Woodsound Studio, The Fine Art of Luthierie since 1975
 

Repairs & Restoration

Fareed Haques’s Fleta & Rubio Guitars

The accolades are many for Fareed Haque. Called “a brilliant classical guitarist” (Cadence), “a stunning virtuoso” (Jazziz), and “one of the most talented guitarists/composers on the music scene today” (The New York City Tribune), this guitar virtuoso and Blue Note recording artist enjoys a career that spans the spectrum of musical styles. He was born in 1963 to a Pakistani father and a Chilean mother, and through extensive travels and long stays in Spain, France, Iran, Pakistan, and Chile he was exposed to a wide range of musical styles and traditions from a very early age. This natural eclecticism has become the hallmark of Fareed’s music, and he has established himself as one of the most innovative composer/musicians currently on the international scene. The 1981 Recipient of North Texas State University's Jazz Guitar Scholarship, Haque spent a year studying with renowned jazz guitarist and pedagogue Jack Peterson. Fareed’s growing interest in the classical guitar led him to transfer to Northwestern University, where he completed his studies in classical guitar under David Buch, John Holmquist, and Anne Waller.

Moving easily between jazz and classical guitar, Fareed has performed or recorded with such legends as Ron Carter, Tony Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, Paquito D'Rivera, Dave Holland, Bob James, Sting, Cassandra Wilson, Javon Jackson, Joe Zawinul, Kurt Elling, Lester Bowie, Arturo Sandoval, Nigel Kennedy, Edgar Meyer, Bob James, Joe Henderson, Kahil el Zabar, Defunckt, and Ramsey Lewis.

As a classical guitarist, Fareed has performed as soloist and accompanist with Nigel Kennedy, Robert Conant, Edgar Meyer, Stephen Stubbs, Frank Bungarten, members of the Vermeer Quartet, and many symphony orchestras in the U.S. and abroad. He is an active transcriber of baroque, as well as South American music and has had numerous modern works dedicated to him. In the jam world his style and musicianship has expanded even further, and playing with Kai Eckhardt, Alan Hertz, and Eric Levy in Garaj Mahal, three masters of their respective instruments, he shows there are truly no limits on how, what (and when!) he can compose and perform.

In 1989, Fareed joined the faculty of Northern Illinois University, where he currently holds an associate professorship in jazz and classical guitar studies.

The Restoration of the 1982 Fleta Guitar

Slipper foot bubble showing on the back from the neck rotation.

Top crack extending from the rosette to the bridge on the bass side.

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When Fareed’s Fleta came to us its action was too high and it had little power since the saddle had been cut down until the strings were touching wood on the saddle’s back edge. There was also a crack in the top allowing the plate to move in sections rather than as a unified unit, and the back showed a severe bulge and dip along the slipper foot of the neck. This caused the top-to-neck angle to decrease, forcing the top downward at the sound hole, forming a crack from the sound hole to the bridge. Another complication caused by this rotation was shortening of the scale length which was causing intonation problems that would, if not addressed, only be exacerbated by the raised saddle height of the finished repair. There was also finish damage on one rib that needed French polishing and a crack in the original fretboard (fingerboard) near the sound hole.

Our solution was to use the original fretboard as a shim rather than trying to remove it, which was bound to cause more damage to neck and top, especially since we would also have to lay in a shim of mahogany to correct the angle issue and compensate for the dip between neck and top anyway.

Finish damage on the treble side rib.

Original fingerboard with frets removed.

After defretting the fingerboard we planed through the fret slots and corrected the angle to set for a 3mm saddle exposure. This allowed us to install a uniform thickness fretboard that perfectly matched the original. Since we wanted a permanent bond, we used a tinted black West System epoxy to bond the old and new ebony. After truing and fretting the top of the board, we shaped in the edge and French polished the two into the neck.

Planing the original fingerboard as though it were a shim to correct angle.

New fingerboard ready to be laminated.

Gluing on new fingerboard with black epoxy.

Close-up of the black glue joint.

Nut view of the laminated fingerboard.

French polishing neck edge after fretting.

