I am not a great fan of scribbling or drawing on one’s instrument. Stickers? Totally sacrilegious! But that’s my opinion.
That said, every once in a while, incidents happen, or one comes across things that put one’s beliefs and theories in perspective. It happened to me when this guitar came to me recently.
Hand-painted, it was a stunning representation of Lord Shiva’s Tripundra (the three marks of anointment on his forehead). You may have seen this (in India) in sticker form on car rear windshields, but this acrylic paint, hand-painted version on the headstock of this guitar I found absolutely gripping.
And that was not all!
The body carried this beautifully detailed work of a falcon landing, its wing span spanning the breadth of the lower bout. And don’t miss the rangoli-like creation around the soundhole. Stunning, wouldn’t you say?
Indeed, it is creations like these that lend character to an instrument without taking away any of its tonal qualities.
Alright! So, it was a beautiful guitar. What was it in for?
The fretboard was separating from the neck. This was the owner’s – a creative and sensitive being – first guitar. Attached as he was to it, he did not get rid of it despite his family imploring him to do something about it. Instead, he continued to search for a place that would bring healing to this instrument. And that is how this instrument landed up on the counter of the Lucknow Guitar Garage.
It was actually a Pluto, with steel strings and a slotted headstock. You probably won’t be able to read the model number but it reads HW39-201N.
If the combination of steel strings and a slotted headstock is alien to you, let me tell you that many – from CF Martin & Co to boutique builders – have come out with such models over the years. The idea was to somehow marry the sustain of the classical guitar (thought to be partly due to the slotted headstock) with the volume of the flat-top guitar.
And while I was at it, I decided to do my favourite manoeuvre: swap the plastic nut and saddle with bone elements. To those who are still not sure whether it would make a difference, let me drop you a statistic. In the three years that I have been repairing guitars in India, EVERY customer has reported back that the swap has worked wonders to the tone and sustain of the instrument.
But the most important work was to get the fretboard and the neck together again – and make them stay there. Nothing that good quality wood glue and a set of – or half-a-dozen – clamps won’t do.
And while it was clamped and I had nothing to do but wait, I decided to focus on the tuning machines. A drop of oil in each of them got them turning smooth again.
When I took the clamps off, the break had healed but not too cleanly. Thus, began the process of hiding the seam line – more to touch than to the eye.
Some painter’s tape, my concoction of sawdust and wood glue, some sanding and some matching black paint, and it was good. Not that the repair was invisible to the eye; it was. More importantly, you couldn’t feel a transition line.
A little cleaning and oiling, and the fretboard and bridge looked like new
Pop in the missing pieces and
However, I could not give the customary rubdown to the top, thanks to the intricate art work on it. But, when the owner came to pick up the guitar, he was more than happy with the results. The guitar’s still singing and so is he!