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Thread: Solving unexpected problems

  1. #1
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    Default Solving unexpected problems

    An old Martin 00-17 came in today needing a neck re-set. I use a 2 x 5 heat blanket plugged into a Harbor Freight router control [thank you for the suggestion, Mr. Dudenbostel] to warm the fingerboard extension so I can separate the glue joint.

    Problem: The heat from the element turned a 1/8" ivoroid fretboard position dot into powder. I don't have any ivoroid dots, don't know where to get them, doubt that they are even available, and don't want to hold up the job.

    Solution: I do have ivoroid binding material. I super-glued a small piece to a short length of 1/8" dowel, let it set for a few minutes in a vise, clipped the ivoroid into rough shape with my fret cutter, and finished off the edges with a file, using the dowel as my filing guide. I left the ivoroid glued to the dowel for easy handling and glued it into the fingerboard with Duco cement. After it set for a few minutes, I clipped the dowel off with the fret cutter. An unexpected surprise was that the acetone in the Duco cement weakened the super glue bond, so the residual dowel material that was left on top of the dot after I clipped it fell right off, and it only took a minute to level the dot.

    Tomorrow I will pull the neck. I hope it goes smoothly. Removing a neck is always worrisome.

    I hope some other repairmen will chime in with their recent unexpected problems and how they solved them.

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  3. #2

    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    Unexpected problems are what I call "Life's little insults" -- as if I don't have enough to do already!

    Seems they pop up almost daily in the repair biz....

    A common one is trying to remove a fret by heating it first with a solder iron and heating it a little too long and melting or deforming the neck binding -- ouch, total beginner mistake, but if you are not paying attention.....it can happen!

  4. #3
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    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    Solving unexpected problems is what repair is all about. The more creative you are at figuring out your problems is what keeps this interesting, not everyone can do that.

    I think, if memory serves, National guitars uses ivoroid dots in their guitars. I may have a couple from a past project, but would most likely do what you did as opposed to ordering one, should I need it.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  5. #4
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    A tip for making celluloid dots and other round pieces:
    Keep small pieces of metal tubing around the shop in various diameters (brake line, fuel line, etc.) to make plug cutters.
    http://www.frets.com/FretsPages/Luth...lugcutter.html

  6. #5
    Kelley Mandolins Skip Kelley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    Iíve made dots out of binding using a leather hole punch. It has different size holes. Make sure you remove each dot as you cut them or they will get stuck in the hole punch.

  7. #6
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    Quote Originally Posted by Skip Kelley View Post
    I’ve made dots out of binding using a leather hole punch...
    I've done that too. I keep a couple of leather punches in the shop also.

  8. #7

    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    Never ever throw away old binding or pickguard material.

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  10. #8

    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    I had a similar issue with the fingerboard on a 50s Gibson dread. The inlays were rounded trapezoids and I scorched one of them. I had an ivoroid pick that I cut and glued in. Perfect match.

  11. #9

    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    Quote Originally Posted by violinvic View Post
    I had a similar issue with the fingerboard on a 50s Gibson dread. The inlays were rounded trapezoids and I scorched one of them. I had an ivoroid pick that I cut and glued in. Perfect match.
    Correction: it was a pearloid inlay and a pearloid pick. Not ivoroid.

  12. #10
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    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    This one will be back together pretty soon.

    The full list of repairs: 2 loose back braces, a loose upper face brace, a loose lower leg on the X brace, one split brace end, a 4" open seam between the back and side, loose bridge, and neck re-set.

    Most of the interior work is finished. I could have taken care of the X brace this afternoon, but I needed a day off. With a little luck, my clamps will fit and I won't have to mess with jacks in the nether regions of the instrument.

    The bridge is ready to go back on. I still have to re-fit and glue the neck, and cut a new saddle.

  13. #11

    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    Wow! That's a lot of repairs, sounds like it was hit by a car. Good work and I hope it sounds great when you're done.

  14. #12
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    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    "Sounds like it was hit by a car . . ."

    No, it's just old, and hasn't been serviced in a long time. All of these repairs can be considered to be routine on instruments of this age [1945], although loose braces and seams are more common on Gibsons than on Martins. Gibsons from the '40's and '50's are so prone to developing loose glue joints that I have dubbed the condition "Gibsonitis."

    A fellow repairman jokes that "every morning in the early 1950's, Gibson's shop foreman would start off the day by sprinkling a little glue in the water pot."

  15. #13
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    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    I have a Gibson in the shop from the 60's, the back is mostly off, a piece broken off, every brace on the top and back loose, the bridge plate (spruce) of course is worn out. I know what you mean Bob, seldom see Martins with so many braces loose, let alone every one.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  16. #14
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    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    I think that the Gibson foreman's mission in life must have been to keep their glue costs as low as possible.

    I've pulled a couple of Gibson bridge plates that looked like they were harvested from leftover palettes. They can turn up any time from the early 30's on. I don't understand why maple might have been hard to find in Kalamazoo back then, unless the lumberyards were closed due to an outbreak of influenza.

    I have my doubts that 60's Gibsons are worth repairing, unless an owner is prepared for a money pit.

    If the back is already mostly loose, I'd consider taking it the rest of the way off, and stick some decent bracing and a decent bridge plate in there. It probably won't take much longer than doing all of the work through the sound hole. Then, with a little luck, the guitar will sound a lot better than it ever did in the past. I lean towards the pre-1955 design for bracing specs. Oh, and it wouldn't hurt to stick a solid bridge on there, instead of that adjustable tone inhibitor.

    And be sure to get your Gibsonitis shot.

  17. #15

    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    "Adjustable Tone Inhibitor". Chuckle, chuckle.

  18. #16
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    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    This has the solid bridge, earlier model. I should look up the serial number for the year, customer thought 60's. It's been in his family. My plan is just what you said finish taking the back off and replace the bridge plate. I usually replace the spruce plates with maple, way better sound. This is ladder braced and I think I will leave the bracing. Different sound, but I like it. I usually make up a string set so it works with the ladder bracing. Another customer has one that sounds incredible, ladder braced too. Oh the bridge is loose too, maybe they were saving pennies by getting cheap glue.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  19. #17
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    I think glue was left in the glue pots at Gibson until it deteriorated in strength. I've read that the protein molecules in hide glue break down into smaller units as the glue is repeatedly heated, overheated, or just from age while mixed with water. I suspect the glue pots were seldom emptied and cleaned but instead more glue was simply added to the old glue as it was used. Hide glue is too cheap to economize by diluting it, using too little or whatever. Most old Gibsons are full of glue drips and runs ("ugly", brown glue) so it doesn't look like they were using too little glue. I've seen plenty of examples of joints that were not well prepared also, and that combined with deteriorated glue could easily lead to loose joints these many years later.

  20. #18

    Default Re: Solving unexpected problems

    Quote Originally Posted by Wrnchbndr View Post
    Never ever throw away old binding or pickguard material.
    Along those same lines, I have purchased old "yard sale" guitars just to recycle the old yellowed binding. One junk instrument can fix several others down the road...

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