Next, we addressed the crack in the top. It has been our experience that the old practice of splinting cracks is largely a failure because splints, often set with tapered walls, are apt to work free due to seasonal changes in humidity. Often, they are only cosmetic, because the spline doesn’t reach the bottom of the crack due to incorrect side wall taper or glue swellage. If the crack is cleated from underneath, the spline can’t be pushed through. If it’s not cleated, the two sides of the crack may not be level with each other, and the bottom as well as the top of the spline may need to be cut off. This can be solved to some degree with routed straight walls and uniform-thickness spline (especially useful with wide cracks, see Rubio repairs), glued with non-water bearing glue. But this solution still has the most objectionable aspect—having to cut the splint down to the instrument’s surface without damaging the original wood and finish, and worse, the inevitable differences in the reflectivity and color of the new wood and the bump left by coloring and finishing over, which is very difficult to hide artistically.

Unglued top crack.

Crack filled with lightweight epoxy matrix.

Arrow indicates top crack after color touch-up and French polishing, nearly invisible.

 

To address these issues, we have pioneered the use of lightweight, colored epoxy matrices to effect crack repairs. The epoxy can be mixed with micro-balloons to reduce weight, increase viscosity, and be tinted to the shade of the wood and finish so as to be almost invisible, or needing only a slight color correction later on as the final finish is done. Using this method, the two sides of the crack can be leveled by cleating the interior and sealing temporarily with tape, while the exterior of the filled crack can be wiped clean and leveled after a light heating of the glue to ensure it penetrates all of the crack and fills to the bottom—something splints do not always do, especially when using water-based glues. This way, no original wood needs to be removed and a perfect fit is formed. Whether the glue is left flush, low for more tinting, or high to allow for scraping the joint level, this repair will remain strong, flexible, and permanent.

Right now, so as not to give the wrong impression, I want to clear up which cracks are suitable; tight, hard wood-to-wood joints require Cyano Acrylate (Super Glue), in the case of loose wood-to-wood cracks, use hide glue. For open cracks, from .2 mm up, use epoxy matrix, but only when the instrument is at the proper relative humidity of 48%. A crack that is too tight for hide glue penetration can be made workable by drying out (to approximately 40%) the instrument a bit to allow the glue penetrating time before swellage makes it impossible to reach the bottom of the joint. Hide glue is the most invisible, very strong and flexible, and, unlike the other options, it can be washed out if something goes wrong. When using the other glues, setup must be done perfectly the first time, for sure.

Cleaning up the routed face of the bridge for addition of new wood.

New wood being fit onto bridge. (Note the filled crack before finish touch-up.)

The next step was to correct the intonation problems. The original fretboard had small inconsistencies of fret placement, and the saddle had no angle for compensation. In addition, the collapsing neck angle produced a scale intonation location on the bridge that was 2mm short on the bass side and 1.5mm on the treble side, even though the nut placement was original and the scale length was still 650mm. This necessitated removal of the lip behind the original saddle slot in the bridge and grafting on new, carefully matched Brazilian rosewood to fill the entire area from saddle slot to just shy of the bridge’s string holes. It was then roughly shaped to approximately the orginal Fleta bridge shape, but without a slot and with enough wood to support the back of the saddle in its new placement—a huge problem before the fill. Next, strings were put on and brought to tension with a temporary, movable saddle. The tension sets the relief (shortening the scale again) and the saddle was manipulated to find the correct intonation spot for the gauge of strings used. The new slot is then routed using a setup for a router base following the corrected intonation line. After routing, the final shape is carved into the new graft, a correcting stain is applied to the wood and the new work French polished into the surrounding bridge.

Gluing on new wood.

Rough shaping the new wood.

Readying the bridge for routing saddle slot.

Router in action.

Staining new wood after final shaping.

French polishing the new wood to match bridge.

Lastly, a cleaning, a good build and sanding flat of the shellac on the damaged rib and a light French polish renewal of the entire surface, a new saddle and setup. It was finally ready for Fareed, who exclaimed that its voice was back, the intonation was corrected, and the instrument was now in tune.

Finally, polishing the rib finish repair.

Fareed plays his restored Fleta guitar.

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