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Monday, August 27, 2012

Featured Restoration (A Sakura Dobro)

Just when you think it is safe and sound at home…

Place your beloved guitars on your guitar stands… a cleaning lady comes along and topple one of your beloved and something got to go…

The Sakura Dobro didn't survive the impact of toppling. The neck joint has given way, as shown in the above picture, the crack line started from the neck heel cap and propagated into the fingerboard extension.

My client has brought this Dobro to me for repairs. The interesting thing about repair is in its implied expectations. Some clients will expect a total reversion to brand new look and functional health as well. There are some who are more concern with the functional aspects than the cosmetics. After listening to my client's concern, I assured him that the Dobro is repairable in its functional aspects. Simultaneously I have emphasized the difficulty in restoring its cosmetics and the costs required.

Many clients are not fully aware that making a guitar from scratch can be easier than restoring an already completed guitar in certain aspects. In specific this repair, to camouflage the crack line along the neck-to-body joint will involve several tricky steps, each with some degrees of uncertainties thus taking more time and effort. It translated to higher repair cost eventually.

How much should one invest in repairing a guitar? This golden question has no model answer unfortunately. However these are the perspectives that affect the perceived value of a repair job, sentimental value, retail price of the guitar, brands, rarity, difficulty level of the repair job, client's expectations, etc.

To repair the Dobro, these are the major steps taken from start until completion.

  1. Clean up the crack; remove flakes, splinters, from the crack areas
  2. Devise the best clamping approaches
  3. Rehearse the glue application and clamping processes
  4. Execute the rehearsed process with accuracy and excellence
  5. Allow for 24 hours curing of the wood glue
  6. Remove all clamping tools and excess wood glue
  7. Fine cosmetic touch-up on the repaired areas
  8. Allow another 24 hours of "rest" before applying load on the guitar
  9. Value added service (wip)
  10. String up and set up

The interesting part of this repair was the gluing and clamping process. The key was apply glue to such tight areas and to clamp it effectively so that the crack areas made good contact. Simultaneously, the clamping tools should not leave any mark on the guitar. Given such a setting, many things could go wrong that will render the repair attempt ineffective. The mindset was to "measure twice but cut once." I learned that from David Greenwell of Valleys Guitars which is base in Australia.

Due to the accurate mindset, the repair processes could not be smoother. The Dobro guitar was restored to the owner's satisfaction. Surely I was very delighted with my client's reaction when he saw his restored Dobro.

More pictures;

Clamped for 24 hours
Clamped for 24 hours

Before & After
Before & After

String Height at 12th Fret
Thanks for reading


  1. You folks did a great job restoring that. Were you able to bring it back to its original tone? Dobros have such a wonderfully unique sound.

  2. Well, I think only the Dobro owner knows, right? It was indeed tricky to set it up as the spider bridge requires good contact on every leg (spider has eight legs!). With some trial and errors, it was done.