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Leave it as is or restore it?


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I have a 1939 Gibson L-30 and let me say straight off the bat, it's a lovely guitar; I have it set for Delta slide and it sounds wonderful. The (potential) issue is that it is a little bit of a beater, even compared to others from the same era that I have seen. All I can say is, mine must have been played a lot in its life as it is well-loved. It looks every one of its 80 years that's for sure:




What's more, the headstock is possibly the worst part - the logo is very faded:




So my question to you is, should I get the guitar re-finished or leave it as it is? Is it even worth getting it refinished? How much (ballpark) does such a thing cost? Should I leave the body alone and just get the logo touched up?


Part of me wants to leave the finish as it is - it wears its scars well. But part of me also thinks the whole guitar would benefit from a refresh.

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That's as perfect and beautiful as an old guitar can be. Wouldn't even cross my mind to 'refresh'. Almost as nice as this.







None of my guitars are shiny pretty. I'm happy with that.

Edited by jedzep
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...should I get the guitar re-finished or leave it as it is? Is it even worth getting it refinished?...

I wouldn't touch it. If you refinish it not only would it cost a considerable amount to do properly it would also, in all likelihood, devalue the instrument.

There's also the very real possibility that it would not sound the same after a re-fin.


That's as perfect and beautiful as an old guitar can be. Wouldn't even cross my mind to 'refresh'.


It would cross my mind but then the thought would be dismissed instantly.



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How much cleaner is the finish under the guard? Photo? You got a lot of strumming to do.



There's a bit of a difference but is not immediately eye-jarring. I think it is less to do with wear and more to do with sun fade on the finish. I have already given the guitar a good clean with Dunlop polish just to take some of the grime off and it has made a bit of a difference to the overall look.


Edit: Pic with the pickguard off:



Edited by Filbert
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Sound advice from Jed and Pip. No need to go beyond the cleaning/polishing that you've done. The headstock logo looks just fine too! Very sweet looking old guitar. I'd get a nice replica pickguard for it, but that's just my opinion.

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  • 1 year later...

As a belated update to this thread, I found a local luthier to carry out some work on this guitar and get it back to its glory. From the first time I got the guitar, it didn't play very well - was a bit buzzy and generally felt 'off'. Anyway, the luthier gave it a refret, cut a new nut to replace the damaged one, repaired and stabilized any cracks and re-glued some of the internal bracing that had come loose (how the hell he managed to do that through the narrow f-holes, i have no idea). He also gave it a very light and sympathetic polish and buff to bring the finish back up and to even out some of the discolouration/fading where the pickguard was.

It cost me £150 which I thought was an absolute bargain and I can report he did such a fantastic job. It now looks great and plays even better. The V-neck is surprisingly comfortable in my hand  and there's absolutely no buzzing or dull sounds. It has such a distinct voice being smaller bodied than my other acoustics and is a real contrast to my Martins and my other Gibson acoustics. I love it. Will get some pictures up soon (and hosted somewhere where they don't randomly disappear!) but for now I am overjoyed that I have got it back to what it should be. Really feel that this work has given it a new lease of life and hopefully keep it going for another 80 years.

Edit: Found the pics on a Reddit thread I made - here's the background:

About a year or so ago, I had an itch that I had to scratch regarding buying a vintage guitar and lo, I ended up buying a 1939 L30. However, there were some issues - it looked every single one of its ~80 years, it needed new frets, the tuners and bushings were in a state, it was very buzzy and rattly and the varnish was in a bit of a state as well.

It got put to the back burner for a while but at the beginning of this month, I found a local luthier and decided to get it the TLC it deserved. I picked it up today and my God, it is incredible! The neck feels absolutely fantastic; it's a V profile that I thought would be horribly uncomfortable but the reverse is true; it's super playable. He managed to bring out a good shine on it and even out the finish (there was a horrible shiny patch where the pickguard had been). Anyway, judge for thyself:


Post image

Other stuff done:

  • New Stew Mac tuner bushings to replace the old ill-fitted ones

  • New bone nut

  • Refret and dress

  • Bridge adjustment and intonation

  • Reglued some braces that were lifting

  • Evened out and buffed up the finish

Both he and I were keen to keep the originality of the finish as much as possible - although it looks well worn and it really is, it wears the years well. It's definitely a survivor, this guitar. Here's to another 80 years!

Edited by Filbert
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