Resurrecting a Hopelessly Damaged Gibson Lg-2: Part 2


The LG-2 on the Bench

In my last article, I detailed how I came to own a severely damaged Gibson Lg-2, and attempted to describe the extent of its damage. I also tried to anticipate the repairs that would have to do to get this particular guitar back into some semblance of playing condition.

In this article, I will outline my plan of action, detail what tools and materials I needed and try to elucidate WHY I chose certain materials and methods over others.

First things first:

I knew I was going to have to buy some materials in order to get this guitar back together. First of all, I knew that I was going to need either some bracing material or some pre-shaped braces. I could buy them from a few different places, lmii.com offers “preshaped” braces, which I would still need to sand to the right radius and scalloped, or I could get some braces that were already radiused and scalloped from stewmac.com, although they would probable be radiused to a different radius than this particular guitar had originally. The other alternative would be to buy bracing stock that was not shaped, radiused, or scalloped and do all of that labor intensive stuff myself…decisions, decisions.

Meanwhile, something I also needed was some 1/16″ thick mahogany to use as cleating material for the 7 back cracks decimating the back of this guitar. You can find the same kind of mahogany here:

Mahogany Sheets

Also, I was relatively sure that I would need to plug and re-drill the tuning machine holes in this guitar, so I would need a 3/8″ mahogany dowel, available from amazon.com, here:

Mahogany Dowels

Almost from the beginning, when faced with the question of what I should do these repairs in, I considered removing the back of this guitar completely. That would allow me to easily replace the NUMEROUS missing braces and the bridge plate with ease. The problems though, with removing the back, were that without at least first repairing the back cracks, the back would likely disintegrate into splinters and braces.

The problems with removing the back, however, are that I would need to cut the back binding in order to remove the back. Also, the heel of this particular guitar covers the binding, so there could be a potential headache when attempting to remove the back from the neck block.

So no matter what I did with the back, first I was going to have to cleat and repair the 7 cracks. So I needed a few additional tools and materials to keep the crack even while the glue was drying. Most of the time, people use HDP, High-Density Polyethylene, that has the advantage of not sticking to wood glue. I would need a sheet that was thin enough to be bent to the radius of the back, but stiff enough so that it keeps the crack even.

Also, without even having to do anything to the guitar, I knew I was going to have to make a new bridge plate for this guitar, so I needed to find a sheet of maple, and transfer the old bridge plate shape to it.

Maple Sheet

I was also going to have to buy a new clamp in order to reach the ends of the x braces and tone bars. Stewart-MacDonald has these available:

Hole Clamp

Or, I could opt for turnbuckle-style “brace jacks,” like these, also available from Stewart-MacDonald:

Brace Jacks

I was weary that I would break through the back with the pressure that would be needed to get the braces glued to the top.

Because that was my fear, I decided to opt for a long clamp that could be inserted through the sound hole, like the ones in the first example.

So clearly, I had to buy some materials and tools. But was there anything I could do in the meantime, while I was waiting for all these items to arrive?

Repair While I Wait!

The top of this guitar was in ok condition for the most part, though it appeared to have a crack next to the pick guard (caused by the pick guard shrinking) that had been repaired previously. I decided to see if the crack had been cleated and, while I had my hand in the guitar, see just how many of the top braces were loose. As it turned out, EVERY SINGLE brace that wasn’t missing needed to be re-glued. These loose braces had caused the top around the waist to buckle inwards towards the back of the guitar:

The Space Means the Braces Have Failed

Not as Much Space On This Side...

Meanwhile, the area behind the bridge was curving up:

Behind the Bridge, the Top Is Curving Up

Really High in the Middle, Low Near the Sides

…these are all tell-tale signs that the X-Brace has failed, and the guitar spent a little while strung up in this condition, with the brace no longer keeping the top from resisting the string tension.

Luckily, I did have the right tools to glue some of those braces while I was waiting for the new materials and tools to arrive. Basically, all I needed in order to do that, was a thin bladed palette knife, like this one:

My Trusty Palette Knife

…a few clamps, from simple “c” clamps like this:

My Trusty Small C Clamp

…to these deep throated “c” clamps:

Assorted Deep Throat C Clamps

…and some glue…and here’s where I had a HUGE debate with myself.

When this guitar was made, it was made with hide glue. Hide glue is an AMAZING glue for musical instruments…but it is much more difficult to work with then say, a normal yellow wood glue like titebond. For those unfamiliar with hide glue, it comes in dry pellets that you mix with water, like this, available through amazon:

Hide Glue

…and put into some kind of double-boiler, like this one, available through Stewart MacDonald:

Glue Pot

While the pellets and the water are in the double-boiler, they combine to form a viscous, hot glue. When the glue runs from your brush in the consistency of warm honey, it’s ready to use. The problems with hide glue, aside from the obvious need for a double-boiler, are as follows: the work time isn’t very long, so you have to be SURE you know what you’re doing before you even THINK of applying the glue, and you need to get the pellet to water ratio exactly right to have the best strength from the glue.

So what was I going to do? I had a guitar on my bench that was worth $1600 if it was in excellent condition…and this guitar was far from that…so did it warrant the hassle of using hide glue? From my perspective, I wasn’t working on a $50000 pre-war Martin…so I didn’t think I was justified in using hide glue for this particular guitar…plus, my goal was to get it back in playing condition, not restore it to be a museum piece. Plus, I’m not that great at using hide glue.

So instead, I used old reliable, Titebond 1:

My Chosen Glue

That you can get here:

Titebond

I started at the upper bout, first gluing the transverse brace in the places it was coming loose (the ends),  by applying some glue to my palette knife, then placing a caul with wax paper on it (to keep from gluing the caul to the brace) on the side of the clamp that goes into the sound hole, and piece wood with a piece of leather underneath to keep from damaging the top:

Here’s what the clamp looks like outside the guitar:

Clamp, Caul, Wax Paper

I gently place the palette knife between the brace and the top, smearing a thin layer of glue on the side of the brace that is to be glued to the top.

Glue applied to the knife (and those astute observers will notice it is the BACK of the knife blade):

Glue on the Knife

Applying glue to transverse brace and top:

Applying Glue to the Top

I then withdraw my knife, and install my clamp assembly…

Clamp Assembly In Place

 

Different View of the Clamp Assembly In Place

…and using something like my clean palette knife with a damp paper towel or damp rag around it, I’ll clean off the glue that has squeezed out from the clamping pressure, because nothing is worse than having to sand dried glue from around the braces with a sanding stick.

Since titebond takes about 2 hours to dry (at least dry enough so that the clamp or clamps can be removed), I’ll go do research or catch up on my email for a few hours.

Once the transverse brace was solid, I needed to focus on how to tackle the regluing of the X-Brace….and that is going to take another article to explain.

So stay tuned to see how our saga unfolds.

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