Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

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Final Crack Touchup, Polish and Setup on the ca. 1931 Gibson TG-1 Guitar

I finished up the Gibson TG-1 a few days ago.  Thought I should go over the last bits of work I did.

So I tried to match up the finish and touch up the crack-repaired areas.  You can see here that I took a small spruce board and tried a few mixes of brown nitro lacquer.  I got one that was close and used that.

I touched up the worst areas and let the lacquer dry a few days.  As it turns out, a lot of color came off when I polished it out.  Duh.  Should have let it dry longer.

Here I'm doing the finish sanding before rubbing it out.  I wet sanded, using 400 grit up to about 4000.

The cracked areas are nice and smooth now.  I also hit the repaired areas with some blush remover to help blend the repairs in.  The lacquer on the guitar is so old that it really didn't remelt so much - not surprising.

Here's the side repair.  It actually looks better in person - you can see my paint was a little light and some did come off.

The owner is pretty happy with it though.  It carries my limited lifetime warranty, which means if she wants me to take another shot at touching it up, I'll gladly do it.

And wait a month for the lacquer to dry this time.

And the top.  Not too bad, all things considered.  The damaged areas are visible, but they're smooth to the touch.

And neither area affects the tone in any way.

Now to finish it up.

The nut was a plastic replacement.  It cracked on the bass side (see the yellow arrow in the picture), so I needed to make a new bone nut.

You can also see a big gap on the nut 'ledge' between the headstock veneer and the nut (green arrow.)

After I took the nut off, there was a lot of old glue.   I scraped it off with a small chisel and a file.

Naturally, when I was cleaning and leveling the nut slot, I chipped a tiny bit of the ebony headstock veneer.  The yellow arrow shows the gap that opened up, and the red arrow shows one of the two chips that came off.

I used some black CA to put the chips back on.

They fit perfectly.  If this sort of thing happens, I find that the less you handle the chips or broken bits the better.  Even a little handling will change their shape (breaking off more tiny bits) and they won't fit as well.

Here's the repaired area.  Looks like new.

So, I made a new nut, but I forgot to take pictures of it!  I figure there are pictures elsewhere on the blog - you can see how I make nuts on other posts.

Yet another filthy old fingerboard.  I do a pass or two with Simple Green first, then switch to Dunlop fingerboard cleaner.  Brush the board, wipe with a cloth, repeat until you don't see any brown gunk.

I think I did 5 or 6 passes on this one.

The wood is Brazilian rosewood.  Really nice grain.

Lately I've been using Stew Mac fingerboard oil instead of lemon oil.  I like it.  You get a nice finish and supposedly it helps prevent cracks.  This board was so dry that it took two applications of oil - the first just got immediately sucked up by the wood.

This guitar has a truss rod!  I'm so used to working on Martins that it's a pleasant surprise to have a truss rod on a small instrument.

I only had to put about a quarter turn on the rod to get the neck nice and straight.

By the way, you can see the new nut I made if you look carefully.

I polished the frets and also polished the whole guitar with Virtuoso cleaner and finished with Virtuoso polish.  This stuff is simply fantastic.

The finish on the guitar is in excellent shape and the polish enhanced it.

The whole guitar has fantastic gloss.  Remember this is an 85 year old finish!

And the top.  I love these older Gibson sunbursts.  Simply beautiful.

Check out that fingerboard!  And that classy point at the end.

Tonally, the guitar has a fat, deep voice.  Very rounded.  I played it and then played my Martin 0-18T and the Martin sounds like a banjo compared to the Gibson.  This is one amazing guitar.


Huss & Dalton T-00-14 Guitar Setup

Most of the time I work on older guitars. (I'd say 'vintage' but that's getting so overused.  I am now seeing stuff from the 1980s being referred to as 'vintage'!).  But there are the occasions that I work on things that are recent.  This is a case in point.

This is an amazing, incredible Huss & Dalton Model T-0014 Custom.  It belongs to a good friend of mine, who asked me to do a setup on it.

Wow.  I am privileged to get to do this work.

The guitar was made in early 2014.  It's so nice and shiny and new that I put a new carpet mat on the workbench to make extra sure it didn't get scratched.

Here's the headstock.  Incredible Indian rosewood overlay - just fabulous.

The guitar is from H&D's 'Traditional' line - and this one is based largely on Martin's 00-18.

With one difference.

The difference is that the workmanship on this guitar is just astounding.  Martins are beautifully made, but this guitar's another thing entirely.  As a Martin owner and lover, I thought I would never say such a thing.

On the H&D, everything fits exactly.  There are absolutely no flaws anywhere.  Not a hint of a glue drip to be found.

And the best part might be the finish.  It's just impeccable.

