Vacation’s over and now it’s time to get back to work! Before I left, I finished up a job for my friend John Fohl (who plays with the likes of Dr. John, Gatemouth Brown, & Bo Diddley) on his 1960s era Gibson LG-0. If memory serves me correctly, John told me he picked it up at a garage sale for about $200! It’s a really cool guitar, and even though it’s literally falling apart, John has managed to play the hell out of it for a long time. In between tours John brought it to me for some much needed work.
Structurally, there were lots of problems: the bridge had pulled up off the body, the soundboard was bellied, braces were falling off, and there were a few cracks on the back. This was going to be the kind of job that is done in several stages – 20 minutes of work, 1 day to wait for glue to dry, then another 20 minutes of work, and another day for glue to dry, etc., etc. I opted to first address the bridge issue, as it was the biggest mess. On these guitars, Gibson used a bakelite bridge, which was simply screwed down instead of glued, and it had warped significantly over the years. The string tension had pulled it so far forward that the whole guitar wouldn’t play in tune anywhere on the neck, and was raising the action so high that even John (who likes a REALLY high action) couldn’t play it:
Since it wasn’t glued down, removing it was fairly simple: just unbolt it:
Since bakelite bridges aren’t available anymore, John and I decided to use a standard rosewood bridge with a bone saddle. I would be gluing the new bridge down, which meant that I would have to remove the finish under the bridge to expose some wood for the glue to attach to. First I plugged the bolt-holes, and then I very carefully marked out the perimeter of the new bridge and then scraped off the finish:
Next I de-bellied the top, using some heated aluminum cauls and a handful of clamps (which I’ve covered here: strangeguitarworks.com/acoustic-guitar-debelly). After waiting a day for the top to settle, I shaped the new bridge to match the top and glued it down:
The next step was to fix a few of the cracks on the back. There were several small cracks that had split along the grain line like this:
This is usually a pretty easy thing to fix, but this one particular crack wouldn’t close up because somebody had replaced a brace right over the crack, and used Gorilla Glue to secure it! Gah! I had to remove the brace just so I could flex the back to close the crack.
NOTE to DIYers: Never, ever use Gorilla Glue on your guitars. As it catalyzes, it expands, and separates the pieces you were trying to glue back together. This brace wasn’t even touching the back in some spots, so getting a knife under it to remove it was pretty easy:
With the brace removed, it was a simple matter of flooding some glue into the crack and closing it up. As an added precaution, I made a few maple cleats to go across the crack (with the grain running perpendicular to the crack):
Finally, cleaned and reshaped the braces, and then used a couple of scissor jacks to glue the braces back in place:
And that’s it! Now John’s guitar is totally solid – no errant squeaks nor rattles anywhere! Plus, it sounds much better now that it’s got a solidly attached rosewood bridge and bone saddle. Sweet!