This landed up on the counter needing attention seriously.
The owner said that he had got the instrument previously repaired at that big music shop in the vicinity of Fun Republic but besides the old fault lines opening up, new ones developed (encircled in red).
If you hadn’t guessed it, the guitar was
But, more than the damage, I was surprised that it was a Yamaha. I had always thought that Yamaha’s F310 and F310P were solid top guitars. How wrong I was!
The ‘spruce’ veneer on the top was thinner even than the useless pickguard that had been put on.
Not to rest, I searched on the company website, and sure enough, I found that the company wants prospective customers to believe that they are putting solid spruce tops on these models. See for yourself:
Now to the problem at hand. The lifting of the top and the veneer peeling off like this was most likely due to two reasons: a) inadequate construction (read bridgeplate not big enough, or of good, hard wood), and
b) instrument not cared for. It seemed that the guitar had been left standing tuned up where the heat and humidity had got to it.
PLEASE…don’t let your acoustic instruments stand (or lie) in places where you wouldn’t like to be.
The bridge lifting under string tension and consequent cracking of the top veneer was proof that poor quality wood had been used to make the bridgeplate, or, that the bridgeplate was inadequately sized to perform its function properly.
Having said that it should also be noted that after a period of time, the best of guitars see a bit of ‘belly bulge’ (a rising of the area of the top behind the bridge). However, if the bridgeplate is made out of a good hard wood (mahogany, rosewood, maple, walnut, etc) and has proper dimensions, you will never find accidents like these happening. In fact, a ‘good’ bridgeplate will minimise belly bulge in an instrument to a great extent.
As you can see, the size of the bridgeplate (the trapezium-shaped piece of wood with six holes) is almost alright. It is the quality of wood used that is suspect. It is a practice with reputable manufacturers to use the same wood as the back and sides (in solid wood instruments) to make the bridgeplate too.
Even in laminate guitars from reputable makers, much importance is given to the size of the bridgeplate and the wood used in making it.
So, why would a manufacturer put in a useless piece of wood as bridgeplate? It cuts the cost of production!
In this particular guitar, nothing can be done now, except change the bridgeplate, which is a very troublesome process and expensive for the customer. Unless one is emotionally attached to the instrument and wishes for it to play perfectly, I never advise such operations.
Inspecting the instrument, I saw more than the normal ‘bellying’. At either end of the ruler there was at least 1 to 1.5 mm of space. Ideally, you’d want no space at the ends and the ruler to touch the top all along its length.
As a result of the bellying, the action was a whopping 7-8 mm!
So, the strings came off, the bridgepins went into their hold and I pulled out the plastic saddle and nut to replace them with a proper, compensated bone saddle and a bone nut.
But while I was taking the strings off, I saw this. The string was in two parts, yet attached to the tuning peg!
Relieved of string tension, suddenly the cracks in the top did not look as ugly. But they still needed to get treated. An injection of glue was what the doctor ordered.
This is your regular wood glue, but with water added to it to make it flow better. This was injected (read flooded into the crack) and it looked something like this
Then to ensure that the glue reached even the smallest recess, I pumped it with my fingers and thumb just like this
and then putting a flat piece of wood over some butter paper, I clamped it down good.
To take some of the belly out of the instrument, I did not just clamp the repaired area but the entire bridge region.
After 48 hours, I turned my attention to the lifting veneer at the shoulder of the guitar.
The process was repeated near the fretboard extension
Six days later, all the ‘open gaps’ had been closed and the guitar no longer looked like an instrument that was going to fall apart any moment.
But while the instrument was clamped up, I continued working on other parts that were still accessible.
I had noticed that the fretwires – especially the first five – had managed to develop rather large divets. If these grooves are not removed, they have the power to alter your intonation. So, I gave all the fretwires attention, with special focus on the first five.
After that the fretboard was cleaned and oiled and the old plastic saddle and nut measured. These measurements were then transferred to the bone elements, and these elements installed.
What I also did was to take my biggest and heaviest clamp and clamp down the belly. Every 6 hours or so, I would go and give the clamp a one-and-a-half twist and increase the pressure on the top.
But after a few days, I decided to remove this clamp and put the guitar in the vice grip of a contraption that I made many years ago.
These are basically two lengths of hard wood with cork lining underneath so that the top and back do not get damaged.
I don’t promise that the belly will go away completely, but it will certainly be reduced far greater than what it came in with.
Now, I await the customer to hand me the strings that he wishes to throw on. A simple set-up and I am sure this baby will sing again.