Protégé JR restoration + Fishman pickup installation


Few months back I got a Protégé JR off Carousell. It was cheap; the seller had good reviews so I make the rookie mistake of not checking before buying.


Basic information about the guitar: 3/4-sized, laminated sapele top, sapele back and sides, nato neck, ebony bridge, rosewood fingerboard.


Protégé is the budget lineup of Maestro guitars (think Sigma to Martin, Epiphone to Gibson); construction is out-sourced to other guitar manufacturers.


There was no serial number so I couldn't tell the year of production; I'm guessing ~2013. Those produced after that have their fret markers left-aligned rather than centered.


First impressions: tone was fuller and more resonant than expected for a small body guitar. I had previously owned another JR that has an airy hollow-y tone.


Action was unusually high and my worst fears were quickly confirmed; top was bellying and bridge was lifted.



So I guess I got myself a restoration and upgrade project.


Took me a few weeks to assemble the assortment of tools required and a few months to find the time to start work.


1. Fixed the lifted bridge.



Used a thin plastic strip to spread gorilla glue into the crevice between bridge and top; clamped it with 3x F-clamps (120x300mm); cleaned up excess glue with damp cloth; left it to cure overnight.


2. Opened port for pre-amp



Used the crude method of drilling holes around the perimeter before using a penknife to carve out the port.


Opening the port allowed a sneak peak into the guitar construction.


Surprisingly the guitar had a fan bracing which is traditionally used in classical guitars.



Braces were well-finished with no cracks or splints that are often seen in budget guitars.


Sadly, as heralded by the bellying top, three of the braces have become loose just under the bridge.


Without proper tools for gluing back the three braces, I decided to leave it for another day.


3. Drilled hole in saddle slot for the sonicore piezo pickup.



4. Enlarged hole in end block for pin jack.


This part turned out to be the most challenging for I did not have the correct drill bit for a 12mm hole.


So I drilled the biggest hole I could get ~6 mm and spent the next few hours enlarging the hole with hand files.


The lil one wanted a go at it too!



5. Installed new bone saddle


I got another nasty surprise on removing the existing saddle. It appears that the original bone saddle had been swapped out! It is bad enough that the new saddle is made of plastic, it was also unevenly sanded!



So I got a new 71mm saddle, sanded down the thickness to fit into the slot and the height to compensate for the piezo pickup.


6. Finishing touches


Cleaned up the fretboard with lemon oil and #0000 steel wool; secured the end pin jack and preamp, put on 0.010-0.047 strings to reduce tension on the top.



Looking good! It's testing time!



Love the mic blend knob which makes the output sound more natural and less piezo-like.


Future work


#1 To glue back and secure the loose braces.


#2 To remove the bridge completely. Sand and clean the contact surfaces and reglue the bridge.

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