Classical Guitar Care and Maintenance



GUITARS INTERNATIONAL

The following essay contains information vital to the protection and maintenance of our fine, handcrafted classical guitars. Please read this essay carefully. If in doubt about any aspect of your guitar’s care and maintenance, call Guitars International immediately at 216.752.7502 or email us at classicalguitars@guitarsint.com. If the guitar you purchased from Guitars International requires maintenance or repair work, please contact Guitars International for the name of a reputable, authorized repair person before having work done on your guitar.

Work performed by a repair person not authorized by Guitars International may void your guitar's warranty.

CLASSICAL GUITAR HUMIDITY AND TEMPERATURE CONTROL:

To avoid shrinkage, cracking, swelling, warping, and other material damage to a fine, handmade classical guitar and to keep a guitar sounding at its musical optimum, you should keep it in an environment in which the humidity and temperature remain constant year round.

Generally, a constant humidity level between 45% and 55% and a temperature level between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal for the safe maintenance of a fine classical guitar. If a guitar is subjected to either a humidity level below 40% or to a large, quick drop in humidity, it is highly at risk of cracking or having its seams open. A dried out guitar will sound thin and scratchy. A guitar which has been exposed to excessive moisture will sound dull and thuddy.

To avoid shrinkage in a guitar's woods never leave a guitar next to a heat source such as a radiator or wood burning stove, or next to a cooling source such as an air conditioner. While most people associate dryness with cold weather, it is important to note that dry warm weather as well as air conditioning in humid weather can greatly reduce a room's relative humidity in a very short amount of time - often below the minimum safe level for a fine classical guitar.

To avoid swelling in a guitar's woods never leave a guitar next to a source of moisture such as a lake, pond, swimming pool, running shower, or filled bath tub.

When not in use a guitar should always be stored in its case (with its latches securely closed), preferably a good hard shell case with a tight weather seal. A guitar should not be left exposed in the open air where greater moisture loss can occur in a dry environment and greater moisture absorption can occur in a humid environment. A good hard shell case also helps protect a guitar from accidental damage by young children and pets.

Before transporting a guitar in a car in dry weather or with a car's heater or air conditioner on, a good in case humidifier should be placed inside a guitar's case (D'Addario's Two-Way Humidification System -(formerly Humidipak - is best, see "Essential Guitar Care Investments" below). A guitar and case should also be placed inside a sealed case cover (or alternatively a large sealed air tight plastic bag; a jumbo garbage bag will work fine) to seal in moisture and protect a guitar from excessive dryness and large, quick fluctuations in humidity levels. Note: Do not leave a guitar in the passenger compartment or trunk of a car or anywhere else where intense sunlight and excessive heat may damage it.

ESSENTIAL CLASSICAL GUITAR CARE INVESTMENTS:

1. An accurate hygrometer (humidity gauge): This gauge is a necessity for monitoring the humidity level around a guitar on a daily basis. Hygrometers are available from many on line retailers.

2. A room humidifier: If the humidity level drops below 40% for an hour or more where you play and store your guitar, we STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you purchase a room humidifier to artificially raise the humidity to a safe level (see safe humidity parameters above). Large hardware stores, department stores and on line sources carry an assortment of room humidifiers. NOTE: (A) To avoid damaging a guitar by over humidification, do not store your guitar directly next to a room humidifier. (B) Do not use your room humidifier if the relative humidity in the room in which you keep a guitar remains at a constant 45% or above with your room humidifier turned off.

3. D'Addario's Two-Way Humidification System (formerly Humidipak): Though not a replacement for a room humidifier, when you travel with your guitar this calibrated product is the finest and safest in case guitar humidification system on the market. Actually, it has dual virtues: (A) it adds moisture to the air in a guitar case when a case environment is too dry, and (B) it draws moisture out of the air when a case environment is too moist. The D'Addario Two-Way Humidification System is available from many on line retailers. NOTE: Under NO circumstances should you ever use an in case humidifier which completely seals a guitar's sound hole. Such products can damage a guitar by trapping too much moisture inside a guitar's body cavity.

4. A String Bib protective shield (available from stringsbymail.com): Place the String Bib protective shield in front and behind your guitar's bridge to protect your guitar's soundboard from string dings while you change strings on your guitar.

5. A chamois: A large, soft chamois cloth is useful for wiping fingerprints off a guitar's finish and for placing between you and a guitar to help as a moisture barrier when you play. You can purchase a chamois at most hardware stores and on line.

FRENCH POLISH OF SHELLAC FINISH:

Most fine classical guitars are finished with a shellac applied using the traditional French polish method. Though acoustically superior to more durable finishes such as lacquer, a shellac finish is very delicate and can be easily damaged if it comes into contact with moisture (perspiration), alcohol, heat which exceeds comfortable room temperature, fingernails, shirt buttons, belt buckles, or other hard objects.

Note:
Never apply any of the so called guitar polishes to a shellac finish. A polish which contains silicone or alcohol can be particularly problematic.

When playing a guitar that has a French polish of shellac finish you should always place a protective, waterproof cloth between a guitar and yourself to screen a guitar's finish from perspiration and excessive body heat.

If a French polish of shellac finish is marred (for example, it takes on a milky white haze due to contact with moisture), a guitar maker or repair person skilled in the French polish technique may be able to restore a finish's luster using a very mild rubbing compound. In any event, it is not unusual for a French polished instrument which is played regularly to need some touch up work every three or four years.

CHANGING CLASSICAL GUITAR STRINGS:

Before changing a guitar's strings always set a String Bib protective shield (available from stringsbymail.com, see "Essential Guitar Care Investments" above) on a guitar's soundboard, both in front of the bridge (under the strings) and directly behind the bridge so as to protect against accidentally marking a guitar's finish and soundboard. To further protect a guitar's soundboard and finish against gouges caused by the treble string ends whipping loose while bring the treble strings up to pitch, melt a small ball at the bridge end of each treble string before placing a string on a guitar. Place the melted treble string end under cool water to harden the nylon ball.

Remove and replace guitar strings in sequence. If you remove all the strings from a guitar before replacing the strings, the natural doming of a guitar's soundboard under string tension will relax. In which case, it can take a number of hours with full string tension reapplied to a guitar's soundboard before a guitar will sound at its best. NOTE: Most classical guitars should NEVER be strung with EXTRA HIGH tension strings. Extra High tension strings can cause loss of sustain and dead notes (especially on a guitar's first string) and in the worst case bend and warp a guitar's neck.

TUNING MACHINE HEAD MAINTENANCE:

Lubricate each gear at least once a year with a heavy lubricant such as Vaseline. The usual exception involves the sixth string gears. Because many classical guitar compositions require that you re-tune the sixth string to a low D, the sixth string gears should be lubricated more often as use requires.

DO NOT FLEX A CLASSICAL GUITAR'S SOUNDBOARD:

Under NO circumstances should you ever apply pressure to a guitar's soundboard or bridge area either by forcing the top of a badly fitting guitar case down on a guitar's soundboard or by asserting pressure on a guitar's soundboard with your hands. Always pick a guitar up by its neck, never by its body. More than one guitar's soundboard has been severely cracked by being flexed.