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Best Refurb Find What's the best find you were able to refurbish back to life?

#1 User is offline   billroy 

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 02:25 PM

Hi all,

For my education (and because I like a good story) - what are some of the best vintage guitars / Gibsons needing repairs that you acquired and were able to refurbish back to life for a reasonable all around cost?

I'm fantasizing regardless but trying to understand if it's worth refurbishing a guitar, or should just suck it up and spend the big $$s if you truly want a classic. I'm hoping to also start to get a feel for the type of repairs to stay away from, and which are reasonable to expect to go well.

Thank you again for any input... Rgds - billroy
'18 Gibson J45, vintage
'86 Guild D25
'00 Fender Strat (American Standard)
'90 Fender Strat (Korea, bought in an open market in Korea... yeah it might be real)
'68 Gibson SG
'17 Several 3 String CBGs

"Want people to listen to your stuff, don't play boring stuff..." heard somewhere.
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#2 User is offline   Boyd 

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 02:40 PM

I got my 1974 J-50 deluxe when it was new. Due to a lot of neglect over the years, it became un-playable around 2012. Luthier was able to avoid a neck reset by planing the fretboard and doing a re-fret plus some other minor repairs. Cost me $400 and it literally sounded and played better than when it was new. That guitar has sentimental value, so it was worth it. But you could probably find a used one today in comparable condition for $800, so the repair wasn't much of an "investment". Gave it to my son in law since it's always been his favorite and I'd rather see him use it instead of having it here in the case.

Spent $2,000 on a 1965 J-50 in 2015 and was going to take it in to have various things tweaked. But I grew fond of it just the way it is, so the only thing I've spent is $50 for a new set of tuners. I bought that J-50 from Guitar Center, so unless you are looking for something older, I don't think you need to break the bank to get a vintage guitar that's playable without much "refurbishing".

But it would help if you define what you consider "a classic". A Gibson from the 40's or 50's is likely to be a lot more expensive.

This post has been edited by Boyd: 25 April 2018 - 02:43 PM

1965 Gibson J-50 ADJ
1974 GIbson J-50 Deluxe
2008 Gibson J-50 Modern Classic
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#3 User is offline   bayoubengal1954 

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 02:48 PM

To me you're gonna pay either way. If you get an under market price on a vintage guitar, it probably needs a lot of work. If you pay top dollar it should need nothing IMHO except a set up to your personal taste.

In my case I bought a '48 J-50 that I was able to play in person for $2750. It was pretty rough looking but I loved the tone. I knew it would need a neck reset, new frets and some bridge work. After all of that I ended up with just a shade under 4K in it. I probably couldn't sell it for 4K, but I enjoyed the experience of preserving a vintage instrument and I play the hell out of it at gigs and at home.

Maybe I could have spent 4K on a '48 J-50 that needed nothing? Possibly. But it wouldn't have been as fun.

You may not like going through that process, though. Different strokes. 😀
1974 Martin D-28
"Frankenstein" 1948 Gibson J-50 Body/1938 L-00 Neck
1945 Epiphone Triumph Archtop
2008 Martin 000-18 Norman Blake
2013 Martin 00-DB Jeff Tweedy
2010 Larrivee Forum IV (00 All Mahogany 12 Fretter))
1972 Guild Killdeer F112-6 Part Deux (Name Created by adorshki on LTG)
2016 Halcyon NL-00 Lutz/Walnut
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#4 User is offline   Jalex 

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 02:56 PM

Bought a 1963 Hummingbird locally for $2900 and ended up putting $600 into for a refret and some other minor fixes. Turned out to be a wonderful guitar and I learned some lessons on what to look for in a vintage instrument.
2012 Gibson J-50
1963 Gibson Hummingbird
2011 GIbson J-185 New Vintage
2017 Taylor 150e 12 String
1995 Lowden F-12c
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#5 User is offline   zombywoof 

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 03:00 PM

I did not do any of the work on this one myself but it was the most rewarding transformation. A 1942 Gibson J-50. A mystery guitar because while the FON and rosette showed it to be a J-50 we found evidence of an original burst. We finally were able to figure out that one half of the book matched top pieces had been flip flopped. Somebdy down the line caught it and apparently decided on the spot to shoot a burst to try and hide the screw up. Looked like the pickguard and bridge were stolen from a Yamaha. The full restoration ran me $900 and it took about a year to get it back in my hands.

