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Any Tips for my recently inherited vintage B-25?


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Hi All,
 

I just inherited my grandmother’s 1966 Gibson B-25N. I’ve admired this guitar, as well as my grandfather’s 66-67 Southern Jumbo for many years. Neither of my grandparents were players, but were huge country music fans and had purchased the guitars new in 1966 or 67. They had been stored in the flimsy cardboard cases, that I assume came from the music shop where they were bought, until about 20 years ago when they got put into TKL hard cases. The B-25 I ended up with is in fantastic condition and to my knowledge has only been played a handful of times. There’s some minor finish checking on the top, the strings were loosened in storage but supposedly original to the guitar, and there are a few weird finish blemishes. Overall, the guitar is in pretty incredible shape though. I really would like to make this guitar a daily player. As of this moment, this is the nicest guitar I’ve ever owned and I have every intention of playing it for many years to come. However, I have a few issues and concerns:

1. I’ve never owned or cared for a vintage instrument. I know humidity is a big thing for any guitar, especially an old one. Should I clean or polish? Are there any polishes or oils I should stay away from?

2. I’ve read that many of the B-25’s came with a plastic adjustable bridge that is unfavorable and even can cause the top to collapse. The bridge and saddle both look and feel like wood, but when compared to the feel of the bridge on my Epiphone acoustic from the early 2000s, it is quite different. Is this a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it situation” or should I anticipate replacing the bridge in the future if I plan on playing it. 
 

3. Strings?? I already took off the strings that were on it and replaced with extra light gage phosphor bronze D’Addario strings. They feel alright and don’t seem to have too much tension or brightness. Do the strings really matter? Are there any strings that would be better suited for this guitar?

Lastly, the tuners. This guitar has button key Kluson Deluxe tuners. They aren’t stuck or anything, but definitely not as fluid as I’d expect them to be. The G string especially takes a little bit of a crank to turn. Can I just oil them? Should I replace?

 

Thanks in advance for any tips. This is my first Gibson and my first vintage guitar. I really want to take the best care of it that I absolutely can. 
 

P.S. I currently have it on a wall hanger. Should I limit it’s time hanging up or should I just keep it in the case when not playing it always? I know that the stands can eat through the nitro cellulose finish. 

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1. a good clean microfiber cloth if you're going at it and getting it sweaty. there are cleaners and polishes but it looks to be in great shape, i'd  just leave it alone. 

2.  that's a solid wood bridge with an adjustable saddle, again, probably leave it alone. some people dont like the adj saddle and swap out the whole bridge. I bought a bone bridge that drops in (do no harm!) to my adj bridge that sounds a bit brighter. Philadelphia luthier supply

3.  acoustic strings. make sure they're sitting right in the saddle, they could be wonky because of wear

4. tuners look great, if they're stiff they can be oiled, there are videos out there on how, or take it somewhere

5. the nut is narrow- it's going to take a little getting used to playing the neck, but not impossible. 

 

start working on this one and keep an eye on where that SJ ends up!

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First, welcome to the forum.  Very cool that you have a guitar passed down in the family.  The thought of a grandparent buying a guitar built this late though makes me feel very old.    My first guitar was given to me by a friend of my grandfather's.  The instrument had been bought new in the early-1930s.

Anyway, the only things I would add is if you are going to give it a good cleaning also used bore oil on the fretboard.  After you do an initial cleaning though, a cheesecloth slightly dampened with distilled water is generally all you need.

The other thing I would do is to check the bridge plate.  On lower end Gibsons the plate may be made of spruce.  If so, the ball ends of the strings can chew the soft wood up pretty badly.  If it is laminate it also a good idea to check it as the glue joints in the stiff maple ply can start giving up the ghost.  As we speak, a guy I know has his 1962 Epiphone Frontier in the shop suffering from this malady.

Edited by zombywoof
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Welcome, and congrats on acquiring the B-25.  This particular one is actually from 1969.  Gibson reused some serial numbers, and this sequence appeared in both 1966 & 1969.  Your rosewood belly-down bridge is from the ‘69 version.

I’ve owned three of these from the ‘60s (still have a ‘66) & have a few thoughts:

- If you’re happy with the tone, using extra-light strings is fine & provides a degree of structural safety due to their lower level of tension.  I currently use D’Addario PB extra-lights on my ‘66.

- Swapping out the rosewood saddle for one made of bone, Tusq, or the original ceramic from the ‘60s, will typically lead to a richer & more resonant tone.  The rosewood saddle often tends to have somewhat of a muting effect.  That said, it’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and some folks prefer the rosewood saddle.

- There are direct replacements available for the “three-on-a-plate” Kluson tuners.  Those branded as Klusons are now made in Korea, and in my experience, can often be a bit mediocre in operation.  Gotoh also makes a direct replacement & they might be better, and Stewart-McDonald sells good quality replacements as well.  I wouldn’t bother with other off-brand tuners, which most likely will not be very well made.

Enjoy your new-to-you guitar!

