Stay in Tune vol# 71
By Luthier Patrick Podpadec
I was reading an old piece of music that was published by the Oahu Publishing Co. from Cleveland back in the 1930's, On the back of each of these sheet music there was always a poem or some special type of advice for musicians. On this particular one the author went on to explain the importance of the maintenance of the instrument. How it should be inspected and cleaned on a routine basis so that the music that was generated was of the purest form. It even hinted on the fact that if you were to maintain your instrument properly that it could even lead to you becoming a better human being, because all of your fellow musician friends would respect how well maintained your instrument was and how that new found respect would caring on into your everyday affairs assuring that you would have the confidence to become a prominent member of “society”
It sounds a little over the top, but there is actually some truth to the statement. I have found in a few cases that I have even reprimanded a client or two through the years about how they should take the time to clean their guitar. One one extreme occasion I had a fellow come in the shop to get a setup and a new nut installed. This guy had just retired and had been a mechanic all of his life. He would work all day with his oily, greasy, very dirty fingers and then come home for his dinner which his wife lovingly made for him every day for the last 30 yrs. While she was preparing dinner he would get out his guitar and set it on his greasy lap and rub his dirty fingers all over the neck and fingerboard and commence to playing his favorite songs of the day.
Well, God bless him for practicing every day! but the state of the guitar was something to behold. The neck was so sticky from the grease that had accumulated over the years that when you grabbed onto it as to play a chord, the skin of your palm would stick to the neck. I'm not kidding! You could hardly see the inlays on the fingerboard. And by the way, this was a very high end Guild D-55 Dreadnaught from the early 70's. It had these large abalone /pearl block inlays that were beautiful. I was able to clean the fingerboard up , but when I went to clean the grime from the neck it had actually melted all of the finish and when I tried to remove it the finish came with it. From about the first fret to the 10th fret, the finish was completely gone an it also was black from the grease getting into the pores. Well I know this man is now retired from being a mechanic and that when he plays this guitar from now on his hand and clothes won't be covered in oil so I felt it my duty to restore this neck back to it's original condition .I ended up stripping the rest of the back of the neck to it's bare mahogany wood . After several “naphtha” washes ( naphtha is a distillate similar to lacquer thinner or mineral spirits .It dissolves oily contaminates and evaporates quickly , leaving a very clean surface) I was able to refinish the neck.
The mahogany on all older Guild necks have a very dark red toner that is used to give it their classic look. After about six good coats of clear lacquer over the toner base I was able to come up with a beautiful “new “ neck. The other parts of the guitar that was damaged was the side of lower middle bout where the guitar sat on his thigh while playing and the front and side of the bass bout where his inside of his forearm would rest while he was strumming. Luckily with some patience and a lot of Naphtha cleaner I was able to restore the areas to a very good condition . I Ended up doing that repair for free and wrote it off has a “Retirement gift to him with the stipulation that he always checks the condition of his hands before he plays. Needless to say he was very appreciative of this gesture and I believe he took my advice and is still making beautiful music with today!
Patrick from Liam Guitars / Wood--n-Strings