Martin Acoustic Guitar Repair : D 15S Rib Repair





This Martin D 15S got into trouble on its way back from a festival.

It was loaded into a truck with the rest of the band’s gear with only a soft case for protection, the result was a crushed rib


Good News Bad News

With an extreme break such as this the good news is it can be repaired.  The bad news is that the repair will always be visible unless the complete rib is refinished. This can be very costly and, because of its “natural “finish, there is still no guarantee that the repair will not be seen. In this instant the owner is just happy to get the instrument up and working again and is not too bothered about the appearance.

Firstly the break is gently opened up on the inside of the guitar. This separates the cracked parts and disentangles the loose sections enabling glue to reach into the extremities of the cracks.

Once glue is eased into the cracks the inside of the rib is reinforced with sections of 1.5mm thickness plywood. The lamination within the 3-ply makes this a very tough but flexible choice capable of taking on the inner curve of the rib.

To ease the ply into place whilst the glue is drying a clamp is made up using a guitar string and an old machine head

The ply is patched over the inside of the break and the guitar string is threaded up through a convenient crack. The string is then threaded onto the machine head and tightened. Once tightened the plywood patch takes on the inside curve of the rib and is held firmly against the break whilst the glue dries.

Spool clamps are used to close up the cracks

Due to the length of this particular break, it is decided to repair this rib in two parts.



Once the glue has dried thoroughly the cracks are gently sanded and leveled. This inevitably removes some of the lacquer down to the bare wood.

The area is given an initial coat of stain to match in with the existing colour


Strung up and ready for collection





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 

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

Vintage Gibson Acoustic Repairs: Gibson J 160E





This old Gibson J 160E has seen a bit of action throughout its life. It has a serial number that indicates that it was made between 1966 and 1969.

This was the model that John Lennon owned. It was also used by George Harrison and features on several famous Beatles recordings including Please Please Me, With The Beatles and A Hard Day’s Night and many more throughout the 60s. More J160E and Messrs J Lennon info Here…


The Problem

It has been brought into the workshop because it will not play in tune. It plays in tune on the first few frets but as the player gets above the 5th fret it begins to sound out of tune, and the higher you go the worse it becomes.

On inspection it is revealed that the bridge is not the original but has been added at a later date. The original 60s bridge had an Adjustable Saddle System, this bridge has a fixed saddle. It is easily evident from the repairs to the soundboard around the bridge area that something had occurred in this area .  It begs the questions as to what and why?

It’s possible that the original bridge could have lifted and have been torn off by the tension of the strings with the resulting damage. This could be due to several factors the most obvious being an unstable Ladder-Brace System that supports the soundboard.

It is quite probable that the soundboard had bellied up in the past and had been the cause of the bridge lift.


An Intonation Issue

The bridge saddle’s position is measured and a discrepancy of several millimetres (mm) discovered. The bridge saddle has been mis-placed by a few mm towards the pins. This will cause the guitar to play flat (♭) as the player approaches the upper part of the fingerboard. More intonation info Here…


The Solution

Fill the slot

Calculate correct saddle position

Rout a new saddle slot

Click to enlarge some images

 

A new saddle is made and fitted, the action is adjusted and a new bone nut made and fitted. The end result is a guitar that plays in tune.



Meet Saul Ashby the owner of the J160E, he’s very happy with the results.

Here’s his twitter comment:

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


Catch up with me on Twitter @ http://twitter.com/#!/gparkerluthier





Guitar Restoration : Framus Fret Jet 1965





Here’s an unusual guitar on the workbench.

It’s a Framus Fret Jet made in 1965.

I’ve not had the pleasure of seeing one of these before.

More Fret Jet and Framus info Here…


Generally, the guitar is in very good condition considering its age. The body work is quite good, all the pickups and electrics are in working order. However, the guitar is losing its logos and it’s in dire need of a re-fret.

Firstly the old logos are removed.

They are of a very fragile commodity made from a foil material. The logos have been laid directly onto the surface of the headstock varnish; this makes them very vulnerable to scrapes and knocks. As you can see from this photo, it appears they have fallen off at some point and have been reattached for many years with Sellotape.

