Guitar Repairs London: 1968 Gibson 335 Headstock Repair



 

On the workbench a 1968 Gibson 335.

   

A phone call from a distraught Stage Tech. This guitar was slowly losing its headstock!

The guitar belongs to Richard Oakes, the guitarist with Suede.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suede_(band)

This is his beloved guitar which has had the headstock broken and repaired once before. The Stage Tech had resorted to binding the headstock with Gaffer Tape in the hope that it would last a little longer until the end of the band’s tour.


 

Once on the bench it is clear that the repair is substandard and slowly coming undone.

   

All it takes is a little tug and the whole repair comes apart.

  

This particular break is a bad one, it’s a shear break. The headstock has broken from the neck at 90° to the grain of the wood.

  

This makes for a challenging repair confounded by the fact that it has been repaired once before. All remnants of the old glue must be removed before a new join can be made. Fortunately there is no damage to the end of the truss-rod.

A shear break makes for a difficult repair because it is impossible to rejoin and glue the end grain of a section of wood to another end grain. Reinforcement strips will need to be inserted.

It is important that any repair work should be discreet and invisible.


 

The Process

Fortunately the head veneer is still in one piece and undamaged. The break has occurred just underneath the top nut. So it is decided that the head veneer should be removed and replaced once the repair inserts have be added.

The head veneer is clamped under a piece of perspex to keep it flat until needed later on.

  


 

The Repair

The idea is to join/re-glue the neck to the headstock (as best as). And once this is done reinforcing inserts can be added.

A jig is made up to hold the guitar and headstock in place whilst the glue sets.

  

Once rejoined, the neck and head are routed to except the inserts. Brazilian Mahogany and ebony inserts are made up and glued in oversized to be trimmed down to shape once dry.

  

  

  

  

The head veneer is then re-fitted, conveniently hiding the Ebony inserts

And the back of the neck/headstock is refinished to disguise the work.

  

A few other jobs around the guitar are carried out i.e. fret work and a new bone nut.

All in all a successful repair.

I believe the guitar will now only be used for studio work. It is regarded too highly for the rigours of touring.

 



Guitar Repairs London: 1961 Guild M20 Acoustic



 

This lovely old Guild on the workbench is in need on a bit of TLC.

Seasick Steve M20 Full

It’s an M20 made in 1961. This model has been called the Nick Drake model because of the association with him during the 70s.

This particular guitar belongs to Seasick Steve. You may have seen him on the Jules Holland show or heard him on the Chris Evans Breakfast Show on Radio 2.

The guitar has got a few problems. The soundboard has a distortion at the edge of the sound-hole. Frets 1-5 are worn and there are some intonation issues.

Seasick Steve is in London for a limited time so the guitar has to be repaired and turned around very quickly.

 



 

Close inspection reveals a loose X brace on the bass side. This is causing the distortion in the soundboard at the sound-hole. The loose brace is glued, clamped up left to dry overnight.

The intonation issues  is caused by a badly fitting nut. Also it is not intonated correctly over the bridge saddle. These and discarded and a new bone nut and saddle are made and fitted.

A light redress of the frets is enough to take out the wear in the frets.

Soon the guitar is playing smoothly and sounding great.

Seasick Steve thinks so as well.

Seasick Steve

Seasick Steve tries out his repaired M20 in his hotel room.



Electric Guitar Repair: 1968 Gibson Melody Maker



 

Luke Crowther from The Rifles dropped by the workshop a few days back. He was collecting his Gibson Melody Maker.

Melody Maker

On the Bench


This lovely old guitar was made in 1968 and has been cherished by Luke for many years until it was worked on by an over enthusiastic guitar tech and was never the same again. After that it didn’t play very well and the intonation was hopelessly wrong.

A possible reason was identified immediately

Wrap Around Tailpiece

The wraparound tail-piece was never a great idea in the first instance and this one was also tipping forward quite acutely. This type of bridge/tailpiece relies on a raised pattern to fix its intonation. Quite a crude idea which only allows for fine adjustment via two small grub screws hidden in the back end of the wraparound. This allows adjustment forwards or backwards ( or  ) and typically never gives enough movement to permit accurate intonation. 

 

Tailpiece Pull up

This has been modified at some point as it still shows the remnants  of the old tremolo system. And removing the scratchplate reveals some crude routing out for the humbuckers. Certainly not factory spec!

