Maintenance & Repair
Your Lowden guitar is made from solid tonewoods selected for their responsiveness and their beauty.
It’s a sad fact that many very fine guitars are not being used, simply because they are in need of tender loving care! When a guitar is subjected to climatic stress or long term wear and tear it is very unlikely that the guitar will have good playability or sound as good as it should. The action may have become high over time, the tuning may not be accurate anymore and there may be fret buzz.
Regular care, controlled humidity storage and the occasional check over by a qualified luthier will help to keep your guitar in great working order. Our shop has some products for caring for your guitar. Please do read the frequently asked questions and care instructions below for answers to common questions.
If your guitar needs a set up or additional care, ask your local Lowden dealer for a recommendation.
Pick Up Systems and Set Up
While it is true that no pick up system has yet been developed which is as natural as a good mic, systems are improving all the time and the best are now very good indeed and in addition provide much more flexibility for the player than having to be restricted to keeping close to a mic on stage. We recommend the LR Baggs Anthem.
There are broadly four types of pickup systems:
Under saddle transducers
Under saddle transducers blended with a tiny mic inside soundbox
Acoustic magnetic pick ups
Under bridge transducers ( sensors )
For loud volume and reasonably good acoustic tone acoustic magnetic is best
For tonal accuracy either the under-bridge or blend type systems are best.
For versatility and good general use the under-saddle types work very well if fitted correctly
NB: For almost all types of pick up and in particular the under saddle types, it is vital that the saddle is fitted very accurately in its slot ie; it must not be either a loose or tight fit ( a sliding accurate fit is best ) Once a good string balance and tone has been achieved through careful fitting of the saddle, it is important to maintain this through changing strings one at a time rather than all at once ( which would allow the saddle to move and likely create string balance problems ) If a saddle tilts forward under string tension, balance problems are likely. Sometimes, tapping the saddle back into a good vertical alignment is all that is required to restore good balance. Anything which restricts the natural vibration of the saddle is likely to affect string balance.
Climate and Humidity
Acoustic guitars are carefully constructed from thin pieces of solid wood joined together by glue and these are directly affected by changes in temperature and humidity; the more extreme the change, the greater the reaction.
It is important to understand and be mindful that in climates where there are extremes in temperature and humidity additional precautions must be taken to ensure the proper care of your instrument. Lowden guitars are built in a carefully controlled humidity environment that varies between 45% and 55% relative humidity, providing optimum worldwide stability.
Maintaining your guitar’s humidity environment within this range will ensure optimal performance, playability and durability. Humidity levels can be monitored with a hygrometer, ask your dealer for advice and availability.
Effects of Temperature and Humidity
Temperature has a direct affect on the moisture content in the air. In general, in warmer weather the air can absorb more moisture – which results in higher relative humidity, causing the wood to swell. In the winter months, the air holds less moisture and additional factors such as central heating will dry the air even further, lowering relative humidity and causing the wood to shrink.
Rapid changes are the most hazardous for your guitar, in order to avoid damage; it is best to keep your guitar insulated in its case. Should your guitar be exposed to extreme cold – let it warm up to room temperature before opening its case to avoid any potential damage.
Symptoms of a Dry Guitar
The consequences of low humidity conditions are arguably more severe than those of humid conditions and it is important to be aware and mindful of the symptoms to look out for. In dry conditions (less than 40% relative humidity) wood will shrink.
The following are signs that you need to immediately remedy and seek advice about the humidity environment of your guitar:•The soundboard begins to drop, lowering the action, which may cause buzzing of the strings against the frets.
• The fingerboard shrinks leaving the fret ends feeling sharp and protruding from the edge of the fingerboard.
• Lacquer checks can begin to appear where the wood is joined, and is a warning sign that your guitar is suffering from environmental stress. In the more severe cases – cracks in the wood itself may appear; an authorised technician should attend to these as soon as possible.
• The Bridge begins to separate from the soundboard.
Precautionary Measures Include (But are not limited to):
•Keeping your guitar in its case – this will help safeguard it not only from damage but will also provide a more stable humidity environment by insulating your guitar.
•Humidifying your environment – purchasing a room humidifier will help towards maintaining acceptable humidity levels. Humidifying your guitar –purchasing a guitar humidifier will help increase your guitar’s humidity content whilst in its case. Please note: It is very important to carefully adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid any possibility of water damage. Alternatively, you can place some humidifiers in the accessory pocket of your case. Do not hesitate to ask us (or your dealer) for advice.
Symptoms of a Wet Guitar
High humidity situations (above 75%) are more difficult to control but the consequences are arguably not potentially as severe. In high humidity, your guitar will absorb excess moisture, swell and expand. The following are signs that you need to immediately remedy and seek advice about the humidity environment of your guitar:
•The sound of your guitar may begin to sound ‘tight’, restricted with a possible loss of bass and volume.
•The soundboard begins to rise, raising the action making it unwieldy or even unplayable.
•The lacquer to check
•The bracing may become apparent where the top is glued to the internal structure of the guitar.
•The glue can weaken and the bridge and/or bindings can lift and separate.
Precautionary Measures Include (But are not limited to):
•Keep your guitar insulated in its case However, please note that the lining of your case can also soak up moisture so it is important to air it out regularly –NEVER leave it or your guitar in the direct sun or too close to a source of heat.
•Air conditioning can help dry the air and reduce humidity in your home. Common sense precautions and paying attention to your guitar will ensure that you notice any changes and act upon them before damage can occur.
