Week 13: DIY Guitar Repair

Last Sunday I decided to put some time into fixing up my old acoustic. It’s the guitar that came with me everywhere throughout high school and the years following. I literally never left the house without it, and it really took a beating over the years because of it.

Years back my family and a bunch of people at a place called the Kilt Pub that I was playing at a couple nights a week all put to buy me a new guitar – a beautiful Washburn. I’ve been playing it predominantly since, but I’ve always wanted to get my old guitar back in good working order. It’s got a lot of sentimental value, and I always loved the tone.

After recording Glenn Leybourne and his rich sounding guitar last week, I felt inspired to get on with fixing up mine.

Bridge Caving In

The pressure of the strings pulling on the bridge had been causing a larger than normal dip in the face of the body between the bridge and sound hole. This started many many years ago, and got to the point of causing the a lot of fret buzz. Well, back then I didn’t do a very good job of fixing it. In fact, my ghetto fixing job consisted of cramming a couple blocks of wood inside the guitar as a wedge between the face (sound board) and the back.

This worked for many years, but eventually led to a slew of other problems. First, it started causing the back of the guitar to extrude. Then, because the pressure from the strings was being redirected, it caused the seem between the sound board and the sides to crack.

My early 2000′s ghetto fixing job for that problem was to duct tape it up! I suppose I just thought it didn’t matter at that point. :D

Fixing It Properly

Well, I really should have just fixed it properly back then. It really didn’t take much time at all. So this time around, I put the time in.

Cleaning

My first course of action was to get rid of the old strings and start cleaning it up! Look at all this dirt!!

The fret board was easier to clean than I thought it would be, though still took a little time. The best way to clean it is a nice little trick – use steel wool! It has to be very fine steel wool (it should be 0000 fineness) to avoid damaging the wood. But it’s amazing how well the steel wool works!

I also wiped everything down with a sham-wow and some wood soap.

Of course, I had to leave the duct tape and stickers. They’re as much a part of the guitar these days as the strings are!

 Fixing Internal Bracing

After removing the strings and cleaning things up, I pulled out the old blocks I had within the guitar and inspected the internal bracing. As I suspected, there were problems

The bracing includes a main “X” shape. It turns out this was only connected to the sound board by two of the four points. To fix it, I used standard carpenter’s glue. I used a Popsicle stick and hold the bracing out from the sound board, and then used a thin piece of cardboard out of the recycling to spread the glue between the bracing and the sound board.

I couldn’t reach the further point with a clamp, so I used the internal blocks again to hold the bracing ’til the glue dried. I clamped the bracing closer to the sound hole.

Miscellaneous Fixes

I couldn’t afford new machine heads, so I just took them apart, cleaned ‘em up and tightened everything. They’ll suffice for now.

I also fixed a fret that had a dent in it since I was about 16 years old. I throw a large rock into a planter near the Coffee Time we all hung out by, forgetting that I had left my guitar in the planter for safe keeping. :|

Anyway, it took a while to pry it out, but I eventually got the fret loose with some pliers. I straightened it the pliers and gently hammered it back into place.

 Lowering The Bridge Nut

The next morning, after the glue had dried, I threw a new set of strings on it to check the action – which wasn’t very good at all. I had replaced the bridge nut years ago and raised it to compensate for the other problems. It seemed that wasn’t necessary anymore.

But before I filed anything down, I checked to see if I needed to adjust the truss rod. This can be quickly tested by pressing down the first and last fret and checking the space between the frets and the string around the area of the 12 fret. There should be a space, but it should be too small for even a credit card to fit.

It seemed my neck was perfect already, so I moved on to filing the bridge nut. I just used a little sand paper. I put the nut back in and strung it up again.

End Result

I’m so happy with the end result!! The bracing is holding strong – as good as new. The body feels strong again and doesn’t creak anymore! The action is decent. Not perfect, but far better than it’s been in years. The damaged fret works properly again, and the fret board is nearly as clean the day I bought it.

But best of all, it sounds just like I remember it sounding so many years ago! The tone and timbre brings back so many different memories and vibes from all those years of playing countless hours, all night, in myriad places, with so many great people. The reminiscing inspired me to play ’til my fingers were raw. :)

It feels great to have my old guitar back in such great condition. At first glance it still looks beat up because, well, in many ways it permanently is. I have no intention of ever fixing the cosmetic damages. They’re just marks of the years of service. They’re battle scars. Like the duct tape and stickers, they’ll remain until the guitar crumbles to dust and ceases to be.

But structurally, and tonally, she’s back in her prime! I can’t wait to use it on some recordings. I’ll be sure to share them with you when I do.

Week 12: DIY Studio Sound Absorption Panels

(Update: Click here for the full diy sound panel tutorial, or visit InityAcoustics.com for professionally made panels)

This week I took on a little DIY project for the studio. I’ve needed some sound absorption acoustical panels for a while now. They can be pretty pricey – anywhere between $60 and $200 per 2′ x 4′ panel – but the materials themselves aren’t nearly that expensive.

