ES345-overambitious restoration

Joth

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Bit of a long story here...When I first started the whole luthiery/tweaking/repair thing around '99 or so, I bought a partsless guitar carcass that had been very well painted in auto pearl white with clear coat etc with the intention of experimenting or reviving it in some way. When I began poking thru the finish, I realized that it was a cherry red Gibson 345, and then further saw that it had a 60-63 serial number (85205, anyone know the year?).
I undertook to strip it and refinish it in the original cherry red, however once I got down to the original surface all of the joints of the guitar were clearly loose and coming apart at the seams, the bottom joint seam by the strap button was swelled out and the sides were delaminating, the binding began coming away at the neck and sides, from inside the pickup routes the top and spruce layer were loose from the centre core, the frets were filed flat. Basically all of the glue joints had let go. So I sanded it some more to see if the surfaces were clean and free of dings etc. Then I disassembled everything to redo it all with fresh glue joints. After a while I realized I just didn't have the knowledge and skills to rebuild the sides and the whole guitar (I was 20 yrs old and the internet sure didn't have the info and help that it does now) and this carcass then hung on my workshop wall forever as a curio and occasional reference for measurements of its nice slim neck.

For no reason I was recently moved to take a crack at restoring this thing, and I dug out all the various parts, minus the sides, long disintegrated and thrown away.
I figured I would tell the story here, if I flunk the project again, at least everyone gets a good anatomy lesson of a early 60's ES3XX
 

Joth

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Here you can see some interesting construction shots.
Note certain things like the round area behind the stoptail where the top plate and spruce layer never met snugly, the dry glue there on the spruce side never stuck to the top plate.
There is a similar patch on the opposite side of the core, where the spruce layer and maple core were never stuck together on that spot, the maple is quite bare of glue there, while other unstuck areas all show glue residue.
Is this brown glue the phenol formaldehyde used to do LP maple to mahogany layering?
Note the routed areas of the top and back plates where they level off to meet the core, at the bottom end it has quite routed into the kerfing ledge, I suppose this explains why every ES i've seen locally has the sides bulging out in that area? The mahogany endblock had unglued as well.
 

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Joth

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More interior details...
 

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Joth

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So here are some questions for now:

The top binding is cream/black/cream at .030/.030/.090, I can't find .30 anywhere, but I can laminate from Stewmac 0.20 . Should I use stewmacs binding throughout or am I better off with something else colourwise. I love LMII binding colour but they only have .60x.25 in half body lengths.

There is an inlay missing, and a few more that are sanded thin and have turned quite transparent with age. What best material could I use to cut and replace whats missing without redoing the whole set? I'm not sure I've ever seen a substitute for that celluloid turned clear look.
 

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jkes01

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Looks cool man, can't wait to see what you do with it.
 

SiriusAbbott

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that guitar met water at some point in its past....

a hundred hours of serious effort from now,you will be the proud owner of a vintage axe with a new lease on its life.
Take your time,research,research,research....then glue,and all will be alright alright alright :thumb:
 

Joth

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I want to agree with you about the water issue, but there is absolutely zero delamination happening on the top and bottom plates, so I have to reserve judgement as say it may just be atmospheric humidity.
I'm in the caribbean, so it's year round humidity and nothing is far from the sea. So the gear down here does not survive so well. Every other ES i've seen here has at least some bulging at the tailblock, even an 85 dot reissue that turned up this week has it.
I've done a resto on a LP Deluxe that completely delaminated along the pancake body,, the neck joint and maple neck laminations were separating at the headstock, again no flooding!
 

SiriusAbbott

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I want to agree with you about the water issue, but there is absolutely zero delamination happening on the top and bottom plates, so I have to reserve judgement as say it may just be atmospheric humidity.
I'm in the caribbean, so it's year round humidity and nothing is far from the sea. So the gear down here does not survive so well. Every other ES i've seen here has at least some bulging at the tailblock, even an 85 dot reissue that turned up this week has it.
I've done a resto on a LP Deluxe that completely delaminated along the pancake body,, the neck joint and maple neck laminations were separating at the headstock, again no flooding!

:shock:

I apologize,it never occurred to me you lived in a tropical zone
I'm guessing acoustic guitars suffer a much quicker fate :hmm:
 

Pesh

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I am going to be watching this one closely; quite an ambitious project - hope it comes to life!
 

Joth

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I did some more anatomy and scrutiny today as I disassembled all parts to clean off old glue etc. The serial # has been confirmed as 62, so we are still in 'golden era' of construction, right guys? Well hang on, because some details ain't so pretty...
I took the neck off its joint, and then the fretboard, then took the spruce off the few places it was still glued. I have to say I have never liked how these guitars are built, it seems clunky and sloppy to me, and now I can prove it.

