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 had bought the instrument and was just getting his hands set on the instrument when the pandemic struck and schools and colleges everywhere were shut down. This young man left his new guitar strung to pitch in a hostel room that wasn’t opened for nearly two years!

When the situation improved and schools and colleges were reopened, the young man found his guitar with a lifting bridge, a sunken top, the beautiful wood binding coming loose at most spots, and the headstock joint and the heel joint beginning to come loose.

There was also a soundhole crack staring at you.

And as if this wasn’t enough, the saddle was falling forward. I was a little surprised that staying under string tension for two years, with the saddle straining against the bridge, it hadn’t cracked the bridge.

Oh, I had to do so much that I didn’t know where to start.

I suggested to the owner that we throw out this factory-fitted micarta or whatever saddle and put in a solid bone saddle which will sit upright, correct the intonation, and would be a wonderful for overall sound projection. However, the young man declined and I kind of understood that with a shoestring budget and such a lot of work to be done, costs needed to be cut wherever. Besides, he could get a bone nut and saddle installed at a later date.

I wanted to help the young man and the instrument, so I just glued a piece of an old debit card and filed it to where the saddle sat bolt upright in its slot without having to be pushed into it.

Next, I decided to tackle the toughest job, the binding coming loose in places, almost all around the top. Oh, there was a lot of heat and glue and clamping involved and some double and some triple tries before everything finally came together.

Similarly, the neck heel had to be tackled: a job done best under string tension.

I must apologise for the crappy photograph: the flash makes the joint unclear. But do take my word for it, the heel came together rather nicely on each side.

While turning my attention to the headstock joint opening, I noticed that there was little to no difference in the opening of the crack with and without string tension. The seam had opened so minimally that though you could more than feel a lip, even with string tension, there was no way of getting glue in and clamping it shut.

I suggested to the owner that if in the future, it opens up some, we will tackle it then.

As far as the soundhole crack was concerned, the owner was not convinced that it was in emergent need of attention. Again, though I did not quite agree with him, I kind of understood his reason.

The bridge which was lifting was glued back in place and it was a happy sight to see some of it ooze out.

A 48-hour resting period and all would be well. After the clamps came off, there was a certain roughness to the bridge which I found irritating. I decided to take five grits of sandpaper to it and make it as smooth as a baby’s bottom.

I got it that smooth but then I lost all the colour that the bridge had been dyed with!

And thus, began preparations to dye it back.

Once that was through, I cleaned up the fretboard, gave it a coat of the love potion, and some to the bridge too. Considering how dry the instrument was, I decided to put on the potion but never took it off as is the practice. I knew from experience that the wood would soak up the fluid very quickly. This is how it looked after I was done stringing it.

I also gave the body an almighty rub with warm water and then a light coat of the potion to do its magic. The sheen on the instrument would warm the cockles of the heart of any guitar lover. Me? I was thrilled!

And to get the ‘big picture’

Very purty!

I sent home the owner happy, but with the advice that at least for four weeks he had to make the guitar drink water. He had to make it drink water till the water in the container stopped giving up water. I asked him to come back in a couple of months for a re-evaluation.

Till then…!

And yet…who am I to say that this was the last humidity-hit guitar??!! Maybe, there are more in line!

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 *