Stay in Tune vol#29
By luthier Patrick Podpadec
This heat and humidity has been playing havoc with a lot of instruments lately. I hope everyone has been taking the usual precautions to insure your instruments aren’t being subject to this brutal weather. When the humidity is this bad it’s important to keep things in their cases when not in use. For those of you who are fortunate enough to have air conditioned houses, you might not have to adhere so closely to these rules, but for the rest of us, please put them away! I have had many guitars come into my shop in the last month complaining of “high action” That’s what happens to wooden instruments in the hot humid weather. They swell up. Just like a sponge. The wood absorbs the relative humidity and the strings tend to rise up off the fingerboard. It happens every summer. Just as in the dry cold winter the wood shrinks and the action (or relationship of string height to fingerboard) becomes lower. Many players have two different saddles for their guitars. A tall one for the winter months and a shorter one for the summer months. More often than not, if you don’t tend to play your instrument a lot outside in the summer you’ll be ok with the one saddle as long as you keep it in it’s case or in a air conditioned room most of the time.
I walked into my house the other night and could not believe how humid it felt .when I sat down on the couch I could feel the moisture in the fabric. That can’t be good for any exposed instruments for any length of time, say 1,2,or 3 days. You might say, “ My instrument has a finish on it. How can it absorb moisture through its protective covering of lacquer?” Well, the insides of instruments very rarely have a finish on them .Its’ just bare wood .I have actually witnessed cracks that were very visible in the winter close so tightly in the summer that they are literally undetectable. That doesn’t mean they are gone, it just probably (if you could find them) be a good time to address the repair. It is possible to work some very thin hide glue into the crack (hide glue leaves no line when dry and cleaned off properly, as where other alphetic yellow glues can leave a tell tale line when it has dried). You can also glue small “cleats” on the underside of the crack. This is where you take a small triangle shaped piece of thin wood and glue it with its’ grain running perpendicular to the grain of the crack. That insures that when the winter months come and tries to dry out (shrink) your wood (which will want to open up the crack) it won’t be able to because the cross grained cleat is holding together. I have noticed over the years of repair, that cracks in thin wood won’t stay together for too long if they are not supported by some sort of cleating procedure.
I have been spending a lot of time trying to find ( in my computer ) and create new data to add to my new website. Many (eventually all) of the past articles from the voice will be available for interested readers. I will have many repair techniques (with pictures) of various problems that have been solved in the shop. I also will have many pictures of building my new line of “ Liam” guitars. I expect to have a ongoing blog about instruments and a terrific links page to many of my favorite websites. I have logged many, many hours on weeding through the sites and only will have the ones that are the most professional and informative to look at. Here is just a small sample of what’s to come. Please have a look
Owned by brothers Cory and Grant Batson, who both come from a woodworking and musical family have been producing some the most impressive and innovating designs in guitar construction since 1997. Please take look at this very good site.
One of the guitar building industry’s finest and most dedicated luthier has been bringing his innovating designs and ideas to the table for all to witness and hear for over 30 yrs. Please take a look at this site and walk away with a lot more than you came with.
These could be some of the finest looking basses I’ve ever seen The wood selection and design is phenomenal! Very good site to visit.
Fred Carlson is the creator of the most interesting stringed instruments on this planet. Some say he may have come from a different galaxy and has decided to stick around and show us a few things about our musical future. His designs are literally “out of this world”
Master luthier, Bruce Bennet produces these absolutely stunning instruments. If you like 57 Chevy’s you’re going to love these designs. Totally cool! And very classy website to see.
Mary & Tim McKnight have been building some of the most beautiful guitars that sound equally impressive for almost 20 yrs. Each one is like God himself was standing next to the workbench when they were being built. Please check them out .
Founded by Canadian business man , Danny Fonfeder who had the vision to join outstanding craftsmanship with impeccable art. Creating a whole new society of Balanesion carving artist into some of the western world’s finest luthiers. Simply an amazing story behind each guitar creation. No two are alike .Please spend some time at this site.
This one of the luthiers that I aspire to be like. His instruments are wonderful specimens of what a guitar should look and sound like.
If you have never seen a harpguitar, you better take a look at this site. Hosted by Mr. Greg Minor , it has to be the most impressive collection of information on the subject of harpguitars & related instruments collected in one convienient spot. You won’t be sorry that you took a look.
I’m sure you will find all of these sites worthy of a visit . There is a big wide world of info out there just ready for you to grab it.
I’m hoping that all of the content for the rest of the site will be up and running soon. Please come by and take a look at www.wood-n-strings.net . See you there!
Thanks Again! Patrick from Wood-n-Strings