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Leonard McCoy

SJ200 Gibson Restoration (Luthier Video)

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This was awesome. I watched the entire video non-stop. This gentleman has oodles of experience and it was fascinating watching his problem solving and solution processes. I can't wait for part two!

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What amazes me is that equally-skilled luthiers can have significantly different approaches to problem-solving and still come out with workable solutions.

That guitar had a lot of problems, most of which seemed to come as by-products of the notorious moustache bridge and its lack of functional structural gluing surface.  It was also a real lesson in the potential weakness associated with a lot of holes in a row going through thin pieces of wood. Once any part of the glued-together "sandwich" of bridge, top, and bridgeplate fails, there's big potential trouble ahead.

 

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I'm truly impressed by how Jerry coaxed this abused old '53 SJ200 back to life and beauty. It was a sad looking guitar and when he plays it at the end of part 2, it is just miraculous. Battle scars and all, this old SJ200 is a beauty! I love that sculpted saddle. Great work.

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Well, he brought it back to life, but I'll stick with my guy.

Don't care much for that pickguard, particularly since it looks like the original went all the way to the soundhole, and this one leaves a big smile of bare wood showing around the soundhole.  The painted-on flowers won't last very long in any case.

He might benefit from watching Mamie Minch's (Brooklyn Lutherie) video on using lacquer reducer (not lacquer thinner, not acetone) to reduce the appearance of scratches and dings in old finish. I've done it, and it works. Won't help on bare wood, however.

Having said that, he turned a pretty sad guitar into a nice player, which was the goal in the first place. The bridgeplate process and repair was worth the time it took to watch both videos.

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If your luthier tells you he can cause more problems cleaning up his glue squeeze out so he's just going to leave it, take your guitar and run. A little bit of paste wax over the finish in the bridge cut outs would have done wonders. Hot hide glue would have been much cleaner if you're too lazy to do clean work. This guy is a hack. I am surprised at how many here are impressed with him.

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8 minutes ago, aliasphobias said:

If your luthier tells you he can cause more problems cleaning up his glue squeeze out so he's just going to leave it, take your guitar and run. A little bit of paste wax over the finish in the bridge cut outs would have done wonders. Hot hide glue would have been much cleaner if you're too lazy to do clean work. This guy is a hack. I am surprised at how many here are impressed with him.

As I said, I'll stick with my guy. I would not let Jerry touch one of my guitars.

Having said that, not everyone is as picky as I am.

Edited by j45nick
additional info

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And, maybe the poster's effort was simply appreciated as in …..duh.  

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50 minutes ago, aliasphobias said:

If your luthier tells you he can cause more problems cleaning up his glue squeeze out so he's just going to leave it, take your guitar and run. A little bit of paste wax over the finish in the bridge cut outs would have done wonders. Hot hide glue would have been much cleaner if you're too lazy to do clean work. This guy is a hack. I am surprised at how many here are impressed with him.

Personally ... I judge him by how the guitar sounded at the end. It sounded like a Gibson jumbo should.

He was clear to state multiple times that the owner didn’t want to put too much money into the repair.

If I was the owner of that guitar I would have put some good money into restoration.

 

 

 

JC

Edited by JuanCarlosVejar

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7 minutes ago, JuanCarlosVejar said:

If I was the owner of that guitar I would have put some good money into restoration.

JC

Exactly!

In fairness, the guy turned something unplayable into a usable guitar. But a 1953 J-200 probably deserved better.

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18 hours ago, JuanCarlosVejar said:

Personally ... I judge him by how the guitar sounded at the end. It sounded like a Gibson jumbo should.

He was clear to state multiple times that the owner didn’t want to put too much money into the repair.

If I was the owner of that guitar I would have put some good money into restoration.

 

 

 

JC

Personally....I judge him on his quality of work.

'I didn't look up the serial number to date it, who has time for the that with all the instruments laying around to work on?'

This guitar came to him with a loose bridge, a compromised bridge plate and some serious finish issues. It didn't have any cracks, broken headstock, or need a neck reset. Within a few minutes he had melted the finish in front of the bridge, started experimenting with chemicals to blend the bare wood 'to be personally honest I don't know what kind of finish is on it, they could've used anything' I still don't think he understands that Gibson builds a radius in there tops because he proceeded to smash it out with boards (that he's specially prepared to not hurt the finish), and the biggest piece of wood he can fit through the soundhole,  which in theory moves the saddle closer to the nut (10 cents sharp on the E string , bewildering eh).  As I said originally, the glue squeeze out, that he knew was going to be there, he just sets it aside and goes to bed. That's a basic woodworking skill! That is about taking pride in your workmanship and is unforgivable IMO. The 'customer doesn't want to spend a lot of money on it' doesn't hold water for me Juan. Nobody just gives the repairman a blank check and says fix it at any cost! He could have saved time and money by doing a few minutes research to find out the year and finish. 'To be perfectly honest, by golly I can just tell by looking at'em and smelling them how old they are'. Good grief!! This guy isn't only a hack but a first rate hack. The guitar needed the bridge re-glued to be a "player", period. It left his hands in worse shape than it arrived, and much harder for the next person to correct. First do no harm.

