Vintage Guitar Repairs London: 1930s Gibson L0 coustic Guitar Restoration





 

This lovely old Gibson L0 was made in the 1930s.

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It was taken in by this workshop some years ago for an extensive rebuild. It’s had a hard life and had undergone some very strange repairs over the years.

The majority of the internal struts within the soundboard were loose and in a previous and mistaken repair attempt to stabilise the struts, Epoxy Resin had been smeared on the entire underside of the soundboard. Also wooden clothes pegs were glued here and there as a misguided attempt to strengthen various parts of the soundboard.

The bridge was missing. There were several splits and cracks on the soundboard as well as a distorted area around the footprint of the bridge. All in all the whole instrument was in a sorry state and on the verge of being discarded.

Fortune & Misfortune

Fortunately its neck, fingerboard and frets were in good order and the guitar was owned by someone who could see the potential in this old guitar.

After months of intensive restoration the guitar was finally restored and shipped off to its owner in the Midlands.

Much to his distress on arriving it was revealed that the guitar had been mishandled by the carrier during transit. Unfortunately the guitar had suffered catastrophic damage to its ribs.

Side Split 7 Side Split 6

Fortunately insurance had been taken out prior to the guitar being shipped and after much haggling with the carrier the guitar was returned to the workshop and work commenced on its second restoration.

The split was extensive and extended from the waist on one side to the waist on the other.



The Repair

The split had occurred when the guitar (in its case and packaging) was drop upright on its end. This caused a split that ran along the grain of the rib.

The broken halves of the split will need realigning and gluing back together. Also the area along the length of the split will need to be reinforced.


The splits are carefully aligned and glued

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Made from old machine head parts and guitar strings, clamps are made up to hold the internal reinforcing strips in place while the glue dries

Threaded MH Threaded ply

Small holes are drilled through the guitar rib for the string to pass through. Once tightened and the reinforcing strips are held in place.

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With the glue dried the sides were lightly sanded, re-finished with a Shellac based lacquer and matted down.


I’m happy to report that the repair went very well and the guitar is now back in action again. No more National carriers though, this one is hand delivery only.

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Acoustic guitar repair London: Gibson 1966 LG-0 (Hot Rod)





Here is an interesting project recently taken in by the workshop: a Gibson LG-O made in 1966

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This is an all Mahogany guitar: Mahogany soundboard, back, ribs and neck. This guitar was a budget instrument at the time of manufacture and sold at an affordable price as an entry-level model. The guitar has a slim neck which measures 1 9/16’’ at the nut and joins the body at the 14th fret.

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The Bridge

In 1962 with many thousands of the LG-O sold Gibson decided to exchange the standard rectangular Rosewood bridge for a plastic “belly above” type. This plastic moulded version was held in place by 4 screws that attached from under the soundboard up into the base of the bridge. This was done for ease of removal when dealing with replacements. This was upgraded in 1968 with a Rosewood replacement which included an adjustable saddle.

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 The Soundboard

The soundboard is ladder-braced with 5 lateral braces across its width. This type of bracing gives a distinctive tone that is indicative of the old acoustic Blues sounds of the 1930s. However, this system lacks structural strength and over time the soundboard can become bulged and distorted with string tension. The over large bridge-plate can exasperate the problem as these where generally made of softwood which also offered little structural strength. The LG-O was discontinued in 1974.



The Brief

Our Brief in this instance was to remove the internal ladder bracing, replace with a scalloped X brace system to give the guitar a more balanced tone and to accentuate the bass tone.

To upgrade the bridge-plate and to make and fit a Rosewood replacement bridge.



Removing the Back

In order to gain easy access to the internal bracing it will be necessary to remove the back.

This LG-O does not have an edge binding around its back outline. Therefore, a thin pallet knife is slipped between the back and the end block to start the separation. Once started a Japanese saw is used to precisely cut through the inner lining. Because of the saw’s thin blade and unique cutting motion very little material is lost during this process.

 

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Once the back is removed the simplistic ladder-brace system is revealed. You will notice that a brace and the bridge-plate are missing. I believe these became loose and subsequently lost years before. Their footprints are still visible.

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Rosewood Bridge-Plate

The remaining braces are easily removed and the internal face of the soundboard is prepped in readiness for its upgrade. An Indian Rosewood bridge-plate is made up and fitted. Rosewood is the workshop’s prefered material for bridge-plate replacement because of its strength to thickness ratio.

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Go-bars are a very handy and simple way to fit bridge-plates and braces. They are made from flexible timbers that allows pressure to be applied where needed whilst glue is drying.

The Bracing System

The bracing system is made up and glued into place piece by piece.

Each brace is made from 1/4 sawn straight-grained spruce individually scalloped.

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 Gluing the Back

Once the bracing system is completed the back is cleaned up and glued into place

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A replica of the plastic bridge is made up out of Brazilian Rosewood and fitted

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The Set-Up

The frets are showing some wear. They are honed and re-profiled and the truss-rod is adjusted.

The guitar is strung up and tested.

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 Conclusion

I’m happy to report that the finished upgrade turned out very well. The guitar has a sweet sound with a good balance. It has a warmth and depth to the bass with sweet mids and trebles. It likes to be picked as well as strummed and I suspect that it will record very nicely and with a small body guitar that’s all you can really ask for.

Full size photos available here on Flickr





Guitar and Mandolin Repairs : Kalamazoo Mandolin





This lovely old ‘30s Kalamazoo came into the workshop because it has a problem with its action.

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The action is very high and it’s not too long before the reason for this high action is spotted.

The neck is pulling up with the tension of the strings and a gap has appeared at the neck/body join.

