The rains is a time when all glueing jobs should be avoided. If imperative, enough time and ventilation should be available for the job to succeed. REMEMBER YOU READ IT, AND READ IT HERE FIRST!
Despite knowing that I undertook this job, and boy, did this guitar fight back! Read all about it later.
First, the Rule of Two struck again!
Remember just a couple of weeks ago I worked on a Hobner guitar and gave you the lowdown on the company? Well, its 30-some-years-old, 12-string cousin came calling, and seeing the pain it was in, made me go ‘ooh’, ‘aah’, ‘ouch’!
While the earlier model was a F-hole, floating bridge-type jazz guitar, this one was the regular flat-top guitar (although the top wasn’t all that flat), with a round soundhole.
The history. A former Army officer’s instrument, it travelled with him through postings and remained his friend and confidante. And as can be imagined, he loved it very much. (And from here my guesswork begins) Somewhere down the line, the officer stopped playing it and the instrument was left tuned to pitch, standing in some corner (or hanging on a wall).
Weather can be very unkind to string instruments and it treated this 12-string no different. Under the dual impact of the weather and under-tension strings, the bridge lifted off the solid-top guitar (yeah, even I had my eyes popping out when I discovered that it was a solid top. I had never seen a Hobner with a solid top – not very good spruce but spruce nonetheless). The top itself too cracked open at multiple places – besides along the seams.
And because of the bridge lifting, it had also managed to pull a belly into the top. Also, the fretboard extension was loose from one end.
(As my guesswork continues) The officer’s daughter, much in love with her father, tried to stabilise the instrument. Acting out of love (I am sure her intentions were all good) and with whatever she thought was the strongest glue available (I think at least 15 years ago), she used an epoxy resin glue – all along the seams on the top and back, the heel, and where the heel cap should have been!
Now, epoxy resin glues are fine for furniture, but for string instruments and especially on those areas which need to move, it does more harm than good.
She used the same adhesive on the cracks on the top and when the guitar did not look too good, covered it with some electrical insulating tape. The black lines in the first photograph (and below right) is the tape hiding the adventure! And the elements continued to act on the instrument and on the electrical tape-epoxy combine. When I tried to remove the tape, at places it came off and at others, something came off while the rest of the black remained ‘absorbed’ in the epoxy.
Here are some other samples:
There were other abrasions too: like this section of the heel. Notice the discoloured margin on the left? It seems as if the heel wasn’t seated properly. But it was! Solid as ever and not wishing to budge no matter how much I pulled or pushed it.
Also, a 2-inch portion of the side (on the right) just below the binding (the white strip) had come loose and was loose till an inch below, where it opened up in a crack.
The headstock, as beautiful as it was, was a pain as far as getting strings off it was concerned. Someone had knotted all strings – increasing my BP!
The tuning machines that came with the instrument were cheap, flimsy things. At the time when Hobner must have made this instrument, these tuning machines must have been the only ones available. Not so now. Now, even the cheap tuning machines would be many times better than these and there are sets available now that cost three, four times the cost of a cheap guitar! These had to go!
And when you have a 30-odd-year-old instrument, there are bound to be more hurdles than smooth sailing.
And so, it wasn’t a surprise that I pulled out this instead of a regular bridgepin – a piece of wood fashioned to serve as a bridgepin: ingenious and practical, but hardly pretty.
And after 30-some years, there are bound to be more than a couple of dustworms inside the guitar!
My brief from the Fauji: ‘Yaar, you do whatever you want, but I should be able to play it’! As you can imagine, this will take some doing, and for you, some reading. So, we’ll break this one up in a few parts (at least two) so that it doesn’t become too laborious a read.
Next week: Tackling the problems