Click to enlarge

First Attempt: The logos are removed and the headstock veneer cleaned up and re-sprayed.

Click to enlarge

Optimistically the logos are cleaned up, reattached and sprayed over. This does not work out too well as the old logos bulge-up in places and will not lay flat upon the surface; this idea is abandoned.

Click to enlarge

The Next Attempt: New logos are made up using the decalcomania method.

The old designs are photographed and sent off to The Decal Shop who reproduce the designs as decals. These match the existing logos exactly.

The headstock is cleaned up, the decals are attached and sprayed over.

The end result is very successful as the logos are now beneath the surface of the lacquer and eliminates any future damage possibilities.


The fingerboard is re-fretted.

The Fret Jet has a bolt-on neck this makes the re-fret an easier affair.

It sets up beautifully and plays like a dream.


This is Duncan he’s owned this guitar for over 30 years and is very happy about its restoration.


A few days after this blog was published I had an email from Duncan

Hi Graham,

Thanks, this is a really nice blog – I’ll send the link to Dr Hoyer at the Framus Museum if that’s ok – he was keen to see the finished article.
I’ve nothing to add except with the cleaned up electrics the guitar sounds better than ever – not one dry joint or scratchy pot. Sonically it’s a cross between a Casino and a Gretsch but with some deep rhythm tones I haven’t heard anywhere else – wonderful.

All the best.
Duncan.


A few days later I received a further email and attachment

Hi Graham,

A very nice note back from Christian Hoyer at the Framus Museum – you’re clearly in his good books!

Regards,
Duncan.

————————————-

Dear Duncan,

I am so glad to hear back from you. More so, as the restoration went so perfectly well, and you are finally reunited with your Framus Fret Jet of 1965.

I am really happy about the restoration job and read the interesting account on it by your luthier. Congratulations to him!

There are many people out there who don´t care that much for vintage guitars and over-restore or mis-restore old beauties as we say in German, I don´t know the proper word in English, sorry!

Thanks to him also the electronics were saved! It´s really great that the pickups have been cleaned – many people just replace them. This isn´t the proper way as you also were able to find out by just cleaning them!!

Thank you so much for this update! I wish you a lot of pleasure with your Fret Jet in the years to come!

… and I hope to meet you at some point over here in the Framus Museum!

All the best,

Christian

Dr. Christian Hoyer

Framus Museum und Framus Archiv





Fender Guitar Repairs : 1964 Jazzmaster





This old Fender Jazzmaster is in the workshop for a setup.

It was made in 1964 and is in extremely good condition considering its age. I think it may have had a new paint job sometime in its life, nonetheless, it’s great to see this vintage gem in the workshop.


Interesting Jazzmaster Stats

Debuting at the top of the line circa late 1957, the Jazzmaster was another well thought out Fender, an impressively cohesive design that marked a significant turn from the Stratocaster. Though its historical significance and long-term commercial success was eclipsed by the Telecaster and Strat, it enjoyed a substantial popularity through the surf music era of the early 1960s.

Like all previous Fender designs the Jazzmaster was an all-new guitar and the first model with an offset waist. This diagonal perspective was extended to the pickguard and body, and overall the Jazzmaster design was a bold shift away from the symmetry of prevailing guitar aesthetics toward the modern art/liquid sculpture styling that remains a Fender hallmark.

Another Jazzmaster innovation was the Trem-Lock button located at the tailpiece. It locked the vibrato assembly and was intended to avoid a detuning should a string break. The bridge was mounted on twin posts, each with an adjustable Allen screw that permitted height adjustments and allowing the bridge to rock when the tremolo arm was depressed.

The Jazzmaster’s pickups had single fat coils of wire, this gives them a warmer tone without losing their single coil clarity. The circuitry was also new, incorporating two independent systems: a selector switch, volume roller knob, and tone roller knob were mounted inconspicuously on the bass side.

