This sitars’ neck has bended too much. The playing string was tilted 14mm above the last pardas’ surface. The neck came up 5mm at the tar daan position.

First thing to do is to remove the hardware and the celluloid decoration strips.

Then the glue line which marks the separation between the upper en lower parts is visible.

Put a chisel exactly on this line and give a gentle push. The glue will break and the 2 parts will get separated.

With the help of a homemade chisel, also used as a scraper, we can split the neck completely.

Now first we will check the cracks’ surface and remove the remaining old glue.

After this we add fresh glue to the 2 parts and fix them together again with a rope. Use hot glue or titebond. These glues become strong and hard and are not elastic.

Finally we hold a strong, straight and flat board against the freshly glued neck and tie it up with the rest of the rope.

After sufficient drying, the board and rope are removed and the glue lane is cleaned. Now we already can see the result: a straight neck !!

Now it is time to put the decoration strips back to its place. Glue is applied and then they are fixed with bamboo nails.

After the leftover pieces of the bamboo nails have been removed, the sitar is ready for reftretting…


Neck Bend Repair — 24 Comments

  1. Hi Ananda, this site very interesting and very useful comments and sugrencias. I’m a beginner and have received Sitar of resale in good condition only that the neck is similar to the example here has shown kink, I am determined to make this work to fix the neck, chiropractic wonder if after this repair the neck can turn-off time or a tough repair.
    Thank you very much for your time and see you soon.


  2. I have a 30 year Natai Chandra Nath that has bend and twist to the neck. I understand that some makers put a twist in the neck on purpose. Why I dont know. The main bridge is half done for because of a few jawaris. String height at the last fret is 11mm with the worn bridge. I think I need this straightened as when I replace the bridge it will probably be another 4mm higher. Looking at the back of the neck when sitar is resting against the wall the twist looks to be towards the tuneing peg side. I this a concern? the sitar has a very mellow tone and when played sets off the sympathetics robustly, full and wonderful. I dont want to change the sympathetics sound however I would like a bit more brightness from the mains. Does this bend in the neck create the softer main string 1-4 Im hearing or is this a characteristic of Nath Sitars using Tun wood. Thank you for this site I just discovered. Larry

    • I don’t know if sitarmakers put a twist in the neck on purpose. Considering the traditional workflow I don’t think it is even possible to steer it. In my humble opinion i think that it is more likely that too many makers don’t use well seasoned and well selected wood. Because of the asymmetric stringload a sitar is very sensitive to twist and bending. It can happen very easy if one puts his sitar well tuned (under full tension) aside for some (too much long) time… Another weak point is the joint, which can cause very easily a jawari mismatch in height after some time.
      There is not always a reason to concern as long as playability and sound remain acceptable.
      The bend in neck or joint might create a softer main string since the overall tension on the tabli is decreased and as such the sound-response will follow. It is best to anyways maintain a max. string height set to 8 – 11mm.
      I cannot say anything about Nitai Chandra Nath since I never laid hands on such a sitar…

  3. I love this website, your are doing something special here. I participate regularly in MIMF and it is nice to branch out and see what others are doing.

    I am curious about a couple of things. I’m restoring an ‘old’ sitar that has a similar neck bend and also it is missing some bits of celluloid.

    Do you make your own bamboo nails? Are they just slivers of bamboo cut from a piece?

    Can ‘new’ celluloid strips be purchased? Even plain so that I could try to duplicate the existing celluloid.

    Any advise would be most welcome.

    • Thank you for your kind comment.

      Yes, these bamboo nails are handmade also.
      Cut (by splitting) a ± 2 mm wide strip (+ 20 cms long) of good bamboo. Make it go slowly towards a point by cutting with a sharp chisel BUT do not cut onto the bamboo’s peel side. The bamboo’s peel (outer side) is which makes it strong and this peel should be kept intact over the whole length of the nail. Cut off at the desired length from your strip, and make the next point – nail until your strip is finished.
      Drill a very fine hole in which you apply the nail. Also, add some wood glue to the nail before gentle hammering it into the hole.

      Yes, celluloid is available in many forms. I’ve bought a sheet of plain white celluloid in India. It is perfect to be cut into strips, or lanes, or every other desired shape. If desired one can try to replicate the typical Indian decoration design by means of engraving. Fill up the engravings with coloured and melted wax.
      Keep your celluloid stock out of the direct sun. After some time, the sunlight will change its colour.

  4. Hello, I’m new to Sitars. How far above the frest should the strings sit? The one I have they are about 3/4 of an inch above the frets or almost 2 cm.

    Thank You

    • Neill,
      The distance between the main playing string and the frets (pardas) is measured at the last fret (= the fret with the highest note). The distance at this location should be something in between 8 – 11 mm. If your sitar measures up to 20 mm, then something is surely wrong. This is too much high… Could it be that the neck is bended, or there might be a loose or broken joint ?

