Thursday, September 18, 2014

Is It Really Beyond Repair?

A week ago I happened to come across a damaged acoustic guitar.  The headstock was completely severed from the neck in an accidental fall to the floor.  The owner didn't think it could be repaired, so he gave the thing to me.

You can see from these photos that the break is clean , but severe. During the inspection process of fitting the pieces together, I discovered that quite a bit of the problem was in the small pieces missing from around the break. That could be areal problem, when attempting to match the wood grain.  Also, there were missing binding pieces, which surrounded the headstock.    It wasn't just one color, but two, to deal with.  Fortunately, I have a supply of various colors of binding left over from acoustic builds.  In this particular case it was black and cream color that needed to be paired up and glued into the spaces left by the damage.

Before I got too involved in the project, I researched the value of this guitar and found that it is moderately priced on the retail level.  Not a bad deal if I can salvage it.  The only problem is the headstock.

The body is beautiful quilted maple sides and back with spruce top.  Nice pearl purfling and inlays.

In addition to being a cutaway acoustic, there is a good quality 5-band equalizer pre-amp installed to adjust sound from the under-bridge electric piezo pickup. And, an added touch are the Grover tuning machines.  Overall, it's a pretty nice rig.

Well, to make this story short, I cleaned up the broken pieces, by brushing away any stray small pieces of wood fiber, fitted the broken parts together to assess things and proceeded to glue the pieces together.  There are any number of recommended procedures from the experts, but as usual I let common sense dictate how I would proceed.  I chose to use the standard TiteBond glue I use in the ground-up building of an acoustic guitar.  If it's good enough for Martin, it will be good enough for me.  Once each piece was evenly coated with a light film of glue, I 'married' the pieces and applied reasonable pressure with clamps.  The key here is to join the pieces, without squeezing glue from the coated surfaces, thus the light, but adequate film.  If this can be accomplished, the glued joint will be stronger, when cured, than the wood itself.  I keep the pressure on for twenty-four hours.

The glue is set on the aligned pieces, and it is time for a stress test.  Using my bench neck rest as a pivot point I applied plenty of downward and upward pressure to the glued joint, and it held under pressure.  So, it's on to the final steps.

The missing pieces mentioned earlier were replaced with wood filler, which required me to be creative in the final steps of the finish process.  The damaged binding was repaired, and the spliced area was filled and sanded several times to get to a point of satisfaction.  The pearl logo and binding were masked off in preparation of finish.  I chose to spray the repaired area with a rich brown color, and then to clear coat it, because it is impossible to maintain the integrity of the wood grain, there were too many small wood chips missing.

I let the finish cure for a week, before waxing it with a good paste wax.  Tuners and strings were installed, and I fired it up for a test run.

Voila!  A guitar beyond repair plays like there was no yesterday.  I love it when a plan comes together.

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