Ovation sunken top-how concerned should I be?

Discussion in 'Luthier's Guitar & Bass Technical Discussion' started by Freedom35, Dec 6, 2018.

  1. Freedom35

    Freedom35 Member

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    This is an Ovation Legend I’ve had since new. I bought it about 15 years ago and have played the s$&t out of it. It has been my workhorse for teaching, practice, college performances, etc, but I haven’t used it much in recent years, and man is it showing its age.

    The first thing you might notice is the big finish crack below the bridge. That happened years ago when I stupidly left the guitar in the car overnight after lessons in winter.
    When it was not very old I had some playability issues, maybe brought on by too much humidity, so I had it set up and some fret work done. I also had some binding come unglued around the neck. Frustrating but I just glued it back on.

    Another problem, though, has been the sunken top around the soundhole. I cannot remember just when this started, but it was happening before the finish crack incident. It is worst between the bridge and soundhole on the top side. There is also some near the treble side of the neck. I can’t find any loose bracing and don’t know what has caused it.
    It’s hard to see in pictures, but the whole top is a little “wavy” looking in certain light.

    I still love this axe for various reasons, but is it getting a bit out of hand? Should I address the the sunken top or just clean it up as best I can?


     
  2. wox

    wox Supporting Member

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    Hard to tell from the pics, but it sounds and looks like the natural effect of an acoustic guitar aging. The string pull on the bridge begins to push down the top around the sound hole. This can be exacerbated by wood contracting in very low humidity, and can also be caused by cracked or loose braces.

    I would remove the strings and somewhat aggressively attempt to re-hydrate the guitar, then check for loose braces on the top.
     
  3. Timtam

    Timtam Member

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    Is it bulging upwards below the bridge ? eg if you put a straight edge across the body below the bridge (and parallel to it), does it sit on top of a bulge in the middle of the top surface, and off the surface at the edges ?
     
  4. B. Howard

    B. Howard Silver Supporting Member

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    Due to the fact these guitars are fan braced the tops age a bit differently then an X braced guitar. Some of what you describe is normal but I really can't see much in the pics.....
     
  5. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    the rap on old ovations is that the wood top expands and contracts with humidity while the plastic bowl doesn't move, so warps and cracks on the top are kind of normal.
     
  6. stormin1155

    stormin1155 Member

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    As others have mentioned, bellying is fairly common as a guitar ages. The 150+ pounds of constant pull from the strings takes its toll by pulling the neck and bridge up. If it isn't affecting your action or resulting in loose braces or cracks, I wouldn't worry too much about it. The best thing you can do is keep it properly hydrated. If it is causing some of the aforementioned problems, it can sometimes be flattened somewhat with convex/concave plates, heat and clamp.

    There is also a contraption called the Bridge Doctor that attaches to you bridge plate and is designed flatten a bellied top. I'm not a big fan of them, but sometimes they help.
     
  7. Freedom35

    Freedom35 Member

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    Thanks for the input, folks!
    The neck does have a hump where it meets the body, but I was thinking that was a truss rod adjustmeny.
    I think I might try re-humidifying, by the sponge method. One question is whether to leave the strings on during the process. One person recommended this while the tutorials I’m finding don’t mention it.
     
  8. ELmiguel

    ELmiguel Member

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    Is there a hump or are you seeing "drop off"?
    if you look from the side and start where the neck joins the body, then continue toward the sound hole you'll noticed the fretboard appears to drop as it gets close to the sound hole. That is a design, not a defect.
    If your action hasn't changed (gotten higher) then I wouldn't worry about it. The 78 Custom Legend I have has it. If I put a straight edge across the top of my guitar, there is about a 1/16" gap between the bridge and the sound hole. It's normal according to a couple of luthiers I know, and per Ovation repair dept. and based on a few Ovations I've played.
    The top may eventually develop a crack running from the bridge back toward the strap button rear part of the body. That's typical as well. The wood top ages and changes size but the body doesn't. It's not a problem either, it's typical. If your braces come loose from the top you'll know it. You may hear a buzzing and/or the bridge area will start rising. You'll be able to see the hump. And the action will get higher.
    The humidity trick with the sponge isn't going to change anything now. It might prevent the top from cracking in the future. That's about it.
     
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2018
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  9. Freedom35

    Freedom35 Member

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    Thanks! Sounds like I should just restring, set up, clean up and play it as is. My worry was that this sinking top was a symptom of something worse than aging. I’ll simply keep an eye on it.
     
  10. ELmiguel

    ELmiguel Member

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    If you know a luthier they could probably look inside just to make sure the braces are ok.
    If you have a dental mirror and a flashlight you can take a look too. If the brace is loose you'll probably be able to see the gap between it and the top. Or the brace could even be cracked. But what you describe just sounds like a normal top to me. I bought mine new in 1978 and by 1980 it was there.
     
  11. buddyboy69

    buddyboy69 Member

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    I have a 1982 balladeer. Loudest most articulate acoustic I've ever had. As it ages more problems arise. Many top cracks, braces popping off, hump in sound board etc. It still sounds fantastic but there is a new "buzz" from a loosening brace. I have repaired this guitar many times but I'm about to give up. The plastic bowl and wood top just don't get along.
     

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