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

 



 

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





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…




1968 Gibson Dove: Logo Repair








This amazing old Gibson Dove dates back to 1968. It’s a clean guitar with few bumps and knocks; it’s amazing to see a guitar of this age without any splits or cracks.

 

However, there is one nagging issue and that’s with its logo, half of it is missing!

It was made in the days when Gibson, in their wisdom, inlayed a M.O.P. plate into the headstock, attached the logo stencils and spray-painted the negative space.  After many decades the paint has begun to flake off.  I wonder how many more of these from that era are out there with similar peeling logos.

The remedy is quite straightforward. A logo stencil will need to be created. Care must be taken in masking off the area around the stencil because of the fragile finish.



A positive logo is made up and attached. The remainder on the head is masked-off

 

Numerous coats of nitrocellulose lacquer must be applied to build a suitable thickness

This is the result after many layers



The new logo is carefully cleaned-up and cut-back
The logo and headstock is treated to several coats of shellac to seal,  protect and help with the aging effect.

 

 








Acoustic Guitar Repair: Vintage Epiphone Texan Neck Re-set







This lovely old Epiphone Texan was made in 1951.

The Guitar was taken into the workshop for some major repair work. It has many problems: a split in the soundboard, loose soundboard , loose bindings, fret wear, high action and intonation problems.

 

History in Brief

The Texan was produced by the Epiphone Company starting in 1942. After Epiphone folded, the Gibson Company produced the Texan in Kalamazoo Michigan until 1970. There have been numerous reissues of the Texan since their primary production period in the 1960’s. More here…

The Players

The Texan was made popular by Sir Paul McCartney for the recording and the live performances of the hit song from 1965 “Yesterday”. It is also famous for being the acoustic guitar on which McCartney performed the signature “McCartney Picking” in some album pieces such as “Blackbird”, “Mother Nature’s Son” (The Beatles “White Album”), “Calico Skies”( Flaming Pie), and more recently “Jenny Wren” (Chaos and Creation in the Backyard). Kurt Cobain of Nirvana used an Epiphone Texan on the 1994 In Utero tour. Also, Graham Nash used an early customized black (originally “cherryburst”) Epiphone Texan while in The Hollies and during the beginnings of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. Other artists with which the Texan is identified are Tom Rush, Al Stewart, Noel Gallagher and Peter Frampton. More here…



This straight-edge reveals where the string height should be

 

On a budget guitar the financially viable option would be to plane down the top of the bridge and set the saddle groove and saddle lower. However, on this valuable vintage instrument such an invasive repair is not an option. The only course of action is to remove the neck and reset at the appropriate angle.

It was also noted, in the initial work-bench examination, that the neck was positioned incorrectly for accurate intonation, another reason to remove the neck.

 

 


To reset a neck on any acoustic guitar is a complicated and difficult procedure.

Firstly the 15th fret is removed

Two small holes are drilled into the slot of the 15th fret (at a slight angle). These holes will allow steam to be forced into the neck’s dove-tail join. The 15th fret is approximately situated over the space between the female part of the dove-tail on the body and the male part on the neck.

The lacquer around the heel is scored with a sharp blade, to stop lacquer break-out when the neck is removed.

The fingerboard extension is heated. This softens the glue and allows it to be separated from the top of the guitar.

With the help of this neck removal jig the neck is safely removed.

A calculation is made using the “Neck Re-set Formula”. This allows the exact amount to be removed from the heel (for the correct neck angle) to be accurately determined.

A further adjustment is made to the tenon, heel and shoulder to shorten the string length and allow for correct intonation.

Two Rosewood dowels are made up to fill the two small holes drilled into the fingerboard.

The 15th fret is replaced and a hone and re-profile to all frets carried out to remove all fret wear.

With the neck angle adjusted the neck is firstly checked for proper string alignment relative to the horizontal plane and centre line.

The neck is glued in place using reversible Hide glue.

The soundboard split is cured and loose binding reattached.

The Texan is strung up with D’Addario 12 – 54 strings.

