A charango is a 10-stringed instrument that originated in the Andes and is traditionally made from the dried shell of an armadillo (hair and ears intact). Fortunately, they’re not made that way anymore!
I recently had the privilege of working on two charangos for local charanguisto Leo Lara, and these really were made the traditional way, so worth putting a lot of work into.
One of them needed only a little work, but the other one needed quite a bit. You can see some of the gory details in this slideshow.
It came to the shop because the action was too high to be playable and the peghead was broken. The peghead was a straight-forward glue job, so no problem. But since an armadillo neck can’t be reset to correct the action like on a guitar, we had to come up with another way. The fingerboard was much thicker on one end so we decided to remove it and make a wedge to fit under it in order to change the neck angle.
The first step was to measure everything and figure out how much the neck angle needed to change. Then remove the frets. Then remove the fingerboard using a heating element (that black thing on top of the heating element is just weight to keep it from moving around). Next make the wedge to the correct dimensions and glue it to the fingerboard. Then glue that to the neck, clean up all the glue and shape everything. Touch up the finish as necessary. Put frets back in, level and crown them (I used the same frets because they were in good shape and a different alloy than what we have). Then string and tune (at least an hour) and set it up.
It turned out great, and was a lot of fun to work on!
Thanks Leo and Kathy for trusting me with your instruments!
Check out Leo and Kathy Lara at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MZrAfkyDfkE