 

 

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That guitar looks like my 1965 J-50's little brother - nice! 😀

Bridge/saddle looks exactly like mine,  it is rosewood. Apparently plastic and ceramic saddles were also used and can still be purchased. I kept the original rosewood in mine, it's a pretty distinctive sound and some people don't like it. Why not just leave it as-is and form your own opinion over time? I never heard of an adjustable saddle causing a guitar to "collapse". 😱

The tuners are also like mine. I spent considerable time trying to recondition them, but IMO the problem is that those old Klusons are just stiff. I bought my 1974 J-50 when it was new and immediately thought the tuners were very difficult to operate.  If you want to try fixing yours, this may help

https://www.stewmac.com/video-and-ideas/online-resources/guitar-tuning-machine-installation-and-repair-information/lubricating-guitar-tuners.html

But the new Klusons are much smoother, I have put them on two guitar and really like them. Will say that one of the tuners has developed a minor problem where the knob has to turn a bit before engaging however. Anyway, WD Music Products bought the Kluson brand a number of years ago and markets a full range of vintage replacements that look just like the originals.

https://www.wdmusic.com/tuning-machines-guitar.html?brand[]=Kluson

I never use polish on mine, just occasional cleaning with Virtuoso Cleaner

https://virtuosopolish.com

As for humidity, etc. I don't worry much about it and have had no problems. I keep it out on a stand for months at a time, however I do have a humidifier and humidity gauge in that room so it doesn't get too dry, In the summers around here, it's not an issue. Humidity is almost always above 50% even in my air conditioned room! If you're going to hang it on the wall, get a digital humidity meter, they are only $10 - $15 at places like Lowes or online at Amazon. Last I heard, Gibson recommends about 50% humidity.

Edited by Boyd
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BTW, was just looking at the Stew Mac article on tuner lubrication again. I would be very careful about using grease! Tried that on some other tuners and it it did help a lot. Then I had the guitar outside on a hot day and the grease melted, ran down the neck and made a mess that was hard to clean up.

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21 minutes ago, Boyd said:

BTW, was just looking at the Stew Mac article on tuner lubrication again. I would be very careful about using grease! Tried that on some other tuners and it it did help a lot. Then I had the guitar outside on a hot day and the grease melted, ran down the neck and made a mess that was hard to clean up.

Why would you use grease instead of Tri-Flow or sewing machine oil?

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22 hours ago, bobouz said:

Welcome, and congrats on acquiring the B-25.  This particular one is actually from 1969.  Gibson reused some serial numbers, and this sequence appeared in both 1966 & 1969.  Your rosewood belly-down bridge is from the ‘69 version.

I

 

 

The double line "Gibson Deluxe" tuners alone indicate no earlier than 1969.

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Welcome, and congratulations.

Other here have commented on the bridge, so I'll concentrate on the tuners, which are a bit of a hobby of mine.

They are easier to clean and lubricate if you remove them from the guitar, as you won't need to worry about damaging the finish.

Remove the small screws from the back of the headstock carefully, as they are tiny and can be fragile. Use a small enough screwdriver for a good fit.

Tap on the end of the stringposts with the end of the plastic handle on a screwdriver, or something similar. Usually  the tuners  simply fall out on their own unless there is a lot of gunk on the back of the headstock or inside the headstock ferrules.

Clean the inside of the headstock bushings (the eyelets or ferrules) using a cotton swab (Q-tip) dampened with naphtha. After cleaning, I then use a dab of Flitz metal polish on a clean, dry cotton swab to remove any oxidation on the inside of the ferrule. I repeat this until the swab comes out clean rather than black.

Since the stringposts  are not an interference fit, no lubrication of the inside of the ferrules is normally required. Polishing the inside, however, is a good idea. You do not need to remove the bushings from the headstock to clean and polish them.

If the tuner baseplate or gear covers have surface corrosion of the nickel plating, Flitz polish on small bits of cotton rag will remove most of it, but not all. You don't want these to look like new, and they rarely will after cleaning, but should look nicely aged.

Using a plastic glue syringe (available at many craft stores), flush each tuner repeatedly by injecting naphtha through the lube hole in the cover (on most models). Inject with some force to dissolve any set up old lube. Hold the tuners over a plastic paint bucket or something similar while you are doing this, as it can be messy.

When no more gunk comes out of the gear covers, flush once more, shake to remove as much trapped naphtha as possible, then set them aside to dry thoroughly. You can accelerate this by carefully warming the tuner with a hair dryer or heat gun on LOW setting and kept well away. If you cannot comfortably handle the tuner, you are overheating it.

I let them dry overnight.

Lube each tuner with a few drops of TriFlow using their pinpoint oiler, injected through the lube hole. Be sure to shake the oiler thoroughly before using it, keeping the cap on the tip while shaking. Work each tuner in both directions for about a minute to distribute the lube. If any tuner still binds , try a bit more lube, but a little goes a long way.

You may have lube running out of the gear covers. If you do, wipe the outside of the tuner down carefully with a rag or paper towel very lightly dampened with naphtha.

Wipe dry, and check operation. Each tuner should turn evenly with little or no binding.

