Notice anything strange? This was a very interesting project.
Some time ago a customer came through Flagstaff on vacation with his family and we got to talking about a can of worms he recently opened. He had come across a messed up 1970’s square shoulder Gibson J-45 that needed work. Being the engineering type, he thought it would be a great opportunity for a self-given crash-course in guitar repair…
Hence the can of worms. He went back to Texas and shipped me the pieces. These first two pics show the status when we received it. The fingerboard extension had been removed (chopped off!)– the top binding had been removed and the top was hot-knifed off.
Here’s an up-close look at the inside of the top. It was encouraging the top had already been removed because it gave me an opportunity to fix all the original manufacturing flaws (not to offend anyone)… like the huge bulky bracing and the humungous thick bridge plate with bolt inserts (for the original and detested adjustable bridge-saddle.) This bridge plate wasn’t even real wood– it was this weird foam-layered plywood! These braces needed scalloping, and more importantly, that bridge plate needed to be replaced with a proper one.*
Let the fun begin:
Step 1: Getting the neck off the body. This turned out to be a lot more difficult than doing so on a guitar with its top! This was due to the exposed joint not trapping the heat and steam required to loosen the glue. After steaming out the joint thoroughly, the neck finally released and the dovetail section was easy to clean up.
Step 2: Repairing the top.
In addition to replacing the bridge plate and scalloping the braces, some braces had loose ends and cracks… what an easier job with a top that’s been removed! Here are some shots of the braces after scalloping (carving out material) and gluing loose/cracked ends. The bridge plate has been removed as well.
The final step with the top was to make and glue in a new bridge plate. I chose a rosewood plate mostly for tonal reasons. Maple is arguably the classic choice for this guitar, but rosewood seemed like the right way to go after I got to know the top from carving the braces. These kinds of choices can be very subjective, however, I felt using rosewood for the plate would give this guitar a little more articulation.
This pic shows heating the bridge plate area in preparation for the hide glue. Heating the pieces allows more working time before the glue sets.
I made this plate very much on the large side, yet it still takes up less surface area than the original and has much less mass. It looks strange because there are no pin holes drilled yet… soon enough.
PART II OF THIS PROCESS CAN BE FOUNDER HERE.
*Note: These “flaws” are somewhat understandable considering companies like Gibson (and Martin, and others) were and are building their guitars in a production style manner and at times trying to appeal to mass markets that (still) don’t understand the nuances of guitars and string instruments. Thus the heavy bracing and bolt inserts for a mechanically adjustable saddle. CNC machines have also done a lot to make their production more consistent… but I digress.