Open Cavity

It’s hard to say definitively but it appears that this guitar had a fixed bridge and fixed tremolo as well as single coil pickups. And at some point a previous owner has carried out all these mods.



 

Time to put it right

First thing is to remove the wraparound assembly and trem remnants.

Tailpiece removed

A modern wraparound is bought in to be fitted. This system has separate saddles similar to the Tune O Matic bridges. This will allow the intonation to be set accurately.

New Tailpiece/Adjustable Bridge Assembly

The threaded inserts that are buried into the guitar body are slightly smaller than the originals. Therefore the holes are plugged and re-drilled. To achieve this two Mahogany plugs a turn down on the lathe, inserted and drilled out.

Posthole MeasurementHole Plugs in Lathe12.85mm in Mahogany

With the scratchplate removed a few of the scratchplate screw holes are repaired.

Breakout in cavity

Scratchplate Off Plugs Drilled

With the new wraparound bridge installed and the scratchplate secured correctly the guitar is ready to be set-up.

There is some fret wear which is honed out and the frets re-profiled. The fingerboard is cleaned and oiled and the guitar is re-strung with 10-46 gauge strings.

 


 

Luke checks out the guitars new set-up

Yes he likes it, one very happy Rifleman.

 

Luke Playing a Few Licks

Luke Standing

 

Check out the band on Facebook  https://www.facebook.com/therifles

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rifles_%28band%29

 



 

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!





Vintage Martin Acoustic Guitar Restoration : Martin 00-17





Here’s a rare guitar on the workbench, it’s an old Martin 00-17 made in 1949.  Bob Dylan used this model back in the early so called “Coffeehouse Days” more info on Dylans guitar’s Here…

This little gem has some all too familiar problems; it has severe soundboard bellying, the neck is loose giving a high playing action. All of which has probably causing the bridge to lift.

Other issues

There is a small hole in the rib

Initials have been scratched in the lacquer on the back

It has been fitted with inappropriate machine heads

Click image to enlarge

 


With all bridge-lifting or bellying issues the first thing to look at is the internal structure of the soundboard.

Using lights and mirrors to scrutinise the internal bracing it is discovered that the bridge plate is a little loose and not glued at its edges.

By removing the bridge and bridge-plate the soundboard can be returned to its original flat shape.


With very little effort the bridge is removed.

The bridge-plate is soaked overnight. The next day, with a little heat, the bridge-plate becomes detached very easily.

With this area of the soundboard in a “damp” state, the soundboard is clamped into a negative bow and left to dry out for a week or so. This will help the soundboard regain its correct shape.

Once completely dry a new bridge-plate is made up from Indian Rosewood and glued into place. Hide glue is used because it is reversible, this will make the plate easier to remove in later years if necessary.

With the soundboard still in its negative bow the new bridge-plate is fitted, clamped up and left to dry overnight.

The bridge footprint on the soundboard and the underside of the bridge are cleaned up and with the soundboard still in its negative bow the bridge is glued into place.



Hide glue can be diluted to such a viscosity so as to be used in a syringe. Using this method the issue of the loose neck is easily solved by injecting Hide glue into the join and clamping overnight.

The hole and initials are patched up and cleaned up so as not to look too “over worked”. This is quite often a good way of resolving damage to a finish that is already distressed from years of use.

Suitable replacement machine heads are not available at the time of stringing up this old Martin. This will be done when appropriate tuners become available.



Glenn of Glenn’s Guitars plays the changes and checks over the  finished results.

More Martin 0017 photos on Flickr





Vintage Acoustic Guitar Repair : Harmony Sovereign H1260





Here’s a ’60s Harmony Sovereign H1260 on the workbench.

Vintage Harmony guitars have become a popular choice for collectors and often fetch high prices on auction sites. The H1260 was produced between 1958 – 1971.

