The Hofner Shorty is a small size guitar for easy transport and it was produced for the first time in 1982, handcrafted in Germany with high quality materials and components, from renowned brands such as Schaller and Shadow.
The production was then interrupted for many years, to resume in 2005 as a cheap travel guitar, and in this period the production is moved to China.
The version shown in this article was made in 2012 and it is Made in China.
Here's what it looks like in the red version:
The wood quality is acceptable, but the components not so much and setup doesn't seem to have been made by a luthier. The frets are dirty, rough and can hardly be considered "playable".
It is not ready to use. it requires a lot of work for the fist setup:
- Neck inclination adjustment;
- Bridge height adjustment and therefore the action;
- Pickup height adjustment;
- Frets polishing;
- Fretboard cleaning.
In the picture the fretboard has already been polished and finished to its best. It doesn't take much, just a little steel wool N ° 0000 and a bit of patience. During this operation it is advisable to remove the fretboard and protect the wood with masking tape. In the end the frets will turn out good and smooth enough for perfect bendings.
The bridge is the first real critical point in this guitar. The material used is horrible.
With just two adjustments it begins to lose the chrome. Changing strings moreover, is immediately difficult. The string is inserted from the bottom of the bridge and from the pickup side. Besides, it is too light. The sustain is significantly affected, and so is the guitar balance.
It is immediately clear that the original project did not include these components, because as soon as the guitar is held, it hangs from the neck, making it impossible to play the instrument comfortably.
The Pickup is not bad, for the cost of the guitar, and all in all it has an acceptable sound.
Mechanics are certainly not of excellent material, the chrome however seems much more resistant than the bridge, and in any case they work very well.
The electrical wiring is certainly not done carefully and the potentiometers are not of quality one, but no particular problems are evident.
The neck is a bit tight for me, used to the perfection of the Ibanez neck, but you can get used to it. The dimensions are on average one or two millimeters smaller than the Ibanez neck of my RG Prestige, but the most annoying thing is the spacing of the strings at the nut which is extremely tight, in Fender Vintage style, with a size of 42mm and slightly less. 34mm from the center of the "E" to the center of the "e".
Final considerations: impossible to play comfortably and smoothly, both standing and sitting.
Let's move on to the changes that transform the Hofner Shorty into a little gem.
After the initial setup I described above, I changed:
- The Bridge;
- Electrical wirings;
- Knobs and jack plate;
- Strap Lock.
Schaller Bridge 455
The installed bridge is the original from the 1980s by Schaller, fortunately still in production (Schaller Bridge 455).
Dimensions are compatible, the only difference is in the holes for anchors which are slightly wider.
To overcome this problem, I used some thin balsa wood and this is the result:
Warning: install anchors very carefully, because the paint in that point can crack very easily.
The hardest work has been done. Just screw the new bridge and that's it:
With this bridge the Hofner Shorty is more balanced, and the sustain of the guitar increases considerably.
Replacements of metal components
To improve balance, I tried to change all the low-quality metal parts, including knobs (really horrible), jack plate (very thin), strap locks (absolutely insecure and ugly).
I installed the knobs first (Schaller 179 Speed Knob), which in addition to being much more pretty, they have improved the balance, even if only slightly.
Then the jack plate (Gotoh JCB-2).
With the replacement of the Strap Locks (Schaller Security Lock) The guitar is much more balanced.
However, I recommend a shoulder strap that has a bit of friction on the shoulder, to make the guitar more stable.
After having finally obtained a guitar that was comfortable enough to play, I decided to change the pickup to have a different sound, a little more vintage.
New Pickup Irongear Dirty Torque
I then decided to try an Irongear pickup, which from the reviews seemed very interesting and excellent value for money. I chose the version with a nickel cover in order to further increase the weight of the body, and I completely rewired the electrical components, especially the jack that was absolutely of low quality, and it did not maintain the connection properly.
The pickup model is the Dirty Torque:
Once installed and set, the sound improved considerably.
The pickup has a beautiful sound, rich in harmonics and the sound is full-bodied. It's difficult to define, but I recommend it. Compared to the pickups of my Ibanez RG which are DiMarzio / Ibz, which I really like the sound, even if more suited to metal sounds, this pickup is more harmonious and capable of playing from vintage to metal without ever making a bad impression.
The build quality and materials are excellent, indeed, in my opinion better than the DiMarzio.
This is the final result:
A little gem was born
The Hofner Shorty is now a real travel jewel, so I decided to buy also a bag that could guarantee good protection, because the enclosed one is practically useless; too light, almost without sponge. So I took one Rockbag RB20600B, perhaps a little too much for this guitar, and also slightly cramped, at least at the beginning, due to the thickness of the protective sponge, but now, in addition to the real value, I must also protect a sentimental value, considering that I have dedicated many hours to its transformation.
Here are the photos of the bag:
Not happy with the nut which is really too tightly spaced for me, I decided to change it to a quality one.
I decided to use the Graphtech PT-6143-00 BLACK TUSQ XL.
The original spacing is approximately 33.8mm. I am comfortable with a spacing of about 36mm, I first tried the PT-6010-00, Gibson style, with a spacing of 35.79mm, however, being thinner (4.77mm instead of 6mm needed) I decided to settle for the 6143, with 35mm spacing, also because the neck is 42mm wide at the nut and I didn't want to risk having too little space between "E"/ "e" and the external part of the neck, with consequent difficulties in playing the guitar.