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According to its owner it had been attended to in the past but the repairer merely forced glue into the join, applied clamps and hoped for the best. Consequently over time the join has failed again.

The only means of dealing with this type of issue is to remove the neck and to make an assessment of the internal join.



The fingerboard extension is heated to release the glue. By teasing a little warm water into the join the hide glue is softened and the neck join becomes undone.

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The neck and body are held together with a simple French Dovetail. On close inspection of the dovetail it appears that it does not reach to its full height.

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It is decided that a simple solution would be to extend the male half of the dovetail.

The end is trimmed down and a piece of Mahogany glued into place.

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As a safeguard an Ebony dowel is fashioned and inserted down through the body of the join.

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Veneer shims are added to the dovetail to ensure a snug fit.

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The join is assembled using hide glue and clamped.

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A few days later the mandolin is strung up, tuned and tested. The join is now gap free and the playing action is as it should be.

Click photo for Flickr pic set

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This lovely old mandolin has the beautiful tone of a mature instrument with the playability of a new mandolin, good for another 80 years!





Gibson Guitar Restoration: Gibson L1 1926








Here’s a very old guitar on the workbench. It’s a Gibson L1 made in 1926.

This was the year that Gibson reintroduced the L1 as a flat-top, previously it had been a carved arch-top instrument.

More early Gibson L1 info Here….

This old darling has had a bit of a hard life. It’s seen a few changes to its bridge and finish and needs a lot of work to bring it back to optimum playability.


­The Issues

Its bridge has a nasty crack along its length

It has a very high playing action

It has multiple splits and cracks

It has a part broken Rosette

 


The Bridge

Repairing the split in the bridge can only be carried out with it removed from the soundboard.

The finish is scribed around the edges of the bridge and the soundboard  protected. A block is heated and rested on the bridge, the heat transference is enough to soften the glue holding the bridge.

The bridge is held in a purpose made jig and a channel routed into the underneath. A Rosewood piece is inlayed into the channel and smoothed down. The bridge-pin holes are re-drilled and the surface sanded. The repair to the bridge is now complete.

The soundboard under the bridge is cleaned up

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 bridge is then glued into place.


The Neck Reset

The playing action on this old L1 can only be restore with a neck reset.

The 15th fret is heated and removed. A 3mm hole is drilled through into the dovetail cavity, the finish is scribed around the heel. The fingerboard extension is heated to soften the glue. Steam is then pumped into the dovetail cavity and the neck removed.


The Rosette

With the neck removed the Rosette can be repaired.

A section of the rosette that is hidden under the fingerboard can be used to repair the visible break.


The neck angle is adjusted at the heel and the neck reset.

More on neck re-sets Here…

All splits and cracks can be easily sealed and cleated.


Finally

After the neck reset the fingerboard has taken on a slight hump at the neck-body join, this is quite common after a neck reset.

To solve this it is necessary to remove all frets and re-shoot the fingerboard thus ensuring that there will be no string choking around the upper area of the fingerboard.

 




More workshop photos on Flickr Here…





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.

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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.

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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.

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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.





Vintage Acoustic Guitar Restoration:1977 Gibson Hummingbird





Here’s another golden oldie on the workbench, a Gibson Hummingbird made in 1977.

Introduced in 1960, the Hummingbird was Gibson’s second-most expensive acoustic guitar.

This guitar is interesting from a luthiery point of view as it has a Double X Brace system which was introduced on this model in 1971. In this system, two overlapping X shapes form a diamond which surrounds the bridge plate. Some manufacturers prefer this system where additional strength is required.

Here’s a mirror image of the Double X Brace system inside this Hummingbird

For reference purposes here’s a photo of a double X brace system that I built a few years ago.


This vintage beauty is in the workshop for a set up. It becomes clear during a workbench examination that this ol’ Hummer has some problems that will need to be addressed before it will set up to its optimum playability.

It has a very high action with a very low saddle height,  no room for adjustment there.

Its bridge is beginning to lift

On investigating the guitar’s action it becomes clear that the string height cannot be lowered at the bridge saddle and the only repair solution will be a neck reset. The bridge will need to be removed and re-fitted.


The Neck Removal and Reset

The 15th fret is removed

The fingerboard extension is heated and loosened

A hole is drilled through the vacant fret slot into the dove-tail cavity

The lacquer is scored around the heel

The neck is fitted into a Neck Removal Jig. Steam is pumped into the join to soften the glue

The neck becomes loose and is separated from the body

This date stamp authenticates the guitar’s age

The neck angle is adjusted using the neck reset formula and re-fitted


The Bridge Re-fit

The bridge is heated and removed

Herein lies a problem; this bridge (for some unknown reason) has been inlayed into the soundboard. This could be a reason as to why the bridge has begun to lift and will need to be remedied before the bridge can be refitted.

Take a closer look at the internal image; the bridge-pin holes (through the soundboard and into the bridge-plate) have become distorted. This could cause a problem when trying to re-stringing the guitar as the bridge-pins will not seat correctly.

The solution is to inlay a soundboard patch to restore the soundboard height and to repair the distorted pin holes


The Soundboard Repair

The area under the bridge is levelled and cleaned up

The pin holes are drilled out and fitted with new Spruce

The scratchplate is removed for ease of working

A soundboard patch is made up from Sitka Spruce,  glued into place and trimmed to thickness

The underneath of the bridge and soundboard patch are gently heated to extend the open time of the Hide Glue

The Hide glue is applied and the join is clamped and left overnight

The hole in the fret slot is plugged and re-sawn

The scratchplate is replaced

The 15th fret is replaced

A new bone nut is made and the guitar is re-strung and tested for correct intonation

Back to full health again

More enlarged photos here…

More info here…

More history here…