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Thread: Gibson F-9 repair project

  1. #1
    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Gibson F-9 repair project

    I purchased this F-9 as a project. There were no surprises and it was priced right. The headstock repair seemed like a good place to start in terms of difficulty. I used hot hide glue and will see how it feels after it has dried to test for strength. The gap at the heel button makes me think I'll be steaming the neck out and refitting the dovetail. I've read of previous cases with this model so not sure if I'll have to take the whole fingerboard off first or just loosen the fingerboard over the extension support. Unlike a guitar, I can't use a jig to push the heel upwards as I steam. I suspect just steam and wiggle loose? I welcome any suggestions before I proceed with the surgery.
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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    There's a pretty fantastic thread, I believe in this forum, opened by Hogo (Adrian) documenting the F-9 repair/rebuild adventure that he embarked upon a few years ago. It's a great read for anyone interested, but more, I'd consider it required reading if I were taking this route.
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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    Before you try to remove the neck, see if you can find someone who knows for sure what kind of neck joint the instrument has.

    Over the years, Gibson has used dovetails, a straight mortise and tenon, and some sort of a weird paddle joint for their neck joints.

    You might try to pm Dave Harvey, perhaps he will know. Include the serial number in your message.
    If it were another company, I would call the manufacturer for technical assistance, but I doubt you will get any accurate information from Gibson.

    If you can't get an answer that you can count on, you may have to go ahead and pull the board, or at least the part that covers the neck joint.

    Here's a thread on Adrian's rebuild of an F-9: http://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/th...l-overhaul#top

    Looks like Adrian did a really good job. Otherwise, I will not make any comments on the thread-- it speaks for itself.

    Adrian's project did use a conventional dovetail, but I don't know whether or not all F-9's have them or not. It is better to assume nothing.
    Last edited by rcc56; Mar-31-2020 at 12:33am.

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    Registered User jim simpson's Avatar
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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    Wow! I read the thread on Adrian's rebuild of his F-9 project. I don't believe my work will need to be that extensive. I know that the mortise neck join ended sometime
    after the Siminoff period. I have an '81 F-5L and it it probably my favorite from my brood. I don't know how much more the neck would move left untouched but I would rather see what's going on in the joint. It's playable in it's current state with the exception of the final frets where it's get funny. No point in leveling the frets up there till the neck is determined to be stable. *here's an after photo of the repaired headstock, no touch-up attempts yet.
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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    If it was fitted badly enough and it's not a paddle joint, you probably won't have much trouble removing it without a jig.

    One important precaution: wiggle side to side rather than up and down to loosen. Up and down can cause a heel crack. The lead repairman at Gruhn's shop gave me that heads-up.



    My occasional apprentice has a Gibson flat-top with a paddle joint. Even with the fingerboard off, I couldn't tell exactly how it was put together. The "books" say the paddle joint was used on guitars from sometime in the mid 1970's to 1994, but I seem to remember that his instrument was made later. But I might be wrong about that. I do know that it was also used on some mandolins.

    If someone has a picture of one of these dis-assembled, please post it.

    Addendum: one picture of the paddle joint can be found on page 94 of "Gibson's Fabulous Flat-top Guitars" by Whitford, Vinopal, and Erlewine. There's also a topic on Gibson's forum-- Google "Gibson paddle cut neck joint" and it will come up. Sorry, I can't get a link to work.

    It looks like the fingerboard must be completely removed from the body joint to the end of the board, because the joint extends for several inches under the board. And apparently, on some of them the top also covers the joint. Some of them might then steam loose once the joint is completely exposed. On others, you might have to cut through the paddle at the right spot to allow the dovetail to be taken loose.

    Repairmen, beware. These necks are not going to come out using conventional techniques, and you'll tear up the instrument trying to get it apart if you don't know that it's there.
    Last edited by rcc56; Mar-31-2020 at 1:32pm.

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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    As an owner/player of one of these early F-9s, this is a very interesting thread for me, as was Adrian's earlier thread on the topic... Worth mentioning, Adrian's F-9 was not one of these earlier (2002-2003) models, based primarily on the finish and other cosmetic differences.

    I'm guessing Gibson used Titebond Original or some aliphatic equivalent on these early F-9s, does that sound like a reasonable guess?

    Also, since the fingerboard is not bound, I wonder if better final cosmetics would be achieved by simply removing the whole fingerboard?
    Last edited by dhergert; Mar-31-2020 at 1:35pm.
    -- Don

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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    I would watch everything that Jerry Rosa has ever done, but especially this one first (!)

    "You never know what you are going to find......"

