Friday, June 24, 2016

Strings Attached

A few weeks ago I finally got around to putting some new strings on my guitar. Midway through the process I noticed I couldn’t get any tension on the B string.

Upon examination, I saw the little gear that the B tuning peg turns had somehow come loose. It had detached itself from the threads that turn the gear that turn the post that tighten the strings. (There’s a house-that-Jack-built joke there, somewhere.)

That isn't my guitar in the photo at left, but it's virtually identical. The B tuning peg and gear would be the middle one. I tried pressing the gear back into place on mine, but it wouldn’t budge.

Long story short: there is a luthier not far from my home and he does repairs. I took my guitar to him that very day, expecting to leave it with him. As it turned out, he made the repair in minutes, as I stood by waiting.

After that he chastised me for the rather obvious neglect I’d subjected my guitar to. There is a need for routine maintenance, he explained. A drop of oil here, a bit of polish there.

He declined payment for this minor repair. “But I just rented your expertise!” I protested. He remained adamant: no charge. Instead he suggested I bring the guitar back in the near future for what he calls a “re-stringing.” He’ll put new strings on it, but also do a bit of an overhaul. He’ll go over the sets of gears and tuning pegs, and a few other things. He charges thirty-five bucks – a bargain.

The funny thing is, I’ve been volunteering at the local bike co-op for the last few years, and getting a little smug about my slowly evolving bike mechanic skills. I’m much more familiar and comfortable with guitars, yet it’s never dawned on me before to perform maintenance, beyond changing the strings.

Needless extra details: When the luthier had the gear and tuning peg fixed he put the B string back on. To tighten it, he used what appeared to be an ordinary electric hand drill with a special bit that fit over the tuning peg. String was tight and good to go in seconds. Way cool. I usually use one of those cheap plastic crank gadgets you can buy in any music store for about two American dollars.

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