Guitar repair – It’s not always the instrument…sometimes it’s the sentiment attached!

And that statement is as true as the sun will rise tomorrow!

In this line of work, not often do I get the opportunity to interact with people my own age, unless it is a mother accompanying the son to ensure that I do not fleece him, or a father chaperoning his daughter, guarding her against the ‘evil eye’.

The other day, however, in walked a genial gentleman with a guitar that had certainly seen better days. He wished to have it ready for his daughter who was returning from the US of A.

It was in a gig bag but the bag itself was falling to pieces, remnants of which were seen stuck to the headstock. The adhesive holding the cheap transducer pickup had since dried over the summers and the transducer had fallen into the soundbox, the bridge was lifting, the wood of the fretboard was tinder dry and the fretwires were tarnished with time.

However, the gentleman assured me that the instrument had not been touched in half a dozen years or so. I believed him, for the guitar carried enough dust and mildew on the body.

However, what caught my eye was this:

a name slip stuck with scotch tape. I asked the man if the guitar had ever been repaired but he was sure that it hadn’t.

I let it go and began work. First came off the crusty strings. But as I removed the bridgepins, I noticed that they were not seated fully.

I tried pushing them in but they would not budge: the holes were too small for the pins. Another job to be done.

Next began a three-step deep clean of the guitar body. I was a little sceptical whether I would be able to get all that muck off the instrument, but fortunately for me, I was.

Next, the bridge needed to be taken off. For that the screws holding the bridge down had to removed first. If you hadn’t noticed, look at the photograph of the bridge again.

There are two plastic dots flanking the six bridgepins. Hiding under those are screws, put in there by the manufacturer in the mistaken belief that these will keep the bridge from lifting. For a period of time they do succeed in their intended work, but when the screws fail to hold out against the tension of the strings, they not only rip the bridge off but also a good section of the top too.

Why manufacturers insist on continuing with decades old thought and technology doesn’t fail to irk me, and is, in fact, one of my favourite rants!

With the screws removed, I tried to get my knives to go under it, but it was impossible. So, I pulled out the hair dryer and put it to work. Even with that heat, the knives refused to go under. Each time I tried to force the issue, there was a strange crackling sound.

The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced that at some point in the life of the instrument, the bridge had come off and it had been reglued using epoxy resin. What sealed the argument was this stain.

It was a glue residue, left behind in the clean up after a bridge reglue. While it is very apparent on painted and sunburst finishes, it is harder to spot on natural colour finishes.

With the bridge refusing to move, I decided that it was best to let sleeping dogs lie. The little that it was lifting would not increase, at least for some time, I surmised.

What remained were superficial jobs. I began with reaming the bridgepin holes so that the pins sat better in them.

The tansducer pickup was stuck in place so that it didn’t flop around and a second cleaning of the body was undertaken to remove whatever fingerprints the guitar may have collected till now.

Then the fretboard was cleaned and the fretwires shone up, and the fretboard was given some love and a drink of oil.

When everything was squeaky clean, I proceeded to put on these strings on it

However, the action was not very desirable, though not unplayable by any standards.

I leave you with some final images

P.S.: The little plastic packet you see stuck on the shoulder of the guitar contains the screws that came out of it.


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:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *