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Q & A

In this section we try to answer some questions that our customers have asked. To be perfectly honest, some of these questions are written by us—to reflect questions commonly asked by our customers (or which we wish they would always ask). We would very much like visitors to this web site to send us their own questions—our e-mail address is listed on the home page. We would like to think that we can answer any question, but realistically, we know that we can’t do this. However, if we don’t know the answer, we will try to find out, or if all else fails, admit our ignorance.   In an effort to keep the size (and loading times) to a reasonable level, I have broken this section into two pages.  The Q & A about my new guitars is found on a separate page.

REPAIR QUESTIONS

Q:     How much will it cost to repair my guitar?

A:     While I occasionally give a flip answer to this question, (how big is a fish?), it really is a good question—it is just that the answer is hard to give. The best answer is that we must see the guitar to determine exactly what needs to be done. Many conditions (i.e. the action is too high) have a variety of possible causes, and some of them are not obvious to the untrained eye. In addition, a guitar with one problem may have other, completely unrelated problems, which are of more immediate concern. The ability to diagnose an instrument is the first, and perhaps most important skill that a repair person must develop (just like doctors). The bottom line is that it is generally necessary to bring in the guitar for us to inspect it. We do not charge to inspect and estimate repairs.  However, one page of this web site has our current price list for common repairs. Hopefully, this will give you a basic idea of the potential cost.

Q:     I live a long way from Minneapolis, and can’t bring my instrument in for an estimate. What can I do?

A:     Call us. While it is difficult to diagnose over the phone, it often will help us arrive at a general estimate and to assess the urgency of the repairs (i.e. can I wait 2 months to do this?). We do this frequently. If you then decide to have us do the work, you can send the instrument to us. We will then fully assess the instrument when we get it and call you with a complete estimate.

Q:     Isn’t this risky? How do I ship the instrument without fear of damage?

A:     The risk is low. For example, hundreds (thousands?) of people ship their instruments to factories such as Martin or Gibson for warranty repairs, with very little risk. Most new guitars are shipped to your local music store via UPS. We use UPS, and insure for the value of the instrument, and have had perhaps one damaged instrument in 25+ years of business.

Q:     Wouldn’t it be better to have the work done where I live instead of shipping it?

A:     Certainly, if you have a local repairperson whom you trust. That is why the major factories (Martin, Gibson, Taylor, Guild, Fender, etc) have authorized warranty service centers around the country. You should consider sending your instrument away only if you do not have a good local repairperson, or at least one close enough so that you can drive there in a reasonable time. .

Q:     My guitar has some finish missing on the top—near the sound hole. Should I get it refinished?

A:     Almost certainly not. Refinishing costs a lot of money. While I have little or no aversion to taking money from my customers, I don’t like to do so unnecessarily (they tend not to come back), and I hate to do work that damages an instrument. The main problem is that one of the reasons guitars sound better as they age is the increasing hardening of the finish over the years (due to continued "outgassing" of the solvents in the finish). To refinish the instrument reverses this very valuable feature. Moreover, if your instrument has (or ever will have) any vintage or collector’s value, refinishing will destroy much of that value. Having said all this, large patches of bare wood are also damaging to the instrument. The answer is judicious touch up which protects the wood, and retains the original finish and appearance as much as possible.

Q:      I have read a lot recently about use of super glue on guitars.   Is this a good idea?

A:      In fact, it is a great idea, providing you use them properly.   Super glue is a brand name for cyanoacrlyate glue. One of the most  popular premium brands is Hot Stuff!  This glue is very thin and so it penetrates quickly into very thin cracks, and it dries very rapidly.  This makes it very useful for certain small cracks (on fingerboards, for example).  On the other hand, it is quite brittle when dry, so it is not useful for major structural work, such as gluing braces, bridges or the like. It is very useful for fret work, such as gluing down a loose fret end.  A recent thread on one of the guitar newsgroups talked about using it for finish repair.   While this might be a good use in certain instances, it is not the best repair, as it will never truly blend with the old finish.  As a result I never use it for this purpose on new, high end or vintage instruments where a "perfect" appearance is desired.

Q:      I am concerned about humidity.  How should I deal with this?