The Harmony Guitar Company became the largest producer in the U.S. They sold 250,000 pieces in 1923 and 500,000 in 1930, including various models of guitars, banjos, and mandolins. The company peaked between 1964 – 1965 selling 350,000 instruments, but low end foreign competition led to the company’s demise 10 years later. In the years from 1945 – 1975 the Chicago firm had mass produced about ten million guitars. More info on The Harmony Guitar Company here…

The Harmony Guitar Company ceased trading in 1975 and sold the Harmony name. The name is now used by an unrelated company based in Illinois that imports guitars from Asia. More info on vintage Harmony guitars at Harmony Database

* From Wikipedia



As previously stated these old 1260s are becoming collectors items and owners are forever looking for ways to bring out the best in them. This 1260 belongs to a regular customer and a frequent visitor to the workshop.

It originally came into the workshop to have a pin through bridge fitted. Whilst it’s on the workbench I had an opportunity to give it a thorough workbench assessment and I did’t like what I saw.

It had a high playing action and on closer inspection I could see that the neck had been refitted. This had been badly done and left me with the impression that this old Sovereign had been the victim of abuse in the hands of an inexperience repairer.

There was a strange veneer line that ran the length of the neck under the fingerboard. It appeared to (have been) be a piece of Maple veneer, but why was it there? This didn’t look like Harmony spec. but it suggested that the fingerboard had been removed at some point in its life.

Click image to enlarge

After talking over the potential problems with its owner we came up with a plan to save this old jumbo.

A Renovation Plan

To remove the fingerboard from the neck and body

To remove the Maple veneer from the top of the neck.

To remove the neck from the body and reset at the appropriate angle for a good playing action.

The fingerboard was (to be) assessed after it has been removed to ascertain if it could be reused or replaced.

All binding around the fingerboard was to be renewed including the edge dots.


A small heat blanket was used to heat the fingerboard. For ease this was done in several stages.

With the fingerboard removed it was a simple job to steam and remove the neck.

More info about removing and resetting a guitar neck here…

The body, neck and fingerboard were set aside for a few days to dry out and settle.


The Fingerboard

Fortunately the fingerboard was removed cleanly and without damage. The frets were removed and the fingerboard cleaned up.

I took this opportunity to refret the fingerboard as this makes for a very easy job with the fingerboard removed from the neck.

The fingerboard was fretted and new bindings attached.

 


The Neck Reset

It’s clearly visible in the photo (below) that the dovetail is badly broken. This is quite common when a neck is removed. Generally speaking all the broken parts a gathered and pieced back together. However, in this instance there are no broken parts to be collected. This means that these parts were omitted on the last neck reset!

The dovetail end was cleaned up as best as is practical and the neck reset.

More on neck resets here…

The edge bindings were trimmed to size and the fingerboard reattached to the neck.


Why bother changing the bridge?

As previously mentioned owners are forever trying new ways to bring out the best tone in their Harmony guitars. A pin through bridge is an efficient way of enhancing the bass and mid range tones. This is partly due to the increased break angle of the strings from the saddle to the pin hole and partly due to the 90° angle of the string through the bridge and soundboard. Another beneficial factor is the direct contact of the string’s ball end with the internal bridge plate beneath the soundboard.


Making the Bridge

A purpose designed and made metal block was heated to approximately 400°F. The heat transference was enough to soften the glue holding the bridge.

The new bridge design was based approximately on the same shape and dimensions as the old bridge. The new bridge has an extended front to allow for correct saddle position and therefore accurate intonation.

The footprint of the old bridge was cleaned up and a soundboard patch installed. This ensures that the new bridge will stay stuck.

The new pin through bridge was fitted and glued into place.

The guitar was strung up and tested.

Some strings were choking around the 12th fret area. This was a bad sign and suggested that there was a slight hump in the fingerboard around this area. The only course of action was to defret the guitar and reshoot the fingerboard. This is unfortunate as this had already been refretted at the start of the restoration. However, my optimistic thinking was that it could work out fine and there was very little lost in doing the earlier refret when the fingerboard was loose.


Fingerboard Reshoot

The frets were removed and the guitar was prepared for the reshoot. This entailed using a jack plane and cabinet scrapers to smooth out the hump in the fingerboard.

Some of the inlays were lost.

With the slight hump removed new M.O.P dots were inlayed the fingerboard was refretted.

A new nut was made and fitted along with a new scratchplate.

The back of the neck was refinished to disguise a multitude of chips and breakouts around the binding area.

 



This short video clip shows the transition of this instrument through restoration.

Restoration has transformed this instrument 

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Soundtrack: Aloha Uncle Lawrence by Jim Kimo West

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.

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