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Repairing Guitar (Set-up)

A guitar came into my shop for repair.
The owner complained of buzzing.
After checking it didn't really buzz that much unless you played very hard.
But I did notice the string height was very high
The tuner was not install properly too.
So after a brief examination I told the owner I would be redoing the tuner and lower the action.

Today after checking the string height it's a whopping 14mm.
This is way too high.
The action at 12th fret is 4.5mm
If I lower the action I think it would be just nice.

As I removed the strings I notice the tuner were stuck!
After finally removing the strings and the screws for the tuenr
I noticed that the tuner holes were too tight.
This need to be widen a bit to allow smoother turning of the worm gears.

I will be checking the frets and geometry next but due to lack of time I had to leave it for the next session.

The guitar which was in my shop for repair

The string height is 14mm

Removing the tuner

2 talented young guitarist gave me a visit at my workshop.
One came for a quick set up, which I help to lower the action.
The guitar was by Esteve, but I can only lower the treble to about 3.5mm as the isn't much bone left in the saddle.
The neck angle was wrong for the guitar.
Any lower either the bridge's saddle block has to be shaved down or the fingerboard adjusted at the nut region which means the frets has to be removed.
That will be more serious repair work.

The other guitar by Aparicio has a single protruding fret when I tried.
So it buzzed at one of the high frets which I think is C# or D note on 1st string (I forgot which note).
So I just file it lower and recrown it.
I gave the other frets a rub on the steel wool to restore the shine.

After the repair / set-up work, I showed them the various tone woods and explain a bit of how I build guitars
All in all it was an enjoyable time.

Now back to repair.
I opened up the tuner holes with my dremel, manual sanding will take up too much time.
I tried the tuners and now they can be turne properly.
After some lubrication they should be as smooth as butter.

Then I did the set-up, marking the saddle with the correct action and plane down the saddle blank to the marking.
When I tried playing I notice more buzzes on the 1st string and 6th string.
Then I check the fret and realised the fret works was badly done.
In the end I spend quite some time leveling the frets and re-crowning them.
They played better but still not perfect.
It can only properly if I take out all the frets and level the fingerboard properly.
But the repair cost would properly cost more than the guitar itself so this will suffice.

Once I fill in the screw holes for the tuner and re-drill the pilot holes the guitar will be ready.

Opening up the tuner holes with dremel

Now it can turn properly

Marking the correct saddle height with the correct action at 12th fret.

A zoom-out view showing how the action is determined. The Aluminium bar is 3mm and the scraper at nut is 1mm.

Saddle marked for waste removal.

Planing the saddle. I find it faster than sanding.

Checking the action.

Recrowning the frets

Checking the fret levelness

Sanding level the frets - the fret work is badly done with many protruding frets in the higher region above 12th frets.

Finally I glue up the original screw holes and drill a new pilot hole of 1 mm.
After putting in the tuner I screw in the holding screw.
I tighten up the strings to try and with normal (not heavy) plucking the string doesn't buzz.
Hard plucking will be different story though.
Anyway it should be done once I adjust the intonation and polish up the saddle a little.

I adjusted the intonation and tried out the guitar.
Under normal playing it won't buzz that much.
The higher frets proved to be a little problem.
Well it can only remedied fully if I pull out all the frets and level the fingerboard accordingly.
For now, this will do fine.

Fill up the original screw hole

Screwing in the screw after drilling the 1mm pilot hole

The guitar almost done

The bridge adjusted for intonation and smoothen to a shine. Guitar is ready.


Showcase Video for my Guitar #2

My Guitar #2 was sold to my friend, Ho Kong Meng, who is a very talented musician.
Classical guitar was not the only instrument that he has mastered; he can also play the drums, violin and other styles of guitar including jazz, fingerstyle etc.

Here he recorded a fingerstyle version of "Fly Me to the Moon" and played on my guitar #2.
Amongst the 3 guitars that I have made #2 has the best projection and volume.

Video link


Assemble the guitar

Finally the assembly process shall start!
First I glued the patch to the top.
After the glue has dried, I then drill holes to align the top and the neck block.
I use a wood dowel for the alignment. After the glue has dried I saw and then plane the excess dowel away
Next I place every part into the solera all ready for assembly.
As a precaution, I do a dry run to ensure I perfect know where to clamp.
Once the weather clears up I will be all set for gluing of the lining.

The patched is glued. This patch is because I cut the rebate on the neck block too deep. I glued a cross-grained patch on the top to close up the gap between the neck block and top. Also a cross-grain patch will add strength to prevent cracking especially at this part of the guitar which s prone to cracking.

Checking the alignment by sight.

Drilling alignment holes.

Heating up the gluing surface

All set to glue with glue applied on both surface



Saw away the protruding alignment dowels.

Plane and sand smooth the surface.

