Frets About Frets April 2011

I’ve written, in my column, about many forms of damage to stringed instrument… well, I have great news… Most damage can be repaired!

Broken headstocks… can be repaired!

Split wooden tops… can be repaired!

Misshapen necks… can be repaired!

Divoted Frets… you guessed it… can be repaired!

One of the most common issues that I see is the guitar with a “belly”. Now this has nothing to do with eating at fast food joints… the guitar has a bulging top around the bridge. Belly is the result of such conditions as hyper-humidification, exposure to excessive heat, very old strings or a combination of any of these.

The most common symptom is high action. This is because the bridge is elevated about the normally flat plane of the guitar top.

The traditional repair involved attaching a “plate” directly to the inside of the top of the guitar. This usually reduced the outward bow of the guitar top but it also would effectively DEADEN the resonance of the instrument. The added mass glued or bolted tight to the top of a guitar will slow the ability of the wood to move as string vibrations are picked up.

The other most common solution is… to get another guitar and relegate the miss-formed instrument to a “wall hanging” or, heaven forbid, the dumpster.

Over the past few months, I have developed a solution that uses an alteration to the installation of the “plate” method.

I install what I call a Spanner Brace. This is a piece of aluminum “spanning” from each “X” brace directly below the bridge with two small bolts installed through the bridge and bolted to the metal spanner. The small heads of the bolts are recessed and covered by Black, white or MOP dots.

This allows tension to pull the bow out of the top while NOT deadening the resonance of the wood. Unlike the plate attached to the top, the spanner only makes contact on the tips of the “X” bracing and the two bolts, therefore not slowing the vibrations and allowing the top to reproduce more of the full sound of the instrument.

The musical life of the guitar is significantly lengthened and it still sounds good. This is great for inexpensive instruments because it can be done for around $80.00. For a guitar that may have only cost $200.00, it makes more sense to have the Spanner Brace installed, especially when there is sentimental value to consider.

I have had great success with the Spanner Brace and feel that I have allowed many inexpensive and even expensive guitars to get a “tummy tuck” and makes for a much more playable instrument.

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One Response to Frets About Frets April 2011

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