Guitar repair – introducing the ski-jump fretboard!

So, remember how I say that similar guitars or guitars with similar problems come together? Nothing could be more similar than the gentleman who brought in the guitar featured in the last post and the one that is featured in this one.

In fact, they almost arrived together – 10 mins apart! And I’ll be lying if I say I have seen two guitars exhibiting the same problem, so spectacularly, coming in so close together.

This was an Ibanez.

and what appeared to me as a solid wood instrument.

However, the irritant to the initial inspection was

the three plastic dots on the bridge. From experience I know that these hide nuts and bolts used to fasten the bridge to the top. This is an archaic design concept that holds little water now for the nuts and bolts are only a disaster waiting to happen.

It is like this: there will be string tension and that tension is bound to try and lift the bridge. Without the hardware installed on the bridge, it will come off cleanly and may be reglued properly. With the hardware in place, when and if the bridge does come off it will take a portion of the top with it – making it a much more costly repair.

In any case, it wasn’t a faultless repair. Glue that must have squeezed out from under the bridge, was clearly visible.

There was another problem that I could see with bare eyes. The guitar had a belly. And it was worth about two coins. 

So, before anything else, the belly had to be dealt with. The thing with guitar bellies is that they give in to the heat and pressure treatment but because of wood memory and continued string tension on a bad-material, or, bad-sized bridgeplate, return after a certain period of time.

But I had to give it a try and so

this is how the instrument remained, bound for a period of two days. Of course, you can see it is flatter than a pancake here, but once the clamps come off, it is a different story. Once string tension starts acting, it’s quite another story yet.

Meanwhile, I approached the guitar’s problem of fretwire buzz. My trusty Fretrocker found these

which were duly levelled, crowned and polished, while the rest of the fretboard was cleaned and given some TLC.

Before and after photographs for your perusal.

I had asked the owner to continue using 10-47 strings for some time, see how the instrument was taking their stress and then gradually move to 11s and then 12s, ultimately. I strung the guitar up with the 10-47 strings that the owner had provided and confidently called the owner to come and pick up the guitar.

When he came and played it, to my horror, the fretwire buzz was very much there and well. I asked him to leave the instrument with me and went straight to the tongue of the guitar – the area of the fretboard from the body joint till its end. Indeed the fretwires were high.

I sanded the fretwires flat, crowned and polished them and then when I strung up the guitar, there was a very slight buzz remaining. This I let it be and asked the owner to wait till the rains set in. If after a fortnight of the rains setting in, the buzz did not go away, I asked him to bring the instrument in.

And now for some explanation of the ski-jump fretboard.

That is an exaggerated view of a ski jump but usually it happens when the guitar is over-humidified. The neck block swells and raises the portion of the top over it. Naturally, the tongue of fretboard stuck there, also rises.

But this was different. This guitar was as dry as a matchstick. So why here? This was due to the different rates of shrinkage of the neck block and the top. The top had sunk while the fretboard was still high from the neck block which was not that dry. 

The humidity rise when the rains set in would naturally affect guitar geometry, and that is why I asked the owner to come in if the problem persists.

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:

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