    • Parda shaping is done with a light/medium-weighted hammer. The basic technique is very simple: hammer on the upper surface of the parda to make it going more down/flat and hammer on the under side surface to make it going more up/round again. Always remove the parda from the instrument before hammering. Never hammer on a parda which is still mounted on the instrument. Use a heavy piece of hardwood as a solid base to put the parda on while hammering. I use a rubber/synthetic hammer for hammering the upper surface of the parda, and an ordinary iron hammer for hammering the under surface of the parda.

  5. Hi Ananda,

    I’ve managed to split open the neck but can’t totally remove it as I think it will affect the skin. I’m going to try to glue it back up as it is – any tips on the best glue to use? Also,would you advise I take this opportunity to rehydrate the instrument from the inside using either groundnut or peanut oil? Any other tips would be most appreciated!!

    Many thanks,

    • Dear Gurbaksh. As I wrote before, the best glue to use for this job is hot glue. But if you are unsure, or if you don’t have any experience with hot glue it might be better to use titebond. The surface to be glued is rather large and needs some well trained efficiency when using hot glue. There is no time to waste when you start adding the warm glue to the wood…
      The use of titebond is much more easy and relax. There is also some time to make a small adjustment when things are not lined up correctly.
      Better to glue correct with titebond, then to glue badly with hot glue!!
      Give min. 24 hrs time for the glue to dry before removing the rope.

      According to me, there is almost never a need to rehydrate an instrument as it is always most important that the wood is as dry as possible. Adding fluids/water will make the wood more heavy and make it start working (bending/changing form) again which is not advisable. Also be aware that adding oil to the wood will make it unable to breath.

    • Gurbaksh, I have to tell you that I have not done this repair on an esraj (yet)… but I think that this procedure will be the one to go for if you are into this problem. I hope that the pictures are clear enough to be of some help?? Be carefull with the skin…

  6. I have some tite bond, but would get some hot glue if it suits the job better. The answer to this question might be obvious, but will the force of tying the board to the neck be enough to straighten it? Also, how long should I leave it tied up? An instrument builder friend of mine will be assisting in the operation, so that takes a lot of worry out of this! Thanks for being so helpful!

    • If you are unsure, or if you don’t have any experience with hot glue it might be better to use titebond. The surface to be glued is rather large and needs some well trained efficiency when using hot glue. There is no time to waste when you start adding the glue to the wood…
      The use of titebond is much more easy and relax. There is also some time to adjust when things are not lined up correctly.
      Better to glue correct with titebond, then to glue badly with hot glue!!

      Yes, the rope, pressing the neck against the straight board, will make your sitar’s neck straight again. It suffices to apply enough force when tighting the rope and to make sure to keep this tension every turn you make. It’s good to have some assistance from a friend – luthier.

      Give min. 24 hrs time for the glue to dry before removing the rope.

  7. I have just a few questions more to ask if you don’t mind. When the neck is separated, is the wood flexible enough to be straightened with a flat board, or is there any steaming involved (this applies to both pieces of the neck)? The pictures you have are very helpful, but there are a few steps that I don’t understand, such as the actual straigtening process. Is it simply firmly tying a straight board to the neck and allowing it to adjust?

    • In this process, there is no steaming involved. The wood is thin and flexible enough to adjust by itself.
      But it is important to use good glue. Preferably hot glue (hyde glue / bone glue…) which is commonly used in musical instruments. So, make sure you know how to make and use it properly.
      Eventually, tite bond glue also can be used. But try to avoid the regular white wood glue. This glue is too elastic…

      Make sure you have a very strong and perfectly straight piece of wood to hold the freshly glued neck…

      Yes, the process is simply firmly tying up the neck to a straight board. But, you have to tie up in 2 parts:
      First, tie up the 2 neck pieces (upper plate to lower, rounded piece) to each other straight after applying the glue. Do this immediately, waste no time, because the hot glue starts hardening very fast !!
      Then, tie up this completely tied up part to the straight piece of wood.

      So, make sure you have sufficient rope ready.
      It is a good idea to “rehearse” this process completely. But without applying the glue !!!.
      Doing so, you might encounter and experience some “difficult” or critical moments such as the beginning (how to fixate the rope initially) and ending (how to fixate the rope after completing the process). And, how to create a nice, regular and straight “surface” when tying up the upper plate to the lower (rounded) part of the neck. (= first part of the tying process, and before mounting the straight piece of wood)

      See pictures above…

  8. I just got a sitar with this problem and will follow your lead in the future repair of it .

    I’m a beginner with this instrument but a long time old school guitar builder .

    Nice job you did and thanks for the info on this very interesting instrument .


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