Your guitar is most susceptible to the affects of changes in humidity and temperature during the first several months of its life. Every guitar settles in with time and small changes can take place to the action and neck profile whilst your guitar is settling into its new environment. Being mindful of your guitar’s environment during this ‘settling in’ period will minimise the impact of unfavorable conditions and keep your guitar playing and sounding its best.
Never leave your guitar in a car on a sunny day. The rapid increase in temperature will cause softening of the glue, and wood shrinkage compromising the integrity of your instrument and potentially causing damage. If you must travel with your guitar in a hot vehicle, ensure that the case is not directly in the sun; the best place is in the back seat. A rule of thumb is: if you wouldn’t leave your dog in the car – don’t leave your guitar there either.
Prior to leaving prepare your instrument by de-tensioning the strings and ensuring that there are no loose items in the case. You may also wish to place some soft padding material under the headstock area to provide extra support. Your Lowden guitar is supplied with a hard shell case that will provide protection, however this is not infallible. The best place to have your guitar when travelling by air is of course on-board in the overhead compartment or the suit locker. However,the airline may insist that you check-in your guitar.
Special services are available for valuable items, (special handling and identification) please make sure to ask about these at the check-in counter. Avoid signing, if at all possible, any document that limits the airline’s liability for damage.
Re-stringing Your Lowden Guitar
Strings should be regularly changed in order to ensure optimal tone and enjoyment. If your guitar has an under-saddle pickup it is best to change strings one at a time. This helps to stop any small movement in the saddles that may affect pickup balance. Your Lowden guitar is fitted with a pinless bridge and a little care is required to avoid damage to the soundboard caused by the ball end of the string. In order to protect your soundboard place a piece of card on the sound- board behind the bridge. A bend made at the tip of the string will help navigate it through the bridge.
Neck Profile Adjustments
Your Lowden guitar is fitted with an integral truss rod that provides greater neck stability. The adjustment of this rod is to obtain optimal neck relief (not action adjustment) and we recommend that a professional technician make these adjustments.
Neck Profile and Truss Rod Adjustments (Recommended Settings)
Before having a string action adjustment it is important that the neck relief is checked and corrected if necessary.
First check neck relief: To do this, press bass E string onto 1st and 13th frets simultaneously and observe the tiny hairline gap between the bottom of the string and the crown of the 6th fret- this gap is the amount of neck ‘relief’ For most playing styles relief should be between 0.15mm and 0.25mm. If the relief is too large the action may be too high and/or buzzing may occur when playing around the 5th to 10th frets. If the neck is too straight, the action may be too low and buzzing may occur when playing 1st to 4th frets. NB: It is very common for new guitars to develop a high playing action during the first 6 months as the string tension begins to take effect. Often the truss rod will need tightened in new guitars after a few months to correct neck relief and action. If neck relief is less than the above measurements ( ie; almost straight or even slightly convex ) then the truss rod needs turned anti-clockwise using a 5mm allen key. While string tension has been slackened off, turn the truss rod adjustor (located in the internal neck block approximately under the 16th fret) a little at a time and re-tune until the correct neck relief has been achieved. (note, doing this will likely raise the action and therefore it may be necessary to lower the bridge saddles afterwards.)
If neck relief is too much (ie; the neck is more than 0.25mm concave along its length) then the truss rod should be turned clockwise until the neck has straightened sufficiently. Doing this will lower the action and it may be necessary to raise the saddles afterwards.
NB: Lowden guitars made between 1976 and 1993 and from 2004 to date have been fitted with single action aluminum channel type truss rods. Lowden guitars from 1994 to 2003 were most often fitted with a dual action truss rod. For these, there is a “mid-point” of adjustment where the truss rod is neutral and where the adjustor will feel slack.
The height of the strings above the fingerboard is known as the action and directly affects the ease and enjoyment of playing your guitar. Although your Lowden guitar leaves the workshop with optimal action height, it is possible that after some ‘settling in’ period adjustments need to be made. We strongly advise that these only be undertaken by a qualified technician. Ask us (or your dealer) for advice. Workshop standard action settings are considered “low/medium” and are 2.5mm (bass E) and 2.0mm (treble E) … measured between the crown of the 12th fret and the underside of the string.
Cleaning and Care
Cleaning your Lowden Guitar
A great deal of attention and care goes into each and every Lowden guitar and the unique satin finish is no exception. Ideally, we recommend that you wipe down your guitar with a clean, soft dry cloth every time you play. Regular cleaning with a soft polishing cloth, dampened in warm mild soapy water, then dried off with a dry soft cloth will prevent build-up of sweat and grime as well as remove any potentially harmful chemicals to keep your guitar looking great.
Polishing your Lowden Guitar
Ensuring that you guitar is clean is an important step to keeping your Lowden hand rubbed finish looking its very best. However, you may occasionally wish to use a polish. In order to keep your satin finish looking natural, it is important to select a non-silicone matt polish which will not build-up and risk changing the look of your Lowden guitar.
Caring for your Fingerboard
For care and cleaning of your Lowden guitar’s fine ebony fingerboard we recommend that you thoroughly clean it (as above) when re-stringing and periodically use a fine, specially formulated fingerboard oil to keep it nourished and feeling great. In order to keep your Lowden guitar in optimal playing and tonal condition, it is advisable that it be serviced by a recommended luthier /technician at least once a year. Things that may require attention are the nut slots, saddles and neck profile, and it is also valuable for an experienced professional to give your guitar a ‘check-up’ to ensure that it is not suffering from any environmental stress. Your Lowden is designed for a long and active life and is built with extraordinary care and attention to detail. Many of its features are innovative, designed to give unique tonal properties and superior long-term stability. We are always happy to advise you should you have any queries.