My Approach
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If you experience any problem with one of my guitars please get in touch by 'phone.
(The number is on the label and at the bottom of the “Welcome” page of this site.)
The few problems I have come across have required nothing more than adjustments that you can easily do yourself.

Fret Dressing


The best way to clean a guitar may depend on the finish and it helps if you know this. Finger marks should come off with a dry cloth.
If they are stubborn, then the faintest amount of soapy water can be used but then dried off quickly.
I suggest touching a cloth onto the foam on fresh washing up water to do this. I do not think this harms any finish.

Anything more resistant can be removed from my guitars (lacquer finish) and any that are French Polished with a light touch of white spirit on a cloth and then dried.
This may mark some finishes if they are oil based. Never use meths ~ it removes French polish quickly. Please do not use spray-on polishes.
These may leave residues which make a refinish after a repair very difficult and can build up as a form of dirt and attract dust.

Some professional players have instruments that are nearly pristine, others have instruments that I clean thoroughly for my own hygiene reasons before I can work
on them because they are so filthy! These usually need white spirit. Tarrega is said to have had the upper side of his guitar heavily marked with cigarette ash burns.
I don’t think many people would let this happen today but dandruff can collect in the waist of the upper side and should be dusted off at every session.
I have seen this wreck French polish.

String Choice

I have been asked about the strings I use on my guitars. Strings need to be accurately round and dimensioned all the way down or they can never play in tune.
Standards are improving but some manufacturers have been poor at this in the past.
If you have problems with strings try taking micrometer (if you have one) readings along the playing length of the string.
Any discernable variation is bad. The best strings could almost be used to calibrate a micrometer!

I normally fit D’Addario EJ46 strings to my 650mm scale length guitars with the exception of the G string which is a Savarez Alliance hard tension.
To replace them with another make but retain the playing style, it is best to match the tension measurement.
D’Addario’s tensions are on the packet and on their website.
If you cannot find the tension information of an alternative, then it is difficult for me to recommend them.

On 600mm scale length guitars I use Savarez Alliance hard tension throughout.

"The neck is warping or twisting"

Not if it's a Middleton guitar it isn't! The necks of my guitars have a 1cm square steel tube epoxyed into the core of the neck timber.
This is massively rigid and the timber in the neck couldn't bend it if it tried.
(In any case Mahogany and Cedrella are chosen as neck timbers because they don't warp
in this way and don't tend to gradually submit to the slight side pull exerted by the strings).

If you look down the length of the bass E string it may be noticed that the surface of the fingerboard is slightly concave in length.
Down the treble side the fingerboard is flat. This is not a warp or twist; It is how I contour the fingerboard.
The reasons would take a whole page to go into fully. Just be assured that your guitar was always set up that way.
Look at the comments on the "feel" of my guitars on the “testimonials” section.


Any time a vibrating string can touch any object in its oscillation a buzz will result. This can be for a variety of reasons:-

The open string buzzes

It can be that the nut has settled slightly into its slot and that one or more strings now touch the first fret in their movement.
This is a simple adjustment you should do for yourself. Loosen the strings and slide the nut out.
Cut a piece of veneer or just substantial brown paper that will lay in the floor of the nut channel.
If the buzz is only on a bass string make it half or a third of the nut length and put it in the bass side.
Replace the nut on top of it and you have raised those strings higher from the first fret.

The backstring buzz

When you fret a string at the second or higher fret you create two vibrating lengths of string - the one you play and the one between the finger and the nut.
This "back" string can vibrate too ~ in sympathetic resonance with one of the notes you are playing.
If this happens the string may touch one of the frets it is passing over and this is what buzzes. All guitars are likely to do this with some combination of notes.
You often find one of these first occurs in a new piece that you are playing ~ a combination of notes that you have not used before. The cure is straightforward.
You need to raise the nut by a very small amount. Take out the nut and stick a piece of masking tape across the underside.
Trim this absolutely flush with the edges with a razor blade or similar. In some cases two layers may be necessary.
This raises the strings by a couple of thousands of an inch. Too little to be noticed but enough to prevent the buzz.

Buzzing in loud passages

When you play louder the strings vibrate further from side to side.
If your guitar is set up for "student" playing it will have a fairly low action (the height of strings above the fingerboard).
As you become more confident you are likely to play more robustly. You may need a higher action.
It is possible that you could take out the bridge saddle and cut a piece of hardwood veneer to fit the floor of the saddle slot and refit it.
This will raise the action by half the thickness of the veneer. This may be enough. If you get in touch with me by 'phone I can arrange to make you a new saddle.
You would need to send me your saddle. I can then make you a new one and send them both back.

Storage care

Please remember that any quality guitar is made of solid timber which is in dynamic equilibrium with moisture in the air.
It will be distorted and eventually damaged by storage in excessively dry or damp conditions.
If the ‘action’ of your guitar has changed noticeably this may be the cause. All my guitars are made in conditions of 45% RH.
This is only slightly drier than the average household air. Damp air would raise the doming of the front and make the action too high.
Drying (or overheating) would flatten it and lower the action. If in doubt try to get a Relative Humidity reading.

Fret Dressing

All woods shrink when exposed to conditions that lead them to lose moisture content.
Ebony fingerboards can shrink slightly and expose a tiny amount of fret wire at one, or each end.
The problem is that this has been precisely trimmed and so it is sharp.  To remove this sharp slight excess is not too difficult.

  1. Cut a piece of thin card (cereal packet is good) between 6-7 inches square. Cut and remove fairly accurately the outline of the fingerboard
    from fret 10 to the hole out of this. Place it over the upper bout and fold it at fret 12 to hold it in place. This protects the front surface finish.
  2. Take a fine surfaced emery board and file away the fret ends holding the board at right angles to the fingerboard front.
    You will have to vary this angle slightly to cover the fret tangs and the edges of the 'D' at the top. Take care above fret 1 not to mark the head.
  3. There will be sanding marks on the fingerboard edges ~ the finer the emery board, the finer they will be. Rub these over with very fine wet and
    dry paper used wet. 1200-1500 grade is best.*  It should reduce all scratches to a smooth matt finish.
  4. Polish with Tcut or Solvol Autosol* on a soft cloth.

* You should be able to get these at any motor accessory shop.