From American Guitars An Illustrated History by Tom Wheeler. More history Here…



The guitar is given a Workbench Assessment and all that needs to be done to bring this old beauty up to optimum playability is a light Fret Hone and Re-profile.


Here’s Ben Raine (the owner) collecting the Jazzmaster on his way to a gig


More flickr photos Here…





Martin Set Up : Martin D 41 1972 Neck Reset






This Martin D 41 is in the workshop because the action needs lowering. The action is making it difficult to play above the 5th fret. It’s a vintage guitar made in 1972 and is in very good condition, it has a few bumps and knocks that you would expect from a guitar of this age. Its finish is lacquer checked and cracked in that desirable old vintage way (hasn’t shown up too well in the photos).

During a Workbench Assessment it is concluded that there is no adjustment left in the Bridge Saddle height. It has probably been adjusted over the years until there is no more height available to removed.

To understand how the action on an acoustic guitar can become higher over time we need to go back and look at its design and manufacture.


The Design

Flat-top acoustic guitars such as this Martin D41 are designed as a straight-line in the horizontal plane. To explain that a little more clearly; it’s a straight-line from the line of the neck onto the soundboard, as seen from the player’s view of the guitar. The fingerboard and bridge are then added to the design.

Ideally with the truss-rod set correctly the string line will start at the nut and show an approximate gap of .011″ between the first fret and the underside of the string (bass E) and then gently slope upward to show an approximate gap of .075″ above the 12th fret and then on to strike the saddle at a good height. These measurements are approximations and will differ from guitar to guitar.

In this photo of a 1977 Gibson Hummingbird, it shows a saddle that is at a good height. The string angle leaving the saddle onto the bridge-pins is steep. This gives a good string tension and good volume and should culminate to give a comfortable and buzz-free playing action. (click photo to enlarge)

However, after some time things change. Due to constant string tension, humidity and temperature changes this straight-line ideal between neck and soundboard starts to distort. This could happen 1 year or 50 years after manufacture. Over time the bridge area of the soundboard begins to rise up and the area of soundboard at the upper bout begins to sink. Our theoretical straight-line acquires a shallow indentation. The end result is a high playing action.

An Easy Solution

The quick-fix remedy is to lower the action at the saddle to allow the string action to be playable again. This adjustment has only a limited availability. After several adjustments the saddle becomes too low, as this photo of the D 41 on the right indicates.

Any further adjustment here will result in virtually no saddle height. Therefore, very little string break-angle into the pin-holes, less tension to the strings culminating in less overall volume. (click photo to enlarge)

What can be done to solve this?

On some budget acoustic guitars, the top of the bridge can be skimmed and lowered to allow for more saddle to be exposed. This will permit further adjustments to the saddle height to be made. This method is not ideal but can be the only solution.

On more valuable or vintage guitars a neck re-set is the only option.

How do I know when a neck re-set is needed?

A simple test:

  • Sight down the fingerboard of the guitar from the headstock end.
  • Look at the line of the fingerboard.
  • Follow that line through to the bridge beyond. (click photo to enlarge)

If your sight-line strikes a point under the bridge saddle your guitar could need a neck re-set.


How is a neck re-set?

This short video clip shows the neck reset of this D 41.

Soundtrack : Mountain Spring by Jeremy Sherman

One other job

All that remains to be done on this D 41 is to replace the first 4 frets. They look a little worse for wear and would probably impede the set up of the guitar.

The guitar is strung up with 12 – 53 gauge string, it sounds and plays fantastic.

One happy owner; meet Tony Werneke the proprietor of Replay Acoustics. Tony has a multitude of hand-picked classic vintage guitars; check them out here…




as seen from the player’s view of the guitar


Acoustic Guitar Repair : Gibson J 30





Towards the end on 2010 I had a telephone call from Valencia in Spain.

It was an owner of a Gibson J 30 acoustic who explained that he was having a problem with the soundboard on the guitar. He described how the soundboard was lifting badly behind the bridge, which was causing the bridge to “ride-up”. This, in turn, was causing a high playing action.

