Hertz – a chip, a pickguard and a ‘bone upgrade’

The footnote on this page – as also on all other posts – reads that if you are sentimentally attached to your instrument, its value in terms of money means nothing. 

It could be a Rs1,000 guitar or one hundred times that value but because it means so much to you, and you bring it to me in the hope that I would be able to make things alright, I make an extra effort to ensure that that faith in me is not dashed.

This is just a 6-month-old guitar that came in because the owner was beside himself with grief because this had happened.

How it happened and when it happened, he didn’t seem to know. 

While I promised him that I would take care of it, I inspected the guitar.

The bridge, though a handsome thick piece of wood, had these two plastic dots.

Now, every time I see these dots, just one word rises in my mind ‘SHIT’!!!!!!!! That’s because these dots hide screws under them. And sure enough

though it is not clear in the picture, what you see on the extreme left of the mirror is a nut and a bolt.

The renowned Gibson stable began the practice in the mid-30s (I think) and carried on with it till say a decade or two ago (again, not sure about the dates), because they saw the futility of it. However, guitar makers all over the world latched on to the idea and some in India continue to hang on to it, refusing to let it go. Here was one example.

Manufacturers put in a nut and a bolt on the farther side of the bridge in the mistaken belief that the hardware will help counter string tension, consequently preventing the bridge to lift. 

I am not one hundred per cent certain how far that approach worked, what I can tell you for a certainty is that if the bridge lifted despite the hardware, it would do so ripping through the top.  I have seen tens of guitars like that which cost double and sometimes triple the cost of repairing a lifting bridge.

Anyway, that was your history lesson for this Sunday. Getting back to the young man’s instrument, there was nothing that I could do about the hardware, but for his sake I hoped that the bridge would behave itself and didn’t decide to lift.

I told him how there would be a dramatic increase in volume and sustain if he allowed me to swap the plastic nut and saddle for bone elements.

He agreed and out came the cheap plastic

Any time you see holes in the underside of the nut or the saddle, believe that you are looking at something synthetic

to be replaced by a bone nut and saddle.

As always, there was little work to be done on the nut but the saddle took a lot of time getting to the right height. 

That was the simple part. Now, to repair the banged-in lower bout area.

 If the wood had broken or cracked, it would have been a much easier repair. Only, it had been crushed in very slightly. Crushed and decompressed like that there was no way I could straighten the wood fibres.

And so I turned to my trustee wood fillers.

The one on the left is the real deal, while the one on the right is also a wood filler, but I use it more to give a tint. And on the right of the tube you see how I try out the shade.

I marked off the area with some painter’s tape and filled the affected area.

Not pretty? Yeah, I know! But things always get worse before they start looking better! After filling in the ‘dent’, I let it dry.

As it dried, I took out my ‘tools’ to work on the area.

This is a piece of plastic – not too stiff and with enough give in it – that I picked off the road. The photo on the right shows what I intend to do with it. That’s #600 sandpaper stuck on it and I used it as a sanding tool.

An interesting tit-bit about me: I am quite the junkie and when I walk on the road, I usually do so with my eyes glued to the road. Nuts, bolts, erasers, washers, odds and ends, I pick up almost everything: you never know when what will come handy!

Anyway, I sanded the area flush with the top and then on the surrounding area I went about removing sanding marks with progressively higher grits of sandpaper: #800, #1000, #1200 and #1500. I could have gone up to #8000 but it was good enough at #1500.

And mind you, the ‘operation’ was performed under magnification. After I was through sanding, I brushed on a little lacquer (varnish) and all was good!

While I was at it, I noticed a little dent exactly where a pickguard would have been. It was either a fingernail mark or a plectrum mark. And since I had seen it, I filled that in too and sanded the area smooth.

 And then it was time for the ‘Love Potions’: one for the fretwires and the other for the fretboard and bridge.

Amazing what they do to the fretwires and fretboard.

The owner chose to put these strings on the guitar

and also took my suggestion to put on a pickguard. 

That is how the pretty one looks now. I dare say, the owner seemed happy with the outcome.

But what of the dent? 



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 “Hertz – a chip, a pickguard and a ‘bone upgrade’”

  1. Thank you so much for taking such care of my instrument 💕 i am glad i didn’t go anywhere else .!
    The sound of my instrument is better than ever !

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