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Homegrown Music: Guitar Repair

Your favorite "axe" is broken? Do not despair! An abundance of literature is available about guitar repair.

| September/October 1979

  • 059-homegrown-music-guitar-repair
    Marc Bristol and other Washington State homegrown music makers wail away on a gutbucket bass, washboard, and jug (the axe is a gag)

  • 059-homegrown-music-guitar-repair

Even homesteaders need to relax and enjoy themselves from time to time, right? And almost everybody these days wants to cut his or her cost of living. So how about a little do-it-yourself entertainment?

That's what this column is about. Homegrown music... and sometimes homemade musical instruments to play it on. 

You say the bridge just popped off your guitar—or maybe the instrument has a crack in the back that you've been meaning to get fixed—but there's not a qualified repairperson in the neighborhood? Relax. The guitar has grown so popular that a whole library of literature on guitar repair and care has sprung up. And if you're a serious guitar picker or collector—or even thinking of making some money by starting a "musical" repair business—you'll want to own at least a couple of the better manuals.

I managed to locate a number of volumes—covering both repair and construction of guitars—by using mail-order catalogs as my guide. So, in this column, I'll review those that I believe provide the best information about instrument repair, a couple of books on construction, and one tome that offers general information on electric instruments.

The Acoustic Guitar: Adjustment, Care, Maintenance and Repair by Don Teeter (University of Oklahoma). Don Teeter was a guitar-playing machinist before he went into business repairing guitars, and I suspect his practical background helps him write in plain language and provide simple but detailed explanations. The Acoustic Guitar is primarily for people who make a living fixing guitars. It also provides complete details of the design and construction of special "git-box" repair tools, including some that were invented by Teeter. Furthermore, the book can tell you how to use this homemade equipment, and discover techniques for working more efficiently with standard workshop tools.

The only specific acoustic "axe" not accounted for in The Acoustic Guitar is the arch-top, or plectrum guitar. Happily, it's covered in my second "pick of the pack" volume, Complete Guitar Repair by Hideo Karnimoto (Oak Publications). Mr. Kamimoto covers the basic designs of (and particular repair problems for) all of the different styles of guitar, from classic and flamenco through folk and flat-top—even including both arch-top and solid-bodied electric instruments. He does assume that his readers have some knowledge of the subject, however, and the tone of his work is rather intellectual especially when compared to Teeter's down-home style.

Complete Guitar Repair's section on equal tempered tuning as it relates to the repair shop is particularly interesting, on the other hand, and provides in-depth information not offered anywhere else. In addition, there's a table of fret spacing calculations for guitars with scale lengths from 23 1/2 inches to 26 1/2 inches (in 1/8-inch intervals) and for electric basses with scale lengths from 30 1/2 inches to 34 1/2 inches (at 1/4-inch intervals). You'll also find the usual chapter on each of the common repair jobs, such as warped necks (yes, Virginia, there is such a device as a neck straightener! ), broken pegheads, fingerboard replacements, bridges, cracks and patches, touchups, and refinishing. The electric guitar is also discussed, in a section that includes the electronic aspects of such instruments as well as their mechanical functions.

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