Framus Rosita - 1950s archtop revival

1981 LPC

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I'd like to hear your opinions on the (im)possibility of adding a truss rod to this old thing. Not sure if it's possible because of how the end of the fretboard sits above the top plate. If it's indeed not possible, perhaps I could install a carbon fiber neck rod? Or just use frets with wider tangs as to diminish the neck relief once it's under tension of the strings?

Here's the backstory. My friend gifted me this Framus Rosita. https://www.framus-vintage.de/en/5-58-Rosita/5-58-Rosita/ It's a 1950s affordable archtop made in Germany. It's been a wall hanger since he bought it in 1999. The frets are low and done for, they have been crudely leveled but not crowned. File marks all over the fretboard. Some frets aren't properly seated. The tuners are worn and slipping. The bridge is most likely ebonized pearwood (birnenholz) with a plastic insert. It has been sanded in such a way that it leans towards the tailpiece and the treble side is higher than the bass side). It has a zero fret with a matchstick fix. The wooden nut has two broken ends (it seems to be an integral, wood nut that is part of the fretboard--could be wrong though).

But it's light, sounds okay and resonates. It has parallel bracing, no sound post and is finished in black nitro which now has lovely checking. It has no truss rod - which surprised me. It has no kerfling but rather a strip of wood. There was a pickguard on it at some point in history as evidenced by two screw holes. The chrome pickguard with Schaller electrics is a period correct addition and quite collectable I believe.

No cracks in the top, back and sides. No gaps between them, it's still in one piece. I had it strung up for a week and the neck seems to be stable. My biggest concern was that it needs a neck reset. I showed it to a local luthier who refretted my 1981 Les Paul Custom 4 years ago (and who als builds double basses) to get his opinion. He said the neck does not need to be reset. The bridge does need to be sanded so it sits lower.

Anyway, this winter I'd like to try my hand at refretting the old thing. Always wanted to that, this seems like a low-risk candidate. I'll also replace the tuners and bridge with something period correct. There are two pretty cool period 'sliding saddle bridge' designs.
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LPTDMSV

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I can't really tell what is the neck construction under the paint from those photographs, so this may not apply to yours, but most of the Framus necks I have seen are made up of multiple laminates of (I think) birch, with the plies at right angle to the fretboard.

That was an effective use of cheap material to make a very strong neck, and I suspect the philosophy at the time was "it's so strong, it doesn't need a truss rod". The tension of a set of heavy gauge strings would pull a bit of relief into it, and that's how people played them (I pulled this picture off an old Reverb listing).

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p.s. those old Schaller pickups usually sound pretty good.
 
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1981 LPC

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Thanks. I have read about that, and seen photos of it before. Do you suppose this multi-piece laminate neck construction will delaminate when heat and moisture are introduced during fretboard removal?

Here's two photos. I think the lacquer check lines are following the strips of wood.
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LPTDMSV

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Do you suppose this multi-piece laminate neck construction will delaminate when heat and moisture are introduced during fretboard removal?
Hmmm, tough question, I don’t know! The glue in the neck is probably UF, the fretboard glue might be the same or not.

Another question would be whether you are considering that you might need to make a new fretboard anyway (if it split while being removed, or if the fret slots are ruined) and if so you could perhaps plane off the existing fretboand?
 

1981 LPC

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Nailed it!:rofl:

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Using a flat iron, a sharp knife and putty knives, the fretboard didn't come off in one piece. It came off in 20+ pieces. It is lightweight and very brittle. Not sure what sort of wood it is. There were several cracks down the length of the board (as you can see below). I did first remove the inlays to reuse them in a replacement fretboard. I think they're really cool.

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To my surprise there was piece of aluminum installed (off centre). It has a u-channel shape and looks like something from the hardware store, not from the 1950's (when solid bars or hollow tubing was used). This plus the cracks in the board and the badly filled damaged seam between the board and the neck, suggests someone was here before me. What do you think?

