I had worked on this guitar some time back though it was only a bit of tuning up that was required then.
Recently, it returned for a string change and slight action-correction. I noticed that the saddle and nut were plastic (yes, that is the first thing I notice when instruments are brought to me), and also that the strings had already bitten into them. The grooves in the nut were deeper than I would like to see.
Ideally, what you want to see on the nut slots is that the strings ride half in their slot and half outside, for perfect playing and sustain. So, strings should never be seated more than half their circumference in their slots.
I suggested to the owner that it was just the right time to swap the plastic for new, bone elements – a compensated saddle and a nut – as in any case the action correction would require me to work on the saddle and nut. The owner saw light and agreed.
But before I put the new nut and saddle, I removed the old one and cleaned up the slot where it would sit with a small chisel. Any residual glue or chips of wood are bound to affect both action and sound.
My reasoning in suggesting to the owner that he replace the saddle and nut was that going by the rate at which the slots were deepening in the nut, soon the slots would grow so deep that strings would start buzzing.
In order to avoid a buzz, or worse, the nut splitting due to string tension, and double work for me (first work on the plastic set and then later on the new bone set) I thought of doing it at one go and save myself some work. Of course, if the customer came back a second time, he would have paid me a second time, but goodwill is prime.
And after all that thinking and planning, look what I did? I first worked on the plastic set using old strings, left things just a hair above where I wanted them, and then marked the bone saddle and nut to the plastic pair’s dimensions and then worked on them!
Just what I had hoped to avoid! But then the owner now has a bone saddle and nut in his guitar and a spare plastic set, should he require them in an emergency. However, the plastic pair will work only on THIS guitar and no other instrument.
Once everything had been worked and reworked, it was time to put everything together and hear what the Ibanez had to say.
And while I had the fretboard in full view, I thought a little polishing of the frets and a little oil for the board itself would only make the guitar look prettier.
See the difference?
Meanwhile, the strings that the owner chose were these.
These ‘Authentic Acoustic’ strings from the house of CF Martin, are probably among the best acoustic strings for amateur players. For bigger bucks, there are other options.
CF Martin is an American guitar company established in 1833. Till date it makes only acoustic guitars and its instruments are the pride and joy of players around the world. It was this company that gave guitar manufacturers around the world the famous ‘X’ brace pattern as early as between 1840 and 1845 – a pattern that is used till today. The company began making its own strings in 1970.
But just as I was about to string the guitar up, I noticed that the buttons on the tuning machines were very loose. The buttons are what you hold and turn to tune up your guitar.
If you notice, the buttons are held to the rest of the tuning machine with a screw. Tightening or loosening that screw gives you that perfect movement which is not too loose and not too tight.
However, the trick to doing it right is that you just don’t pick up any screwdriver and start twisting. Check very carefully the size of the screwdriver and use one that fits perfectly on the screwhead. Using a bigger or a smaller screwdriver can ruin the head of the screw, which may lead to it remaining permanently stuck inside the button.
When the owner came to pick up the guitar, he wanted the action to be lowered still. Remember, I had left a little bit on the saddle, just in case the owner wanted it lower? So, I removed that extra portion and the owner was very happy with the action.
All’s well that ends well!