James Goodall's Advice
Humidity and Temperature
Congratulations on your purchase of a handcrafted Goodall guitar. Caring for your Goodall guitar properly is very important. Fine crafted, solid wood instruments need extra care in regards to humidity and temperature. Acoustic guitar owners should become knowledgeable and aware of the danger of wood shrinkage and cracking in low humidity environments. We must reserve the right to decline warranty repair involving temperature and humidity damage.
Ideally an instrument in a low humidity environment should be built in that humidity and never leave that environment, but in reality there is quite a range of humidity that a solid wood instrument can safely live in. For our instruments it is between 40% to 80% relative humidity. The lower that the guitar goes below 40% humidity, the greater the probability that cracking will occur, and the top and back plates will flatten and may even go concave as the wood releases it's moisture. A humidity of 30% is a bit low for safe storage. The signs of excessively low humidity are: action buzzing, fret end protrusion, fretboard hump at the body joint area, fretboard extension drop off, concave top and back, grain of the wood telegraphing through the finish, and eventually - cracks.
Case humidifiers are helpful but a dedicated room with a humidifier is by far the best. When the humidity is low you should purchase and use a room humidifier. Room humidifiers are inexpensive and only cost pennies to run, whereas de-humidifiers are like air conditioners in their energy usage and are used to reduce humidity. Be sure to get a good hygrometer that confirms that the humidity in the room is above 40%. It is entirely conceivable that in some very dry locations a combination of a room humidifier and a case humidifier will be necessary to achieve 40% relative humidity for the instrument.
Maintaining even humidity is as important as keeping it above 40% relative humidity. This is because wood releases or gains moisture at a very high rate, similar a sponge, due to it's inherent cellular structure. If you travel with your Goodall guitar, the sound hole and case humidification devices are imperative. Always use a quality hardshell case when traveling by air and never a soft "gig bag". Airlines are notorious for low humidity at high altitude. If you are traveling by car and the humidity is above 40% a case humidifier is not necessary. Always keep the instrument in its case when not playing and prevent hot/cold shifts. An instrument kept at temperatures of 60 to 90 degrees is a good temperature range.
We build our instruments in 40-45% relative humidity, which is the best compromise and a bit lower than some makers, and anything above this is not a problem - they swell up to one degree or another but are usually okay. When the humidity is above 40% no humidification should be used to prevent over humidification.
Taking Care of Your Finish
The catalyzed urethane finish doesn't need much attention- just keep it reasonably clean. Use a 100% cotton cloth slightly moistened with water to wipe and clean the body and neck. I don't advise using too much wax or guitar polish - use sparingly if at all. A tiny bit of automotive paste wax such as Turtle Wax or Meguires is okay occasionally.
Once a year or so, depending on use, you may want to remove the strings and clean the fretboard and frets. Use #0000 steel wool and rub with the grain up and down the fretboard, being careful not to touch (scratch) the finish on the top. It isn't really necessary but if you want to, you can apply a few drops of fretboard oil on to the fret board and bridge with a paper towel. You can purchase fretboard oil at most music stores or through mail order. Two good sources for any guitar related items are Stewart MacDonald at www.stewmac.com and Luthiers Mercantile International at www.lmii.com.
When changing your guitar strings you may want to change one string at a time to help you keep the individually hand fitted bridge pins in their slot-matched order. Alternatively, you could also mark a strip of tape to denote bass and treble sides, and stick the pins to the tape in corresponding order as you remove them. Use a good string winder with a bridge pin notch included for removing the bridge pins and don't pry on the bridge just pull straight upward. If the pins are stubborn, loosen the strings and push upward from inside to help remove them. Don't force them in too tightly when replacing them with the new strings. We use Elixir brand 'Nano Web' light gauge strings on almost every new Goodall steel string guitar and find them to be an excellent choice for our instruments. Your string gauge choice can vary, but guitars with Engelmann spruce, cedar, redwood tops, and any Parlor model, are not suited for medium gauge strings.
When we first set up an instrument, the action (string height off the frets) is quite low, and the neck fairly straight. Within a few weeks or months the guitar 'breaks in' and depending upon the relative humidity and temperature, the action may rise up and necessitate a lowering of the saddle and sometimes also a slight tightening of the truss rod (a very slight forward bow on the neck is considered optimum). This adjustment is totally normal and necessary for all new instruments. A Goodall Guitar dealer or qualified repair-person will be able to adjust this for you. For the average player I would recommend the distance under the bottom of the bass 'E' string to the top of the 12th fret be slightly over 3/32" and the treble 'E' slightly over 1/16" (this is considered low action). Your personal needs for action can vary depending upon your playing style. Have a qualified repair-person evaluate the action occasionally. A once a year checkup should be adequate after the initial important break-in period adjustments.
For our nylon string model guitars the neck relief will be slightly more than our steel strings (we contour that at the factory). The action should be about 1/8" from the 12th fret from the bottom of the treble 'E' string graduating to 5/32" on the low 'E'. We use the excellent 540ARJ Savarez Alliance HT Classic strings on these instruments.