Without string tension the neck had an upbow in it. There was a big high spot at the end of the neck and a smaller one at the nut. I sanded it flat.
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Now I need to fill the slot where the piece of aluminum was installed & make a new (on centre) slot for a double action Martin style truss rod (for a 12 fret flattop). I don't have a router so I'm going to use chisels.

Surprisingly the fretboard had a Gibson scale length and a 12" radius. I'm ordering a same scale length fretboard, pre-slotted and radiused (10") + a set of pre-cut and pre-radiused medium Jumbo Jescar fret wire.

Ebony or rosewood - not sure yet. I'm open to suggestions.
 
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LPTDMSV

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That off-center truss-rod channel is very strange! Is your proposed new truss rod adjustable at the neck end?
 

the great waldo

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Cockup in the factory !!! Those guitars were slapped together. Check the joint heel to neck to see if its been repaired. I've had plenty of those where the joint has given up at some time.
Cheers
Andrew
 

1981 LPC

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That off-center truss-rod channel is very strange! Is your proposed new truss rod adjustable at the neck end?

You mean at the headstock? Yes, I think I have to install it that way due to the 'floating' fretboard design at the body end.

I have a Martin style double-action truss rod. With the hex-key end under the nut, the other end is at the middle part of the heel.

I will have to drill through the plastic headstock 'vineer' but that can't be helped.

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1981 LPC

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Cockup in the factory !!! Those guitars were slapped together. Check the joint heel to neck to see if its been repaired. I've had plenty of those where the joint has given up at some time.
Cheers
Andrew
The slot is obviously machine made and the aluminum profile fitted snugly, so perhaps it is original.

Luckily the neck joint is solid and I can't see any signs that it has been apart.
Same goes for the front, back and sides.
 
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1981 LPC

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Made some more progress yesterday evening.
I cleaned up the U-shaped slot with a chisel and filled it with a piece of 13x13mm wood.

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1981 LPC

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The truss rod is in - tightly. Took a bit of doing. The new fretboard and fretwire arrived.
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1981 LPC

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Not having a jig I had to freehand drill into to the headstock with a 6mm drill bit, towards the slot for the truss rod. Butt clenching. I was perfectly on center but ended up 1mm too high. As I had to enlarge the hole a bit (to be able to get at the hex-nut if the truss rod is under tension) that problem solved itself.

Next week I'm going to a wood workshop to bring the fretboard to size because I'm not even going to try doing that with my basic DIY tools. They have tons of planes, sanders, rasps and chisels, band saw.

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I then reglued the plastic coverplate to the headstock and bound it with elastic band (taking inspiration from Gibson's way of installing binding material). I used the tuner ferules to line everything up.
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1981 LPC

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I used regular wood glue on the cover plate and it worked. It looks untouched - save for the new access hole I had to make. It would be cool to make a truss rod cover out of inlay or pickguard material that looks like the original inlays (which I will reuse in the new ebony board).

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LPTDMSV

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Great job so far! Although they look cool, those typically German Framus/Hofner full width position markers do take a lot of wood out of the fretboard, more IMO than is good for structural stability - probably a contributing factor in the disintegration of the old fretboard. It might be worth considering an alternate pattern, unless perhaps you can thin them right down?
 

1981 LPC

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Great job so far! Although they look cool, those typically German Framus/Hofner full width position markers do take a lot of wood out of the fretboard, more IMO than is good for structural stability - probably a contributing factor in the disintegration of the old fretboard. It might be worth considering an alternate pattern, unless perhaps you can thin them right down?
Thank you, also for pointing out the possibility of the inlays having a negative effect on the structural stability of the fretboard. The new ebony fretboard is 7mm thick (in the middle, lengthwise). The old inlays are 1.5mm thick both lengthwise and widthwise because they were installed in a 12" radiused slot. I still have to clean up the inlays (from wood fibers and glue) so they may end up smaller still.

