1928 Gibson L-00

Background: This Gibson arrived needing a variety of work. Along with a neck reset, there was a lifting bridge.

Restoration: With restorations, sometimes one is presented with a surprise discovery. In this case, once the lifting bridge was removed, we discovered a poorly executed prior repair. It seems that the bridge had lifted before, removing some of the spruce top as it lifted. Someone put different spruce bits in to fill the hole, applied glue, and clamped the bridge down. This ultimately failed.

What was worse – the top has significant runout and was cracked under the bridge area. This was not evident prior to bridge removal. Repairing such an issue is complicated. Inside the guitar, the bridge plate was removed so a larger maple bridge plate could be installed to mitigate a split and weakened top. Pin holes were plugged with spruce. The top was then routed for a recess that would take a cross-grain bridge patch providing both top strength and a solid gluing area for the bridge. Correct bridge location was then measured (for proper intonation) and the bridge reinstalled with 315g hot hide glue. Finally the pin holes were redrilled.

1935 Gibson L-50 Archtop

Background: L-50 archtop production began in the early 1930’s. This 1935 example represents a unique design variant only produced in that year. Carved archtop with a 15′ radius back. These are some of the most beautiful Gibson bursted guitars, showing what was then a new “pear” burst in place of the earlier bullseye burst.

Like many instruments of this vintage, this guitar incurred a variety of failures in its life. Two structural top cracks, the back cracked in several places and complete split in two, the sides showing a half-dozen cracks as well. Rather than use a suspended Symphonic Mike pickup, a previous owner glued the control and pickup to the top. Internal back braces were mostly separated, and there was both water damage and an significant mold. Judging by the damage, this guitar had been in disrepair for 30-50 years.

Restoration: The back was removed, and original cellulose back binding saved. 3/4 of the back linings had to be replaced due to damage and mold which could not be removed. The top was brought back into alignment and the cracks repaired. New lining were replicated to match old, installed, and sized to the original height so the back could be reinstalled in original position. In most restorations, new binding is used, which allows for sizing binding once the top is attached to the sides. Instead, this instrument had a precise mold fabricated and closely fit so the sides would align perfectly with the back, allowing the original binding to be reinstalled.

Extensive finish restoration was performed, including lacquer replacement and aging where the pickup system had been glued. There was excessive nicotine damage as well as shellac applied by a prior owner or luthier. At some point long ago, shellac finish repairs were performed over the lacquer. Shellac was removed and selective lacquer touch-ups were performed. The instrument had original tuners in unusually useable condition. Those were straightened and restored. The end result is a superb sounding L-50 that shows the patina of having been owned by a professional musician while retaining its beauty in age.

2014 Reynolds Woodsong
7-string Classical

Background: A 2014 Reynolds 7-string classical recently restored. Significant french polish finish failure due to acidic body chemistry, coupled with having been cooked in a case, sitting in the sunlight, which caused structural failures.

Repairs: This guitar was completely stripped, disassembled, repaired, and built back up. Finished in water-based urethane, impervious to acidic body chemistry. New armrest in matching Western Red Cedar. New Brazilian Rosewood 18-hole bridge. Neck removed, frets removed, and fretboard planed and rebuilt to correct neck geometry issues.

This guitar is built with a double-top using aerospace-grade Nomex, Western Red Cedar top, Nicaraguan Cocobolo Rosewood, Ebony fretboard and Honduran Mahogany neck.

1934 Gibson KG-11 (Carson J Robinson)

Background: In the early 1930’s Gibson made a version of the KG-11 ladder-braced guitar for sale by Montgomery Ward. The headstock carried the Carson J Robinson name – a famous cowboy musician during that time.

This instrument arrived to us in tremendous disrepair. Owned by one family since new. Extensive top runout damage, bracing failure, neck warped, mold, and even bird poop from years in an attic. Extensive disassembly, reconstruction, refinishing, and cosmetic restoration and repair.

Restoration: Complete disassembly. Top runout repaired, all new bracing with additional reinforcement for the top while retaining a ladder brace structure. Neck disassembled, two carbon fiber rods added for structural reinforcement. Mold created to reshape the instrument, which arrived highly distorted. Finish carefully restored and preserved to keep its patina while allowing the ability for use in many years to come.

