought it. For the money, what did I have to lose?
The nut was mostly cut OK. I only had to file one slot. The action, on the other hand, needed some proper adjustment. I soon discovered that the truss rod was loose. A couple of turns later and it was just how I like it, with the tiniest amount of clearance under the string at around fret 8, when fretted at first and last. I also made sure the Heath Robinson headstock string guide bar wasn’t loose.
I fitted new strings — a set of GHS GB-12XL 9-40s — which always takes a amazingly long time on a 12-string. The bridge saddles were all over the place, and needed herding into a nice shallow arc. As expected, the intonation was awful, and I adjusted it as best I could, given the design, which had the thinner strings’ saddles screwed onto the thicker strings’ saddles.
After checking the pickup heights and tuning up, I plugged it in, and I was off. It played OK. Keeping in mind it had been a long time since I’d played a 12-string, and wrestling with the size of the neck, I managed to make a half-decent noise. The pickups sounded a bit thin and characterless, but this was a budget guitar, to be fair.
But the intonation? There was a problem. I couldn’t physically get enough distance between the high and low saddles on the 3rd string. So, higher up the neck, one was flat and one was sharp. Months later, I had a brainwave, and swapped the plain 16 G for a wound 18, and moved the saddle towards the neck, and I also swapped the plain 10 D for a 11, which completely fixed the intonation problems.
A year after the tragic scrapping of my unrepairable old Melody 1200 dreadnought acoustic 12-string, I now have a working electric 12-string guitar. It’s not amazing, but it’s perfectly adequate. My outlay was £75, a bit of time and effort, and the price of a strap and a set of strings. A bit of Chorus, and I’m in 90s heaven.