Some details of note:
a) The truss rod seemed to be the curved bottom type, since the maple spline at the heel end wasn't the same depth as we see on 50's LPs, definitely not a channel that was sawn thru straight. You can see in a pic the anchor piece has pulled forward into the groove from years of tension. The maple spline also appeared shrunken and of uneven width within the mahogany groove, but I do not know maple to be quite as prone to shrinkage as this appears, leading me to believe it never fit tightly in the first place.

b) for no reason there were two 3/8" holes drilled along the maple spline filler, it looked like the kind of hole that might hold an alignment dowel during assembly, but there was no corresponding hole nor any alignment pegs present, not a nice idea to me.

c) the fretboard was surprisingly, disgustingly awful along its underside. Having steam heated the board and taken it off with a few mahogany slivers coming apart near the truss rod slot, I saw a huge mess of grooves in the rosewood that were purposely dug in all along the underside of the board. you can see where some grooves were started and ended by some tool used to purposely gouge these grooves, I have never seen anything like this, they were about 1/16" deep in some areas, and didn't seem filled up with hide glue. None of this deep grooving you see in these photos were from my board removal, they were already there. Surely the worst fretboard prep milling I have ever seen, and I have a hard time thinking they were done purposely to increase glue bond the way that one would underneath a board with 100 grit etc to get some grip. If that was what they had in mind they sure overdid it.

d) I showed in my first set of pics that there was a routed area around the spruce fillet, obviously the step of levelling the spruce with the lamination edges in prep for mating to the sides and centre block. Here is the problem, it was done too deep, and not level. The route seems about 1/32 too deep on one side, and just under 1/16" on the other, the effect of this is that there would be a hell of a big glue filled gap in between the spruce and maple centre, and if the body lams were pressed down at their centre during clampup, the maple core, and neck, would dry with a twist relative to the sides. You can see various areas where the spruce never met and stuck to the maple above and below, there is smooth dried glue all over the place. I have to think of just how to fill that gap and get the spruce level with the lamination edges, if not using a whole new spruce layer, what do you think?

e) I realize from the mahogany endblock there are three screwholes corresponding to a Bigsby pattern I think (a 65 trapeze tailpiece I have here doesn't line up at all) yet there is zero evidence of Bigsby mounting holes on the top plate, there is also no grounding wire hole anywhere in the maple core, and I'm thinking it was initially a stoptail and someone tried on a Bigsby at some point, anyone got a suggection? A trapeze tp would have a grounding hole at the tail mounting wouldnt it?

f) The inlays are bothering me, one is missing, and the others are so clear and some so shrunken that I am temped to change them. I wish I had some old celluloid I could scavenge and redo the ones that look bad, but nothing comes to mind. I need to hustle a solution so I can get to work on the fretboard. I plan to refret it off the neck, using .05x.100 which I really love on my LP copies.
Question: would these have had tortoise dots or plain black? I seem to recall the side dots appearing black.

g) I almost forgot this gem.. there was a heck of a neck shim on the side of the neck tenon. What I first thought was a rather deep saw kerf along one side of the tenon, turned out to be the shim ledge. It stayed in place perfectly well after my heating the neck out, so it must be on there with something other than hide glue.

Anyways that's it for now, my next step will be sanding all joints clean, then building molds to do the sides. I consider this very difficult, because unlike new production I will have no laminate overhang or alignment holes and in fact my laminations will be undersized, since they've been routed for binding already. This means I have to get my mold shape and side bends EXACTLY right, zero room for error, because any error correction comes in two ways, routing the binding groove deeper than it was when the side is too far inward, and sanding the side down to meet the lamination curve when the side is too far outward, which could easily sand thru. I'm very intimidated. I could also undersize the new side perimiter by 1/16" or so which would make the whole thing far easier but of course gasp sacrilege.
 

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Joth

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additional shots
 

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Ken McKay

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where are the sides? edit I see they are long gone
how many plies are the plates?
don't recommend sanding too much.
I think I can make you sides
you need new contour brace material.
contact me if you want
sorry typing w one hand
 

Joth

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Ken! I am the same guy who emailed you this week asking about new plates for a lefthanded build. After getting your and Quinns reply I definitely meant to also ask you if I could get a side set only for this resto. The veneers I've bought aren't quite original thickness.
The plates here are 4 ply, and just about 3/16" thick overall in the spots that weren't sanded much.
I will go very easy on the plate sanding considering they've had both their original factory sanding jobs plus my stripping and cleaning routines . I can't try to make it look 'new', so I will settle with sanding to achieve a clean surface that may still have some of the original dye streaks and whatever small dings are too deep to attempt sanding out, and hope they all blend together well with the new cherry stain. I think a direct staining plus a red toner layer will be necessary, someone tell me if wrong on the finish method here.
 

larryguitar

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There are those who 'rough' rosewood before gluing, with the idea that it will assist in mechanical bonding of the adhesive. Could be someone went a bit overboard?

