24 Hour Repair…

Luthiers can be slow getting round to things in general and repairs in particular. There’s an apocryphal story (which could certainly apply to me) about a builder who does ‘repairs while you wait

……and wait……and wait……’

My first guitar bouzouki was designed for Andy Irvine in 1988 and he’s still playing it. It’s had a hard life. It suffered from air travel very early on, bouncing around in an unpadded case and suffering multiple soundboard cracks. Amazingly, with a little glue run in to close these up it’s not only survived the subsequent years of constant travelling and hard use, it’s also still sounding wonderful. But one side of the lower bout was seriously damaged some time ago and had been held together with gaffer tape for months (years?) and really needed attention.

Andy is always working, so he arranged to bring it on his way to starting his autumn German tour. I would have only 24 hours or so to fix it. So no wait….and wait……and wait……was possible.

Here it is with the gaffer tape removed. The soundboard is completely separated from the side for a distance of around six inches, and virtually shredded across a width of something over an inch. The herringbone inlay is also crushed and mangled.

After cleaning off the gaffer tape adhesive I cut out a section of the soundboard and herringbone, following a grain line. You can see the ends of two braces projecting; I added a supporting reinforcement between them which would also locate the new piece of soundboard. The rosewood binding was relatively undamaged, so I left it in place.

I cut a piece of similar spruce to fit the hole, also cutting the straight edge along a grain line. Here it is being clamped to the side lining, and in the next picture it is glued in place. The grain was a good match for the original soundboard, though I knew I wasn’t going to be able to match the colour and finish in the time available. In view of the characterful condition of the rest of the instrument, neither Andy nor I felt this would be a problem.

Because I was retaining the original binding I was unable to rout the ledge for the herringbone in the usual way. I cut a slot with scalpel and chisel, and cut and bent a length of herringbone to fit. Here it is glued in place, ready to be trimmed flush.

Not having time to ask David to spray it (this would involve several days drying time) I wiped several coats of shellac lacquer onto the new piece of spruce. This will seal it and protect it from grease and moisture, and while in no way matching the original finish, it tones down the whiteness of fresh wood.

Finally, here is Andy with his repaired instrument. Good as new, as is the guitar bouzouki.