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Strat body with chip

Q: I have a strat body guitar that has what looks to be a laminate top with a chip from the bridge mounting insert to the route for the bridge pickup (about 1/2 by 1/4 inch). My son and I are in the process of rebuilding the guitar and don't know how to fix this. How should we proceed.
Thank you for your time,

A: The general technique for filling a hole, of any size, is to fit a piece of wood to the sides and bottom of the hole, glue it in, and then shave the top of the plug flush with the surrounding surface. The plug should stick up out of the hole enough that you can manipulate it, but not enough to give the slack excessive leverage. A 2" high plug in a 1/8" deep hole will be hard to clamp and any tiny tap will break it out of the hole. A 1/4" plug in a 1/8" hole will leave 1/8" slack above the surface. You can dent the slack, scratch it, mark it with pencil, whatever. It will not be part of the finished surface.  Shave the top of the plug off with a very sharp chisel. Sand with a sanding block as needed. Your hole is a chip out. You will need to fit the bottom and two sides and shave the top and both ends of the patch.

        A well stocked wood shop has lots of little pieces of many different types of wood to use as patches. We have a ten lifetime supply of little pieces of ebony, rosewood, mahogany, maple, spruce and bone scraps.  If you don't have a well stocked wood shop, buy a bag of tongue depressors, or collect popsicle sticks. A popsicle stick might be the exact size for your project. Most hardware stores have little pieces of balsa and bass wood. We had a store in our town that had walnut and maple but they went out of business. It is impossible to match the grain, color and iridescence of the surface wood exactly. With a large stock of the right species of wood it is possible to get very close. This is not a problem if you are going to cover the patch with an opaque finish.

        Square the edges of the hole with a very sharp knife (a #11 Exacto with an Excel blade is great). Cut the patch slightly larger than the hole, then use a sanding block to fit it until it will press into place. If the hole is ragged or irregular, cut a rectangular patch that will cover everything.  Hold it down and scribe around it. A square is much easier to fit than an odd shape.  

        Any glue will hold the patch in but a non shrinking glue (epoxy) is best. PVR, Aliphatic Resin and hide shrink as they harden. This can leave a very fine gap at the top of the patch for your finish to shrink into. The job will leave your shop looking perfect and in six months there will be a fine line advertising the shape of your patch. Clear epoxy will "lens" a joint. No matter how tight the joint actually is, if it is glued with clear epoxy it will look open. Mix in coloring powder or fine sawdust. Let the glue bead up around the patch and shave it flush at the same time as you shave the patch.

        The above instructions work best if you intend to strip and refinish the guitar body. If you are fitting fresh wood into a finished surface you can speed the process of finishing the patch by sealing it with superglue. Finish capillates into the wood and shrinks as it dries. You can save yourself four or five coats by sealing the wood.

Steve Mason

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