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Thread: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

  1. #1

    Default 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    I recently bought a very nice 1915 Gibson A mandolin with several face cracks, but otherwise in very good condition with the original pickguard and tailpiece cover in excellent condition. The face cracks shouldn't be too hard to fix, but in order to work on them, I need to remove the pickguard. It comes off of the side clamp easily enough, but the 2 metal pins that hold it into the fingerboard are not loose and have not responded to gentle pressure.

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    I bought this primarily because the condition ad the fact everything was all there and Idon't want to take a chance on damaging the pick guard. Does anyone have any thoughts on how best to get it off?

    I'm considering a lubricant like a lemon oil but thought I'd check in with the forum first.

    Thanks!

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  3. #2

    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    I’d suggest gentle indirect heat to the fretboard. Something like cutting a penny to lay between the frets over the pin and applying a soldering iron momentarily every few seconds to just gently raise the temp. Or some other way to get that area to warm up. That pickguard is going to be dangerously brittle. It’s also celluloid so I wouldn’t use a blow dryer.

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  5. #3
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    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    The pins [they are really nails] on these 'teens Gibsons go right through the fingerboard at a significant downward angle [maybe 30 degrees] and penetrate the top.
    It can be difficult to get them to let go. I don't know if heat will be much help. You can try a drop of oil, but I don't know if it will penetrate.

    I have always removed them mechanically, but you have to be slow, gentle, thoughtful, and methodical as you go about it so nothing is damaged. This is not a job for a beginner.

    I remove the clamp, protect the top, and run thin strips of wood or plastic in from either side and try to get as close to the nail as I can. Sometimes I have to use a thin metal tool to get things started. Once it is separated from the fingerboard by a millimeter or two, I can insert a spacer next to the nail, and often, a gentle side to side rocking motion will loosen the guard further. Then I insert a thicker spacer and continue. Sometimes a wedge or two can be helpful. I work my way in from the ends.

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  7. #4
    Registered User John Bertotti's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    The pins [they are really nails] on these 'teens Gibsons go right through the fingerboard at a significant downward angle [maybe 30 degrees] and penetrate the top.
    It can be difficult to get them to let go. I don't know if heat will be much help. You can try a drop of oil, but I don't know if it will penetrate.

    I have always removed them mechanically, but you have to be slow, gentle, thoughtful, and methodical as you go about it so nothing is damaged. This is not a job for a beginner.

    I remove the clamp, protect the top, and run thin strips of wood or plastic in from either side and try to get as close to the nail as I can. Sometimes I have to use a thin metal tool to get things started. Once it is separated from the fingerboard by a millimeter or two, I can insert a spacer next to the nail, and often, a gentle side to side rocking motion will loosen the guard further. Then I insert a thicker spacer and continue. Sometimes a wedge or two can be helpful. I work my way in from the ends.
    Not a job for a beginner or the impatient! I would have been inclined to try heat as well but I did not know they were that long or at an angle. I have had some projects where something similar took a long time and I have begun to wonder if one of those little nebulizers that vibrate at a very high frequency, held to the side, would cause them to let loose. I had an old small humidifier that had one but it stopped working so I haven't had a chance to try.
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  8. #5
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    They are tedious and on occasion will let go from the pickguard and stay in the neck. As Bob said, they are just small nails. Pretty easy to replace if you lose one. Take a look at Paul Hostetter's pictures in this thread.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

  9. #6

    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    Thanks very much. I'm not a beginner and I do have great patience so I'll approach this very slowly and carefully. I'll try a modified version of all of these ideas. A bit of lemon oil to try to lubricate it, wait a day, then gentle heat and the wedge method RC66 mentioned.

    Wish me luck! I'll let you know how it goes.

  10. #7
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    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    I am not sure lubricating it is a good idea, you don't want the wood to swell more and make the nail tighter.
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  11. #8
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    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    Whatever you do, protect the top underneath. Sometimes the guard will let go suddenly and come flying off with a vengeance. If that happens, a nail can put a deep scratch in the top.

    I try to keep any wedging or prying action as close to the nails as possible.

  12. #9
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    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    ... go right through the fingerboard at a significant downward angle [maybe 30 degrees] and penetrate the top.
    Maybe sometimes but... In my limited experience with exactly one of these, a '17 A-1, the angle was just barely noticeable, guessing marginally more than a bridge pin's taper, and went into only the fingerboard wood. YMMV!

    Edit: Mine had the 'guard gone before I got the instrument. Looking at Paul Hostetter's photo, most of the (yes 30 degree) bend appears to be w/in the pickguard itself. I still don't think that the nails, at least on mine, penetrated thru the fingerboard and into the top.
    - Ed

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  13. #10
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    Quote Originally Posted by EdHanrahan View Post
    Maybe sometimes but... In my limited experience with exactly one of these, a '17 A-1, the angle was just barely noticeable, guessing marginally more than a bridge pin's taper, and went into only the fingerboard wood. YMMV!

    Edit: Mine had the 'guard gone before I got the instrument. Looking at Paul Hostetter's photo, most of the (yes 30 degree) bend appears to be w/in the pickguard itself. I still don't think that the nails, at least on mine, penetrated thru the fingerboard and into the top.
    I would stay away from any oils as they can penetrate deep into wood through tiny cracks in varnish and make ugly splotches. I would prefer dry heat on the board just above pins and gentle mechanical action (wedges etc.)
    Here are some examples of how angled those pins can be (the black top pis is courtesy of Nigel Harris, the rest is unknown from internet...)
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    Adrian

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  15. #11
    Formerly F5JOURNL Darryl Wolfe's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    Hogo and RC are exactly correct. They are at an angle and are usually somewhat corroded and very difficult to remove.

