NEW SOUND N OLD GUITAR
Photo 10: The screw holes filled with mahogany plugs (see inset photo)
of the water drop you placed in the indented
trough. The water will sizzle, but continue
holding the iron steady – don’t lower it into
the drop or you can burn the top. It will stop
sizzling when the swelling is completed.
Remove the iron and wipe the surface with
a paper towel. Repeat this procedure across
the length of the indentation. If there is still an
indent, get some Sherwin-Williams nitrocellulose lacquer and drop-fill the trough, waiting
a day or two between applications.
When your level has risen above the top
of the surrounding surface, stop and wait a
week before sanding it down, as it can continue to shrink. Mask off the top next to your
drop-fill and wet sand with 320 grit paper.
Slowly sand and wipe the fill using a light
bulb reflection to inspect your progress after
every three or four sanding swipes. When
you are about there, go to 400 paper and do
the same thing, then 600, 1000, 1500 and
finally 2000 grit paper before removing your
If any further leveling is required use a small
piece of solid wood and glue a piece of cork
to one side. Use this as a sanding block with
your 1000, 1500 and 2000 grit paper. There is
a product called 3M Imperial Hand Glaze that
I like as a final polish before waxing, mixing in
a bit of jeweler’s rouge powder to the liquid.
Use an old cotton t-shirt on your index finger
and buff the area until it shines, then finish
with your favorite car wax.
The final visual detail is filling the screw holes.
Mahogany doesn’t come in toothpick sizes
since it tends to splinter and fall apart in small
pieces, so a tedious plan B is required. First
cut some small slivers of mahogany into tiny
squares and glue them to the cut-off end
of a toothpick with Super Glue [Photo 16].
Once it has set up, the entire mahogany plug
is soaked in Super Glue to form a bonding
agent in the wood and keep it from splintering when shaped in the next step – have
some Super Glue remover handy for this part.
Once the mahogany plugs are dry, a Dremel
tool with a small, circular, fine-grained surface
wheel was used. I placed the Dremel in its
router holder and clamped it to a workbench,
then used a rheostat to slow down the speed
of the Dremel, slowly spinning the toothpicks
and grinding them in either circular or oval
profiles while comparing them to the holes
needing to be filled [inset photo]. Leave the
plugs slightly too large and gently tap them
into place – I used the chuck side of a drill bit
to drive the plugs in with a small hammer. Be
sure to send the plug in far enough so that it’s
flush with the original wood under the finish,
and try to have the grain in the plug going
in the same direction as the original wood
Once the plug is installed, turn the guitar on
end, add a drop of Super Glue into the hole
and let it set for a few hours. I like to tape the
guitar to the table with masking tape and put
a piece of carpet under the headstock on the
floor. Use aniline dye mixed with some lacquer thinner to match the color of the finish.
If you have trouble finding aniline dye powder, try International Luthier Supply in Tulsa,
Oklahoma. Try to achieve your color in the
lower layers, then when dry, drop-fill the clear
over the top. Again, get the little bump above
the surface and wait a week to complete your
sanding and polishing.
A New Sound
Although I had added enough extra bracing
and a bridge plate to do what I considered
an adequate job, I was still determined to
stabilize the bridge, à la the Bridge Doctor. If
you think about anything long enough before
you start, a solution will usually present itself.
It eventually occurred to me that I already
had two bridge nuts ready, willing and able to
accept some matching all-threads from top or
bottom. All-thread is just that, a 20” threaded
rod with no head, generally cut to the desired
length. A plan was then hatched to make my
own version of the Bridge Doctor. I returned