Stay in Tune
By Luthier Patrick Podpadec
Here we are at the beginning of April and we are still dealing with 2-3’’of snow and temperatures below freezing. What’s up with that? I went to my good friend Sue Hagan’s Open mike last night (3/30) at the Old Mill winery in Geneva and was hoping to play the “Garden Song”, thinking that it would be a nice tune to play because everyone will be thinking of putting in their gardens this time of year and then on my way to the winery it stars to snow like crazy. We got nearly 3”of snow. I felt like I should be playing Frosty the “freakin” Snowman. (Sorry Frosty, but after Christmas it’s time to wait till next year)
Well, as usually time is flying faster than I can keep up with. I’m finally starting to realize that when you stand anywhere idly for just one minute while the earth is still moving you have to move that much faster to catch up to where you want to be. I guess that’s why they say “You Snooze, You Lose”
As this time of the year comes around I always look forward to all of the music festivals that begin to appear in the newspapers and great entertainment magazines like the “Voice” There is one in particular that my wife and other friends have been attending now for about 7 or 8 years. It was original labeled as a “bluegrass” festival, but it seems to have evolved into a mix of a wide variety of acoustic musical styles. A little bit of “ole timey”, folk, reggae, Americana and of course bluegrass too. The neat thing about the festival is its location. It’s held at the Riverside Inn, April 16-17, 2011 (http://www.theriversideinn.com/musicfestival.php) in Cambridge Spring P.A. You can also call 814-398-4645 to book a room or ask for any other info. It is right outside of Edinborough and is a little over an hour’s drive from N.E. Ohio. The hotel is under new ownership and has been an operating hotel since about 1880 something .I think that makes it one of the oldest “operating “hotels in the country. It has a lot of interesting history and all of the décor is still like it was in the turn of the century. Very “quaint”, with antique furniture in each room, beautiful grounds and a large porch that wraps around for many musicians to play at. It also has a few large banquet halls inside to gather and play in case the weather is not so good. There is a complete line up of local and nationally touring acts appearing on different stages throughout the weekend of the music festival. The festival is free of charge and the new owners are also adding a “Home brewers Challenge” event to the weekend. How can you go wrong? All you have to do is bring your instrument and plan to spend an incredible weekend. The Riverside Inn also hosts other Plays, Dinner Theaters and many other fun filled weekend events throughout the year. I hope to see you there!
Now getting back to repairing instruments and all of the things I do in my shop. I wanted to mention how certain types of repairs seem to “bundle” themselves together. I talked about this once before a while back It seems as though I will get a certain repair in my shop and then all of a sudden I find myself doing 3,4 or maybe 5 or 6 identical repairs in a row. These past few weeks I have been gluing bridges back down because either they had warped, cracked, or simply lifted from the face of the guitar. On the occasion where the bridge has warped or broken, I of course have to replace the entire bridge. I prefer to make the bridges myself rather than buy a replacement because it gives me the opportunity to, 1) choose a alternative wood (if the customer chooses to do so) and 2) choose the proper grain orientation of the wood so that it doesn’t want to warp or crack from the constant string tension that it is always under. This is why many bridges fail after time. I have also seen where the saddle slot is routed out to deep, leaving a weak spot in the bridge or that the “wings” or “feet” of the bridge are to thin and the just can’t hold up to the pressure. This and “Father Time” can do many bad things to the playability of your guitar. I just glued down 4 bridges and replaced one this week alone. When I reglue a bridge there is a certain few things that I do to insure that the job is done correctly. You can’t just add a little glue and hope that works. You must first carefully remove the bridge from the instrument by using heat. Sometimes the bridge is so loose that all you need to do is slip a thin blade underneath and work it off gently. Other times it’s not so easy. After you have removed the bridge is where the fun starts. You must make sure that any remaining glue, wood splinters or anything else is completely removed from the bottom of the bridge. You must then check the straightness of the bottom. The straight edge tool that you use (a small machinist ruler works fine) must make contact with each edge. Any wood in between those contact points must be removed so that you can guarantee that the bridge will not be “rocking” on the body when you attempt to glue it down, or that you’re not crushing any soft wood fibers of the top when you apply the pressure from the clamps. You must also use this method in reverse for the footprint on the body where the bridge goes. After checking that all surfaces are good then you can start the procedure of aligning the bridge properly to the location of the fingerboard and scale length for the instrument, I have actually come across, more than once, where the bridge was glued in the wrong place at the factory, (And you wondered why your guitar would never play in tune?) Well please “tune in” next week and I will finish this procedure so we can all “Stay in Tune”
Patrick from Liam Guitars/Wood-n-Strings