Once placed in your hands, the care and maintenance of these fine instruments will be a part of the continuing joy and responsibility that comes with owning, playing and passing them on into the hands of the next generation of owners and players.
Froggy Bottom Guitars are carefully-crafted instruments designed to be resonant and responsive to a player’s touch. What makes them fine instruments makes them responsive to their environments, too.
When they fashion a guitar, they take into account the known properties of the materials and the range of environments where, in the hands of a responsible owner, a guitar might reasonably be expected to wind up.
They take great care to build instruments that can excel and last, understanding that the instruments may ask for some attention over time.
These posts include information and quotes from my recent conversations with Froggy Bottom Guitar’s Michael Millard and Eric Goodenough. My thanks to them for our conversations, their time, advice, and experience building and maintaining these fine instruments.
Part I: Caring for a fine instrument is simple, but important
The job of a Froggy Bottom Guitar is to be musically responsive; stable and durable; and to improve over time.
Froggy Bottom Guitar bodies and necks are not made out of graphite, metal, or carbon-fibre. They are made of a living, adaptive material: wood. And, though the tree itself is dead, in many ways, the wood is not. Wood breathes. It is always either taking on or giving off moisture to remain in balance with its environment.
In caring for the instrument, one has to recognize and honor the living, adaptive nature of the raw material. Wood is responsive to vibrations, changes in temperature and humidity, and to the application of external forces like, for instance, the forces of gravity and momentum.
Wood will respond to these forces in ways that are generally predictable.
Everything in the physical universe expands or contracts in response to changes in temperature and humidity. Guitars are made of materials of differing densities and properties – abalone and shell inlays, metal frets, bone nuts and saddles, glues, finishes, a variety of woods – all responding (expanding or contracting) at their own rates of speed and within their own ranges of movement.
While we have custody of these instruments, our job is to manage them so that they will function beautifully and well deep into their lives. And when they out live us, as we hope they will, to pass them on to another generation of musicians.
In this post, we’ll look at some basic considerations that, if well-managed, will contribute to keeping these heritage instruments in top playing condition year in and year out.
“We do not over-build Froggy Bottom Guitars – and they’re not made out of concrete and glass. They’re not like the structures you live in; they are living, breathing musical instruments. And because they are built to be responsive as musical instruments, they are also going to be responsive to their environments.”
Your Froggy Bottom Guitar & its Environment
Froggy Bottom Guitars are built using stable woods in extremely dry conditions to try to ensure that they will survive and thrive in many different settings. How these custom instruments are set up can be varied according to where the guitar is going to live.
“I do all the neck sets now, before the guitars go to finish. And I take into account seasonal conditions that were in place when the instrument was assembled, when it will be finished and ready for final assembly, as well as where the instrument is going to live, when I set the neck.
“We might be talking about a variance in the range of maybe 30-thousands of an inch in the final height of the saddle off the front of the instrument. It’s a very small adjustment, but where the guitar is going to be shipped plays a role in how I approach the neck set.”
In extreme high-humidity conditions, like a guitar in a rain forest or ocean environment, over time a neck re-set may be in order.
In the absence of obvious owner-abuse or neglect, if it is determined that a neck re-set is required, it is a warranted service to the original owner.
Common Sense Precautions
Put an ID in or on your case so the honest people have a chance to get your guitar back to you.
Check your insurance policies and make sure your instruments are covered.
Keep photos and serial numbers of your guitar on file for reference.
Send your warranty card in.
There are some basic common sense rules that will hold true for all wooden instruments:
- Protect them from extremes of moisture/humidity;
- Protect them from extremes of heat and cold, and especially from sudden changes.
- Mind the temperature and humidity ranges to which the instruments are exposed;
- In addition to climate and season, air conditioning and heating systems can create circumstances that threaten the health of your instrument and must be taken into account;
- If exposed to extremes of temperature or humidity, allow the instrument to come back into a safe range slowly;
- Don’t leave instruments in a vehicle;
- Do not leave instruments out in direct sun, even temporarily (especially in a black case which will act as a heat sink);
Don’t leave them: Don’t leave your guitar alone. It can take only 10-15 seconds for a guitar to be stolen. Unlike a toddler who might scream in the midst of a kidnapping, your guitar will be silent. Your vigilance will be its own reward.
“Personally, I treat my guitars like I’m traveling with a grandfather: I don’t leave him in the trunk of the car, I don’t let him wander off with strangers, or go to the bathroom by himself. I keep him well-hydrated (humidified). And I make him wear a seat belt. (Or place him in a vehicle in a secure location that will be protected from a sudden stop, acceleration or accident.)
“The trunk of my ’92 Volvo is a crush zone designed to absorb the impact of an accident: no guitars in there. The guitars ride on the floor of the back seat inside the passenger compartment with me.”