A CHEAP GUITAR
One in particular was a very cheap guitar I bought from Amazon (China import) because I liked the basic looks of it. It's a deep-cherry stained poplar guitar (poplar is a porous but strong wood) with a nice ivory-colored edge guard. It caught my eye and I felt the $49 price tag warranted taking a chance on it.
UNPLAYABLE ? : (
Sadly when the guitar arrived it was unplayable. The fingerboard was wave warped, which means that rather than the entire neck being warped the fretboard wood hadn't been glued properly and had minor "waves" in it. Unfortunately on a guitar, minor means "unplayable", since any unlevel frets will cause string buzz.
FIXING THE BRIDGE
I noticed the bridge saddle (the part where the strings connect with the surface of the guitar) was far too low (not unusual. I've never bought a guitar that I didn't have to rework the bridge a bit). So I put a wooden shim under the bridge saddle and raised it 1/8". However that didn't fix the fret buzz. The fingerboard was simply too warped.
I decided to order another one and return the one I had. However the second one proved even more wave warped than the first one. So I returned the second one and kept the first one to experiment on. But how could I fix this mess of a guitar? It was literally unplayable, a "lost cause" guitar.
FLATTENING THE FRETS
As I studied the neck I noticed that the wave warp while enough to make the guitar unplayable, it wasn't excessive. The fretboard itself was glued down well, just somewhat uneven. So I went down to the hardware store and bought a drywall sanding block. This is a rubber-padded tool that is about 9 inches long, 4 inches wide, very flat and is used for sanding large surfaces. I took that to the fretboard, effectively sanding down all the frets at one time. The theory was that by sanding the entire fretboard with a large sanding block I might be able to level the frets, despite the warp in the fretboard itself.
It worked. I was able to sand just enough off the surface of the frets to remove all fret buzz and that, combined with having raised the bridge saddle made the guitar playable. To finalize the effect I put on new "high tension" guitar strings for maximum quality string performance.
The effect was wondrous. This "loser guitar" now presented absolutely incredible tone and volume. Even my sister commented how nice it sounded... one of the best classical guitars I have ever heard. The tone was far beyond what I expected from any guitar, let alone one this "cheap". The porous nature of the poplar turned out to be a terrifically resonant surface.
So now that I had a terrific-sounding guitar, what next? How about a bit of hand-worked decoration. Below are the before and after photos of this guitar. Hope you enjoy the transformation.
After... added decorative "leaves" in two places and cut holes in the guitar for additional sound outlet (yes, that was scary, but the results were fantastic). Spray-painted the inside flat-black to help make the holes more attractive and more pronounced. The leaves resemble a popular effect on Ovation guitars-- my favorite brand. I also replaced the wood shim under the bridge with a piezo bar guitar pickup and ran a powered jack to the lower right side of the guitar for amplifier cord. Electric classical guitar! Woohooo!
A closeup of the front. The fretboard, now nice and flat, has hand-painted position markers covered with several coats of satin spray varnish-- which makes the fretboard very smooth and playable. In this photo the camera flash reveals part of the internal electronics connection. I love the wood grain in the front of this guitar... which stands out via several coats of furniture polish.
I'm greatly enjoying this hobby. It's one thing to play a guitar that's been bought off-the-shelf. It's another entirely to hear beautiful sound coming from one that's resulted from the work of one's own hands. It's like preparing your own gourmet meal from vegetables you've grown from your own garden. It's somehow much nicer. : )
UNFORESEEN MORAL OF THE STORY
Sometimes we may feel ourselves useless, without purpose and "unfixable". But don't let yourself be fooled into thinking you're a "lost cause". With a little examination, work, refusing to give up, and a bit of love, we discover the value that's hidden within. A little sanding to finish off the rough edges, a little bit of refining to bring out our best qualities... and we may find that not only are we not worthless as individuals, but had potential all along that now shines.
Every human being has potential. Sometimes beyond a seemingly useless existence lies an awesome future.
May you find your own hidden value. Just remember: don't give up-- and don't give up on yourself. Sometimes all we need is believing in ourselves... and the effort to make a change. It doesn't matter what flaws we have or how "defective" we feel we are... we can be of value to someone if we're willing to try. : )