Another one of those instruments that was stood up in a corner and forgotten about (I’m guessing)! It had a host of issues to be dealt with.
FREE ADVICE: Whenever you know that you will not be playing your instrument for the next three weeks or more, tune down your acoustic guitar half a step. Half a step? If you play your guitar at standard tuning (A440), tune it down to D#. A full step down (D) won’t harm either. Remember, you are tuning down and not letting the strings flop around on the fretboard!
When you tune down, the strings exert lesser force, thus, lesser stress all around: on the neck, the bridge, the heel of the guitar, etc, etc. Further, tuning down mitigates the propensity of the instrument to belly up behind the bridge.
Even if you remember that it has been one-and-a-half months and you haven’t played your guitar and you haven’t tuned it down either, not a problem; you can do it then and stop further damage from taking place.
So, all the problems that I listed above in my advice to you, were clearly visible on this some-pale wood-guitar.
The bridge was lifting right across its length,
it had even developed a crack,
the heel joint was coming apart,
the fretwires bore the usual signs of having been played, and there was some fret-sprout too (when the ends of the fretwires seemingly grow beyond the fretboard. Actually, fretwires never grow; the fretboard contracts after losing moisture and staying dry a day too long). But it was a surprise seeing fret-sprout on this fretboard, for it was made out of artificial material and not wood, which led me to conclude that it was a sloppy manufacturing job.
The hardware on the headstock, though functional, had rusted while a few of the nuts had had their threads all chewed up, rendering them incapable of tightening up properly.
There was serious bellying too in the area beyond the bridge: a natural consequence of the strings trying to pull the bridge off the top, due to which the bridge was lifting too.
Usually, when there is bellying, the bridgeplate – sitting under the top and right under the bridge – is to be blamed. Either its dimensions are inadequate or the material used to make it. In this guitar’s case, it was both.
So inadequate in size was the bridgeplate that even the string holes were barely touching it. Ideally, you would want the string holes to pass right through the middle of the plate so that the ball ends of the strings can rest on it, helping in sound transfer, while the bridgeplate counters their pull.
I started right here. The right way to correct the bridgeplate problem would have been to pull it out and replace it with a proper-sized, proper-wood plate. But that would have been a very expensive and laborious operation. I decided to add some wood behind the existing bridgeplate so that at least the string holes would no longer remain on the top.
I glued in a strip of wood and clamped it down with a block of wood over it and another block of wood on the top, to keep everything level.
While that job was left standing for a good 24 hrs, I worked on the headstock and put in shiny new nuts and washers that worked.
Next, I worked on the fretboard
After 24 hrs, the clamp was removed and I began work on glueing the bridge down properly, as it should be.
The second photograph is always a joy to see in any glue-up job: glue oozing out evenly, all across. It shows that you covered all corners properly. Again a wait of 24 hrs for the glue to cure.
And while I waited, I turned my attention to the heel of the instrument. I cleaned out the opening with some light sandpaper and shot glue into it. Then I clamped it down and left that too for 24 hrs.
While all that dried, I sized up the bone nut and saddle that would go in place of the plastic elements.
It was now time to take off all the clamps to see how things had turned out. Everything turned out satisfactorily. With that I turned to repairing the crack in the bridge.
Saw dust, wood glue and sandpaper!
Not my best repair, but it did the job. Usually, after I am done, you can’t make out if there was ever a crack in the bridge! Here you can see a hair of a crack. Strangely, it was very smooth to the feel.
Now that the bridge was glued, as was the crack in it, it was finally time to drill out the holes in the bridge. Remember, we had added wood on the underside?
A bit of oil to it and the fretboard just to dress it up a bit.
And yeah, those are the new bone nut and saddle!
Here’s a view of the bridge glued down
Before I strung up the guitar with these
I did take the time to shape the bridgepins.
With this shape, the ball ends of the strings never snag on the ends of the pins but slip up to sit snug against the bridgeplate.
And there she is, finished and ready to rock again!
I would like to leave you with a shot of this little decorative piece that the owner has put on: very pretty, wouldn’t you say?