    Jerry Rosa

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    And London never fails to leave me blue
    And Paris never was my kinda town
    So I walked around with the Ft. Worth Blues

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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    This evening I decided to remove the fingerboard from the F-9 project to get a look at the dovetail joint. It appears to be a good fit and the neck is not loose at all. I may just plane the fingerboard extension support to level and reattach the fingerboard. I was able to close most of the gap on the heel button by doing a dry fit with my clamp. I may press new frets in the board while it's off of the neck.
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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    Jim, if the heel button closes hard it most likely will not stay. I prefer to make a shim and glue that in so it's not trying to pull itself apart.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    Quote Originally Posted by pops1 View Post
    Jim, if the heel button closes hard it most likely will not stay. I prefer to make a shim and glue that in so it's not trying to pull itself apart.
    That probably makes more sense than forcing it. Thanks!
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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    I inserted a thin piece of veneer to see what would work to fill the heel gap. I had to use a little force to insert this piece.
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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    You can thin it if it will make it fit better. I like it snug, but not to have to force it too hard. With glue on, HHG is my preference, it should clamp and hold.
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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    Form the (rather blurry) pics I think the joint MAY be loose near the bottom of the dovetail. There ceratinly appears to be a gap between ribs and heel of neck and I see ahint of tiny crack in rib, that could be crack in the body block...
    The heel of neck is apparently shifted forward but the back seems to be well glued to rim assembly so it's just the neck that moves. The top of the neck joint is rarely affected visibly as it is "reinforced" by the stiff fingerboard above and unless instrument is left in heat that won't move.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    Form the (rather blurry) pics I think the joint MAY be loose near the bottom of the dovetail. There ceratinly appears to be a gap between ribs and heel of neck and I see ahint of tiny crack in rib, that could be crack in the body block...
    The heel of neck is apparently shifted forward but the back seems to be well glued to rim assembly so it's just the neck that moves. The top of the neck joint is rarely affected visibly as it is "reinforced" by the stiff fingerboard above and unless instrument is left in heat that won't move.
    I guess the back would need removed to see the quality of the dovetail at the base? I also wonder if the fit wasn't as tight at base, is it possible that it has shifted as far as it can? I checked the neck surface with the fretboard removed this evening and it seems to be level/flat all the way past the joint onto the extension.
    Last edited by jim simpson; Apr-01-2020 at 8:49pm.
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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    Can't tell much from those pictures. Clearer shots might or might not help. You're going to have to use your hands and your eyes to determine what is and is not going on. A magnifying glass might help. Even with the best of pictures, there is only so much that we can tell from a computer screen.

    I consider back removal to be a last resort. And I'm not sure it will enlighten you on the quality of the dovetail fit.

    A general rule of thumb on mandolins and guitars is to avoid removing a back or a top unless there are no other alternatives; especially on a modern instrument like this that was assembled with something other than hide glue. There is too much risk of collateral damage, and getting everything to line up when you put things back together can be very difficult.

    You might try running a few drops of water into the side of the heel joint and gently wiggling the neck from side to side to see if the water is wicking in and out of there. If so, the dovetail fit is probably loose. If it is, the neck should be removed and the dovetail re-fitted. Also, try and get a light and a mirror inside the instrument and see if you can see a crack in the neck block.

    You have some decisions to make. Do you just put your shim between the button and the bottom of the heel, cross your fingers, and put it back together; or do you pull the neck, re-fit the dovetail, and force some glue into any cracks in the neck block that might exist? The only person who can make that decision is the person with the instrument in-hand. Sometimes you have to just cross your fingers and guess.

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    Adrian Minarovic
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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    I would stay away from back removal as well, unless the seam between ribs and back is compromised. That would lead to mess of a finish chips and no way to repair the finish.
    Trying to wiggle the neck may not show much, if there are strings of old white glue in there it just won't show too much easy movement. The misalignment of heel and back button while the back-rim seam is tight is the giveaway that bottom of neck dovetail had moved, you can rest the instrumentt with neck rested under nut and put some weight on it (your arm pressure) and look from side what is moving and how much.
    Anyway slathering in glue or shims is not going to warrant that it will hold for too long. The neck joint is IMO one of the most critical joints (structurally) and needs to be neat and tight from all perspectives. If anything around neck joint is suspect I would remove the neck and redo the joint so I'm certain it holds well. Anything less is just putting band-aid on a broken leg, IMHO.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    If I owned the instrument and was preparing it for resale, I would probably pull the neck. I don't want my restorations coming back to me because I skimped on the work. For that reason, if I was buying the instrument for repair and resale, I would limit the price I would pay because of the time involved in re-fitting the neck.

    If it was a customer's instrument in for repair, I would explain the risk and let him make the decision on whether or not to pull the neck. It's an expensive job.

