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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Featured Restoration (An Instructor’s Guitar)

Yet another challenge presented to me, to restore a guitar instructor’s guitar. It is a Taylor 314CE and the owner is a very talented and passionate local guitar instructor. To find out his identity, go to this blog @:

Instead of the usual in-person meeting, we met through our blogs. Soon we realized that we are in agreement in many perspectives about guitars. And with these commonalities, naturally we became friends too. In a warp sense of humor, fixing a guitar instructor’s guitar has proven to be challenging because of certain stereotypical reasons… what can you think of?

Perhaps, some possible stereotypes …fussy, unreal expectations, good in playing but clueless about repairs, excessively directive,” ai pi ai ci” a.k.a. optimize the restorer to the max, the know-it-all, etc.

There are many of such stereotypes created for different category of people in this society, e.g. an owner of many expensive guitars usually can’t play. Have you come across that before? I am sure you have encountered exceptions to this stereotype. So we can say that stereotypes aren’t true, can we? One thing you can be sure about stereotyping is its autonomous nature. Such thoughts appear in your mind without your consciousness and much less with your permission. Is it all bad to stereotype? Since we have no holding on stereotypes, can we be held guilty of it? I am sure if this topic is left in a forum, it should invite immense amount of views. Feel free to comment in my blog’s comment if you wish to.

For those who have certain knowledge in psychology or life skills, you may agree that stereotyping helps us in managing the huge amount of information that bombards our minds. It gives you the ability to make judgments or draw conclusions quickly, without the need to deeply analyze situations or events. Imagine if our minds are required to consciously process and analyze every bit of information we receive. Our minds will literally explode. However the accuracy and quality of the judgments and conclusions are totally not connected to the ability. While stereotypes protect us it creates problems for us too. In another words, there is no running away from stereotyping but it does speak volume of one’s character if someone has the courage to acknowledgment the ripple effects generated by one’s stereotypes. Use it wisely, won’t you?

So are guitar instructors like the description earlier? It was all a joke and it wasn’t even half serious. Actually they can be exactly opposite of the mentioned reasons, i.e. an absolute unassuming and thoughtful customer. Something unique about this guitar instructor; very meticulous and detail in the way the restoration jobs were requested. Every requested job that can be labeled on the guitar was done. The rest of the required jobs were listed clearly on a note. There was no running away from the list and the labels. See below pictures for illustrations.

Talyor 314CE
A crack on the fingerboard
Crack line down the mid binding stripe
Binding is not level
Slight bridge lift
Tarnished tuning machines
Uneven gloss finishing at the cutaway apex area
No guitar restorer can possibly miss out those requirements, right? As mentioned earlier, guitar instructors can be customers who are absolutely unassuming and thoughtful and it is true herein. Summoning my courage, I advised against certain listed and labeled restoration jobs as they were not necessary because to engage those jobs, it will propagate into a larger extends which may incur high cost even they appeared to be small and easy repairs at the onset. The advices were accepted with understanding. Such acceptance and understanding was very assuring to any guitar restorer because it signals a vote of confidence in one’s judgment and evaluation. Of course it doesn’t imply by the complying with a guitar restorer’s advices makes an ideal customer. The essence here was the willingness to listen and appreciate different views.

The owner produced a note with all the required jobs itemized. See picture below.

The list of requested jobs
For clarity, the list is re-produced in verbatim as below.

1. Replace with bone nut and saddle

2. Refretting

3. Full Setup

4. Seal HOLE in fretboard

5. Seal Crack line at pickup area

6. Seal protruding edge at neck joint area

7. Seal gap at bridge reglue area

8. Cleaning and polish tuning machines

9. Matt finish at cutaway section (if possible)

Is that a mouthful or what? While the list was pretty long, I think the effort was relevant and useful as the guitar restorer will have little doubts of what to execute. The effort made in presenting things clearly was greatly appreciated.

Item 6 & 7 were placed on hold. Item 6 requires leveling the binding with the adjacent two surfaces that inherently has accessibility issues. After weighing the amount of work involved, it was better off to remain status quo. Item 7 is the typical bridge lift due to dislodged glue. The amount of lift is very minor that makes applying glue difficult and much less effective. As such, it stays until the state changes. The first job (Item 2 & 4) to tackle was replacing the first three frets because they are functional components of a guitar. The rule of thumb is to eradicate all structural issue as priority. In this case, there was no structural repair. Many guitar restorers should agree that changing all the fret wires is easier to do. There was much detail to observe when replacing only three. Nevertheless, it was done. A picture to show that it was in progress.

In progress, replace new fret wires
There after, a set of unbleached bone and saddle (Item 1) was hand crafted for the 314CE. See picture below.

Handcrafted Bone Nut and Saddle
The rest of the jobs that follow are cosmetic related. Item 6 received my attention first. When see the picture below, you will notice the unusual position of the guitar. There was a crack line near the jack area, which is located at the end block of the guitar. You will intuitively understand from the pictures.

In an unusual position
Leveling the crack line
I then moved on to Item 9. There was a crack repair job done on the apex of the cutaway some time ago. The repair job has left a layer of semi-gloss coating that differs slightly from the satin/matt finished of the guitar side. The owner has requested to have the semi-glossed area to be transformed to satin/matt finish, as like the rest of the guitar side. Some times I was there was a 10-year series solution to such jobs. By following a formula mindlessly, I will arrive to the desired outcome. However it was all but the 10-year series solution I can rely on. After thinking through, I went ahead with my intuited plans. By God’s grace, it was decently done.

There are many customers who expect their guitars to be cleaned but this owner has emphasized the polishing of the tuning machines on top of that. Cleaning jobs are not exactly a glamorous job in this society as many people have stereotyped it this way. However, the positive effect it can provide is tremendous even it is always underrated. The request to polish the tuning machine was respected and adhered to my best ability.

After a few days of work on the 314CE, the main work bulk was accomplished. Finally, the guitar was set up and dehumidified. The outcome was satisfying I reckon. Here are the pictures of the completed work for your viewing pleasure.

Before and after looks of the tuning machines
Hole on the fingerboard was sealed
Crack filled and leveled
Before and After looks of the re-finished job
New fret wires, the first three
New bone nut - View 1
New bone nut - View 2
New bone saddle
It is finished!
I am glad to have undertaken this restore job. I got paid, I got to play, and I know one more nice person and I have one more friend.


  1. I like your last statement!

    Yeap, I'm the owner of this guitar. Now I'm a very happy owner!! Satisfied!!

    Well done my friend and brother!! :)

  2. Great job! I have those tarnished rusting tuning machine heads too. How do you clean and polish tuning machines them so well?

  3. Thanks, appreciate your comments. Metal parts can be restored by the use of any regular metal polish compound and with the aid of the dremel.