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





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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 

If you enjoyed reading this blog please give some feedback by clicking the like button below.

Thanks GPL

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




Vintage Bass Guitar Repairs : 1963 Fender Precision Bass





Here’s a piece of history on the workbench. A fantastic Precision Bass made by Leo Fender in 1963, two years before the company was sold to the mighty CBS Broadcasting Inc. Its age makes this instrument a fascinating, valuable, and classic piece of music industry folklore. Leo Fender/CBS history here…

It also has an interesting ownership history as it was owned and played by Richard McCracken who was the bassist in Rory Gallagher’s band Taste. The bass can be seen being played by Richard on stage here… at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. More festival history here…

The current owner bought the bass sometime in the 1970s from a well known music shop in South East London. It enjoyed a busy playing life for a few years but eventually got put into storage. And there it has remained until now. The owner has decided to start playing again and needs his bass back.

~

After an extensive workshop examination it was decided that the bass should remain fairly unchanged if it is to retain its authenticity and value. With vintage guitars this workshop prefers to adopt a “less is more” work ethic.

The good news is that the guitar has very little wrong with it. The pick-ups and electrics are in working order. The truss-rod, bridge-saddles and machine heads still work properly. The only work required is for a few frets to be replaced, two new speed knobs, new strings and a set-up.

The neck angle is a little shallow, causing a high playing action.  This is easy to adjust with this type of bolt-on neck.

The factory date stamp verifies the age of the neck. The prefix “C” indicates the neck profile type ~ Frets 1 – 11 are showing signs of heavy wear

The frets are gently heated and removed. The fingerboard is lightly sanded and the fret slots slightly enlarged

The following video clip shows the partial re-fret in Fast Mo

Meet the owner Jim, he’s the man with the bass (and the shades)

More enlarged photos here…

Soundtrack: Bass Instinct 5 by Chris Norton and Frank Mizen


A week or so later I received this email from Teresa, Jim’s partner and instigator of the restoration work.

Hi Graham,
I just wanted to drop you a line to say thank you for the work you have done on Jimmy’s guitar.  He can’t believe it’s the same instrument, the magic you have worked on his baby is unbelievable.  Great service, from your initial advice on the phone, for recognising that it is a rare vintage guitar and for your sympathetic restoration.  We really appreciate your less is more approach to work carried out on this type of guitar.  You have managed to improve the playability yet retain the character of this wonderful old beast.  We had not realised how important it was to retain as much of the originality of an instrument from that era, and your knowledge and expertise was greatly appreciated.  Your passion in your work is something very rare in this day and age. The additional research you did, finding a YouTube clip of the guitar being played at the Isle of Wight festival was very impressive.

Having looked at the piece about the guitar on your web site we thought you might also like to know a little bit more about the missing years.  Jimmy played in a band called Michael Robinson and in several pub/club bands in the 1970’s and 1980’s in the South East London area.  The Michael Robinson band even had a single (Rich Man) released on President Record label which had airplay on Radio 1 and was slated by Tony Blackburn. At which point Jimmy decided to join the ‘establishment’ and get a proper job!!!!!!

When we dropped off the guitar another one of your clients was just leaving and his passing comment to us was, “it’s in good hands” and he was right.  We would recommend your service to anyone with a guitar in need of some love, care and restoration; because we know that’s what any instrument left with you will receive.

You will be pleased to know that Jimmy has now bought a guitar stand is about to invest in a case…..lol!!!!

Best wishes,

Teresa and Jimmy





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…