A:        This is a major concern for all guitar owners--or at least it should be.  The problem is that wood will continue to expand or contract as the atmospheric humidity changes.  In Minnesota the real problem is in the winter when humidity indoors can get very low--often in the 5-10-% range.  This will cause the wood to shrink, and, often, to crack.  (Taylor Guitars has a Spec sheet on the dangers of low humidity which is very good.  Call them and get a copy.)  The solution is to keep the moisture content in the guitar from reaching such a low level.  There are several solutions, and often it is best to use all of them.  First, humidify your house, or at least the room where the guitar is kept.  Second, humidify the guitar.  Some people use a covered soap dish which has holes drilled in it and is then filled with a sponge, which, in turn, is kept moist.  If this is kept in the case with the instrument, it will help a lot.  Better yet, and more convenient, there are commercial humidifiers, such as the Lifeguard and the Dampit, which work well.  With any of these humidifiers, it is important to keep them with the guitar in the case, with the case closed.  It is crucial that these steps be done without fail, or the guitar is very likely to crack. 

Q:      What about too much humidity?

A:      In Minnesota this is not really a problem (unless you drop the guitar into one of our 10,000 lakes), so I am not expert on this.  In theory the problems here are less, since cracking is not a problem.  However I can imagine that problems with action and mold are at issue.  There are desiccants available which may help.

Q:        It is now just about summer.  Does this raise any special concerns about caring for my guitar?

A:        Not as much as winter.  In most parts of the country problems associated with low humidity are reduced and there are fewer problems associated with normal or high humidity.  Heat is the real problem, and it is discussed below.  In many parts of the country heat is the killer of guitars, so be very careful to keep your guitar out of high heat.   Some guitars will experience a seasonal change of action, and if yours does this, bring it to your friendly neighborhood repair shop (hopefully Hoffman Guitars) for an adjustment.   Some of our customers have a winter saddle and a summer saddle.

Q:  Are there any other general tips about care of my guitar which will help keep it in good condition?

A:    Proper care of a guitar requires a certain amount of   balance -- too much "care" and you might never be able to play it, and too little and (for different reasons) you might not be able to play it.  A few tips are in order:

1.   Keep it clean.  Mostly this requires wiping it off when you are done playing--an old T-shirt or diaper works best. Guitar polishes are fine (never ever use furniture polishes with silicone) but once or twice a year is probably enough.  

2.  Watch the humidity.  See above.

3.  Keep it away from the heat. This is a problem for two reasons.   First, the wood doesn't react well to excessive heat.  More important, glue softens and begins to "creep" when the temperature reached approximately 120-140 F.  When this happens, the most common problem is that the bridge will lift, since it is under tension.  This problem is most often encountered when a guitar is left in an enclosed auto during the summer--a car can reach this temperature quite easily under these circumstances. A good rule of thumb is if you won't leave your dog or child in the car, don't leave the guitar.

4.  Keep it in the case, and keep the top of the case closed, and latched. The reasons are obvious, and I could write many pages of stories of repairs necessitated by failure to observe this rule. Occasionally people ask me about wall hangers. These aren't too bad, but do make humidity control more difficult.  On the other hand, you might play the guitar more if it is out where you can see it.

5.  Use common sense. Guitars are meant to be played, and a few "beauty marks" are to be expected.

Q:  My guitar has a buzz.  What is causing it, and what can be done to fix it?

A:  For my answer to this very common question I am going to shamelessly plagiarize from Frank Ford's Web site.  He is a very highly respected repairman from California and his list of possible causes for buzzes is the best I have seen.
Buzz:
1. Low action at nut
2. Low action at saddle
3. Action too high, can’t fret cleanly
4. String too light
5. Nut low, not enough relief, buzz behind fret
6. Backbow neck
7. String interference above nut (tuner posts, etc.)
8. String rattles against sides of nut slot
9. Flat saddle top
10. Poor break angle over saddle
11. Uneven frets
12. Flat frets
13. Frets too low
14. Loose truss rod
15. Loose string ball
16. Loose brace
17. Loose top or back
18. Loose plies on laminated instrument
19. Loose pickguard
20. Loose bridge
21. Loose truss rod cover
22. Loose string winding
23. Loose gear part
24. Operator error = poor technique
25. It just does = string’s natural “noise”
26. They all do = other similar instruments make the same noise

Dull Sound:
24. Operator error = poor technique
27. Loose fret
28. Loose gear mounting
29. Fuzz winding touching saddle
30. Soft material for saddle
31. Foreign matter, unevenness in nut slot
32. Deep notches in saddle

As to what to do about these things, we will simply have to see the instrument.

This website and all of its content, text and images are copyright 1997-2011 by Charles A. Hoffman, Inc.  All rights reserved.

2219 East Franklin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN. 55404

hoffmanguitars@qwest.net  or choffman@hoffmanguitars.com

(612) 338-1079