Resurrecting A Hopelessly Damaged Gibson LG-2: Part 4

Hey there readers! I return with another article about the twists and turns of the restoration of the Gibson LG-2. If you haven’t yet read the first three parts of this series, I suggest you read through them now to see how we got here! The first article in the series is available here:

Resurrecting A Hopelessly Damaged Gibson LG-2: Part 1

As you will recall from last time, I was having to contend with the 7 back cracks in this particular guitar, and I made somewhere in the neighborhood of 16 cleats to pull all of those cracks together and to keep them level. You will also recall the famed JSH cigar box cleating material technique and the filing and shaping of the cleats so they looked nice and neat if anyone was going to look inside our poor misused LG and check our work. From the beginning, I stated that my goal with this particular guitar was to get it into playing condition, not museum condition, so total historical accuracy was not my ultimate goal.

My ultimate goal was to hear what this thing sounded like after years of languishing on its death bed, only to be resurrected…but somewhere near the end of that last article, a realization was beginning to dawn on me: there were so many braces missing, and so much of that material was left in the form of splintered remnants still clinging to the top and back, that despite my earlier proclamations of not having to remove the back to re-brace this guitar, I was going to have to do just that…<sigh>. So I at once began to consult all my luthier friends and colleagues and made sure I was right this time. They were all in agreement: to get this guitar back in playing condition THE RIGHT WAY, I was going to have to break out the palette knives and steam and start removing some binding.

Of course, this is a HUGE undertaking. To remove the back, as alluded to earlier, we’re going to need to remove the binding. The binding is there to hide the glue joint between the sides and the back. So in order to expose that glue joint to our prodding palette knives, we will need to cut through the binding and peel it out of its channel. Not as easy as it sounds, as I’m sure you can appreciate, especially when it comes to removing the binding near the heel. The heel overlaps the binding. Ticklish.

Also, let it be known that I don’t think the cleating I did in the last article was in vain: I firmly believe that if I tried to remove the top without first cleating the extensive cracks, I would have been left with splinters…No fun…

I boiled some water, soaked my thinnest palette knives in the water, and began my assault on the binding. Very shortly, I began to encounter the limitations of these particular tools.

Palette Knife Failing

My thin palette knives were flimsy and bending and twisting when they ran up against the resistance of the 50+ year old binding. I bought a more substantial knife that I modified with a file to make the leading edge thinner. That way, I had a knife with a thin edge that had the spine to contend with that strongly bonded plastic.

This Edge Is Too Thick, So I'll File It

 

Filing The Edge

So I began at the butt of the guitar and move toward the lower bout on either side, attempting to separate the binding from the binding channel. In certain circumstances, it is permissible to use a razor saw to cut through the binding at the center seam to facilitate the binding removal.

It turns out that I didn’t even need to use the razor saw for the binding. Instead, I found a section of the binding that seemed to have some separation already, and decided to EXPLOIT that.

Binding Separation

 

Making The Separation Bigger

 

Looking Into The Exploit

Then it was a matter of moving down the binding and pulling it away from the guitar “just enough” so that it would release its grip on the binding channel, but not so much that it would snap…I was largely successful, but I did end up breaking off a small piece near the upper bout on the bass side.

Oops.

Also, there is a propensity for the binding to take some of the side material away if you’re not too careful. I tried to prevent this eventuality by placing the edge of my strongest palette knife against the guitar’s side, just below the level of the binding, like this:

Side Protection Technique

 

Lower Bout Progress

 

Progress Up To The Heel

As expected, the area just below the heel proved to be tricky, the binding’s seam was a factor, but I did end up lifting it out, gently but surely, until it was free of the confines of the heel and the back plate.

Binding Heel Seam

 

One Big Binding Piece Removed

 

The Last Inch

 

Heel Without Binding

 

So I was left with two pieces of binding as I contemplated the removal of the back plate, the large one from the picture above, and this small one:

Smaller Binding Piece

Now it was time to turn may attention to the back. As I’ve already been over, in previous articles, most guitars manufactured during this era were glued together with hide glue. All I needed to make the glue pliable enough to be able to release the back from the sides was some boiling water.

I set the tea kettle on the stove and prepared a new pot for my palette knives. That was my plan: put my knives in a boiling water bath, and use the water that clung to the knife to weaken the glue joint. As we shall see, this tactic worked better in certain places than in others.

Boiling Knives!

Again, as with the binding, I tried to find a place in the joint that looked like it had separation already.

Separation To Begin The Exploitation!

 

Another View Of The Separation

 

Then I began my assault with my hot water-bathed knives.

Progress!

I’m extremely glad I decided to cleat all of these cracks closed before I decided to try to remove the back. The lower bouts of this guitar were relatively trouble-free, but there were a few instances where I tried a BIT too hard, so I cracked the back…again…or some more…in a few places.

Yikes!

I generally stuck to the thinner knives while easing my way around the guitar. When I encountered extreme resistance, I switched to the thicker knife, for a little extra help. The lower bout of this guitar seemed to have some water damage, as you will recall, from your diligent reading of my previous articles, so these areas and even the areas around the tail block were relatively easy to get off.

A View Of The Progress To The Waist

As I got through the waist area and up into the upper bout, however, things began to get tough. It seemed like the upper bout area was stronger because this area had not been submerged in water and loosened before…so as I got to the shoulders and neck block, things began to crack more frequently, with a little shard on the shoulder separating from the rest of the back completely. <grrrr>

Eventually, though, through the power of the LARGE THICK palette knife and the Boiling of multiple kettles of water, the back finally came away from the neck block.

Encountering The Neck Block

 

Victory!!!

 

View Of The Top Alone

 

View Of The Back Alone

 

As an added bonus, the remaining back brace separated and fell out of the guitar when the glue finally let go. This is going to be a useful template for tracing the back radius onto the new braces we will make.

Stay tuned gang. In the next installment, I will cover the regluing of the top braces, since now we are able to see EXACTLY where the problem areas are. Here’s a little sneak peek:

X-Brace Problems

So, until next time, let’s figure out what the top radius of an Lg-2 is so we can make some tone bars!

 

 

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