Vintage Acoustic Guitar Repair: 1963 Gibson Country & Western






Recently a 1963 Gibson Country & Western acoustic guitar was taken into the workshop for a Workbench Assessment. The guitar was brought in because the client felt that it wasn’t quite as it should be.

On inspection it is very apparent that a new bridge has been fitted. Whoever had completed this upgrade had made a neat job; it’s made of Rio Rosewood and fitted “belly-up” in the style of its original.

The client suspects that the guitar’s intonation isn’t as accurate as it should be. And sure enough on measuring the string length it is incorrect by 4mm. This discrepancy is too excessive to be able to make an adjustment to the saddle or the saddle slot. The only option is to make a new bridge in the style of the old one and position the saddle slot correctly.

It is also a chance to resolve a few more of the problems found on the guitar.

The bridge-plate is looking a little battered and worn and shows signs of realigned holes and repairs.

Click image to enlarge

The guitar neck has been reset at some point, but the fingerboard has not been glued back in place correctly as there is a crack between the fingerboard and body, as detected by this feeler gauge.






Problem Solving the Bridge and Bridge-Plate Issues

The bridge is removed; this reveals the footprint to the old Adjustable Bridge System that Gibson used during the ’60s. This also reveals some of the old repairs and doweled holes.

Click image to enlarge

These dowels are drilled out in an attempt to remove the bridge-plate. Unfortunately the bridge-plate will not yield and remains immovable. This is unusual in any acoustic guitar and leads me to believe that the earlier repairs have caused this.

Since the bridge-plate cannot be removed and the bridge-pin holes cannot be repaired internally using a Specialist Inlaying and Cutting Tool, the only course of action is to rout through the soundboard and through the bridge-plate (don’t try this at home folks). This removes the worn and damaged section of the plate.

A section of  Spruce and Rosewood is made up as a laminate. This is then inlayed into the tapered gap.

Click image to enlarge

A section of new Spruce is laid over the bridge footprint and levelled off. This gives the new bridge a flat and stable gluing area.

The new bridge is made up…

and glued into place

Decorative Mother of Pearl dots are inlayed over the bolt heads.





Problem Solving the Fingerboard Crack Issue

The fingerboard extension is heated.

This releases the glue and allows a pallet knife to be inserted under the fingerboard end. The knife is left in place while the extension cools; this prevents the glue from reattaching.

Hot glue is syringed into the crack and under the fingerboard extension. The whole area is clamped up and left to cure overnight.

The 2 main repairs are now complete, all that remains to do is:

  • To cut a saddle slot in the new bridge.
  • To make a new bone saddle and fine-tune the intonation.
  • To make a new bone nut.
  • To Fret Hone and Re-profile the frets.
  • To restring with 12 – 53 strings.

Click Here for more photos on flickr



Click Here to view the finished guitar in it’s home setting. Also photos of the CW’s new tuners that have been authentically aged by it’s owner.

Photos courtesy of the owner Richard, London, 2011.




Also photos of its new tuners that have been authentically aged




Gibson Guitar Repair : 1969 Southern Jumbo





The owner of this lovely old Gibson SJ thinks it doesn’t have the sound projection that it should have.

My suggestion is to fit a GPL Saddle Insert to replace the existing adjustable bridge saddle.

Adjustable bridge saddles of this type were used by Gibson and Epiphone on their acoustic guitars during the 1960s. This adjustment gives the player the opportunity to set the action to the required height to suit the player’s style. However, when the saddle is set to a good playing action the saddle makes no contact with the soundboard; this is the down side to this system. This lack of contact is due to the saddle being suspended on two adjusting posts. These posts are screwed into two threaded inserts that are housed into the soundboard. Therefore the transmission of sound vibration from the strings to the soundboard is via two metal adjusting posts. This is not an ideal situation for producing good volume or tone. Simple logic would dictate that the more contact the saddle has with the bridge or soundboard the more transmission of sound, therefore producing more volume and more tone.

View Forum discussion here...


What is a GPL Saddle Insert ? A GPL Saddle Insert replaces the existing adjustable bridge saddle found on vintage Gibson and Epiphone guitars. It’s a non-invasive modification and can be removed if necessary. It’s an idea that I’ve used on several vintage guitars in the past which has enhanced the volume and tone and brought out the true voice of the guitar.

The Process

  1. The adjustable saddle is removed
  2. A GPL Saddle Insert is custom-made from matching woods to fit the slot
  3. The insert is glued into place
  4. The saddle position is marked out
  5. A saddle slot is routed into the insert
  6. A bone saddle is custom-made
  7. The string height is set for optimum playability

The GPL Saddle Insert is glued into place using high quality Hide glue. The remarkable thing about Hide glue is that it’s reversible. With most synthetic glues when it’s stuck it stays stuck. Not the case with Hide glue because it’s an organic material that softens with heat and moisture.  Therefore, by using a little heat and moisture the insert can be released and removed. Consequently, if the old saddle system needs to be put back into place it’s a simple job to reverse the above process and re-install the adjustable bridge saddle.