Refret with Evo Wire
Martin Orchestra Model

For more details on fretwork,<br>please see the following two articles:
Fretwork Matters –
What Makes Great Frets? Part One
The Road to Great Frets, Part Two

Background: When frets are too worn for level, crown, and polish, I recommend a refret. For conventional guitars I use one of three different wire types – nickel (which is what is typically factory installed, Evo wire which more durable than nickel, or stainless steel, which typically lasts the lifetime of the instrument.

Evo wire, used in this refret, provides about 50% more wear resistance than nickel wire. Its gold hue is shiny when new, but oxidizes to a matte gold. There is no concern with how the guitar looks, as the fret wire blends in very well which chrome and nickel tuners.

Repairs: This Martin had received a prior level, crown, and polish. Often a guitar can receive two such services before refret. Unfortunately wear was so deep that we recommended a refret. A dial caliper is used to adjust the fretboard completely flat. The frets are electrically heated, and removed. The fretboard is then dressed. Divots are typically filled and leveled if there is fretboard wear. Fretboard edges are turned. Frets are then sized, and installed with hot hide glue. To fit the fres to the board, the frets are filed to a 30 degree angle along the board.

Once the frets are installed and fitted, a complete fret level, crown, and polish. The fretboard is taped off to protect all wood surfaces and binding. All fret ends are dressed so there are no sharp edges. The frets are crowned with diamond files, wet sanded up to 1200 grit, and buffed to a high luster with rouge.

1927 Weissenborn Style 1

Background: Made in Los Angeles, Weissenborn built approximately 5,000 instruments. These are sought today by musicians playing blues and roots music. This instrument had significant internal structure failure, which is common to Weissenborns. Extensive disassembly, reconstruction, refinishing, and aging.

Repairs: The back was removed to perform internal repairs. All top bracing along with the bridge plate was replaced, along with additional tone bars added (which were used on other style numbers). Mold and water staining removed. Sections of lining were also replaced. All back braces were loose and necessitated replacement. Complete refinish in nitrocellulose lacquer, tuners, and bridge along with aging.

Broken Headstock Repair
1986 Martin HD-28

Background: With its original owner since new, this guitar has traveled the country and played on many stages. It suffered a severe fall when a cable wrapped around its stand and threw the guitar across the stage. What resulted was a nasty neck failure: a v-split at the volute and a heavily damaged head plate. Head plate removal showed complete split headstock in 3 pieces.

Repairs: The head plate was removed and a new one made in Bolivian Rosewood. Typically I use fish glue for repairs. In this case given the extreme wood damage, structural epoxy was used. Head was pieced back together, then glued to the “V” break on the neck. The head plate was made an extra 50% thicker than the factory head plate, to increase strength. The head plate also glued with structural epoxy. The complete neck had all imperfections repaired, airbrushed with brown mahogany stain mix in nitro lacquer, then completely shot in nitro lacquer.

1940s Harmony Patrician

Background: A very nice sounding example in good condition. No body cracks or internal separation. Came with a tall and heavy archtop bridge. Needed a neck reset and general conditioning.

Repairs: Extensive cleaning and finish refurbishing, while maintaining its original patina. New adjustable archtop bridge from Katalox avoided a neck reset, and restored a more vibrant sound. Mild top restoration – pickwear and nicks repaired with Caramel shellac and transtints where deeper damage was evident. Tuners disassembled, cleaned, lubricated, with shafts now supported by hard fiber shims in the headstock. Complete setup. Great sounding archtop from the 40s!

ES-335 Electronics

Background: Often we have electric guitars come in where players desire significant sound improvements. Every electric that has come in for electronics upgrades has left with the player blown away at the transformation in the guitar’s sound and controls.

Upgrades: Almost always I replace every piece of electronics, from the jack to the pickups. The highest grade, hand-picked for tolerance pots are used, PIO capacitors which I’ve sourced from overseas new-old stock (NOS). Pickups are hand-wound and made to order. Sometimes we upgrade bridges and tailpieces as well, depending on the specific instrument. Extensive shielding is also put in place to quiet the instrument, especially in stage environments.

We frequently perform this work on Gibson, Fender, Epiphone, Ibanez, and Eastman guitars.

Output Jack Damage
Epiphone Emperor Regent VS

Background: This beautiful archtop arrived with an output jack that had taken a hit when plugged in, shattering the side where the jack is mounted. As well, the original plastic nut was blown.

Repairs: The jack was aligned correctly, locating the wood chards for initial glue-up. The jack was removed, side repairs completed, along with finish repair. A larger washer front and back of the jack helped increase the clamping surface area and also protect the repair. A cattle bone nut was made, and the guitar received a complete setup and flatwound strings.