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Guitar repair – Shims vis-a-vis action & sound!

Recently, I got to work on a GCE guitar. Now, the brand was new to me and so I studied it. It seemed another one of those inexpensive China-made guitars in the price range of Rs 8 - 10K but its construction was not too bad - except for the bridgeplate. More on that later. Whatever else, it wasn't the cleanest guitar ever! and the way strings had been wound around the tuning post, I doubt if it played very correctly. NOTE: Ladies, gentlemen, we need just 2.5 to 3 turns on the wound strings and 5 to 6 turns ...
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Guitar repair – Never say never!

Thank god for patrons who feel I can also do justice to electric guitars! One young man came in with his electric swearing that he would not let anyone else touch his guitar!! Thankfully for me, there wasn't anything majorly wrong with the guitar. There was a buzz up the neck, past the 12th fret and the fretwires were tarnished and needed some love and attention. As I began work, the young man taught me how to take the strings off the guitar (so, I'm getting there)!  With strings off, I found there were more than a couple of fretwires ...
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Guitar repair – NOW is the time for those glue-up jobs!

Just a quick heads up, people. The humidity is down to 58%, here, in Lucknow, North India, and should drop further in the coming week. Till mid-December rolls around, it will remain cold and dry and thereafter, cold and wet! Now is the perfect time to get all those glue jobs done - whether it is the bridge lifting, or the binding peeling, or the fretboard coming loose, or the heel separating from the body... Just about any glue-up job that you can think of getting done on your acoustic guitar, now is the time to get it done. Why? ...
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Guitar repair – Bridgeplates: Introduction and functions!

Wonder if you all remember me saying that instruments come to me in twos or threes. Either two or three of the same brand, or, two or three with the same problem. After I finished working on two instruments with a belly bulge and lifting bridge, I thought it was time to talk about the whys and wherefores, guitar anatomy, strings and all that good stuff. In the last two posts, I have touched upon the issue, causes and remedies but a detailed post was in order. So, here goes! The second photo shows you a bridgeplate and where it ...
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Guitar repair – Spalted beauty gets bone-embellished!

Recently, I had the pleasure of working on a Fender auditorium-style guitar (all-laminate construction) sporting a spalted maple top. It had the same beautiful spalted maple as headplate. For those interested in these things, the model no. was FA-345CE SP MPL FSR LR and the serial no. was IWA1913137. I'll talk about its problems later but first the appointments on this baby. It had laminated Lacewood back and sides, a cutaway and some very pretty tortoiseshell binding. The fretboard and bridge were Indian Laurel while the neck was Nato. And while the Viking bridge lent it character, the Fishman electronics ...
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Guitar repair – Time to bid adieu to Snow White?

I have said this before but I will say it again: wood has a memory. Once it attains a shape, it likes to stay in that shape. You can give it all the heat and moisture that you want and try to bend it the other way but soon after the external factors (heat, moisture, clamping pressure) are removed, it returns to its original position. This could be a warped table top, cupboard door, arm rest on your favourite chair and just about anything made of wood. In the case of acoustic guitars, try and think of a twisted neck ...
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Guitar repair – The mystery of the missing saddle and a classical set-up!

It is always such a pleasure to know that not all people owning classical guitars (slotted headstocks and nylon strings) bought the instrument by mistake. 90% of classical guitars that come to me are people wanting an 'upgrade' - steel strings instead of nylon and other such. They wish to sling the guitar over their shoulders and rock out. It takes a lot of patient talking for them to realise that what they own is an altogether different beast from the one they were dreaming of owning. And so, it is a pleasure when a person comes along who knows ...
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Guitar repair – Bone nut, saddle & a set-up for Mr Fender!

The process of my blog posts is basically through photographs that I take of the job at hand and then try to spin a story out of them, trying my best to remember what happened and how. It had worked for me till now. I must confess that in the best of times, recalling events, sometimes from two months ago, is no mean task. Today is Saturday, dinner time, and the fever I ran through the week has impaired my thought process terribly. As I sit down to look at the photographs, I am scratching my head - 'Was it ...
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Guitar repair – Breaking a break angle on this Hummingbird

The angle that the strings make coming out of the bridgepin holes and as they pass over the saddle is referred to as break angle. The bigger the break angle, better is the sound quality, for the strings exert greater pressure on the saddle, driving it into its slot, providing greater/better contact. Consequently, there is minimal loss of energy (sound) and the sustain and volume get amplified. All this happens if there is a tall saddle installed in the guitar. But as most of us know, the height of the saddle is directly proportional to the action: more the height, ...
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Guitar repair – My encounter with a Sire!