Before:

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After:

Posted Image

This post has been edited by zombywoof: 25 April 2018 - 03:43 PM

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#6 User is offline   zombywoof 

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 03:33 PM

Here is one of my resurrections - a 1955/56 Epiphone FT-79. The guitar cost me $400. It would have cost me less than $20 to get her ready to go if the pickguard had not been a pain. This one was set into the top and it took me three tries to get it right. The screw holes were where some wingnut had attached a humongous, butt ugly double pickguard to the guitar.

As I found it:

Posted Image


This is the Epi today at the far right of the four bursts(next to the J-50). The mid-1960s Harmony/Silvertone Sovereign in the background was also a salvage job. When it arrived it was suffering from a decapitated headstock. Some glue, clamps and splines and it was good for thousands of more miles:

Posted Image

This post has been edited by zombywoof: 25 April 2018 - 03:48 PM

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"I play so rough - I stomp 'em"
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#7 User is offline   ponty 

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 06:05 PM

Posted Image

Martin 00-18c - $20


Gibson LG1 - $50


Posted Image

This post has been edited by ponty: 25 April 2018 - 06:06 PM

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#8 User is offline   bayoubengal1954 

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Posted 25 April 2018 - 10:41 PM

 ponty, on 25 April 2018 - 06:05 PM, said:

Posted Image

Martin 00-18c - $20


Gibson LG1 - $50


Posted Image

Cool.
1974 Martin D-28
"Frankenstein" 1948 Gibson J-50 Body/1938 L-00 Neck
1945 Epiphone Triumph Archtop
2008 Martin 000-18 Norman Blake
2013 Martin 00-DB Jeff Tweedy
2010 Larrivee Forum IV (00 All Mahogany 12 Fretter))
1972 Guild Killdeer F112-6 Part Deux (Name Created by adorshki on LTG)
2016 Halcyon NL-00 Lutz/Walnut
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#9 User is offline   billroy 

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 03:04 AM

Hi all - thank you much for the replies, and some very cool resurrections. It sounds like a neck reset or re-fret are reasonable fixes to expect to go well - would there be any type of repairs folks would stay away from. I'm thinking a guitar with cracks / repaired cracks would be one to stay away from? Thank you again for the input.

Rgds- billroy
'18 Gibson J45, vintage
'86 Guild D25
'00 Fender Strat (American Standard)
'90 Fender Strat (Korea, bought in an open market in Korea... yeah it might be real)
'68 Gibson SG
'17 Several 3 String CBGs

"Want people to listen to your stuff, don't play boring stuff..." heard somewhere.
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#10 User is offline   Jalex 

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 04:15 AM

Cracks can be repaired pretty easily. My Hummingbird had 2 cracks when I bought it. Something I didn't check on my guitar was the bridge plate which was destroyed though not a huge problem to fix. But using a mirror to check inside the guitar for loose braces and bridge plate is good idea.

This post has been edited by Jalex: 26 April 2018 - 04:20 AM

2012 Gibson J-50
1963 Gibson Hummingbird
2011 GIbson J-185 New Vintage
2017 Taylor 150e 12 String
1995 Lowden F-12c
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#11 User is offline   Murph 

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 04:18 AM

I'm going the other way.

Buy 'em new, wear 'em down.....

[wink]
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#12 User is offline   zombywoof 

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 05:21 AM

View Postbillroy, on 26 April 2018 - 03:04 AM, said:

Hi all - thank you much for the replies, and some very cool resurrections. It sounds like a neck reset or re-fret are reasonable fixes to expect to go well - would there be any type of repairs folks would stay away from. I'm thinking a guitar with cracks / repaired cracks would be one to stay away from? Thank you again for the input.

Rgds- billroy



Certain guitars will be prone to certain problems. It is rare you will run into any old Harmony or Kay that does not need a neck reset. Before the 1960s truss rods were not installed while gaps in neck pockets were simply filled with glue which over time has given up the ghost. With pre-Gibson Epiphones hands down it is binding rot.