So here are photos of the old nut removed from the neck:
The plastic is very poor and removing it I broke it in two pieces. The interior is almost completely empty.
The varnishing of the headstock in that point is also very delicate. In some places it looks like a plastic coating that forms a single body with the nut and is very hard to cut. Although, therefore, I first tried to separate the paint from the nut with a sharp cutter, on removing it I broke some spots of paint (plastic) and wood. After a bit of work, I created an ad hoc seat for the new nut and I glued two small pieces of plastic (paint) that had blown and I managed to recover: a small piece in the lower corner and one near the upper hole (first photo).
To create a seat as precise as possible, I used small modeling files and two self-made files with a 6mm thick wooden stick (5.89mm to be precise) on which I glued strips of sandpaper 400 and 600 .
Originally the nut was simply placed and glued to the wood of the neck, so there was no real seat. I decided to create one that could support him better by digging the wood a few millimeters.
Subsequently, using aliphatic glue with the addition of water-based black acrylic color, I tried to restore the finishes to my best with the help of a very thin brush.
Here is the result:
The hardest part of the work is done.
The last part of the work consists in filing the nut to obtain the desired size and height.
Graphtech PT-6143-00 BLACK TUSQ XL
Graphtech works very well with simple sandpaper. I used the 600 and 800, and I finished the edges with the 1000. To glue the nut I used a few drops of aliphatic glue (Titebond Original).
This is the final result:
The Hofner Shorty is now much more comfortable to play thanks to the wider spacing (1.2 mm more than the original, but it makes a lot of difference) and the volume of the guitar wood (therefore without amplifier) with the open strings is significantly increased , also ensuring greater sustain.
Grover Mini Locking 406C
In the end I decided to risk nullifying all the balance work done on the guitar by changing the mechanics that no longer satisfied me. After careful research, I opted for the Grover Mini Locking 406C, unfortunately chrome-plated because they no longer make them in Nickel, but chrome-plated also don't hurt. The mechanics are mounted without the need for any modification, and are perfectly compatible. As soon as I received the package, I immediately checked the total weight to understand how many grams I would have added to the headstock, risking again the imbalance towards the handle.
Total weight of Grover Chrome tuners, including screws, nuts and washers: 216g.
Total weight of original Hofner Shorty tuners, including screws, nuts and washers: 187g.
29 grams total added to the headstock, without considering the difference in weight of the winding of the strings, to the detriment of the old mechanics. In practice, 4.8g more for each single mechanic. Not much, considering that the quality of the metal is much higher: more robust, more reliable, more firm (to the advantage of keeping tuning). From some tests I had done previously, up to 50g more does not affect the balance of the guitar, so the new mechanics seem perfect.
Before the tuning machines replacement, the guitar weight is: 1960g.
After replacement, the total weight of the guitar is: 1970g.
The winding of the string, lower for the new locking ones, saved a good 19g in total, adding only 10 grams in total to the headstock, or 1.66g for each single action.
The guitar is perfectly balanced.
Here the result:
Aesthetically I think they fit even better because they are smaller and slightly shorter.
Not being, however, still completely satisfied with the imbalance of the guitar body which, being too light, tends to move when turning downwards (the weight of the neck is now balanced, but with the Strap Lock the body rotates too easily along the axis that connects the two buttons, and the pickup tends to look towards the ground if you don't place your right hand anywhere on the body of the guitar).
It is not a big problem with a little practice, but I find that in some positions of the fretboard or when the right hand cannot always remain still on the body, this movement is a bit annoying.
To overcome this, I decided to make a simple and final modification that made this guitar even more comfortable, especially when seated, and with the body that remains stationary on the stomach without having to worry about holding anything still.
I tried to properly add substantial weight to the body and decided to proceed as follows:
- I took an old Defender that I had replaced on the armored door;
- I made it more aesthetically pleasing with a carbon-like vinyl sticker;
- I sewed a felt cloth to protect the guitar from any blows with the defender.
- I screwed the Defender to the shoulder strap with two screws.
Here is the Defender (about 350g of total weight):
And this is the completed work:
The felt, about 5mm thick, stiffens the strap at that point, allowing an optimal position of the weight, which slides on the side, bringing the body of the guitar completely in contact with the stomach.
Extremely more comfortable to play, and the weight, once the shoulder strap is worn, is not even noticeable.
The only downside is that you have to be careful when removing and putting on the shoulder strap, because the weight of steel can damage both the guitar and anything that impacts with it.
But I think it's worth it.
If you don't have a Defender or don't want to buy it, try looking for a small weight of around 300 grams, which can be screwed or locked directly onto the shoulder strap.
This modification is not critical, especially if you are using the guitar in concert with a thick, heavy cable. In this case, in fact, it is sufficient to pass the cable inside the shoulder strap, as many guitarists already do for convenience and safety of the cable, to obtain a perfect balance.
If you have any doubts or want information about it, please contact me.
I hope I have been useful to those who want to know more about this guitar and to those who want to try their hand at any modifications.
I leave you with a new section in which I will insert photos of those who have tried their hand at these changes after reading these pages and have contacted me to thank me: Hofner Shorty Mods.
Good music to all.