I had a dry run of the assembly process.
I noticed that it's whenever I did a dry run I will make less mistakes.
Whenever I just do it straight from memory I often make mistakes which I have have never seen before.
So I thought I give it a go and hopefully any potential problem will surface before the real thing.
Anyway I try to clamp tail block to the 2 sides' end and held the sides in place with spring clamps
Boy those big A-clamp are very strong... I had problem even to open it.
Had to resort to use 2 hands in order to pry it open.
Anyway these few days is rainy and the RH is too high for comfort around 78% or so.
I might have to wait till next week to get a lower RH and with the dehumidifier I can drive it down comfortably.

All set to assemble (dry run)

Well originally I checked the weather forecast the north area won't be having rain but...
As I started halfway the assembly process, the sky turned darked and it rained a while later.

Anyway I started the assembly process.
The sides are position in place for the assembly and I started to glue the end block.
Before gluing I give it a nice planing for a fresh surface.
After the end block is glued and clamp I started with the lining.
I asked my friend whether he will be going for wide purfling but he didn't really answer my question.
In the end I just bite the bullet and use a normal 6mm wide kerfed lining.
This should give an allowance of a 4mm wide purfling max.
After the lining is glued, I clamp it tight with sticks extending down.
I fired up the dehumidifier and hopefully it's powerful enough to reduce the RH in the room.

Applying glue to the end block

Glued and clamped.

Lining glued and clamp for lower bout

All the lining glued and clamped.

Another view

After the glued dried I remove all the clamp and enjoy the view of the assembled guitar.
Actually 1/2 assembled since the back is not on yet.
After I removed the assembled body from the mould, I gave it a few taps on the top.
It sounded quite nice though I have no reference really.
Then I began to shape down the rim.
I have about 15mm to plane down as I forgot to cut out the excess before I bend.
Anyway with the plane it only take a while.
I use my radius block to check the shape.
Once it's near the final shape I will glue some sandpaper and sand it.

Shaving down the sides

Look at the shavings

Checking the shape with the radius stick

Can see the shape from this angle.

Almost done.

The front side.


Install marker dots on fingerboard

I install the marker dots on the #3.
At first I was thinking of using the big 3mm MOP dots but while rampaging thru' my MOP / abalone dots collection I discover I bought a more elegant 2mm dot instead.
So I search for the appropriate drill bit and drill 2 holes one at 7th fret one at 12th fret.
After that i put a drop of CA glue on the 2 holes and hammer in the 2 dots.
The marker at 12th fret is good because the elevated neck makes it hard to detect the 12th fret.
I was somewhat confused by the whole length of fingerboard.
I know some put 2 dots on 12th fret.
Here's the pic of the dots.
I had to wait for it to dry before sanding smooth.

Install the marker dots on 7th fret and 12th fret.


Prepare for Assembly

Sorry for the delay in updates.
I was really busy for the past few weeks (work, family, other things), resulting in not much being done.
Being sick for the past week didn't help too.
Anyway I think I should be ready for assembly this week.
Once the weather becomes better I will start the assembly process.
This few days has been raining so the RH will be too high for gluing.
Gotta be a little patient :)
Anyway stay tuned...

I also began to prepared the end block for assembly.
The end block blank was quite thick and so I saw into 1/2 thickness (slightly more than 10mm thick).
Following that I shape it using block plane and sanding block.
The sanding block is actually the end fence of the solera where the 2 butts of the sides met.
Closer to assembly time :)

Sawing the end block into 1/2s. Each blank can yield 2 end blocks

After sawing.

Shaping using block plane

Fine shaping using sanding block (which is part of the solera)

Checking the fit

Sawing off the protruding ends of the traverse brace.

Clean up with chisel.

Almost ready for assembly!

Sides fitted to the mold / solera

I shape further the neck's heel block in preparation for assembly.
Check out the neck making post last part.

I first measure the top thickness and router planed the same thickness onto the neck's heel block area.
After that I smoothen with sandpaper and plane.
But upon checking on the solera seems like I have remove too much material on the neck.
It's ok I will be adding one more piece onto the top to thicken it and then shave down to fit the neck.

I saw the slant on the sides after measuring the slant angle on the neck side slots using a slide bevel.
I measure the distance from the center line and mark the base onto the sides. After that I transfer the angle form the sliding bevel to the sides.
It is very easy to get the slant orientation wrong so before you saw away do double check triple check to confirm.
Place is side by side on the neck and visually ensure the angle is correct.
Then I saw away the excess.

The sides were too thick so I use the right angle rule as a stopper and plane the side until it fits the slot.
After the sides can fit in it will be almost assembly time!

Transferring the slant angle to the sides

Double check the slant is correct orientation before sawing

Check the fit

Both sides done

Check the fit for both sides

Set the depth on the router plane from the top

Remove the material for the inner heel block

Smoothen with block plane

Done. Next almost ready for assembly! Yeah!

I glued in the patch for the neck.
Next will be gluing neck to top the start of assembly.

Apply the glue on the patch

Glue and clamp