Crawls Backward (When Alarmed)

IconProjects, musings about guitar builds, guitar repairs, vintage tube amplifiers, old radios, travel, home renovation, and other stuff.

Gibson ES-225T Resurrection, Pt. 6

I picked up a generic Gibson-style tailpiece to use on the ES-225.  This is the 'diamond' style that you'd see on something like an ES-335 - thin hollowbody.

One of the issues is that no one makes a tailpiece with three screw holes and one large center hole for an end pin, which I have.  Fortunately the top two screw holes lined up, and I needed to drill a large hole in the new tailpiece for the end pin.

Is that blonde finish beautiful or what?  I love the way the binding has yellowed over time.  

Here's a test fit after the drilling.  The end pin is a white one to emulate the original white ones on ES-225s.

I thought long and hard about putting a Bigsby on it.  A lot of these guitars have had Bigsbys added and it seems like a natural.  I just dread the thought of drilling holes where they will be obvious if the addition is ever undone.  So I am still pondering.  I want to get the guitar together and see how it plays before I make any changes anyway.

Ok.  Now I have a new ebony archtop-style bridge to go on.  I like to sand the bottom of the bridge so that the curvature of the legs follows the arch of the top.  It ensures that the bridge has the maximum contact area to the top for the best tone.

I used sign painter's tape to fasten some 180 grit sandpaper to the top of the guitar.  The tape is low-tack, so it won't lift the delicate old finish.  Then I moved the bridge back and forth to sand it to follow the curve.

The 'legs' on the bridge fit the top exactly.  Gives it a nice, custom finished look as well as helping the tone.

I went with ebony since I thought the black color would be a nice contrast to the maple top of the guitar.  Ebony is also a bit harder than rosewood (the other choice), so it should be better for tone.

Or something like that.

I've also learned a bit about vintage Kluson tuners.  Seems the oldest ones have small bushings.  They're smaller than the ones that fit into an 11/32 hole - the size I'm used to on Fenders.  I procured a set of Kluson repros made by WD Music under the impression they'd be an exact fit.

They are not.

Despite the fact that this guitar (and other late 50s Gibsons and Epiphones) are listed on the Kluson page as "historically used on," the bushings on these are larger.  Argh.

And despite my general guideline not to drill new holes in vintage pieces, I wound up enlarging the old tuner holes to accept the new tuners.  I used a 7/16 (I think) drill bit in a t-handle to gently open up the holes a bit.  I'm sure the old finish would have chipped if I used a power drill.

Then to fine-tune (get it?) the holes, I used a sanding stick.  Basically, I took a dowel and glued some 220 grit sandpaper to it with spray contact cement.

This let me sand a bit, test the fit of the bushings, sand a bit, etc., until the bushings would fit.  They're press-fit, so I enlarged the holes until I could press the bushes in about 3/4 of the way by hand.  I'll tap them home with my fretting hammer and a block of wood during the final assembly - which is rapidly getting closer.

The new tuners will look exactly like originals, and no one will see the enlarged holes.

The entire ES-225T project:
1. Starting - making a custom moulded caul for headstock break
2. Headstock break repair using hide glue
3. Filling headstock crack pt 1
4. Filling headstock crack pt 2
5. Repairing divots in top
6. Installing the tailpiece, bridge, enlarging tuner holes (This page)
7. Making a bone nut
8. Installing tuners, and wiring
9. Installing nut and pickup
10. Completed - photos of completed ES-225T

Updates March 2015:

11. Bigsby B11 Installation, Pt. 1
12. Bigsby B11 Installation, Pt. 2


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