So, I made some myself… for under $20 a piece!

Sound absorption panels not only make a huge difference in a studio, but they’re also quite useful in any home theater or media room. We’re all generally used to acoustically untreated rooms, so we don’t even realize what a difference they can make. But when sound bounces off walls before reaching the listener (or microphone, in the case of the studio) it gets muddy. The short delay in the reflected sound causes a subtle echo effect that greatly reduces clarity and distinguishability.

Sound absorption acoustical panels effectively cut the reflections off hard surfaces in the room and leave you with just the clean, direct, unadulterated sound. This is why movie theaters have giant panels on every wall. In a home theater, It’s like combining the clarity of headphones with the power of surround sound speakers!

Glenn Leybourne

In the studio the panels serve to create crisp, clear recordings. I built the panels last night, and today we had a great acoustic player in the studio by the name of Glenn Leybourne. Anything short of the clarity of an environment treated with these panels would be an injustice to Glenn’s great sounding voice and guitar. Give a listen to this!

New York’s Not My Home – Glenn Leybourne

Crisp and clear!

The panels are pretty simple structurally – made from sound absorption insulation within a wooden frame and wrapped in a sound-transparent fabric (that lets the sound through to be absorbed by the insulation, instead of reflected by the fabric). In my next post I’ll do a little tutorial on how they’re made.

In the meantime, enjoy Glenn’s music, and stay creative!

Week 11: Bob Marley Cable Caddy

Featured

I saw this simple but joyful idea recently when a friend shared it with me on Facebook, and I just had to do up my own version for the studio!

Here’s the Bob Marley Cable Caddy. Simple, but ever so effective! I’m not sure who came up with it originally, but I hope you like my rendition of the idea.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Time to get back to my drink. :)

Week 10: InityPirates.com

This week’s creation came at the request of a regular Inity Studios artist named Chris Tipsy who wanted a place to share his 2011 release The Game Of Life Mixtape. I’ve long thought that it would be great to have our own private, customizable place where we could give away music created by myself and other Inity artists for those who would otherwise seek to download a pirated copy elsewhere. With Chris’ suggestion I thought why not include our local, connected musical family and make a broader community out of it?

InityPirates.com is a site based on “permissive piracy”. It’s permissive because, well, the artists said it’s okay. But it’s piracy ’cause free, full, high quality mp3s of entire albums that are for sale elsewhere is as good as robbery! Of course, you can always make a donation to the artist(s) if you choose to.

The site will have Inity Studios artist, as well as our friends, including artists recorded by Diverse and others. It is newly built, so will have more artists and albums added soon. I haven’t even got any of my own tunes up there yet! But there are a few artists with great music up there already.

Delay and Perfect, or Warts and All?

Although the site does just fine it’s main purpose of making mp3s available for playing or downloading, there’s still many problems with the site at the moment. For starters, the social sharing doesn’t seem to function as it should. Also, getting the PayPal donation button to work properly has proven equally difficult, so I had to leave it out for the time being. There’s some fundamental issues with the way the artist/album pages are generated that I haven’t been able to resolve yet.

But, as much as the perfectionist in me wants to fix all that before launching, Weekly Creations is all about getting something finished and posted. It’s Saturday night, at the end of week 10 of the year, and there’s no delaying tonight’s post. I’m proud of myself for keeping to schedule this far! The perfectionist in me cringes each weekend. But I’m glad to be posting. :)

So here it is, warts and all: InityPirates.com

 

Week 9: “Good Vibes” – Acoustic

Featured

While I haven’t gotten into some of the creations I hoped to make by now yet, I am kind of enjoying doing there little acoustic tracks. This one is a tune I wrote a few years back called Good Vibes.

I recorded it on my iPhone for convenience sake, so the sound quality is a little less than the others, but it’s still half decent anyway. I always liked this particular song. Let me know what ya think of it!

Coming Projects

I suppose an acoustic version of an old track isn’t as much of a “creation” as it is just a little performance. Admittedly, I only did today’s track as a last minute thing because any of the other creations I could have potentially posted just aren’t quite there yet. I have a few other creations on the go. One is another website that I started at the request of an artist that frequents Inity Studios. You’ll probably see that one next week.

I want to move away from so many web projects and little acoustic performances. At the start of the year I would never have assumed I’d be focusing so much on web stuff with Weekly Creations. I hope to get into a few tech/electronics projects in the coming weeks. I have some great projects in that department that I just need to drop a couple bucks into.

(On a side note: If you or anyone you know has any old electronics, drop me a line! Particularly any old computers or LCD monitors or TVs – preferably working, though items with malfunctions, dead pixels, etc. are still potential useful.)

Aside from the tech and web projects, I also have some quality final recordings and new songs that I’m working on – things of a little bit more substance that I’m looking forward to posting.

So until next week, stay creative!