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The wood on my guitar is crumbling slightly, help?

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The wood on my guitar is crumbling slightly, help?

Postby Cam Weddell » Thu Mar 01, 2012 5:45 pm

I have an ancient electric columbus that i rescued from an attic, I think it's about 40 years old and being stuck in the cold and damp has done it no favours. The wood is starting to get powery, especially around where the jack is so after a while the screws just drop out and the jack is hanging by the wiring. Ideally I'd like to strip it down and repair the wood but I'm not sure how to go about it. Can I just use wood filler if I'm going to give it a black finish, or will the filler shrink/ change the tone or weight somehow? I have a basic knowledge of woodwork and guitars, but putting the two together is something new for me. Any information would be appreciated! Thanks. Cam.
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Re: The wood on my guitar is crumbling slightly, help?

Postby Charlie Schultz » Thu Mar 01, 2012 5:50 pm

Hi Cam and welcome! Please note that we require the use of real (first & last) names on this forum. Please PM me or one of the moderators your name and we'll update your registration. Thanks.
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Re: The wood on my guitar is crumbling slightly, help?

Postby Greg Robinson » Thu Mar 01, 2012 8:42 pm

Hi Cam,
Wood filler is generally not the best for this, as it does not really have any screw holding strength, and will tend to crumble just like your wood is now. I wouldn't worry about it changing the tone or anything like that, unless you're using a whole lot of it!

For non-cosmetic repairs like this, I usually fill the screw holes with wood glue (polyvinyl acetate [PVA] or Aliphatic Resin [AR]), then stuff it with toothpicks or small slivers of wood that are also soaked in wood glue. After this has dried, the excess can be trimmed flush, and I simply drive the screw directly into this, without pre-drilling.
For me this has always been a quick, and satisfactory repair.

Others may use epoxy or cyanoacrylate (superglue [CA]) to saturate the threads and try to reinforce them, or fill the hole completely and re-drill.

Probably the most structurally sound repair would be to drill out a larger hole, and fill it with a hardwood plug, preferably cut through the grain (not with it, as this would leave the screw in end-grain, which does not effectively hold screw threads) with a plug cutter or turned on a lathe. A lot more work, and not a big enough difference in end result to make it worth it in this case, in my opinion.

If this were a cosmetic repair, where the repaired wood was going to be exposed and under a clear or transparent finish, a diamond or tapered recess should be carved out, and a patch of chalk-fitted matching wood would be best. Hot hide glue (HHG) is best for this type of repair, as it leaves less noticeable glue lines than any other glue I'm aware of.

So, a few ways to tackle this, you'll need to judge what best suits your situation.
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Re: The wood on my guitar is crumbling slightly, help?

Postby Tom Sommerville » Fri Mar 02, 2012 12:24 am

Wood turning to powder? Could be dry rot or something else.
Probably it's moisture related, condensation on metal parts keeping the surrounding wood damp,
But I'd feel a lot better knowing the cause before making the fix, dry rot is a mold, but there are others and you may
want to treat the instrument to stop it.

I'd get some thin super glue and wet any areas that seem soft, and then use epoxy/sawdust or plug it as Greg suggests.
Wood plugs will be better if you can get a good match with the original wood in species and grain.

Was the guitar kept in a case? Any rust/corrosion on the metal parts? Any plastic on the instrument? What shape is it in?
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Re: The wood on my guitar is crumbling slightly, help?

Postby Chuck Tweedy » Fri Mar 02, 2012 2:18 am

Yea, wood crumbling to dust is pretty gnarly. I'd like to see a picture to figure out if the wood it totally rotted out, or if it is some other problem.
Could it be that the screw stripped in the past and someone did a poor job of filling the hole with a crumbly filler (like Greg said)?
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