How to Repair an Acoustic Guitar

By Carl Hose
Repair an Acoustic Guitar

Acoustic guitars are beautiful instruments that make beautiful music. Unfortunately, acoustic guitars are fragile instruments that often get damaged, especially if the guitar is part of a touring band. The good news is that, with a little knowledge and forethought, many repairs can be done yourself. This article addresses some of the more common damage your acoustic guitar might sustain and demonstrates how to make the repairs yourself.

One of the most common problems with an acoustic guitar is string buzzing. This problem most often occurs when the frets on your guitar are wearing out. In some cases a complete re-fretting will not be needed. Determine where your fingers are on the guitar when buzzing occurs and check to see that the string grooves in nearby frets are not too wide. You may be able to get away with replacing only one or two offending frets.

If you determine a fill re-fretting is needed, remove the strings from your acoustic guitar and place the guitar on a flat, sturdy surface. Use a very small flat head screwdriver to lift each fret from its slot.

Frets have a barbed edge that bites into the bottom of the fret slot. This is sufficient enough to secure them. Install new frets using a method called compression fitting. Simply place the new fret in its slot and apply a firm downward pressure with your thumbs until the barbed edge has obtained a good bite. It is not necessary to use any type of glue to secure the frets.

Binding, or trim as it is commonly called, is found on acoustic guitars around the edges of the body and along the fingerboard. Binding is made from plastic, celluloid or wood. Binding becomes damaged for many reasons. Age deterioration causes binding to crack and break away. Shrinkage can cause binding to pop free. Slight shrinkage with celluloid binding can often be fixed by heating the binding, stretching it gently, and gluing it back down. If this isn't possible, you will need to remove the binding completely. Exercise care when peeling the old binding away so you don't damage the finish of your guitar.

Clean the binding channel thoroughly before you attempt to put new binding on. This means making sure all of the old adhesive is removed and the channel is smooth.

To replace the binding, use small amounts of epoxy and firmly press the new binding in place. Once you've glued the binding in place, leave it for several hours to set.

Once the binding has cured, you want to scrape it level with the body. This is time consuming and must be done with care. You don't want to scrape away the finish of your guitar. After you've scraped the binding flush with the body, you can spray over it with the appropriate paint or finish to give the new binding a uniform look.

Age is a primary factor for causing cracks. Small, tight cracks caused by age can usually be repaired by aligning the crack as closely as possible and pushing it together. Use wood cleats and hide glue to reinforce the damaged area. Touch up the repaired area with an appropriate finish.

Repairing large, open cracks that can not be pushed back together requires splicing. This involves cutting a piece of matching wood as closely as possible to the crack itself and fitting the filler wood into the crack. Make sure the grain in the filler wood matches the grain in the guitar as closely as possible. The better the match, the less noticeable the original damage.

If you aren't sure about what you're doing, it's best to consult someone who does. Once a crack has been repaired badly, undoing the damage can leave your guitar in worse shape than before the repair.

Warning

Celluloid is flammable. Adhesives may damage the finish of your guitar.

About the Author

Carl Hose is the author of the anthology "Dead Horizon" and the the zombie novella "Dead Rising." His work has appeared in "Cold Storage," "Butcher Knives and Body Counts," "Writer's Journal," and "Lighthouse Digest.". He is editor of the "Dark Light" anthology to benefit Ronald McDonald House Charities.