The gorgeous koa binding was an option.  I can't find words to describe how beautiful it is.

It's so glossy I had a hard time getting good pictures of it.

The rosewood on the back is simply stunning.

We are really in a golden age of lutherie.  There are so many fine makers, small and larg(er) that quality is at an incredible peak.   Makers are taking classic designs and elevating them to new heights.

The tuners are 1930s Martin-style made by Waverly.  Fantastic quality.

And they look great. I love those small tuning knobs.  And the brass gear.

Did I say the finish is amazing?

So, enough drooling and get to work!

I measured the low E action at a crazy 9/64ths of an inch.  My friend called the guitar "the cheese grater" because the action was so high.

This need-for-a-setup is not uncommon on new guitars, even such a fine one as this one.  The guitar is still settling after it's built, and most builders figure that the dealer will do a setup to the individual's preference.

In this case, for whatever reason, the dealer did not set it up.   But fortunately for me, I get to do it!

I measured a tad over .020 inches relief at the 9th fret.  The neck dips like a bowl.

I'll adjust the truss rod, set the nut action, and set the action at the saddle if needed.  Huss and Dalton provided a nice tall saddle for just that reason.

The truss rod adjustment nut is a 1/8 inch hex located at the top of the neck block.   I have a regular hex wrench in there for this picture, but I'll use a longer wrench for the actual adjustment.

You can't get enough leverage on the nut with a short wrench to turn it much.

Here's another shot of the neck block along with the ID plate.  The workmanship inside is simply astounding.  And look at that rosewood!

It also smells wonderful.  I wish I could shrink myself (like Paul McCartney in Help! ) and crawl inside the guitar and spend some there.  It's that inviting.

I'm not sure this guitar has a bolt-on neck, but if it does, I'm betting the screws holding the plate on cover the bolts for the neck.  I need to look that up. 

Ironically, there is a "use light strings" label there.  The guitar shipped with .012s.  I suppose they are light, but I'd call them more like medium-light.

At any rate, I'll be putting .012s on it.  They're a good compromise between .011 or lighter (too light, thin and rattly-sounding) and .013s.   I was an .013 adherent for decades, but now I think .012s work just as well.

I really dig these Stew-Mac u-shaped truss rod wrenches.  At less than 10 smackers a pop, I can afford to have a full set of different sizes.

After a couple twists of the wrench, we have the relief down to maybe .004 of an inch.  Hard to capture it under the mediocre lighting in The Dungeon, but if you look closely, you'll see a sliver of the green background between the straightedge and the tops of the frets.

I probably could have gone a tad straighter, but the neck may further settle, and the thing is pretty much perfect as is anyway.

I save 'absolutely straight' for Rickenbackers!

Now a couple of strokes with the trusty nut files.  I like to get the nut action as low as possible - meaning a few thousandths of an inch over the first fret.

If you haven't played a guitar with proper nut action, you are missing out.  Playing in the first position is effortless when the action is correct.

The action at the 14th fret (I set action height measuring at the body joint on acoustic and electric guitars) is  ok at this point, but it's a tad high.

So I popped out the saddle and am going to take a bit off the bottom.

Check out the nice compensated bone saddle.  It's marked for the bass ("B") and treble ("T") sides at H&D.

With some 100 grit paper on my trusty fret leveling block, we take a few passes on the bottom of the saddle.

Be sure to watch the bottom as you go to ensure it stays square!  I sometimes use a second block as a fence to keep the saddle upright.

And sometimes I carefully just wing it.

Almost there.  I like to make a short mark for depth across the saddle, sand some, put the saddle on and tune it back up and test.

If it's still high, I'll repeat the whole process.

Taking off a small amount at a time (say a 64th of an inch or less) ensures you won't go too low.

In the end, I took about 1/32 off the bottom on the bass side and just about 3/64 off the treble.

The action at the 14th fret is now just below 5/64ths on the bass and exactly 4/64s on the treble.  The guitar plays very well and the owner is happy!

I forgot to say how it sounds.  It's very balanced and incredibly loud, especially for the smallish body size.  I can only imagine how it will sound 10 years from should be fantastic.  It's not cheap, but you get what you pay for in workmanship and tone.

Oh I almost forgot!

Check this out.  It's on the inside of the guitar's top just below the soundhole.


Using Cleats to Repair Side Cracks on the Gibson TG-1 Guitar

In our last episode, I glued the top and side cracks on the Gibson TG-1.  Now I'm going to make some cleats to put behind the side cracks for reinforcement.  The cracks aren't too bad, but since they're about 3 inches (75mm) long, I want to make the repaired area strong so the cracks won't open up if the guitar takes a hit to the side.

I have a nice piece of mahogany for bracewood that I've been using for these kinds of repairs.  I cut off a hunk of it.

