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ES-135 Neck Join Crack


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Hey Guys,


First post here, didn't see much info on the net so I thought I'd ask the experts here.


Just picked up an 1997 ES-135 two days ago off of craigslist. Thought I inspected the guitar thoroughly, got it for a pretty good price. I'm a jazz guitarist by trade so I restrung the guitar with .13s immediately upon getting it home. I believe the guitar was strung with .10s or .11s by the previous owner.


Guitar sounds and plays great, got the intonation and action happening with the new strings.


Yesterday, to my horror, I notice what seems to be a crack at the neck join. I have previously owned a 1960s ES-125TDC that I had to have a neck reset on due to the neck lifting off the body. I ended up having to sell the guitar as it could not handle the strings I play. I was told this was due to the guitar not having a proper dovetail neck joint. I immediately loosened the string tension on the ES-135 upon noticing the "crack"...


Called Gibson customer service, and emailed them a picture and explanation of the problem. No word back yet, not holding my breath...


Today I took the guitar to the local guitar shop and had the (excellent) tech look at it. He seemed to think that the crack was just finish shrinkage at the neck join, though he seemed puzzled that the finish wear was stronger on the treble side of the guitar. He advised me to keep on playing the guitar and just keep an eye on the join.


My question to you guys is have any of you experienced or heard of this problem on ES-135s? Does anyone have any knowledge of what the construction of the neck join is on these guitars? If so... Can these guitars safely handle high gauge strings? Playing lower gauge strings is not an option for me, though I understand for many that would be the logical solution.


Thanks for any advice you cats can give! I currently own an ES-175, 1940 L7, SG, and Melody Maker that play great with any strings I put on them... Worried that this one is gonna go the way of my ES-125TDC! Not 100% that the crack wasn't there when I bought the guitar, but if it developed in less than a day I think I might have a problem.


Here are some pictures of the join as of today... As you can see it still looks sound at the side of the neck. I can barely get the tip of the corner of a piece of paper into the crack, but it is not just a surface crack.

post-77655-092776900 1458276347_thumb.jpg

post-77655-007017300 1458276511_thumb.jpg

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Only thing I can say for sure is that a neck separation like that is not normal.


Humidity factors in your home, when combined with the additional string tension, may have been enough to tip a weak joint over the edge. I say this meaning that the wood may not have been ideally prepped prior to gluing. Having owned an instrument that experienced a body joint separation, it occurred five years after purchase & seemingly appeared overnight. Gibson acknowledged the issue and replaced the instrument under warranty.


If your guitar were mine, I'd be worried, too, as it will most likely only worsen over time.


Best of luck in resolving the situation.

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Man, it's hard to say.


On the one hand, it looks in the photo of the back, the binding that goes up the side is all the way to the heel, while the binding between the heel and back is away. Kinda seems like a clue the heel is still solid to the body. Unless the binding grew, which it doesn't.


But another thing, it could not be just a matter of the neck separating from the body...could be the body sides and back are shifting in relation to each other.


Whatever it is, I think the luthier gave you good advice. It's not big enough to tell what's happening yet, and the only way to know for sure sometimes is to take it apart. Which really is deciding there is a problem anyway, isn't it?

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