Re-install tuners. Do not over-tighten the tiny screws, or you will break them.

You should be good to go.

TriFlow contains PTFE, which is why I remove the tuners from the guitar when lubricating. You don't want to contaminate the finish on your guitar with the stuff.

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2 hours ago, zombywoof said:

The double line "Gibson Deluxe" tuners alone indicate no earlier than 1969.

Actually ZWF, those are Kluson Deluxe double-line tuners in the photo, which go back further.  They are original to both my ‘66 ES-125T and ‘66 Epi Cortez FT-45n.

The bridge in this case is what easily verifies the 1969 model year.  1968 had a rosewood belly-up adjustable bridge & “boob” batwing pickguard.  1967 had the same with no boob, and then we get back to 1966 with the plastic belly-up adjustable bridge.  Of course, we know there can always be some overlap on those dates!

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57 minutes ago, bobouz said:

Actually ZWF, those are Kluson Deluxe double-line tuners in the photo, which go back further.  They are original to both my ‘66 ES-125T and ‘66 Epi Cortez FT-45n.

The bridge in this case is what easily verifies the 1969 model year.  1968 had a rosewood belly-up adjustable bridge & “boob” batwing pickguard.  1967 had the same with no boob, and then we get back to 1966 with the plastic belly-up adjustable bridge.  Of course, we know there can always be some overlap on those dates!

The double line Kluson Deluxe tuners are spot on for a mid-1960s Gibson.  But those on the B25  are double line Gibson Deluxe which  places the build date at the end of the decade.  I guess somebody could go look up the serial number but it is more fun to first try to narrow it down by features.

 

Edited by zombywoof
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57 minutes ago, zombywoof said:

The double line Kluson Deluxe tuners are spot on for a mid-1960s Gibson.  But those on the B25  are double line Gibson Deluxe which  places the build date at the end of the decade.  I guess somebody could go look up the serial number but it is more fun to first try to narrow it down by features.

 

By enlarging the photo provided by the OP, it clearly says ”Kluson Deluxe” on the tuner housings that aren’t partially faded (1st & 2nd string tuners on the lower left).

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Posted (edited)
On 4/6/2021 at 4:40 PM, bobouz said:

Welcome, and congrats on acquiring the B-25.  This particular one is actually from 1969.  Gibson reused some serial numbers, and this sequence appeared in both 1966 & 1969.  Your rosewood belly-down bridge is from the ‘69 version.

I’ve owned three of these from the ‘60s (still have a ‘66) & have a few thoughts:

- If you’re happy with the tone, using extra-light strings is fine & provides a degree of structural safety due to their lower level of tension.  I currently use D’Addario PB extra-lights on my ‘66.

- Swapping out the rosewood saddle for one made of bone, Tusq, or the original ceramic from the ‘60s, will typically lead to a richer & more resonant tone.  The rosewood saddle often tends to have somewhat of a muting effect.  That said, it’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition, and some folks prefer the rosewood saddle.

- There are direct replacements available for the “three-on-a-plate” Kluson tuners.  Those branded as Klusons are now made in Korea, and in my experience, can often be a bit mediocre in operation.  Gotoh also makes a direct replacement & they might be better, and Stewart-McDonald sells good quality replacements as well.  I wouldn’t bother with other off-brand tuners, which most likely will not be very well made.

Enjoy your new-to-you guitar!

 

 

Awesome to know it’s a ‘69. I know the numbering system in that era wasn’t reliable and a serial number look up told me ‘66 or ‘69. 
I found one that looked nearly identical with the  belly-down bridge, listed as a ‘66, so I went with ‘66. 

Edited by Wescantner94
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15 hours ago, bobouz said:

By enlarging the photo provided by the OP, it clearly says ”Kluson Deluxe” on the tuner housings that aren’t partially faded (1st & 2nd string tuners on the lower left).

Yes, these are the Kluson Deluxe tuners, not Gibson Deluxe. Leftovers at the factory maybe?

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That’s a beauty...as has been mentioned, some service work at the machineheads isn’t a bad idea. the adjustable bridge, despite what you might read on some forums, isn’t actually a bad thing at all. Some folks convert them to a traditional fixed bridge by way of a rosewood insert to take a bone saddle, but I wouldn’t bother. I DID bother with my ‘67 J45, but it made very little difference in terms of tonal quality or response. 
 

The beauty of the adjustable bridges is that you can play with the tone by swapping out the various compounds available-I’ve come across rosewood, ceramic, rosewood with bone insert, bone and tusq. The Tusq one was the best sounding of the lot on my J45 but your mileage may vary. It’s a fun experiment!

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On 4/6/2021 at 12:41 PM, cunningham26 said:

1. a good clean microfiber cloth if you're going at it and getting it sweaty. there are cleaners and polishes but it looks to be in great shape, i'd  just leave it alone. 

2.  that's a solid wood bridge with an adjustable saddle, again, probably leave it alone. some people dont like the adj saddle and swap out the whole bridge. I bought a bone bridge that drops in (do no harm!) to my adj bridge that sounds a bit brighter. