Magazine Archive

Home -> Magazines -> Issues -> Articles in this issue -> View

Article Group:
The Front End

Instrument Repair

Article from Making Music, September 1987

Some idiot has been tampering with the truss rod of your favourite guitar. Or you dropped it. The neck is out of kilter, and it sounds horrible. Do you invest roughly the same amount of money in a) obtaining a very smart replacement, b) learning to fix it yourself or, c) having it expertly repaired by a first class musical instrument technician, while taking a bargain break for two in Majorca?

Being a masochist, I opted for a week of b) in the middle of rural Wales.

This was a carefully considered move. For a start, the one-week and weekend courses offered by the New Malden School of Instrument Repair are very firmly anchored in the craft woodwork specific to the repair of acoustic guitars, whereas I am interested in solid bodied electrics. Further, they teach a professional approach to practical repairs, about as far from the replacement pickup, brass-bits and pieces, paint job and stickers school of customising as can be imagined. In fact, that would be a pretty accurate summary of what isn't covered.

The principles of setting up the action and intonation, trueing up the neck, refretting, and head splicing are the same for solid bodied and acoustic guitars. Refinishing and electrics are not on the syllabus, but I phoned up and was told that the tutor would be able to answer questions on subjects not covered in practice.

To cut a long story short, in six and a half days I had learned to cut replacement nuts and saddles, lower the two standard types of acoustic bridge, adjust (and if necessary replace) a truss rod, defret, refret and straighten both flat and cambered necks, reset the action from scratch, including re-locating fixed bridges, chase out fret buzzes, replace machine heads, and repair splits and holes by patching (a skill which can be adapted to routing cavities for custom electrics, incidentally). Mike the tutor (who teaches the same subject at Merton College in Wimbledon, and builds electrics) described a head splice in detail: "you get a lot of those" and, despite his claim to be no expert in finishes, imparted a lot of information about finishing materials, where to get them and how to use them.

The school provides instruments to work on, and everybody brought their own samples, which allowed considerable flexiblity in tackling individual interests.

A week isn't long enough to learn the repairer's craft, but it is long enough to absorb the principles and get quite a lot of experience.

And does my Tele still have fret buzzes? You bet it does. Until I've put in a lot more practice. But at least I know what I'm supposed to be practising.

The course cost me £195 plus travel and a place to stay. The price of a week's hol in an interesting place. And the rest of Europe had six consecutive days of rain, as well, so I didn't miss Majorca. The New Malden School also does violin, woodwind and brass instrument courses and can be contacted at (Contact Details).

More with this topic

Browse by Topic:

Maintenance / Repair / Modification

Previous Article in this issue

Rhyme Or Reason

Next article in this issue

The Dumb Chums

Publisher: Making Music - Track Record Publishing Ltd, Nexus Media Ltd.

The current copyright owner/s of this content may differ from the originally published copyright notice.
More details on copyright ownership...


Making Music - Sep 1987

The Front End

Feature by Helen Armstrong

Previous article in this issue:

> Rhyme Or Reason

Next article in this issue:

> The Dumb Chums

Help Support The Things You Love

mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.

If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!

Donations for July 2024
Issues donated this month: 14

New issues that have been donated or scanned for us this month.

Funds donated this month: £20.00

All donations and support are gratefully appreciated - thank you.

Magazines Needed - Can You Help?

Do you have any of these magazine issues?

> See all issues we need

If so, and you can donate, lend or scan them to help complete our archive, please get in touch via the Contribute page - thanks!

Please Contribute to mu:zines by supplying magazines, scanning or donating funds. Thanks!

Monetary donations go towards site running costs, and the occasional coffee for me if there's anything left over!

Small Print

Terms of usePrivacy