Resurrecting a Hopelessly Damaged Gibson Lg-2: Part 1

Recently, I had a guitar land on bench that was extremely damaged, to the point that the previous owner couldn’t afford to repair it. It seemed a shame to let this 60+ year go to waste, so I bought it and decided to document the EXTENSIVE repair process in a multi-part article. What follows is an introduction to the guitar and the damage. The parts that follow will explain how I got  this guitar back into playable condition.

Here’s what happened:

A guy down the street from me heard that I did guitar repair, so he asked me to take a look at a guitar he had that needed some work. He brought over an old Gibson, with SIGNIFICANT structural damage and asked how much it would cost to get it back into playable condition again.
Naturally, I had to do some research to see if the repairs to this particular guitar would end up costing this customer more than the guitar was worth. So, this guitar seemed like it had lots of water damage, and the sound hole sticker one would typically find was missing. There was also no stamp on the neck block: I had no serial number with which to identify exactly when this guitar was made. So I did what any reasonable modern person with internet access would do: I consulted Google.

I went in knowing a few key things about this guitar, which helped to aid me in my searching. First, this guitar has a solid Brazilian Rosewood Bridge, which is significant because I knew that sometime in the mid to late 1950’s Gibson started to use injection-molded plastic bridges on a lot of their acoustic flattop instruments (generally regarded as a TERRIBLE idea). Second, this guitar has a block type Gibson silk-screened logo on the peg head face. This is significant because Gibson Changed to this logo from the older Gold Script Gibson Logo in about 1948. Third, this guitar has a solid spruce top with solid mahogany back and sides, and the top uses an x-brace configuration rather than a ladder brace configuration. So armed with this knowledge, I went to Google to begin my quest to find out as much as I could about this particular guitar.

What I discovered was that this particular guitar is an LG-2 and was considered a student model at the time of its release. I looked around the internet to see what good examples of this guitar were selling for, and to my disappointment, found that if the guitar was in EXCELLENT condition, it would be worth about $1200…so realistically, this guitar, when repaired, would be worth no more than $600…and it would take about that much money for me to fix it. So, armed with that bad news, I returned to the owner of the guitar and explained the situation to him, told him it would cost more to fix it than it was worth, but told him that if he wanted to sell it, I was interested.

He said he only wanted $75 for it, so after a quick trip to the ATM, I was driving home with an early 50’s Gibson LG-2, trying to formulate a plan about how to best deal with the numerous problems this guitar had.

Here is the way the guitar was when I put it on the bench that day:

Top Damage

Now, obviously , from just looking at the top, we can see that the X-braces are no longer “bracing anything, as the area of the soundboard behind the bridge is lifitng, or “bellying.” Also, we can see that the area immediately in front of the two corners of the bridge closest to the neck are buckling. These are tell tale signs that the X-braces need to be reglued and that the bridge plate is either missing or really close to falling off. Also, when we inspect the pickguard, we see that the cellulose material that this pickguard is made of, has “outgassed” to the point that it has begun to shirk and crack the top at the same time. Also, you don’t need a keen eye to see that the bridge is no longer attached. luckily, the previous owner kept it for us.
The first thing I did after I gave it a careful inspection, was to determine if there were any missing braces. Just from looking into the sound hole, I could see that there were at least 2 back braces that were missing as well as at least two pieces of the center strip that runs down the back:

Inside View Of Missing Braces

Next I had to get elbow deep inside this guitar to see if any of the top or back braces that I couldn’t see were missing. I found that BOTH of the tone bars were missing from the top. Also, much to my chagrin, EVERY SINGLE brace on the top was loose. I had my work cut out for me, clearly.

From there, I turned my attention to the back of the guitar:

The 7 Back Cracks

 

Alternate View of the Back Cracks

Yikes! 7 back cracks, one spanning almost the entire length of the body. These would have to be dealt with carefully: When I glued them together, they HAD to be even, otherwise I was creating more work for myself in the form of level sanding the crack until both sides were even….it would be much better to do almost no sanding, and glue it correctly the FIRST time. Naturally, I was going to have to find some thin mahogany veneer stock, so I could make unobtrusive cleats for all of these cracks in the back.

After I determined the state of the body damage, I looked to the peg head to see what horrors awaited me there. I found that the original tuner holes had been enlarged to fit some EXTREMELY CHEAP Schaller copies (that, incidentally, didn’t even have consistent screw holes). Also, since the tuning machines had been replaced, the back of the peg head needed to have the screw holes filled. I was thinking that I probably needed to dowel and re-drill the tuning machine holes so they would accept period correct machines.

The Back of the Peg Head

The Back of the Peg Head 2 (with cat)

There were chips in the front of the peg head and some of the finish was missing.

Peg Head Face Damage

I then turned my attention to the overall condition of the neck and the frets. First, I noticed that the truss rod was protruding a little farther than I’d like through the top of the truss rod nut. In order to determine if the truss rod was still functioning, I first loosened and removed the truss rod nut and applied some 3 in 1 oil to the threads of the truss rod. Then, I installed the nut, and made sure the neck responed in turn. Luckily, all was well with the truss rod. I did note that i would need a thick washer to take up the space at the end of the rod. After I had determined that the truss rod was ok, I began to inspect the condition of the frets and the fingerboard.

Fret Wear

Surprisingly, the frets were in decent shape, just a little wear in the “cowboy chord” area of the neck. A minor fret recrown would take care of the small wear marks in the first 3 frets. The fingerboard of this guitar is a gorgeous piece of dark Brazilian Rosewood. Again, it has some divots in the first three frets, typical of a sixty year old guitar…it could use some naphtha and steel wool to get some of the years of grime and funk off the fingerboard, followed by an application of mineral or linseed oil to restore some of the color to this nice piece of Brazilian Rosewood.

There was one more thing that I considered to be wrong with this guitar: instead of having an endpin, someone had decided to install a strap button somewhere along the way. It seems like the kind of strap button you might find on a 50’s Les Paul, a flathead screw holding on  an aluminum button.

Weird Strap Button

And, as you can see from this picture, the screw is VERY rusted….so it may turn to powder when we try to take it out.

Finally, I shifted my attention to the bridge. which seemed to be in good condition and still had the original screws and nuts. I will probably have to heat the bridge and remove the saddle to glue it back onto the guitar top…but that will have to wait until a much later post.

 

The Bridge

When I reached into the guitar, to feel for the bridge plate, I was able to remove it with my fingers. When I got it out, I was amazed. It was warped and cracked almost all the way down its length.

The Bridge Plate

 

So with that, I knew I had my work cut out for me, my next step was to compile a list of materials and tools needed to complete my task. After that, I would need to figure out what the most logical order in which to proceed with these repairs.

So stay tuned dear reader, to see how i transform this guitar from the pile of water damaged lumber you see before you into a playable guitar again.

It should be fun! See you next time.

 

 

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