June 2015 | Bench Press Newsletter

Andante, Moderato, Allegro!

By Geoff Luttrell

Many of the classical guitars we see here in the shop suffer from the same malady – overly high action. This can be caused by a number of factors – too much neck relief, too tall bridge/saddle, high nut slots or bad neck angle. In the case of Kevin’s Aram, it was primarily a neck angle issue. The neck was tilted too far forward, causing the action to be very high, with no more room to take down the saddle. Most classical guitars, including this Aram, are built with a Spanish heel, which locks the neck angle to the body, making a neck reset impossible.

Since I couldn’t change the neck angle, I decided to use the Plek to plane the top of the old fingerboard, glue on an overlay then use the Plek again to plane the overlay into a tapered wedge, thick at the body, thin at the nut. This would bring the fingerboard up under the strings, lowering the action. It would also allow us to address some fingerboard imperfections, and then put fresh frets in it, which it also needed. The process was pretty straightforward, but the devil is always in the details.

With a guitar of this quality, any repair needed to be invisible, so I filled the old fret slots with superglue and ebony dust, making them disappear. The ebony overlay was then glued on and planed to the proper thickness. At this point, there was a visible glue line between the old fingerboard and overlay, so I carefully chiseled out the thin line of white glue and filled the remaining slot with black superglue, making the line disappear. The fingerboard edge was sanded smooth and french polished, resulting in a fingerboard edge that looked untouched. The instrument was then refretted and Plek’d, resulting in a very comfortable and responsive action.

Having read a great interview with Kevin Aram a few years ago, I felt lucky to see one of his guitars in person, and am very happy with the way my repairs came out. The process definitely broke me out of myroutine. Thanks for reading.  – Geoff