The owner brought me this relatively new instrument for an initial set-up and some snazzy bone bridgepins. When he pulled it out of the bag  - headstock first - I thought to myself, 'Taylor' but when it was out on my workbench, it seemed like an instrument in identity crisis. The headstock made it look like a Taylor The binding reminded one of CF Martin while the pickguard made it look as if a child had made a poor effort at cutting out the very distinctive Hummingbird style The bridge reminded me of another manufacturer, one on whom I can't ...
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Guitar repair – Setting right Humpty Dumpty – II

This is a bit of an anti-climax, but it is what it is! Humpty Dumpty had no will to be 'put together again'! Jokes aside, as I mentioned in my last post, the main thing governing that this glue-up job went properly was removing the already existing Araldite somehow. Though I laboured more than I have ever on a job, I knew that there was always a possibility that there remained remnants of glue that I had been unable to reach. So I glued up the parts with dowels thrown in for good measure, clamped it all up good and ...
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Guitar repair – Setting right Humpty Dumpty – I

Humpty Dumpty...er...this Epiphone DR-100 VS came to me like this 'Some of the king's horses and some of the king's men' (with apologies to Lewis Carroll), had tried to put 'Humpty together again' (four times, according to the owner) but had failed in making the fix a permanent one. And so, it finally landed on my counter. The owner said that he was willing to give it one last shot at trying to save the instrument, and I had my work cut out for me. No repair would be possible without first removing the old glue. This was no mean ...
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Guitar repair – why instruments should not be left tuned up

Here's a perfect example of why I keep stressing upon guitar players to de-tune their instruments if they know that they will not be playing it for three weeks or more. String tension is a very bad thing for the health of the guitar but when a guitar is being played, some of that stress is counteracted by the movement of the various parts of the instrument (top, neck and back). However, if left standing with nothing to counter that force, string tension can have disastrous effects, as this owner learned. Let me begin by congratulating Kadence for building the ...
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Guitar repair – dealing with over humidification!

Yes! That is a thing, a dangerous thing, and now is exactly the time (here in North India) when over-humidification symptoms begin to surface. Over a period of a month, I am expecting a lot of ailing guitars. Just like an exposed acoustic guitar (not so much solid-body electrics) can lose moisture, become dehydrated and show symptoms thereof, an instrument can absorb moisture from the surroundings and get over humidified. Also, if one notices that his/her guitar has dried out and the consequent humidification process goes too far, over humidification can happen, causing all sorts of problems, which may or ...
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Guitar repair – What will become of this guitar?

I have stalled writing this post for weeks.  It is about an instrument that came to me having suffered severe trauma after a dumbbell (no less) fell on it! The extent of the damage made the repair cost spiral out of the owner's comfort level and he decided not to get it repaired (at least not from me!). I'm sure thought that he will hunt out wannabe repair persons in the lanes and by-lanes of Aminabad who will probably fix the guitar with super glue - quick and dirty - at 1/10 the cost I quoted. Photographs of the damage ...
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Guitar repair: When fretwires develop pits

Pitting of fretwires, also referred to as formation of divots, is as common a wear-and-tear problem as the disappearance of tread from your car's tyres. Irrespective of how much or how little you play, sooner or later, divots will form on the fretwires and it is pretty normal. Interestingly, you would have noticed that pitting takes place primarily on the thinner three strings. Why? Try cutting an apple with a knife and then try cutting it with a butter knife. The thinner the point of contact, the easier it is to cut through. The same principle applies to guitar (acoustic ...
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Guitar repair: This guitar and the missing blog post!