While generally there are only two kinds of guitars out there - those that have had a neck reset and those that will need one, while it may just be luck of the draw in some 50 years of playing old Gibsons I have never owned one that needed a neck reset. Cracks are absolutely no big deal. My wife's 1960 J-200 is in the shop as we speak having a top crack in the lower bout repaired. They are a relatively easy and cheap fix. My J-50 had an open back seam and four other open back cracks when I found it.

The one problem I have found to be the toughest is a distorted top - sinking between the bridge and the soundhole. Often this indicates a bracing issue which may require the removal of the back to get at the braces. If not, sometimes just adding humidity can help but in general I have found it is a long and sometimes not 100% successful process getting it flat again.

The key is to be able to identify issues and form a ballpark estimate of what repairs will cost. With that J-50 of mine, I originally estimated $800 so was not spot on but close enough for rock & roll.

This post has been edited by zombywoof: 26 April 2018 - 05:24 AM

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"I play so rough - I stomp 'em"
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#13 User is offline   j45nick 

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 05:49 AM

View Postbillroy, on 26 April 2018 - 03:04 AM, said:

Hi all - thank you much for the replies, and some very cool resurrections. It sounds like a neck reset or re-fret are reasonable fixes to expect to go well - would there be any type of repairs folks would stay away from. I'm thinking a guitar with cracks / repaired cracks would be one to stay away from? Thank you again for the input.

Rgds- billroy


It's hard to generalize on that one. If it's a rare guitar, for example, you might be more willing to go out on a limb for even very extensive repairs.

When I was on tour in the Midwest with a band around 1970, I found a very old Martin with the headstock off--remember that the headstock was a separate piece attached to the neck by a complex joint when this guitar was built around 1870, and that joint had let go--and otherwise literally ready to go out in the trash. In fact, the lady was going to throw it out the next day when I found it behind a chair I was sitting in at her house, where we had gone for tea. She was probably around 80 or so at the time, which meant she had been born around 1890. She said she had been given the guitar as a young woman by the poet James Whitcomb Riley, and that it had been his guitar before that.

On our way back to NYC, we stopped at the Martin factory in Nazareth. It was either Saturday or Sunday, and the plant was closed, but a guy came down and gave us a quick tour, as well as taking the sad old guitar in to give to the repair shop.

I got a box from Martin a few weeks later, with the poor thing still in pieces, but carefully packed in a plastic bag, with a note that they considered the guitar beyond repair. I found a young and very talented luthier in Rhode Island who took the orphan in and did a spectacular restoration. I later sold it for the old lady through an ad in the New York Times. A woman drove from NYC up to RI to pick it up, and paid what was a lot of money in those days.

This guitar was made before Martin had any headstock logo, and the only identifier was the "CF Martin New York" branded onto the centerline strip inside. It was a small rosewood parlor guitar, probably what would now be identified as a 00-21 NY.

I felt I had done my part to preserve a bit of history, even though I didn't get much out of it.

The experience taught me that almost no guitar is really beyond repair, but you have to choose your battles carefully. If a guitar has a pedigree, it may be worth taking on even if it's a basket case. I've had a soft spot for needy guitars ever since.
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#14 User is offline   zombywoof 

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 05:51 AM

The thing is, unless you are particularly well heeled, buying a refurbished guitar or better yet a basket case guitar can often be the ticket to snagging an instrument you might not be able to come up with the cash for if in good and original condition.

This remains my best find in terms of rarity and saving me a big chunk of change - a 1939 to 1942 Regal 12 string. This is the one that was found in a trash can. The neck was so loose it popped off with just a bit of thumb pressure. Other than that though all it needed was one cracked brace repaired and the original spruce bridge plate replaced with a maple one (a survival trumps originality thing). These guitars are rare as it gets. And when they do show up on the market they sell for some pretty big bucks.

