If you wish to use/enjoy something for long, then regular maintenance becomes a must. And if that statement is true, why should (acoustic) guitars be any different? With regular maintenance you will realise that an average guitar can perform well for longer, and a high-end instrument will last you a lifetime and more.
Sadly, in all the years that I have been working on acoustic guitars, I can actually count on my fingers, the number of instruments that I found ‘maintained’. All it takes is everyday tools, a few clean rags of an old t-shirt and some warm water.
This guitar – a well-made laminate – came to me for ‘servicing’ with many minor issues.
It was evident that this was the first set-up that the instrument was going to get of its life. I noticed that care had not been taken while winding strings
Care had also not been taken to ensure that the bridgepins go into the same hole from which they came out of. This often damages bridgepins and most times you will find that they sit deeper in their holes, which can be very troublesome while changing strings – as was the case with this instrument.
The white specs that you see on the bridge is evidence of my efforts to extricate the pins from the holes! They did come out after much persuasion. These would have to go and new bridgepins that fit the holes properly would need to be put in their place.
The tuning keys were loose as were the nuts holding the tuning posts
The plastic nut and saddle would have to be replaced with bone elements.
Also, the instrument required deep cleaning and a fresh set of strings.
I got started with the new set of bridgepins, shaping them so that string ball-ends didn’t catch on them.
Next, I cleaned up the entire guitar with a bit of warm water, wiping and rubbing as I went. But while I moved the guitar, it gave off strange noises of something moving inside it. I shook the guitar upside down, hoping to bring out of it whatever was living inside. I was half expecting a living creature but thankfully, it was only these.
For the umpteenth time, a dessicant (silica gel), ladies and gentlemen, is only meant for all-wood instruments and that too ONLY in months when the humidity goes above 70%. If you own a solid-wood instrument and live in a high-humidity area, you may require a dessicant to live inside your guitar; everybody else, go easy on the dessicants and keep them as far away from your instruments as possible.
Funny though, the owner never missed his picks!
The fretboard was up next. I deep-cleaned it, burnished the fretwires and oiled the fretboard. But it was the neck which was a pleasant surprise. With the strings off it, it was as straight as an arrow – just like how I like it. Once you string it and tune up the strings, the strings will pull a bit of relief into the neck, and that is all the relief required to play without a buzz.
Up next were the nut and saddle. I measured the old nut and saddle and replicated the dimensions in the bone ones. It worked like a charm and the guitar played beautifully.
The owner was happy with the results, though I missed taking the customary final shot of the finished work!
So, what all does maintenance (at string change) include? Here’s a checklist:
- cleaning all such guitar areas where you can’t reach when the strings are on
- cleaning the fretboard and fretwires
- cleaning the inside of the guitar
- giving the entire guitar body a good rub and polish (if it has a gloss finish)
- checking the hardware on the headstock and snugging it up (tightening it just beyond finger-tight)
- stringing the guitar ensuring that wound strings (E, A, D & G) get just 2.5 – 3 turns on the post and unwound strings (B & e) get 4 -5 turns.
- in electro-acoustic instruments, check battery periodically for leakage, etc. Snug up jack input sockets.
Do this and you will certainly feel the difference in the way your guitar responds to your touch.