As I have described on the ‘Home’ page and ‘About’ page of this blog, the effort of the Lucknow Guitar Garage – the workshop and the blog – is to try and help out people (guitar owners) who are in the same position as I once was, and to spread awareness about the instrument and its upkeep.
I derive a lot of satisfaction helping out people who have a special, sentimental attachment to their instruments. This particular instrument – like many others – fell in that category.
The owner, a young and accomplished musician, said he played the instrument one night, stood it up, and in the morning, found it like this
Being attached to the instrument, he did not discard it, but continued to search for someone who could repair it. And that is how, after more than a couple of years of searching, it landed on my counter top.
Naturally, the neck was the major job here, and thankfully, when I brought the two planes together, they sat rather well, except for a few places where some slivers of wood had gone missing. There were minor issues too that needed attending to.
The fretboard and bridge were dried out
and that nut and saddle would have to go
I was confident that this glue-up would turn out alright, if only I could get glue into the deepest recesses of the dried out break. To get glue in there I decided to give it a shot in the neck!
A second issue was providing enough force to keep the break together for an extended period of time: at least 24 hours. Many years ago, I had built this simple jig that fits the profile of the neck, while one side is flat. With that in place, I managed to clamp up the break with one jaw of the clamp resting on the fretboard (under a piece of leather, of course), and its other jaw resting on the flat end of the jig.
With glue pumped in, and everything clamped tight, the squeeze-out only encouraged my belief that the break would, indeed, heal well.
The paper that you see has been deliberately placed in between the jig and the neck. With all that glue around, we wouldn’t want a piece of wood that huge getting stuck to the neck!
With everything as I wanted it and the curing left to Time, I now had time enough to concentrate on other things.
I cleaned up the fretboard and bridge and took out the roughness on the bridge with five grits of sandpaper.
Then it was the turn to work on the new bone saddle
Also, the dirty, crusty headstock and tuning machines were given a polish and a tightening.
Twenty-four hours later, the joint had cured and the clamp came off.
Now was the time to check how the break in the neck had affected the fretboard and the fretwires.
Checking three fretwires at a time revealed what I was apprehensive about. There were many fretwires that had either lifted or were raised in comparison to their neighbours. Notice the red markings on the wires? That particular fretwire and at that point was raised.
That called for a levelling, crowning and polishing. At the end of it, I cleaned and oiled the fretboard and the bridge too.
Then it was back to the neck and trying to camouflage the fault line as much to touch as to the eye. Again the many grits of sandpaper helped me out, and when I was satisfied that the fault line was no longer perceivable to touch, I began to work on trying to hide it to the eye as much as possible. Work began by marking the boundary.
I planned to use a wood-filler tinted to match the colour of the wood of the neck. The tape was an effort to protect the fretboard getting coloured too.
What followed, was fine sanding to merge the filler with the surrounding wood,
And as a last step: some lacquer to make everything look pretty.
Nice? Yeah! Even I liked it! Not perfect but nothing that would draw your eye to it, and more importantly, very functional.
Now, it was time to make everything else shine like the neck. Some soap and warm water and my kitchen towels were like this
but the guitar shone like this
In all that shifting and moving, something inside the guitar made it sound like a Maracas Shaker. Wondering what it could be, I peeped in through the soundhole and saw this
Seemingly, in the years that the instrument had been left standing, rats and mice had found the insides to be a safe haven. There were enough chewed up bits of paper to form a notebook out of, and if you fell short, there were rat droppings too. These were what had made a rattle out of the guitar (The liquid excrement that must have undoubtedly been there too, had long dried up!)
In preparation for the stringing, I shaped the bridgepins
and put on these. I would have gone with 12s but there was no knowing whether the neck would be able to take their strain.
I set the guitar up and in six hours everything had gone out of whack. I did it again, and again everything came to naught. I was fearing this for wood has a tremendous memory. You leave it in one position for too long and it will keep wanting to return to that position.
So, I asked the owner to take the guitar home and bring it back to me in a week, 10 days’ time. He did, and in that time, he played it with that high action to his heart’s content.
After setting it up, the neck moved yet again, so much so that after having taken off almost half of the saddle, initially, I had to shim it with a piece of bone, and again set it up. Let’s hope that this time the neck behaves itself.
Here are a few photographs of the guitar before it finally left me
My parting advice to the owner: next string change, go for 12s and observe the action daily for at least 10-15 days. If he feels that the action has risen even a bit, he should loosen the strings and bring the guitar right back.
From then on, it would have to be 11s for the guitar, otherwise, the instrument was good for 12s!
Of course, the owner was more than pleased, but much more than that, it was a job most satisfying for me.