Posted Image

This post has been edited by zombywoof: 26 April 2018 - 06:07 AM

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#15 User is offline   OldCowboy 

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 06:13 AM

I have few issues with repairing/restoring potentially good guitars. A fair amount of your perspective on the matter will depend on whether you're mostly a collector concerned with $ value or if you're a player who is more interested in being able to access an original, iconic instrument. Some folks, like Tom, have managed to combine the two very impressively (to say the least), and he inspires many of us with his arsenal of instruments. Hopefully, he'll become involved with this thread sometime soon☺
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#16 User is offline   zombywoof 

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 06:19 AM

View Postj45nick, on 26 April 2018 - 05:49 AM, said:

This guitar was made before Martin had any headstock logo, and the only identifier was the "CF Martin New York" branded onto the centerline strip inside. It was a small rosewood parlor guitar, probably what would now be identified as a 00-21 NY.

I felt I had done my part to preserve a bit of history, even though I didn't get much out of it.

The experience taught me that almost no guitar is really beyond repair, but you have to choose your battles carefully. If a guitar has a pedigree, it may be worth taking on even if it's a basket case. I've had a soft spot for needy guitars ever since.


Amen to that. For me, those guitars I have which after a bit of work are worth five times what I have in them only balances out those I end up underwater on and could never recoup what I have in them in an eventual sale. But for me the pedigree has absolutely nothing to do with it. It just makes me feel good to put a guitar back in the condition it can once again do what it was meant to. I am just as likely to repair a broken headstock on a Harmony Sovereign as I am a Banner Gibson. This is the one though that after I finished I swore would be my last as it turned out to be a far more pain in the butt repair job than I had thought when going into it. While "Bloody Mary" as it has become known is not going to win any beauty contests it is one heck of as player.

Posted Image

This post has been edited by zombywoof: 26 April 2018 - 06:24 AM

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#17 User is offline   BluesKing777 

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 06:54 AM

My 1937 Gibson L-0 was for sale on Ebay for so long, I bought it to put the owner out of his misery! (listing started for a huge amount but sold after many price reductions for the true worth..not much but too much.


Posted Image


So, the self made decorations all over the fretboard rattled, tuners cactus, fretboard was a homemade board from a bit of ebony possible found on a beach and had holes all through it and it had gone spongy. Sounded shite. The back was untouched, but a previous owner had sanded the V off the first 5 frets.... Martin thermo case smelled like cats pee and went out the door with the guitar strap.

At my luthier- neck reset, new ebony fretboard, frets, new ebony bridge, bone nut and saddle, new tuners, decor removed from headstock face and sides with an ebony piece to cover the holes.....

So not a restoration as such, but more like a Custom 1937 L-0!


Posted Image




BluesKing777.

This post has been edited by BluesKing777: 26 April 2018 - 06:55 AM

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#18 User is offline   billroy 

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 07:22 AM

All - thank you again, very nice stories and good input. I definitely wouldn't be doing it as a profit making venture, but more to get a classic that I had a hand in bringing back to life - and end up with something really cool in the end. Again - it's just a future thought, but guess in the meantime I've got to start having tea with older women, and looking out back in the trash bins?

Thank you again - rgds, billroy
'18 Gibson J45, vintage
'86 Guild D25
'00 Fender Strat (American Standard)
'90 Fender Strat (Korea, bought in an open market in Korea... yeah it might be real)
'68 Gibson SG
'17 Several 3 String CBGs

"Want people to listen to your stuff, don't play boring stuff..." heard somewhere.
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#19 User is offline   bayoubengal1954 

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 10:54 AM

View Postbillroy, on 26 April 2018 - 03:04 AM, said:

I'm thinking a guitar with cracks / repaired cracks would be one to stay away from? .

Rgds- billroy


Yes, I am a firm believer in staying away from one with cracks. [rolleyes]
Posted Image
Posted Image
1974 Martin D-28
"Frankenstein" 1948 Gibson J-50 Body/1938 L-00 Neck
1945 Epiphone Triumph Archtop
2008 Martin 000-18 Norman Blake
2013 Martin 00-DB Jeff Tweedy
2010 Larrivee Forum IV (00 All Mahogany 12 Fretter))
1972 Guild Killdeer F112-6 Part Deux (Name Created by adorshki on LTG)
2016 Halcyon NL-00 Lutz/Walnut
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#20 User is online   blindboygrunt 

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 11:04 AM

 bayoubengal1954, on 26 April 2018 - 10:54 AM, said:

Yes, I am a firm believer in staying away from one with cracks. [rolleyes]
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