Tech Talk: An emergency Christmas repair

Fixing a tiny guitar presents unique challenges.

Last year around this time, we were gathered around the virtual fireplace with 60 Cycle Hum’s Relaxing Yule Log – But it’s All Guitars – a video that I find oddly enjoyable. In front of our lounging bodies were platters of cookies and a vast charcuterie of sweaty meats and many cheeses, some soft and some sharp. Our glasses, once filled with boozy holiday drinks, were running low on the good stuff while the tree twinkled silently to our left. In that moment, everything seemed very right in our little corner of the world.

We have a dog named Vinnie, a Beagle-Pit cross who is cute as a button but at times stubborn and perhaps a tad energetic for our smallish apartment. We occupied him by throwing his toys for him to fetch, but all it took was a single errant toss for small Vinnie to go bounding into the tree, sending a few of our precious ornaments tumbling to the ground.

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Most survived the fall unscathed: David Tennant’s Sonic Screwdriver landed on an empty gift box; K.I.T.T. from Knight Rider fell from the upper third of the tree but landed on all fours just like the car from the show; our Klingon Bird Of Prey was low enough to the ground already to simply bounce out of danger.

One ornament wasn’t so lucky: the vaguely SG-shaped guitar that my mother in law gave us nearly a decade ago. The bright red guitar crashed to the ground with a snap! The fingerboard flew right off and slid under the couch. Oh, no. For a moment, it seemed that all hope was lost as I collected the pieces and set them on the table. But just then a light went off in my mind like a star, a star burning through the night.

“Wait a minute! I’m a guitar tech, and this is sort of a guitar. I can fix this.”

The first thing I did was inspect the damage, and lucky enough it’s a very clean break. Under normal circumstances I’d remove the strings during this phase, but anyone who’s worked on these knows re-stringing is a pain. I opted to leave them installed. I cleared away the remaining glue, and noted that not enough was applied at the factory to begin with. Seems that quality control at The Little Red Guitar-Shaped Ornament Company could use an upgrade.

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A little scraping is all it took to get a level surface for clamping. I also took the time to carve little channels in the neck to gain a bit more surface area for glue to seep into.

Next, I levelled the back of the fretboard to ensure the best possible glue joint. Happily, it seems the bottom of the board was already level, so it didn’t take much work. I spread a thin layer of Titebond glue on it and prepped for reattachment.

I then aligned the fretboard with the neck itself, making sure everything was in its right place. I gently squeezed the two halves together using my StewMac clamps, which are primarily used to reattach acoustic guitar bridges but worked out perfectly for this job. Doing so wouldn’t have been so easy if not for the rather chunky neck profile on this guitar – plenty of material to work with here.

As I would with even my most cherished instruments, I used a slightly damp paper towel to clean away the excess glue that squeezed out. Then came the wait. After 24 hours the joint seemed stable enough for string tension, so I moved on to the next task. I re-seated the nut and reinforced it with a dab of glue, another step overlooked during the build. After a short wait, I brought the guitar back to play tension.

After a final check and clean-up, this ornament was ready for action and returned to its place of honour next to DS9’s Defiant. I’m really happy with how this turned out and I dare say it’s better off than before the damage. Happy holidays, friends.

Follow Mike on Instagram @puisheen.

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