Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Loose Ends (Part 3)

David S's shop is a converted garage adjoining his home in Boiling Springs, PA. It is simple and professional. The primary workspace is a "countertop" directly inside the door with a carpeted surface to protect the delicate wooden instruments on which he works his craft. A special neck rest permits laying guitars flat on their back while supporting the headpiece.

I'd given David my own guitar as well as another from my friend Joe - an old Epiphone that needed some serious help. Joe had been holding onto this guitar for a while, but it was unplayable in its current condition. The neck had broken and been poorly repaired with a large bolt (perhaps from Home Depot?); the fretboard was cracked clean through where the neck joined the top; and a smattering of other less serious problems were pointed out by David as he made his inspection. At the same time, the body itself appeared to be in nearly perfect condition, probably the saving grace for this unfortunate-looking relic. David's estimate for the Epi was about 500 bucks. Not a lot of money for the amount of work that would probably go into it - but nonetheless, a lot to pay for an instrument that you'd never even heard before. In the end Joe decided to do the work.

David had already done a lot of work on the Epi and it was clearly coming together nicely. The neck was reset and reglued, the fretboard repaired, and some fretwork done. In fact it looked nearly done except for a lot of cosmetic work on the neck. I am dying of curiosity to hear what this thing sounds like.

My guitar, on the other hand was finished, and, as usual, played beautifully. The D16s of this era had a construction known as "forward shifted scalloped bracing" which to my understanding, makes the guitar lighter and creates more resonance, giving a huge, full sound - especially in the middle. The light construction, of course, also makes this thing react to every change in the weather, which is why it was here in the first place. The last time it had been repaired, David added cleats under the top to keep hold the crack together. He'd initially just thought it had shrunk due to dehydration and broken the cleats. In fact, the cleats under the top held, but the wood shrunk unevenly, creating a small crack only on the top surface, and not underneath. Rather than try to humidify the crack back together this time, he filled it. With any luck this should make it less likely to crack again in the future. Of course I could actually try to take CARE of this thing too... but that requires filling up the humidifier very day all winter long. If only I had such discipline!

We got what we came for and didn't hang around too long, because we still had a lot of driving ahead. The guitar found a safe nook in the back of the pickup truck, nestled along side the pressure washer. The ride was definitely starting to get the complete redneck appearance: beat up pickup truck, gas-powered tools, guitars... if I could just find a mangy, underfed golden retriever on the side of the road and throw him in the back with the rest of the stuff, I'd probably fit right in! That, and a "Freedom isn't Free" bumper sticker, and I could probably pass for someone's cousin.

But I digress. We pushed on and an hour later arrived in Gettysburg. It was turning out to be a spectacular day. Sunny and high 60's were the perfect remedy for a winter that had been lingering for too long. Mark wasn't home, so I went in through the back door. Ah, life in the country, where everyone is honest. Or maybe Mark's just absent minded. No matter - I obtained the necessary access and opened up the garage, where the grill was stored.

As you might remember from earlier in the story, we were here to pick up my propane grill and deliver it to Tyler's house. This thing is large. Very large. It is made entirely of stainless steel which doesn't do much to keep the weight down. Even for two strapping individuals such as ourselves, lifting it is a bit of a dangerous prospect. After some reflection we decided to take off the side burner, which would reduce the weight a little bit and also make it easier to get purchase on it from that end. The problem wasn't so much here in Gettysburg, getting it on the truck, but at the other end - we knew we had a couple tight turns to get around in order to bring it into Tyler's house. It seemed sensible to get it in as compact a form as possible before trying to maneuver this beast up the stairs in Columbia.

A few minutes later I had the side burner off, which revealed a rather shocking amount of grease and other nasty byproducts of a grill that hadn't been cleaned in a long time. And then sat in storage for an even longer time. It was clear that we had some work to do before we brought this thing back to Tyler's pristine new home. So we rolled the thing out the the backyard and tackled it with grill cleaner, engine block degreaser, liquid soap, sponges, steel wool, and whatever other implements we could find to get two years' worth of fat and oil off the grill.

To be continued...

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