I took the 11s off the Artcore. They sound amazing, but my weak little fingers can’t bend ’em more than a half-step. I gots some working out to do. They don’t make ribbon- or flat-wound in lighter than 11s, so I’ve got some GHS ‘boomers’ 10s on now. Nice. $5 a pack, and the g-string (3rd from the thinnest) isn’t wound– so it bends mightily. Fresh outta the pack, they’re a little bright for me– I like a definite ‘clunk’ thus my taste for flats, but when they get old they sound a lot like flats. When flats get old they just sound like shit.

My harem has increased by one recently. I added a 12-string acoustic to my collection. A gift to me to use as a ‘sacrificial lamb’ to gain finish repair experience, it came to me unstrung with tuners uninstalled and sans bushings, and with a monster crack in one of the X supports just below the soundhole. It’s a 70’s “Orlando”– a Japanese factory-built brand I’m told– I’ve yet to find any more information about it yet. Someone had tried to repair this crack– about 2 inches long, passing completely through the support at the intersection of the ‘X’– with gauze and some sort of white adhesive.

The thing about 12-string guitars is that they’ve got, well, 12 strings. 12 steel strings. At standard tuning they exert a huge amount of pressure on the guitar. The fate of all 12-strings, sooner or later is to develop a ‘pot belly’, where the bridge is glued to the body, the face of the guitar ‘bowls out’– pulled out by these strings. This guitar had cracked probably because of this exact problem.

I was surprised that someone had thought gauze would fix the problem. They were probably thinking of that method of fiberglass building, using gauze and resin, where in the resin provides the strength, and the gauze is only there as a matrix to support the resin before it cures. If so, they didn’t use resin. They didn’t use enough adhesive, whatever it was. That left the gauze, like a sling. The whole point of gauze is flexibility, which is exactly what you don’t want in this situation– the guitar has flexed too far, and needs to be restrained.

I peeled off the gauze, and ran some superglue into the crack– at rest, it had about a 1/16″ gap, so that part was easy. Then I clamped the crack shut– had a moment of panic as the glue oozed out and almost glued my caul to the guitar– cleaned up and let it sit overnight. I had to order new bushings for the tuners, which didn’t exactly fit– a fair gap between peg and bushing, and new screws to mount the machines to the headstock.

Another oddity about this guitar’s condition was the saddle– the bit of bone or (in this case) plastic that fits in the bridge, and supports the strings. It was completely smooth– no notches for the strings to fit into. A 12-string is strung to play 6 notes, just like a normal guitar, except each note gets two strings, strung approx 1/16-1/8″ apart, tuned to an octave apart, or in unison. This pair of strings is called a course. They should be close enough together that they are easy to strike and fret at the same time, and far enough from each other that they do not collide while ringing. Since this saddle was smoothly curved (we calls it radiused) with no notches, the courses were all over the place, so that for the most part each of the twelve strings was equally placed– this is nearly impossible to play. How long had this saddle been this way? Dunno, but it was useless to me as is. I notched it by eye, guessing at the spacing between and within courses. I did okay, except I got the 4th course too close together. It rattles if I hit it too hard. I’ll get a proper saddle blank and do it right next time.

So this unplayable junker is playable again! Even with the crack repaired, it can’t withstand the tension of standard tuning without bellying out an alarming amount– so I have it in Open G tuning, which requires less tension, and I’ve been meaning to learn anyway. I can also tune it to standard, only a half-step back, and put a capo on the first fret if I absolutely have to have it in standard tuning. But I’ve already got 2 great guitars in standard, so I won’t be doing that anytime soon.