Then I stuck it on my trusty sanding board with double-sided carpet tape.  The piece of mahogany is about 1/4 of an inch thick to start with.

By holding the workpiece up to the belt on the ROSS, I can get it down to the thickness I want and keep it reasonably square.

Right now the coarsest belt I have is 120 grit, so this sanding takes a bit longer than usual.

Note to self:  order more belts.

I was aiming for .090 inches thickness, and I'm within .003.  Close enough.

I probably could have gone down to .080, but the wood gets a bit fragile as it gets thinner, and I hate to start over.  I've broken these small pieces before when cutting them to shape.

The top of the guitar is about .090, so I figure the cleats will be fine - not too thick.

Now we use a razor saw to carefully cut the square cleats out.

I should probably make some kind of jig to do this, but I honestly don't do it enough.  But a jig would make the cleats a bit more precise.

Not that anyone really sees them once they go into the guitar.

Here are the cleats after the edges are beveled with a small file.

The one on the right is a tad bigger - it will go in the center where the cracks are a little further apart.

Here's how I get the cleats into place.

I have some repair magnets from Stew-Mac.  They're super strong magnets - if you get your fingers in between two of them when they are pulling together, your fingers will get pinched!  They have lots of power.

I put double-stick tape on the back of a cleat, then attach a magnet to the tape on the other side.  Then I use long tweezers which grip to the magnet.

Then we put hide glue on the surface of the cleat to be glued over the repaired area.  I glue the cleats on with their grain running opposite to the grain on the guitar (up and down in this instance) to help add strength to the repair.

The hide glue is sticky, so it wants to naturally adhere to the wood, which helps in this repair.

While I'm holding the cleat in place from the inside, I hold another magnet on the outside of the body of the guitar and whap! the magnets are drawn together.

This picture was taken after the outside magnets were attached... you see here.

Stew-Mac sells these little 'handles' to attach to one of the magnets.  This makes the magnets easy to hang on to.

The magnets' pulling together acts as a clamp to hold the cleat in to place.  Super handy to have for this kind of tricky repair.

I wound up putting 3 cleats over the cracks.  The top crack is actually very tight - it didn't necessarily have to be cleated.

But I couldn't get the bottom crack fully aligned, so I went with the cleats just to make sure the whole repaired area is nice and solid.

You can also see how the cracks spread just to the original cloth lining - which helped stop the cracks from spreading when they first happened.

You can see a third crack near the bottom - it's behind the kerfing.  I was able to open it up a bit and get glue into it.  Since the lining supports it, it's a solid fix.

The guitar must have taken a fairly hard hit at some point.  But now it's good to go.

Next we'll mix up some lacquer to touch up the repairs.


Repairing Top Cracks on the Vintage Gibson TG-1

You may recall I have a ca. 1931 Gibson on the workbench for some crack repairs.  I've gotten back to working on it.

There are a couple of side cracks, but the trickiest to repair are these top cracks and breaks.

The guitar took a hit near the edge of the rim, probably on an angle.  The hit caused a couple of long cracks to open along the grain lines - see the red arrows.

And there are also some breaks across the grain which didn't go through the top - they split horizontally.  Those are the areas the green arrows point to.

I need to open up the long cracks, as well as the splits, to get glue into them.

I carefully used a very small flat-bladed screwdriver to lever the top upward.  Then I wedged some other small screwdrivers under the split 'planks' to hold them open.

Now we can get glue into those joints.

Not surprisingly, one of the cracked pieces broke off during this operation.

You can see how the piece was broken - the spruce is actually split in half horizontally.

In fact, three pieces came off.  This is actually a good thing, because I will now be able to get glue under them and glue them back into place.  With luck, they should fit back exactly where they came from.

I'll do that as Phase 2 of this repair.  For now, I want to get the large cracks glued up.

Did you know Paul Prudhomme makes hide glue?  Dig it!

(I accidentally broke my trusty Felix hide glue jar; it cracked after being heated and cooled so many times.) 
Into the hot water bath it goes, heated to 145°F (or 62.77°C).

I heated the cracks up a bit with a hot air gun to give me some extra working time...

... then I used a small paintbrush to apply the glue.

I worked so fast that my camera didn't have time to focus!

Then I pressed the cracks down flat.

And clamped the whole thing down.  There's a sheet of waxed paper between the top and the caul on the top of the guitar so the caul won't get stuck onto the guitar.  That would be a disaster...I shudder just picturing it in my mind.

There's also a caul on the bottom - both are there to protect the guitar.

Here's the repaired area after the glue has dried.

I'm pretty happy with it.  The cracks are all flat and the repair is very solid.  The ugly spot where those pieces are missing looks bad, but I'll glue those pieces back in next and it'll look much better.