Heck of a project!


Larry
 

expo

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Ken is the man:dude:

I would avoid staining the wood directly. You have much more control with stained lacquer and you always can sand back. If you stain directly all the defectives become more visible, imho. You dont know the thickness of the ply layers and what direct staining can cause...small dings give character. It is an old instrument.


---
I think you have to laminate the binding yourself. Maybe the right stuff is celluloid.
I can provide you with thick ABS LesPaul binding. (2.5 mm)
--------
for the inlay, you need the correct Mazzuchelli Celluloid...maybe ask Tom Bartlett,Dave Johnson or Gil Yaron?

there are different shades and qualities out there...color also changes with thickness and sanding.


http://bartlettguitarparts.com

http://davejohnsonrestorations.com

http://gilyaronguitars.com
 

Joth

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I'd stalled this project for a bit as I ordered in various parts to proceed.
As a result of this thread I got in touch with Ken and Quinn McKay, who built me a pair of new sides and sent a new kerfed spruce layer. I was not entirely against reusing the old spruce, but the fact is that it was routed too thin at the factory and left glue gaps between them and the maple centre block. The new spruce gives me a chance to build the body better than factory.

Today I built a rim mold based on the outline of the original plates, and it is just some 3/4" plywood glued bandsawed and drum sanded.

I have an issue where Kens bent sides are not exact to my plate outlines, this is not a problem when building new guitars as those use oversize plates that get a large overhang trimmed to the side outline, but in this case I need the sides to be pretty close to do the assembly.
The difference in outlines is surely that Kens outline is that of the earlier 'mickey mouse' ears and mine being '62 is slightly more like the pointier style. After some discussion I think I will clamp my new sides into my mold and wet them a bit and see if they will relax into the new outline.

I cut the new spruce layers and used the trick of scribing along the inside of a washer to transfer the curve lines along the edges of the spruce, this is a wake-up call as to the difficulty of the next step because this is NOT a straightforward curve, it its quite serpentine and wobbly between the bridge pickup and the neck joint, even on the back plate, I bandsawed along these lines and cleaned them up on my drum sander.

This seemed to come out quite perfectly along the edges, however, the inside of the plate is still curved side to side, and there was quite a curved gap on the maple side across the width of the spruce, very visible through the old pickup and tailpiece holes on the top.
My approach is to stick rough sandpaper on the inside of each plate, and scrub the plate side to side to sand the curve into the spruce.
I was very critical of these mating surfaces when I inspected the old disassembled glue joints, and now I know why! It is a slow going tedious step, and there is no real shortcut because as I said it is quite an undulating surface and not an even curve along either its length or width.
 

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David Mccarroll

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Yes - it was still in the "Golden Age" of building, but no one really said they were perfect then!

I'd think making semi acoustic guitars like the ES series was/is never easy, so perhaps Gibson were just doing the best they could everything is compound curves, and that isn't even particularly easy today with CAD and CNC machines, so back then there must have been a lot of suck it and see construction.

Good work and all I can say is what a worthy restoration - you will have every right to be very proud of the end result.
 

Joth

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Last day or so I spent some time shaping the spruce contour layers to its inside plate curves, I can't imagine doing this with a harder wood as it's a bit tedious.
Once I was happy with the fit to the plates, I then finally started cleaning up the inside plates of their old glue ready for all the new assembly.
At this point too, Before gluing the spruce in, I am going to try to make some proper plaster of paris castings of both the inside and outside of the back plate. I have no present desire to get into making laminate tops and backs, but I do have a copy carver I built for LP tops that I could likely use to carve solid wood tops and backs copied from the plaster molds. Since I got that machine working well I can now start building a stash of templates and there's no better chance to copy this shape.

The sides were placed into my rim mold, clamped against the walls, and wetted on both sides to hopefully get them to relax and conform to the mold better. So far this does seem to be working well, as I release each clamp individually the side stays against the wall properly, but it remains to be seen if they have really taken the new shape, I think I will repeat the process for each side overnight and see how things go. So far I am happy because I think they responded well to the wetting and clamping.

I removed the last remains of binding that were stuck to the top near the horns, for those interested in 345 binding, the inside cream and black purfling strip is .060 wide routed down exactly halfway thru the plates depth, then the outer cream layer is .090"
 

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Joth

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Actually I am hoping someone can steer me to find .030" black and cream binding or purfling to make life easier rather than cutting dowen thicker pieces!
 

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