It is now 1 AM on Sunday, June 19th, as I begin to write this post. Till now I had been searching! I had worked on this guitar some time back. It was an Epiphone Dove. No matter how hard I have tried searching my blog, I haven't been able to find a post detailing what I had done to it before.  My idea was that I would share the link here and then with three or four fresh photographs, recount what was happening now. And so, this post has just three photographs! I even called up the owner asking ...
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Guitar repair: Two saddles for one guitar?

Long time back, I had heard that guitarists often keep two saddles for each of their (acoustic) guitars, which they swap when the action became too low or high due to the rise and ebb of humidity. Though theoretically I understood the concept, practically I couldn't get my head round it because I had never experienced it. I own a few acoustic guitars and they are well-made, solid wood instruments which I play on a monthly rotation basis. Now, because they belong to me, they are set up well, are well looked after, and are provided enough protection. Around a ...
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Guitar repair: Not all lifting bridges get reglued the same way!

I get daily calls asking me the cost of repairing this and repairing that on an acoustic guitar. Many times I am able to put a figure to it and many times I tell the caller that I would have to take a look at the instrument before giving a figure. But almost every week I receive a phone call asking me what the repair cost would be for a lifting bridge. Some of the more inquisitive ones even ask me how I propose to tackle it, what glue will I use, etc, etc. I have to explain that not ...
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Guitar repair: This Yamaha required emergency surgery!

This Yamaha came to me a few months ago in a great deal of distress. In between came a host of instruments with various humidity-related issues which leapfrogged this one. This too is partly a result of the lack of humidity as you will discover. A 3/4 guitar, it belonged to a lanky, soft-spoken recording/performing artist. As I inspected the guitar he told me that this guitar had been lying with his brother for two years. The young man was attached to this instrument and wanted it fixed proper. I don't think that it was cared for very much during ...
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Guitar repair: You do as the customer says – Part II

This is the second of the guitars that came to me where I did not understand the reasoning of the customer. I might add that this was a return customer on whose guitar I had worked a couple of years ago. For those interested in reading about that experience, here it is: 3/4th Ibanez in for string change but danger lurking nigh! This time, the customer had ordered online a set of bone saddle and nut and wanted me to install it. He planned to give away the guitar and wanted it to be in top shape. Creditable! However, when ...
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Guitar repair – You do as the customer says – Part I

My experience with customers, usually, is that facts and logic will appeal to most, if the pocket allows. In my dealings with them, I  place the pros and cons of going (or not going) down a certain route and then let them decide the path they wish to take. Mostly, the choices made are correct, or, if not entirely correct, understandable. In case I feel that the customer is making a wrong choice, I try to explain to him what could go wrong going down that path. But still if he insists, I do as he says. I saw two ...
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Guitar repair: The one hit hardest by (lack of) humidity, came in last!

For some time now, I have made my bias towards UK-based Tanglewood guitars apparent to you, readers. After a long time, I noticed guitars that used good materials, had good construction quality, sounded good, and the overall appeal of the instrument was good. Of course, you get all of these in high-end guitars too, but then Tanglewood is far from high-end, and that is what appeals to me: it's price point. So, I was particularly intrigued, even distressed, when this beautiful all-mahogany guitar with a satin finish came in The owner - a UG student - told me how he ...
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Guitar repair: This too was hit by falling humidity – Part III

This instrument has come to me off and on for something so minor and insignificant that I never charged the 'customer', nor did I ever feel compelled to document the work done on it. Those visits could also be that the owner of this guitar was trying to 'suss me out', for we had long conversations regarding guitar upkeep, this and that. And I understand that sentiment completely. You don't just hand over your Epiphone Dove Pro to anybody! This time when it came in, the owner was plagued by a buzz around the 8th-9th fret area, on almost all ...
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Guitar repair: Another one hit by (falling) humidity – Part II!

Tis the season! As promised, here is another instalment of repairs undertaken on another acoustic guitar plagued by the vagaries of the North Indian Spring. This was a return customer, one whom I remember as owning the best kept guitar. And if you're looking uncomprehendingly at the tuning machines, I swapped the not-so-good, factory-fitted ones, for these handsome 1:21 ratio machines. For those of you interested, here is the work done on it, on its previous visit.  A facelift after taking ‘Irene’ out of a spot of bother This time though the owner came in with the complaint of an ...
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