Action Height Adjustments
When we first set up a Goodall guitar, the action (string height off the frets) is fairly low. Within a few months the guitar 'breaks in' and depending upon the relative humidity and temperature, the action may raise up. This necessitates a lowering of the saddle and sometimes a slight tightening of the truss rod. This is totally normal, and if you live near the store that you purchased from they will be able to adjust this for you. Your personal needs for action height can vary greatly depending upon your playing style. Another thing to consider is that action can vary depending on the humidity and temperature, so an instrument set up perfectly at say 60% relative humidity will go too low at 30% and too high at 90%.
Lowering the saddle and or a slight tightening of the truss rod is normal and usually all that is ever needed to adjust the action properly. With a new instrument, the action should be checked by a professional repair-person after a just a few months and adjusted if necessary.
Action that is left excessively high for an extended period of time not only takes the joy out of playing, but will cause considerable stress on the instrument. This can torque the neck out of proper alignment with the body - especially on 12 string instruments. Be sure to have this checked. The first year is most important.
The following information is ONLY for the 'do-it-yourself' folks with some skill and guitar know-how:
If the action is a bit high, a safe adjustment would be as follows: If the neck has excessive relief (forward bow), tighten the truss rod a little first and this may be enough to lower the action to where you want it. The truss rod only adjusts the amount of forward bow between the nut and the 12th fret so you can't use this adjustment to change the overall neck angle (in relation to the body). But if your neck has too much forward relief (bow), tightening the truss rod can help overall action. A 1/4" nut-driver available at Ace Hardware or similar hardware store (looks like a screwdriver with a socket on the end) can be used to carefully straighten the neck. Turn clockwise when facing the nut from the end of the peg head. Don't overdo it - usually a 1/4 to 1/2 turn is sufficient. The strings are to be left at tension during this procedure.
If that isn't enough, it seems like you are ready to lower your saddle just a bit. For the average player using light gauge strings (.012" - .053"), I would recommend the distance under the bass 'E' string to the top of the 12th fret be about .092" and the treble 'E' about .070" (the bass side needs more height than the treble to prevent buzzing). Medium gauge can be a few thousandths lower. Usually an even amount should be removed from the bottom of the saddle to achieve this. The saddle is not glued in and can be taken out by removing the strings and gripping tight on one end with your fingers and pulling straight up. The bottom of the saddle needs to be carefully sanded lower(square with the sides) with some 120-150 grit sandpaper (wet and dry paper works well) on a very flat surface like glass. Make a line parallel from the bottom where you want to sand to first. There are times when you may want to sand a bit more off either the treble or bass side but usually an even amount removed is best. Just a little is usually all that is needed - say 1/32". The idea is to ease up to the right action rather than go too far and need to shim back up. Check by replacing strings and playing a while.
It is not an unusual thing for some older instruments to need a neck reset after an extended period of time depending on the humidity where you live. Thankfully this is a relatively easy job for a qualified Goodall guitar repair-person. Very high humidity can cause the top to swell which raises the bridge and saddle up higher. Very low humidity flattens the top out and lowers the bridge and saddle. Action that is left excessively high for an extended period of time can cause considerable stress and can torque the guitar neck out of proper alignment with the body. But before we come to that conclusion though, how much room is available to lower the saddle - I mean is the top of the saddle extending above the top of the bridge. Is there enough to lower it any? If so just lowering the saddle might be all that is needed.
We use Elixir light gauge or D'Addario EXP16 phosphor bronze light gauge strings, medium gauge are OK only on Sitka, European, Italian, Adirondack spruce and Port Orford cedar.
Remember a little string buzzing when playing hard is normal and OK.
Some folks may be perfectly able to adjust their Goodall guitar without hurting it but be cautious. The key is to have a slight forward relief between the 1st and 12th fret on the order of the thickness of a thin guitar pick. Many folks think a straight neck is best but with a little forward relief, the middle of the neck has clearance for the (firmly plucked) string oscillation and then in the high notes (as in playing up the neck) the fretboard comes back to meet the strings making them easier to play too. The high notes need less relief because the thinner the string gauge, the less height it needs to properly oscillate. The oscillation creates the buzzing as the string hits the next fret in front of the one being fretted. A little buzzing with hard playing is absolutely normal and proper.
Remember, the truss rod adjustment is not a substitute for a correct saddle height. The saddle height is adjusted after the proper neck relief is attained.
The wrench is a 1/4" 'nut driver' wrench available at any hardware store such as Ace. They used to be small enough to fit, but recently they seem a little too large and some grinding on the outside diameter may be necessary. The luthier supplier Stewart MacDonald www.stewmac.com 800-848-2273, has a 1/4" thin-wall truss rod wrench that may fit as well. A small, tight fitting Phillips screwdriver for the truss rod cover screw is also important.
We don't send a truss rod wrench with our instruments because some players without knowledge might 'mess up' the action adjustment or over tighten the rod and damage the neck.
Extra light strings are not best for a number of reasons, and the 'dead' notes on the bass E and he A string are a clue that the action is too low. Some folks want the strings practically touching the frets and then complain about dead spot, buzzing and tone loss. There is some pain in playing an acoustic guitar - sorry. We make an easy playing and excellent sounding instrument but there are limits to how low the action can be taken - period! The lighter the string and the harder you play the higher the action must be.