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On 6/15/2019 at 9:53 AM, aliasphobias said:

 

 

The guitar needed the bridge re-glued to be a "player", period. It left his hands in worse shape than it arrived, and much harder for the next person to correct. First do no harm.

I generally agree with everything you said. However, there were problems associated with the bridge and bridgeplate well beyond simply re-gluing the bridge. Both the top and bridgeplate appeared to be fractured across the pin holes, which was why there was a hard crease in the top. I've pondered the proper fix for that one, and every solution I came up with suggested at least a slightly larger bridgeplate, but not necessarily the chunk of tree he put in. At the end of the day, the transverse top fracture probably required a somewhat larger bridgeplate, plus probably trying to glue that fracture shut properly after the bridgeplate was replaced. Then maybe completely filling the oversize pin holes in the top with either glued-in spruce (similar to Erlewine's plate repair tool gizmo), or a reinforced epoxy, which might actually produce a better repair. Then maybe filling the saddle slot and chewed-up pin holes in the bridge before re-installing it, then re-drilling the pinholes through completely solid new material. Then lay out and rout a new saddle slot.

Any way you look at it, the guitar had significant issues just to stabilize it enough to turn it into a player.

Other than that, everything you said was spot-on.

Ross Teigen, who works on my guitars, said that most of his repair time is spent un-doing poorly-made previous repairs. That's why he had such an easy time working on my "new" 195 J-45. No one had ever touched it to "fix" anything.

I suspect the guy who worked on this J-200 might do a decent job on the new instruments he builds, but that says nothing about his repair abilities. That's a  different skill set.

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Horrifying work. Bridge plate the size of Rhode Island. Titebond all around. A repairable bridgeplate. Abuse of the top finish (Nick, Mamie does all the work on my guitars).

A fellow who doesn't know whether a 1950s sJ-200 had a radiused top.

In sum, ugh.

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All I could think in my head when he was wondering if the top was supposed to be arched was "King of the Flat Tops"!

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9 hours ago, sbpark said:

All I could think in my head when he was wondering if the top was supposed to be arched was "King of the Flat Tops"!

Gibson radiused the tops, from the soundhole down (not the upper bouts). This is very common knowledge in the vintage guitar community.

Something else common in the vintage guitar community is valuing original bridgeplates. Replacing that plate, alone, depreciated this guitar by 10% to 20%

Again, horrific work (that significantly devalued the guitar).

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As we all know hide glue is brittle. I can't imagine what the flattening process must have done to the top bracing. A competent luthier or repairman would have easily assessed the condition of the top. It's either stable (leave it alone), or unstable (usually requiring some brace re-glueing). It's just as important what you don't do on these old guitars. We can disagree on some of the minor points but I think we all agree that old girl deserved better. Much better..

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3 hours ago, aliasphobias said:

... I think we all agree that old girl deserved better. Much better..

This.

It's stunning that this fellow knew so little about his craft that he would post the evidence of 1) his lack of knowledge of this instrument, 2) his "experimentation" regarding repairs for which there is a lot of available information about proper techniques, and 3) trashing a valuable, historical guitar in real time. 

There are so many great repair folks - Mamie Minch, Mark Stutman, TJ Thompson, Willi Henkes, etc. - who could have worked wonders on this lovely instrument. Sadly, way too late now. Its distressing to witness carnage.

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10 hours ago, jt said:

This.

It's stunning that this fellow knew so little about his craft that he would post the evidence of 1) his lack of knowledge of this instrument, 2) his "experimentation" regarding repairs for which there is a lot of available information about proper techniques, and 3) trashing a valuable, historical guitar in real time. 

There are so many great repair folks - Mamie Minch, Mark Stutman, TJ Thompson, Willi Henkes, etc. - who could have worked wonders on this lovely instrument. Sadly, way too late now. Its distressing to witness carnage.

 

Agreed, this guy didn't do it justice, but the bigger error in my mind is the person who asked him to do the restoration in the first place and 'for as little as possible'.   Anything this old is a piece of guitar history IMO - if you can't afford to do it right, wait until you can...

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