It plays and sounds fantastic and would be a treasured addition to anyone’s collection

Follow this link for enlarged photos on flickr…







 

 

With the help of this neck removal jig the neck is safely removed.

Gibson Les Paul Guitar Repair


It amazes me what some people find in their attic.

This Vintage Gibson Les Paul has been shut up in the attic for decades and almost forgotten by its owner. The guitar was an eighteenth birthday present. ” I was offered a watch (boring), however I chose a guitar instead (wise choice in the long run). The guitar was £400 from Chandlers and that was back in 1989″.
This Les Paul Standard dates back to 1979. It had been partially re-fretted (not too well) but played reasonably and was used by the owner for a number of years. However, it went into storage in the attic for several decades and during that time the attractive Tobacco Sunburst lost all its surface sheen. The electrics became intermittent and all its hardware became dull and tarnished.

Restoration

The guitar was stripped of all its hardware (machine heads, bridge, tailstock, pickups, electrics, scratchplate and even the strap-buttons. These where all set aside to be carefully cleaned and restored.

On closer inspection it was noticed that the fret-board and frets were in much need of attention. To restore the guitar back to its former glory, playability and performance the fingerboard would need to be re-fretted correctly.

It was also noticed that the Tune-O-Matic was not original. Fortunately I was able to locate an authentic 1970’s made in Germany bridge as a replacement. (Amended text 28.04.10)


Work commenced slowly over the course of several weeks

The frets were removed from the fingerboard. The rosewood was lightly sanded to reveal its luscious colour. The frets were measured and suitable matching replacements selected.

The hardware was polished and restored

The electrics were cleaned and replacement parts found where necessary

The finish was burnished and polished

New (old) Tune-O-Matic Bridge

The guitar was assembled and set  up for 10 – 42 gauge strings and is no longer hidden away in the attic, but takes a prime position within the owners household.


Meet Sean the happy owner


Guitar Repair London: 1968 Gibson 330 Semi Acoustic: The Dilemma

This lovely old Gibson ES330 Semi Acoustic guitar dates back to 1968.

It has been well looked after and cherished by its owner (one of my regulars).

Simple Problem

What had started out as a simple problem soon turned into a long and complicated repair.  The jack socket had come loose and when the owner tightened it up all the electrics stopped working. This is a common fault with many types of jack sockets because the connecting cables often break if the jack socket is allowed to rotate. This was the cause of this jack socket failure.

To repair this faulty jack meant stripping the guitar down, taking out all the electrics through the pickup cavity and making the necessary repair.

A Convoluted Scenario

Due to the guitar’s age the wiring had become rigid and brittle. Any slight movement to the components or the wiring resulted in a minute fracture in the wiring circuit resulting in an intermittent fault.

The Dilemma

The value of a vintage guitar is determined by several factors

  • The make
  • The condition
  • The functionality
  • The authenticity

To remove and replace all of this 330’s electrical wiring and components would detract from its authenticity and therefore decrease its value. However, it could be argued that parts have to be changed and upgraded for the guitar to function properly. Should all the working parts on a valuable vintage guitar such as this one (including the wiring) be continually maintained and repaired?

Take part in the poll.

Vote functionality if you think that it is more important to change and replace parts as necessary for the sake of functionality.

Vote authenticity if you think that a vintage instrument should retain all of their original parts and remain completely authentic.

Vote now!



Outcome

 

In this instance the guitar was repaired using its existing wiring and components. It was painstaking work as any slight movement, tugging, pulling or distortion in the wiring would lead to another failure in the circuit.

I am happy to report that the guitar is now fully functional, playing beautifully and remains completely authentic, but for how long is yet to be determined.

Comments Please

Should an old vintage beauty such as this one be kept completely original, even if it becomes very labour intensive and costly to do so?

Or should all faulty parts (such as perishable cables etc) be replaced to keep the guitar in tiptop functional condition?

At what point should the old be replaced by the new?

I would be very interested to read your views on this so please feel free to make a comment.