The Dilemma

Meanwhile the debate still rages on about the rights and wrongs of upgrading any aspects of a “vintage” guitar. Many owners of instruments that are of a certain age are reluctant to change any element of that instrument because it would no longer be origin. In a nutshell, if you have a guitar that’s 30 plus years old, making upgrades or changes to it could make it worth less than if it remained unchanged.

View a recent poll discussing the pros and cons of vintage guitar upgrades here…

The GPL Saddle Insert cuts across this issue because it is a non-invasive change that can be removed when required. If you have an old vintage acoustic that’s not living up to its potential contact this workshop and ask about the GPL Saddle Insert.

Update 23.01.11

An email from the SJ owner, shortly after collecting from the workshop

…………………………… it doesn’t show a lot of play wear and this might have been because it didn’t respond well and as a result, it never got the play for it to break-in and open-up since there was no vibration getting to the soundboard.   Now that the vibration is connected to the soundboard for the first time in its life, it might open up and get much better than it has ever been; wishful thinking or rational reasoning?  Even playing it last night warmed it up and as the evening wore on it seemed to sound better. I do have to say that it now does have a mystical kind of sound that is quite beguiling when one becomes familiar with it. As you can see, my enthusiasm has returned for the old SJ.





Guitar Set Up London



 


What are they saying about Graham Parker Luthier?

Here’s a selection of the many thank you emails that arrive weekly.



Hi Graham, Just a quick thanks for the great job on the guitar it plays beautifully and I have written a couple of new songs because it plays so easy.

Regards,

John (Neck Reset)


Hi Graham

Apologies for the random email – but I can’t remember actually contacting you after you had finished working on my Fender Precision.

Work was manic and as unbelievable as it might sound, I didn’t actually even get to take the bass out of the case for a few months.

I just wanted to send you a note to say that it is perfect – absolutely perfect. It feels better than ‘brand new’, and the action is literally the best I’ve experience in about 20 years – really good.

Great work. Thank you again and apologies for the delay in getting in touch.

Andrew  (refret – N. Ireland)



Hi Graham
I just wanted to drop you a quick line of thanks for the wonderful set-up that you did on my Gibson Byrdland. My hands were so cold when I came to pick it up from you, that I didn’t fully appreciate how good your work was. However, now that my hands have warmed up – and with a week of noodling under my belt – I have to say that the guitar feels and sounds fantastic. I was seriously thinking of selling it, but thanks to you it is an absolute ‘keeper’ now!
Thanks again
Mick

Graham,

Thanks for all your first rate work on the guitar, certainly worth the journeys from St. Albans to Lewisham. You diagnosed the issues very easily from my description and it was an education to chat at your workbench. I would recommend your work to anyone.

All the best
Thomas
Gibson ’75 J45


Hi Graham

Just to say again thank you for such excellent service repairing my Gretsch. From the initial contact to collection, your service was first class.

It was a pleasure meeting you.

Very best wishes
Stephen Crabb MP


Thanks again for setting up the telecaster and making the new nut.The guitar sounds amazing and is so much easier to play. I haven’t been able to put it down all day.

Great job as always,
Kind Regards,
Rachel


Dear Graham,

Just wanted to say thank you again for the extraordinary job you did on my mandolin: I really didn’t think it would be possible to achieve such good action and playability given the limitations of the original construction. Your efforts have proven absolutely transformative!

Pete


In 1973 I bought a Martin D28S in San Francisco.

Now the embarrassing bit: 43 years later I still hadn’t learnt to play it.

What happens to an old, even unplayed, guitar is that eventually it needs the neck resetting. I was lucky enough to find Graham. Apparently lots of professional guitarists go to him; but I, who refer to guitar parts as “the thin end” and “the big end”, was treated by Graham as a human-being.

Don’t be afraid to get this guy’s expert advice. His prices are fair… In fact, fantastic value for the excellent quality of his work.

This man is honest.

Cheers Graham from Patrick.


Hi Graham,

So I’ve had time to play the guitar properly now and I just wanted to say thank you!

Great job and it plays perfectly – it’s just right!!

Many thanks

Alex 50’s Gibson J50


Hi Graham

Don’t know what you did to my Les Paul but you’ve transformed her into a real player! Absolutely superb I can see why people like these guitars now.

Many thanks, and hope you have a good weekend!

David W


Hi Graham,
Just want to say that the guitar sounds and feels amazing! Better than it has ever done.
I’ve been playing for almost 4 hours straight.
I know who to call whenever my guitars needs a professional hand.
Thanks for the great work you’ve done.

Jonathan.  Heritage 535


Graham
Just wanted to say thank you very much for an excellent service and a great job.
The J-45 with your new bridge has been un-puttadownable since I got it home, its strumming/ rhythm tone is exceptionally warm and resonant, thanks again,

James ’60s Gibson J45


Hi Graham. I just wanted to say thanks again for the wonderful job you’ve done in my guitar. It is dramatically improved!

Well done.

