Elgava guitar repaired by Jamie Chivers

At the same time I bought the Formanta project from Konstantin, I also bought another Elgava project from him. He offered me a great deal if I bought both of them. They're such cool cheesy guitars, and I've always like Elgavas a lot, so I couldn't pass it up. It was, like almost all the other Soviet guitars I've ever bought, totally filthy, and a neglected, broken wreck when it arrived.

After cleaning it up, refretting the neck, and making it a new (traditional Soviet) green pearloid pickguard, all it really needs now is a bridge to get up and rockin' again.

Ed wants to trade me a beat-up Elgava neck he has for this one, which is in great shape. For some reason, the factory never stained the beech fingerboard on this particular Elgava a dark color, so after I cleaned it up it looked more like maple than rosewood. Not bad, eh?

So what's the guit-archeology part? Well, when I installed a regular 1/4" jack (the open skeletal kind) on the pickguard, the control cavity was just a bit too shallow for the jack to fit, so I committed ultimate heresy and used a 1" Forstner bit to deepen the control cavity about 1/4" in that area. After the bit went through all the nasty black urethane finish, it exposed some really soft wood. "Hmmm ... what's this?", I thought. A quick sniff test confirmed that the wood is/was plain old yellow pine. So, this Elgava body is made of a core of soft yellow pine with top and back laminations of 3-ply beech plywood. Maybe all Elgava bodies share this same construction. If so, it's no wonder these bodies are so lightweight!

I also found out from Konstantin that the cheesy adjustable nut mechanisms that were on first-generation Elgavas had a 2" diameter metal knob on the back of the peghead to allow adjustment of the nut height without a screwdriver. Now that's a typical Soviet design: total overkill on an adjustable nut mechanism that's worthless to begin with. So, now I'm on a quest to find one of those knobs, or at least something similar.

I left the top and middle Elgavas alone in a dark room together over the long Winter. Evidently they reproduced. The newest Elgava is still green, but should turn red once it ripens more.

How I ended up with three of these things is still a bit of a mystery to me. They aren't exactly the most common guitars in the world ... or the former Soviet Union for that matter. Weird, huh?

Jamie Chivers, 2006

Jamie Chivers, 1956-2009

Jamie Chivers was a guitar tech for more than 30 years, first working for Warmouth and later becoming a freelancer. In the 2000's he found an interest in Soviet guitars and collaborated with CheesyGuitaars.com a lot. He shared many brilliant stories with us, and this is one of them.

More Jamie's projects and stories:

Ural V8
Jolana Star (VII?)
Aelita clone
Roden-T guitar
Jolana Graziela Special II
Musima Elgita
BAS (aka Kavkaz)

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