Virtual Workbench

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See how we improved another shop’s repair gone bad and learn how to prevent this damage to your own guitar.

A beautiful Taylor 914CE acoustic guitar came to us with two top cracks that had opened up after being ‘repaired’ by another shop (that shall remain nameless.) The previous repairman made three errors in our estimation: first, he enlarged the cracks with a small router or Dremel tool – removing too much wood in the process; second, he spliced in sitka spruce patches that do not match the original Engelmann spruce top; and third – well he just didn’t do a very good job of either since the cracks opened up again. The owner paid more than $4000 for this guitar and he wasn’t pleased with the look of the previous repair or the fact that it held for less than a year.  We made a decision to not just replace the 2 bad patches, but to replace the entire area between the cracks with a carefully chosen set of Engelmann. That turned out to make this repair less expensive to perform and gave us a much better outcome than just filling the cracks again.

We started by removing the bridge and using a Dremel tool to clear away the original spruce material.

“Wait wait!” you say. Wasn’t the Dremel part of the problem with the old repair? It was. But we’re using it in a different way here. We don’t want to damage the delicate bracing below and by making very shallow sweeping cuts, the Dremel allows us to slowly shave the whole area down a little at a time until the pieces can be easily removed. Take a look:


By dropping an inspection light into the guitar, we backlit the braces and traced them into the top to make sure we didn’t cut into them.  Then we cut the rest of the way through the spruce until the pieces started coming out.

We then bookmatched our patch of Englemann spruce, taking care to match the width of the grainlines in the original top. Once it was joined properly, the edges of both the patch and the outer lines of the hole are precisely fit so there are no gaps.

Touching up the patch alone and getting it to look right would have been nearly impossible, so we stripped the finish from the entire top, …

…then refinished the top, reglued the bridge, and reassembled the guitar.

Beautiful. Compare this repair to the previous one. It’s more stable, much better looking, and much better sounding.


The Moral of the Story: Top cracks like these on an acoustic guitar, are usually a direct result of the wood drying out. This guitar wasn’t dropped or mishandled; it simply was exposed to the extra dry air that we find in Chicago when the weather gets cooler and the furnace comes on. Dried guitars also see problems with loose frets, bridges, braces, and even necks.  We recommend that you store your guitar in it’s case year round – not on a wall hook or stand – and that when your furnace is on you keep a damp humidifier inside the case as well. It’s a cheap and easy way to protect your guitar from the changing weather conditions in our city.