Guy ’60s Guild M20


Hi Graham
Thank you so much for fixing my bass!
I really should have spent more time with you testing out the extent of your work, probing the wood, strings and feel, but I appreciate that you must see hundreds of people pretending to ‘test’ their gear, when the reality is that they are simply trying to impress you with their ‘hot licks’ or whatever. Either way, and nerves aside, my bass plays better now than it ever has, and I’m thrilled!
Many thanks,
Paul Fender Fretless P.bass

Hi Graham

Another massive thank you for the work you did on the guitar.
Sounding awesome and playability is excellent.

All the best Sean ‘43 Martin 000-18


That’s great Graham, and thanks for doing such a top job on the guitar. I’ll certainly be using you again.

Nick Tucker ’50s Martin 00-17


Hi Graham,
Just a note to express my deep thanks for sorting out my Epiphone ES345.
You have done a wonderful job on making what I found an unplayable instrument into one of my favourites.
Thank you very much and I’ll be in touch soon enough re more work.
Regards
Alan


Hello Graham,
Hope you are keeping well.
Just wanted to say thank you for the work you carried out for me on my Gibson Acoustic SJ200.
I have had the guitar from new since 2010 and have been trying to find someone to make it the instrument it should have been, you have more than achieved that where others have failed.
You replaced the saddle and nut as I requested and carried out a full set up with a fret re-profile.
The guitar really plays and sounds as it should have now and the intonation is 100% accurate.
The bass notes are a joy to play.
One of my concerns that others could not rectify was the E string moving on the saddle, you have corrected that and increased the break angle.
I went from being very frustrated with the guitar and ready to carry out a Pete Townsend on it to never wanting to part with it !
Thanks again for all your hard work and advice.
Hope you have a great Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Regards
Steve (Gibson Acoustic SJ200)


Hi Graham,
Just wanted to say a massive thank you for the awesome work you just completed on my guitar. It’s sounding wonderful….well especially when you played it!
All the best until next time…..
Sean Marsh (1955 Martin  00-17)



THANKS SO MUCH !!!
It sounds and plays lovely, I’m heading off for the tour tomorrow a very happy man.
Cheers and hope all is well with you

Ted Barnes (Birkett Acoustic)



Graham,
Guitar is amazing, sounds better then ever, thanks. Alek
Alek Coroner (Les Paul)



Dear Graham, just played the old lady for an hour, she is in fantastic shape… Thanks a lot for brushing her up, I am very happy.  See you soon P

Philip Goeth (1964 Hofner President)



Hi Graham,
I want to thank you for the excellent work you did on my 1965 Levin. The intonation, which had never been right, is now absolutely perfect. It also sounds and plays better than ever. I think it will be the first guitar I pick up from now on – even before my Martin 00028ec. Great job!
Regards,
Peter



I ran into big difficulties trying to fit new pickups to my Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster. Graham took on the mess I had made and rewired the guitar and installed the pickups. He also set up the guitar involving truss rod adjustment, corrected intonation, resetting the action and got the tremelo to float perfectly. It has never played so beautifully. Graham’s work is of the highest standard and anybody seeking his help can have the confidence that their guitar is in very good hands. I think he offers great value for money.

Richard Chambers



Hi Graham

Thanks for the great job you did on what was an old standby guitar that I hardly ever played. Its a different guitar now and a pleasure to play

Colin Fielding (Takamine)



Hi Graham,
All I think I need to say is that my Gibson 60s J50 has been in the hands of a true master craftsman.
Many many thanks for a truly great job I am unbelievably pleased with all you have done and the guitar feels and plays beautifully.
Fondest regards,
Terry Windle



Hi Graham
Just like to say thanks for the lovely job you made of my Larrivee. Been playing it this weekend and it feels and sounds great.
Many thanks Ray



Hi Graham, Ive been playing the guitar alot since I picked it up from you, and it is sounding and playing beautifully. Thank you.

Bob (Ovation Viper)



Hi Graham,

A quick note to thank you very much for the excellent work you did on my Tokai. It plays beautifully!

Thanks again,

Derek



Hi Graham,

Just a quick note to thank you for the work you did on my 335 recently, the neck is now simply seamless all the way along and this means smoother solos and less strain which equals a great deal more playing pleasure and better music. Thanks again.

Fabian



Hi Graham,

Just wanted to say thank you for the great setup on my les Paul. It feels easier to play, and sounds fantastic – chords in particular sound much cleaner now.

Thanks again.

Luke



saulashby Saul Ashby

Thanks @gparkerluthier for making my Gibson play like the hot shit. Can’t put it down.

Gibson J 160E



Hi Graham,
A quick note to thank you for your excellent work on the Squier: it has transformed it from a decent but rather ordinary guitar to one that feels, plays and sounds very good indeed.
Thanks, too, for making us so welcome.
Best wishes,
Derek S


Hi Graham,

Just a note to thank you for the transformation you have made to my guitar. It’s improved in pretty much every way and plays like a dream and I’m sure will keep opening up even more as I’m playing it even more now; in fact it’s hard to put down!

Kind regards

Luke F



Hi Graham,
A quick one to thank you for the work you did on my No.2 strat the other week. First class job as always.
Les has asked me to convey his gratitude for his bass set up – he’s very pleased and will be bringing you some other axes. (left hand ones of course)
Thank you once again for your high standard of work, hope all is well with you and yours,
kind regards,

Nick W.