Sometimes the relation in between the guitar and the player overpasses human relationships, it goes beyond, y it becomes part of the musician and, at the same time, the guitar carries part of the personal history of the person who plays it. And it is a relation of love, hate, lights and shadows.
José Manuel Moreno, probably the better flamenco player in Jaén. And his guitar... Pedro de Miguel 2003. 12 years of history, and many many happenings. Played on hundred of stages, with unaccountable voices, dances, thousand of miles on the road... a professional career made and hold by the instrument. And many times the guitar must hold the abuse and toughness of the stage, and that is a lot. But one day, guitars like people, crack, they cannot stand anymore. Many of them end left on a corner, luckily inside a case. And that's the true death of a guitar... stop making music.
In this article I am not going to tell the history, because I would need 12 years, but I will talk about a second chance of this guitar. During a live show, holding temperature changes and humidity variations, it broke. At the worst part, where it sounds better. The challenge: repair it and bring it back a high aesthetic level and give it the chance to keep on sounding great during years. This is not only a repairs related article, but a history of respect and love to the guitar that guitar makes carry inside, at the bottom of our heart. Let's go!
First operation is removing the old tap plate. This guitar has two plates stuck one over the other, because the original got so damaged that it reached the bare wood. And removing a tap plate on a guitar with a cracked top, when the crack is under the tap plate... it is not an easy task. Then a major task will come, cleaning all the glue residue very carefully because the top is broken... it is like removen the clothes on a burnt person after a fire... you have tu do it carefully, but eventually it will hurt...
In order to repair the crack, I will use the same wood specie as the top. It is selected to offer strong resistence, to stabilize the crack and the most important, making the acoustic bridge in between the two lips of the crack. Depending on the area, reinforcement are prepared. While this cleats glue on the inside, I will work on other areas that need special attention. The fretboard and frets need a nice polish.... and the bridge saddle is really damaged, it even lost a chunk of wood. This repair is very delicate and I will have to add more Rosewood to the bridge and adjust it perfectly.
Bridge holes, like in most 6-hole bridges, are really damaged because of the strings. The string knot tend to pull up the string, and little by little, it files the hole up to point of cutting the wood. Aside from the damage on the wood, there is a severy and negative effect, it is, when the string lean on the bone, the angle is very shallow, so the force applied directly to the bone is less, and this can affect the sound in a negative way. The best way to fix this is to convert the bridge into a 18-holes bridge because with this system, the knot will be pushing down the string and it will transmit more energy, so more volume, to the top. It sound easy just by saying it, but the cool thing is to drill 12 holes on a 5mm thickness bridge already glued onto a guitar... be patient! On the photo sixth and fifth strings are ready with a triplet hole. Just four more to go....
I also need to repair the rosette, because due the friction of the thumb finger nail, there is a nice dig that I will fill to avoid any mark after the new finish is applied.
Now the huge task of removing the old finish starts. There are several ways to do this. One is using chemical products that react with the finish, BUT despite the fact this is a quick way, the result can be a guitar with a blotchy top, forever and with no solution. On furniture, an old door or something like that, I would consider that option, but on a guitar there is just one way to do it and still get a perfect result, and more important, to remove ONLY the finish lefting the wood untouched: the scraper.
Scraper is one of the cheapest and more humble tools used on woodworking ... when there were no sandpapers, all the wood preparation was made with scrapers, sharpened in different ways to be more or less agressive. Today, it is rearely used because some practice is needed, and learning how to sharpen them take some time. Anyway, it cannot be overpassed when working the wood and finish is flawless. It is the perfect tool to remove the finish and only the finish.
This guitar has an hybrid finish, because it contains a color layer, so the target is to remove the color layer, and then the transparent base layer trying to not touch the wood. Regarding this layers, they can be like a human hair in thickness... so there are about 100 micras for error.
Slowly and patiently...
Before starting the finishing process, I will finish the bridge so it will be converted to a 18-holes bridge. With this modification the strings will recover a correct breaking angle over the bone and will transmit more energy to the top.
Master Julián Moraga will be now the one to tint the wood with the original color, or even a better one. With more than 15.000 finished under his belt, the result will be perfect with no doubt. Have such a artisan to collaborate with me, helps me to keep the timing and costs of tasks, but also helps to to improve as a guitar maker, as an artisan and allows me to learn from the number one in the world, to apply on my own finishes. It is a luxury and a true honor to collaborate with him.
Once it is finished, I just need to protect the top with a tap plate, and put the strings on. Some final adjustments on the bones to get it perfect and ready. Here you have the guitar, the same as before, but a new guitar. And the moment of truth, the most awaited for me, to see his owner's face meeting her again. No words for this, and only artisans that love their work know it. For this reason, it is better to let you with just some images and videos to show it. Many years of music, I hope so.
Thanks for reading, and I really hope you liked it. In case of any doubt or question, don't hesitate to contact me here.
A few days later live on stage...