This photo shows the amount wood that will have to be removed / that will be left over. I think it'll be allright, what do you think? RE the old fretboard, it had cracks all over and broke apart in pieces where there were and weren't any inlays.
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After bringing the fretboard to size, installing frets and gluing it to the neck, I was planning to install the inlays as they were originally but in a 10" radius slot. My thought was to 1) scribe the outer lines with a scalpel and 'chisel towards' that scribed line, but only the first mm or so. Then 2) use a Dremel with an attachment for precize routing jobs to remove the rest of the material. It should follow the radius of the frets.
origin.jpeg
 
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kakerlak

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I used regular wood glue on the cover plate and it worked. It looks untouched - save for the new access hole I had to make. It would be cool to make a truss rod cover out of inlay or pickguard material that looks like the original inlays (which I will reuse in the new ebony board).

View attachment 581752
Looking good! I would be semi-tempted to mirror the headstock outline with the TRC. (Or try to find a vintage one with the a Framus logo)
 

1981 LPC

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Looking good! I would be semi-tempted to mirror the headstock outline with the TRC. (Or try to find a vintage one with the a Framus logo)
Thank you!. Mirroring the headstock outline was exactly what I was going for. :h5:

I hadn't given any thought to using a vintage Framus truss rod cover. I'm going to google pictures of old Framus guitars. Any thought on a good source for stuff like this? There is a vintage Framus forum (attached to a rather informative website) but it's almost dead.
 

kakerlak

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Thank you!. Mirroring the headstock outline was exactly what I was going for. :h5:

I hadn't given any thought to using a vintage Framus truss rod cover. I'm going to google pictures of old Framus guitars. Any thought on a good source for stuff like this? There is a vintage Framus forum (attached to a rather informative website) but it's almost dead.
I remember little rounded triangle brass ones stamped with the Framus/globe logo. No clue on sourcing. Might be a cool way to get a Framus logo onto the headstock while still leaving the top blank.
 

1981 LPC

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I remember little rounded triangle brass ones stamped with the Framus/globe logo. No clue on sourcing. Might be a cool way to get a Framus logo onto the headstock while still leaving the top blank.
I found 4 repros on Framus Vintage Parts but I'm not overly enthusiastic. They somehow seem a bit gaudy (says the guy that thinks Les Paul Custom and Goldtops are tasteful designs).

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LPTDMSV

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Thank you, also for pointing out the possibility of the inlays having a negative effect on the structural stability of the fretboard. The new ebony fretboard is 7mm thick (in the middle, lengthwise). The old inlays are 1.5mm thick both lengthwise and widthwise because they were installed in a 12" radiused slot. I still have to clean up the inlays (from wood fibers and glue) so they may end up smaller still.

This photo shows the amount wood that will have to be removed / that will be left over. I think it'll be allright, what do you think? RE the old fretboard, it had cracks all over and broke apart in pieces where there were and weren't any inlays.
View attachment 581950

After bringing the fretboard to size, installing frets and gluing it to the neck, I was planning to install the inlays as they were originally but in a 10" radius slot. My thought was to 1) scribe the outer lines with a scalpel and 'chisel towards' that scribed line, but only the first mm or so. Then 2) use a Dremel with an attachment for precize routing jobs to remove the rest of the material. It should follow the radius of the frets.
Yep, that thicker fretboard will help a lot with the stability and those inlays are reasonably thin so it will probably be fine - but it still seems "wrong" somehow to slot the wood right the way across, I mean if you did that between every fret it can you see how it would be likely to want to curl up? (possibly only very slightly, and it's glued down, and you now have a truss rod so the situation is pretty unlikely to get serious!) The fret slots have that same tendency but they're very small and the frets themselves brace against it.

If it was mine . . I'd be looking to trim the original markers down a little to make them into wide block markers (more like an LP custom)and leave some material along the fingerboard edges.

Actually if it was mine I would probably get someone else to do it! I doubt my own skill and patience when it comes to the fiddly stuff like inlays!
 

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