A little TLC for a Miguel Malo Classical
A little something different for the workbench blog today! Had a fun day working on a really nice nylon string Classical guitar, courtesy of my Dad! His 20+ year old Miguel Malo classical guitar needed a little TLC and refinement after many hours of use. Although in the grand scheme of things, it is in great condition, Dad's pretty meticulous to say the least. But understandably after years of regular use, some things could do with a little care and attention. Notably some very minor signs of fret wear had begun, and on inspection I noted that there were a few high spots, particularly in areas where Dad mentioned the notes didn't ring out quite as well, so we opted to give it a level crown and polish.

If you've owned quality nylon string classic guitars you'll know that removing all the strings in one go, and reducing tension drastically isn't ideal on these and some care is needed to ensure no damage is caused to the guitar. After some time gradually reducing tension and it was ready though it was time to get stuck in to hopefully get the work needed completed within a day and reduce the amount of time it was without tension.

Some minor string wear had developed at the saddle, in all honesty here I could have simply repaired the existing saddle as the wear was minimum and upon closer inspection the top edge was a smidgen out resulting in inconsistent string action but I opted to make a new saddle. That way we can keep the original safe and untouched, but also making use of this opportunity to refine the string action. When I removed the saddle, I could have a closer look at things. The inconsistent string action was a point of interest, the middle D, G area of the saddle had a slight hump in it's shape. Not a consistent height from one end of the saddle to the other, so when making the new one I was able to ensure this was corrected and hopefully will further help improve play-ability. Accurate under string height/radius has such a positive effect on action across the fretboard, I see this all the time with the regular electric guitars. Of course a lot easier to correct on those thanks to individual string saddles, but I find 90+% of factory built electric guitars have in-accurate under string height/radius across all strings and correcting that transforms how they play. So the theory is the same here, albeit with a fixed single saddle and a flat radius board! 

To finish off was a little refinement to the top nut, Dad noted that the D was often a bit flat sounding, a sign it was cut a little too deep. On closer inspection I also spotted that the G hadn't quite been slotted correctly for the gauge meaning the string wasn't fully seated in the string slot. So that particular one was high and unseated, but all all the remaining slots were cut a little deep, with no relief between string and top of 1st fret when fretting the 3rd. There are occasions this isn't a major issue, but I personally always feel (depending on the players attack, be it heavy handed and powerful approach, or a more softer, subtle approach) having some relief between the string and fret helps the open strings ring out so much better reducing buzzing etc, and a little with volume too as you can afford to dig in that little bit more when needed. I did consider making a whole new nut, but opted instead to glue a thin piece of real wood black oak veneer to the base of the nut so that it will raise the slots. Then refine almost as if it was a new nut. With the slots corrected I could then remove the excess material from the top so that the strings are nicely seated in the slot rather than deep within a groove. That helps with string resonance too. As Dad hasn't had too many issues with open string buzzing, aside from the D slot, and has a pretty precise technique, once I had raised the nut and could begin refining the slots, I opted for a subtle .004" gap between top of the 1st fret and bottom of each string when fretted at the 3rd. In an effort to keep the action low at that end of the board, but also still improve the open string response. If upon playing it needs to come down further I can do so but figured this was a good starting point. 

The frets came out beautifully well, a bit of board conditioning and it looked fantastic, really pleased with those results, hopefully the photos do it some justice. Looks like a new guitar! Tentative working on a french polished guitar, but a bit of patience and care and things go as well as hoped. Once the guitar has had chance to be brought back up to tension gradually over the coming days, we'll be giving it a once over and see how the adjustments made affect things. I've waffled on enough, so here's some photos! Really enjoyed working on this today, a huge transformation visually and I think it was thankful of the TLC after many years of regular (but caring) use. Very nice to be trusted with it! As I know Dad has been hesitant to take it anywhere over the years. If you spot the messy wrapped up strings by the heads, those will be trimmed once it's up to full tension. 

Thanks for reading,
James

Miguel Malo classic guitar

Miguel Malo classic guitar

Miguel Malo classic guitar

Miguel Malo classic guitar





Miguel Malo classic guitar

Miguel Malo classic guitar



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