    I believe these were installed at like a 30 degree angle so the nails could be set in, then the guard bent down into position and clamped.

    I've had limited luck in ever removing a guard like these fully intact and ready to simply reinstall. Some degree of ingenuity is always involved

    And, as evidenced in the photos, the nails are ridiculously long
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  17. #12
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    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    Quote Originally Posted by Darryl Wolfe View Post
    I believe these were installed at like a 30 degree angle so the nails could be set in, then the guard bent down into position and clamped...
    That I never thought of but it would make sense. Thanks.

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    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  19. #13
    Registered User Vernon Hughes's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    I've coaxed them off with very thin wood shims and defunct credit cards, nudging and prying gently along the length a little at a time. I had one that was really stuck good and it took me nearly 3 hours to get it loose without damage to the guard. Be patient. Be careful of the top point, it's very fragile.
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  21. #14

    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    OK, Lots of good info here.

    So far I've done the following:

    I did use a thin lemon oil to lubricate the area on the theory that the rust would be loosened a bit and the nails might come out a bit easier. Just a bit directly applied to the nails with a glue applicator to minimize spread. I then used a pencil soldering iron to heat the fret closest to the nail. Luckily, both nails were quite close to a fret. This is a good way to heat a specific area of the fingerboard and it eventually got the area by the nails quite hot to touch. Then I gently pushed a guitar pick between the pick guard and the neck at the top end where it was a bit out.

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    Doing this gently, I was able to move the pick guard out a bit at a time on that end. Moving it out a bit made it possible to insert a pick behind the nail at the other end as well. As I got it a bit wider, I was able to insert a thin blade I use for neck removal and move it out just a bit more. I went through three heating and cooling cycles over about 1 hr and was able to get about 1/8th of an inch away from the fingerboard.

    I put a bit more lemon oil directly onto the nails and let it sit overnight. I'll try for a bit more tonight making sure I figure out how to protect the top from damage. Time is my friend!

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  23. #15

    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    Success! After another slow heating with the soldering iron on the frets, I was able to get the pickguard to come lose. A slow process to be sure, but gentle use of the wedges, heat and an antique putty knife made things go quite well. As suggested, the nails were bent and rusty and it did "pop" off at the end. Thanks for the heads up on that.

    I was surprised at just how much the nails were bent. I wonder if the bend wasn't related to installation. If the Pickguard was initially installed at the angle the nails go in, that 30 degrees folks talked about, it would give you access to drive the nails in and then the pick guard would be pushed down into place bending the nails like we see.

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    Onward to the next issue... face cracks!

    Thanks for the advice!

  24. #16
    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    Good work!
    I believe the holes are angled for clearance for a drill chuck. I think, originally the guard nails were just snug sliding fit into holes and the rust locks them in lace after some time.
    I just installed two fingerrests yesterday and I drill 2.5mm hole for 2.3mm pins and rely only on friction inside the holes only. The pins are never really 100% parallel and the spacing or alignment of holes is neither perfect so the little extra size is just enough to make them fit snug and still be able to remove the fingerrest without wedges etc. And after I stain the inside of holes (so they won't stand out on finished instrument when the fingerrest is not used) the wood fuzz inside swells a bit back and makes the fit even stronger.
    Adrian

  25. #17
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    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    Congrats. The next time it will be easier, but not necessarily less nerve-wracking. Kind of like pulling flat top guitar bridges or fingerboards.
    Check that top brace while you're at it. I bet a nickel that it's loose at one end.

    I think that mandolin deserves a nicer looking bridge. If you're really brave, here's an opportunity to learn how to carve a replica . . .

    Hint: If you go for the later 'teens "one piece" style, and you have the opportunity to examine an original closely, you will find that the "one piece" is really two pieces-- a compensated top section glued to a base. It's not hard to make. I like the early 'teens style with removable saddles better, but it takes longer to build.

  26. #18
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    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    Quote Originally Posted by Ginridge View Post
    ...I was surprised at just how much the nails were bent. I wonder if the bend wasn't related to installation. If the Pickguard was initially installed at the angle the nails go in, that 30 degrees folks talked about, it would give you access to drive the nails in and then the pick guard would be pushed down into place bending the nails like we see.
    Actually Darryl Wolfe said that in this message in this thread.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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  28. #19
    Formerly F5JOURNL Darryl Wolfe's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    I must ask this question here. Is there another set of holes in the fingerboard where the guard may possibly have been installed in another position?

    I ask only because the guard tip usually aligns with the 12th fret, the pins usually never are that close to a fret and the gap at the bridge looks excessive.

    I could be totally factory, but it is a bit odd. If I am correct, I believe somebody moved the guard to compensate for that bridge you have
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  29. #20

    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    Quote Originally Posted by MikeEdgerton View Post
    Actually Darryl Wolfe said that in this message in this thread.
    By God, he did! And I agree within on that.

    I'll check and see if there are multiple nail holes. I don't recall seeing any but then, I wasn't looking.

  30. #21

    Default Re: 1915 Gibson A Pickguard issue

    Darryl Wolfe, I checked and, no these are the only nail holes on the fingerboard and this is clearly the original installation.

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