    I had pretty much given up on the purchase, restore, and re-sell part of my business, because the profits had gotten too low. But shelter-at-home starts less than 30 hours from now in my neck of the woods. Since the virus has at least temporarily shut down my teaching and performing business, and I don't know how much of that business I might be able to recover later, I might get back into the fix up and sell business.

    I hope everyone finds a way to get through the next few months. There are millions who are at least partially out of work for the short term. And I don't know what the music business will look like when this thing has passed.

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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    Thanks to all for the input. I'm comfortable with refitting the dovetail once it's removed. I tackled steaming the neck this evening and discovered that white glue rather than hide glue was used. The photo shows there's more of a gap than first thought after steaming and picking out the glue. I'll have to tackle this in more than one session. I'm not yet seeing any movement but hope to after more sessions.
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    Last edited by jim simpson; Apr-02-2020 at 9:56pm.
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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    I finally got the neck removed from my F-9 project. By far the toughest one I've done to date. I can see the reason the heel gap was present, the dovetail was cut very shallow at the heel area. I'm going to let this dry out well then I'll start correcting the fit. I could see areas of white glue especially at the heel button. The non-use of hide glue made this job a lot harder than it needed to be. All of the old glue that I picked out gives credence to the saying that glue should never be used as filler. I'm glad I didn't have to pull the back off.
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  31. #20
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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    "Only a Gibson is Good Enough." -Gibson, 1942
    "When good enough is not good enough." -The then independent Epiphone company, in a trade magazine a couple of years later.
    "If it's a Gibson, it'll have to do." -Well known professional musician, in private conversation, circa 2000.

    What a mess. Glad you got it off without major collateral damage. Good work, Jim.

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  33. #21
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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    What a mess. Glad you got it off without major collateral damage. Good work, Jim.
    Similar to what I found inside F-9 joint, in my case there wa also filler, added after gluing to fill the gaps left mostly on the scroll side. The brownish hardly translucent finish hides all that ugliness easily.
    Be carefull and don't remove any wood, just clean the glue and let it dry well for a wekk at least. Then add shims to the dovetail sides as necessary and refit the neck (chalk fit so you are sure the neck is tight down inside the dovetail). Good luck!
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    I think those gluing surfaces are going to have to have at least some wood removed to regularize them. You might even have to graft in some new wood. I find a sanding block with an angled side to fit the angles in both the mortise and the tenon sections to be extremely useful. The shim[s] will then have to make up for any differences. You want as accurate a final fit as you can get, both top and bottom.

    I have learned to go for the most regular surface possible on both the mortise and the tenon. Good fit, good glue joint, no movement. Poor fit, and you'll end up right back where you started.

    When I was first learning to re-fit necks, I was told that you should be able to pick up the assembled but unglued instrument by the neck and not have the joint fall apart. And you should not be able to feel any up-and-down or side-to-side movement if you try to wiggle the unglued neck.

    A question with no answer: How come Gibson could get such tight and pretty neck joints 105 years ago in the old Kalamazoo factory, which was primitive by today's standards; but they will let such an off-center and poor fitting joint out of their modern plant?

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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    I think those gluing surfaces are going to have to have at least some wood removed to regularize them. You might even have to graft in some new wood.
    But don§t remove anz wood from the shoulders of the joint, just flatten the inside surfaces of dovetail and add thin veneer shims and rework them till the neck fits in snugly against body with correct angle.

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    A question with no answer: How come Gibson could get such tight and pretty neck joints 105 years ago in the old Kalamazoo factory, which was primitive by today's standards; but they will let such an off-center and poor fitting joint out of their modern plant?
    Answer is simple... One is well thought method refined while building thousands of the instruments and other is very skilled workers. These days you can either rely fully on CNC in precision, but that would require change of joint (like Collings or Ellis did) or do what your workers are capable of.
    BTW, Gibson changed their method of cutting dovetails sometimes in early teens, the result was better fitting dovetail than previously, which was really nicely cut and with very tight contact of both parts and very consistent.
    Adrian

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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    Almost done with my F-9 project. I ended up resetting the neck twice. The first time, I didn’t pay enough attention and did not have the neck aligned to the tailpiece. I steamed it out without much effort as I used hide glue. Finally I got it refit, glued in and aligned. The pitch of the neck increased so I had to build up the neck extension a little. I re-fretted the neck with gold EVO frets, reattached the broken headstock scroll, made a new bone nut to replace the corian nut, plus I made an ebony replacement truss rod cover. I have Steve Smith from Cumberland Acoustic sending a “tall boy bridge” as I’m maxed out on the original one. It plays well and and sounds good with plenty of volume. I just need to polish the frets, and restring it once I fit the new bridge. Thanks to everyone who offered advise and input. I'm happy to move on to my next project.
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    Default Re: Gibson F-9 repair project

    Aluminum saddle? Interesting
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