My first question was to ask if there wasn’t anyone in or around Valencia that could repair the guitar; Spain being the land of the Classical guitar with a Luthier on every street corner. I was interested to hear that American-made steel strung guitars such as this J 30 were outside of the local Spanish Luthiers comfort zone and their ethos to such a problem is: “If in doubt replace the soundboard”. Which conveniently side-steps the issue and also would change the guitar’s identity and characteristics forever.

After exchanging a few more ideas and discussing the possible causes of the problem I agreed to take on the repair. Several days later the guitar arrived by special carrier and I was able to take an in-depth look.

The bellying problem is shown in this photo.

Research and Background

The J 30 is a delicate and finely made instrument.  Made between 1985-1997, this guitar is a dreadnought size flat top acoustic with square shoulders. More info here…

With further investigation I was able to discover that the J 30 was (possibly) an experimental model by Gibson using a parabolic soundboard. This made me sit up and listen! Was the soundboard supposed to be this shape? All soundboards have a slight curve built into them to help with strength and stiffness. It would appear Gibson flirted with the parabolic idea on the J 30. However, if this shape was built into the design it wasn’t working very well.


Investigating the problem

The neck angle is correct; therefore this is not a possible cause.

This photo is taken through the sound-hole and shows a mirror image of the bridge plate. The size of the plate certainly could contribute to the bellying problem.

Click image to enlarge

In this photo of the soundboard, you will notice a very wide growth-ring pattern. Without writing a lengthy explanation as to why this could add to the problem (perhaps another time) it must suffice to say that the tighter or closer together the growth-rings the stronger the soundboard. Therefore this very wide growth-ring pattern could contribute to the deformation in the soundboard.

Click image to enlarge

Here’s a close-up of edge of the bridge. In this photograph stress lines have formed around the bridge wings. This could be due to the rotating effect of the bridge at its extremities or a loose brace.

Click image to enlarge

To sum up,  we have deformation in the soundboard due to the following possible causes:

  • A probable parabolic shape built into the soundboard
  • Dubious soundboard strength due to a wide growth-ring pattern
  • A bridge-plate that is not helping to stiffen that crucial area of the soundboard
  • Possible loose brace

A Possible Solution

  • There is nothing that can be done with the soundboard quality apart from following the Spanish Luthiers advice. However, the soundboard could be gently eased into a flatter parabola.
  • The bridge-plate could be exchanged for a larger and sturdier replacement to help flatten the soundboard
  • The bridge could be removed and the underside subtlety shaped to help flatten the soundboard




The Repair

The internal braces are checked: all in order.

The bridge and bridge-plate are gently moistened and heated. This softens the glue and ensures easy removal.

Once removed and while the area of the soundboard around the bridge and bridge-plate are in a “moist” state, the soundboard is gently eased into a flatter shape.  It is left to dry-out in a quiet part of the workshop for a few weeks.

A new bridge-plate is made up. This is designed slightly larger, slightly thicker than the original and is made from quarter-sawn Rosewood for extra sturdiness.

After several weeks of drying-out time the new Rosewood bridge-plate is glued into place. Whilst the glue is drying the soundboard is kept in its flatter shape.

After several days in clamp the bridge is refitted.  All the while the soundboard is held in its flatter shape. (no photo available)

After a few days the guitar is strung up, tuned to concert pitch and monitored. Several days later all seems well.


The Before and After Assessment

Before                                                                                     After


Improvements

The shape of the soundboard has improved considerably. Although still in is Parabolic state it has become less extreme at the soundboard edges resulting in the bridge sitting slightly lower and thus giving a better playing action, better feel and better sound quality.

The J 30 has improved considerably with the work that was carried out. It plays beautifully and now has that lush Gibson sound again. This repair was considered a success and the owner back in Spain was delighted. All that remains is to organise the shipping back to Valencia.


Contact

A few days after shipment I received this email:

Hi Graham

The guitar arrived safe and sound yesterday and plays beautifully.
Thank you once again for your excellent service, I really do
appreciate it.

Saludos

Michael

More photos on Flickr…





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.