On this page I wanted to share with you my restoration of a guitar. It was given to me by Marjorie Harmer who taught me classical guitar when I was 16. Marjorie was a really inspirational person to me, and I owe part of my interest in making guitars to her.

Sadly she died in 2014, before her time. She gave me the guitar when I last saw her, a few months before she passed away. It was always hanging on the wall in her music room and never played much. I remember her telling me what a lovely tone it had, but it was pretty beat up with a terrible action.

For two years the guitar was lying around in my workshop, always bugging me. I’d look at it trying to think what to do. I thought of her every time, but didn’t like the fact that it was knackered. Could it be fixed? It was definitely worth a try.

Click to hear the finished guitar

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The Guitar

The guitar, a turn of the 20th century parlour type, has a spruce top with Brazilian rosewood back and sides, an ebonized beech neck and a two piece ebony fingerboard.

The machine heads are very nice Jeromes. Probably worth more than the guitar itself. It has a nice shape. The Brazilian rosewood back and sides are nice. The spruce is quite nice quality and the two tone purfluing sets off the pleasing shape of the body.

It had a previous repair made to a crush wound, inflicted to the soundboard’s lower bout. This looked as though it was repaired through the sound hole, as was a long crack down one of the sides. Basically they had squirted a load of hide glue into the cracks and pushed the guitar back into shape. There were also numerous other cracks in the soundboard. The bridge was in totally the wrong place. I don’t think this had been re-glued at some time, because the bridge pin holes lined up. It must have been a bad day for the maker. It would have had big intonation problems, right from day one.

I come across many guitars, of all sorts, made badly. Lots of resources go into to making a guitar, and when someone gets the set up of a guitar wrong, when everything else is perfect, rendering it unplayable, this is really annoying. I had a really nice guitar come to me and the truss rod didn’t work. A really top quality guitar which you couldn’t play, or adjust so you could. The playability of guitars is so crucial.

The other main problem, apart from the bridge, was that the guitar had a big twist in it. This meant the treble strings were about 10mm or more away from the finger board. The badly repaired crush wound had emphasised this.

If I could flatten the soundboard by planing the sides, replace the bridge and raise the fingerboard it could be ok, I thought. All the other things to do were minor, like doing the cracks.

The Repair

Removing the fingerboard with an iron was easy. It was in two bits which was interesting. I could see before I took it off that the pieces joined at the 9th fret. I am always in admiration of Torres, the way he very skilfully glued different wood together, out of  necessity, to achieve a big enough piece for the neck or soundboard.

Next was to cut the soundboard off just below the bindings.

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The top strut was removed as well as bridge plate. I soaked silk, from an old pair of long johns, in Titebond to repair the cracks. Better than using little pieces of wood, I think.

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Then I re-glued the strut and a new bridge plate. Also an extra support under the finger board where there were some bad splits in the soundboard.

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Note that I moved the top strut closer to the sound hole for better structural support.

Next was to plane down the sides to make them flat. This levelled out most of the twist in the guitar.

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Note the two piece fingerboard and the fact that the back is in fact a veneer, glued to a piece of spruce. A good way to do it. The back was therefore relatively solid and didn’t need any work apart from a bit of patching.

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Then the soundboard was glued back on. Note the bridge pin holes filled in.

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This pics shows the fitting of the fingerboard. The two pieces were glued to a piece of cedar to make it a bit thicker. It needed to be raised to get the correct string height. I needed to plane the original ebony down to get it flat. I could have made a new one but wanted to keep it as original as possible. It actually worked well and have been thinking of doing this on my guitars because it makes the neck much lighter.

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Next the new frets went in.

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Here you can see a new bone nut being fitted and the bridge re glued in the right place about 6mm further forward. New holes were drilled for the bridge pins.

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Nexted the Jeromes were taken apart, clean and oiled. A new roller was made from box wood which matched.

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Below is the finished guitar. Sounds fantastic for a guitar not played for 30 or more years.

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Click to hear the guitar

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