A facelift after taking ‘Irene’ out of a spot of bother

This Fender CD-60 came in with a complaint of higher than comfortable action.

Sure enough, as I checked it, the bridge was rising under string tension and even without it.

Not much, but it was.

As I went about checking out the guitar, I could only nod my head in appreciation. What added to the pleasure, was the fact that the owner was an aware individual and had taken good care of the instrument.

What pleased me most was the discovery of a proper-sized piece of hardwood used as a bridgeplate (reflected in the mirror).

I know I have said this before, but let me repeat myself for the sake of first-time readers of my blog. The bridgeplate in your instrument determines how your top will respond to string tension after a few years: how soon it will develop a belly. That the bridgeplate also plays a sure part in the quality of sound produced also cannot be debated.

Thus, the bridgeplate is the most important thing in an instrument to be looked at while buying a new one, after the quality of the top and its braces. And since most people don’t know this fact, manufacturers (Indians especially) will use anything – plywood included – to put a ‘piece of wood’ there. No wonder then that you don’t find a ‘bridgeplate’ entry in the product brochure of even the most acclaimed names in the business!

What a proper size, hardwood bridgeplate should look like

A healthy sized, hardwood bridgeplate will easily counter string tension and prevent a belly from developing (thus keeping string action in check) for at least 8 – 10 years. An instrument with an inadequate (-ly sized or constructed) bridgeplate will start sporting a belly in six months or even less!

But back to the instrument on the counter-top, the first order of repair was to re-glue the lifting bridge.

But for that I needed to take the saddle out of its slot. As I touched the saddle, it moved, showing that it wasn’t sitting in its slot very snugly. Sure enough, I could slip in a fret protector behind the saddle, while it was still in its slot.

In any case, I had convinced the owner to swap the Nubone saddle and nut for bone, so they had to go. Nubone is the name the company Graphtech gives to its TUSQ-like nuts and saddles. Basically a shade better than plastic, both  TUSQ and Nubone are man-made materials with some tonal qualities – buth nothing to match bone.

Their places would be taken by plush bone elements that sat perfectly snug as a bug in a rug!

Here, I would like to elaborate the strategy that I employ in all repairs. I like to do the easy thing first and if it doesn’t work the complicated (and expensive) route is always available. Going the easy way is not only easy for me, but easy on the pocket of the customer too.

In the process of repairing the bridge, I pumped wood glue under the bridge, clamped it down and let it rest for a day. Taking the bridge off completely, cleaning the mating surfaces and re-glueing them again is the proper way to do it but then it takes quite a bit to go that route. And if the bridge has not lifted too much, getting glue under the offending areas and clamping it down, does work alright.

The customer also wished for a different pickguard to be put on the guitar. For that, I had to remove the manufacturer-installed one. And boy, what a royal pain that was!

Stuck with double-sided tape, while the original pickguard came off without much protest, cleaning the tape residue off the area was the real deal – I have learned through experience. I have tried petrol, nail polish remover, lighter fluid, white vinegar, after shave lotion/perfume (alcohol), and either they have only a marginal impact, or manage to make a bigger mess.

So, rubbing with fingertips is all I could do – painstakingly slowly!

Finally…finally, the top was clean again and I put on the new pickguard.

While I was at it, I buffed out the entire guitar and paid special attention to the headstock area and the fretboard. I tightened up the hardware, polished up the fretwires and oiled the fretboard.

I strung her up with 13s that the owner provided and the overall look and how the instrument played appealed much to the owner. A few days later, he messaged, telling me how much he was enjoying the ‘new’ sound of his guitar.  

While I was impressed by the overall construction of the guitar, one thing left me shaking my head in disbelief. Why would anyone put a strap button on the shoulder of the guitar – and that too on the shoulder closest to the player? The propensity of the instrument, then, is to fall forward.

I asked the owner if he had had the button installed and he said that it was factory-installed. Not to take his word, I checked the Fender site, and sure enough, there was the button sitting proudly on the shoulder. But since the owner never played standing, I let sleeping dogs lie.

What brought a smile to my face was the lettering by the owner on the label of the guitar. At one end was the name ‘IRENE’ and on the other ‘G.R.A.C.E.F.U.L’. Care had been taken that the lettering would be legible to a listener sitting right in front: ‘Graceful Irene’. Who was/is Irene who inspired the owner to christen his guitar thus, I never asked. 

 What would we guitarists be without such etchings? 



Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me: guitarguyhelp@gmail.com

2 thoughts to “A facelift after taking ‘Irene’ out of a spot of bother”

  1. Action on a Fender! Would have like to have had a ‘dekho’.
    I guess the owner found out the hard way – strange, as it may seem.
    ‘Wonder if they’d have thought of withdrawing the product/series?
    Must read, must read,must read ….

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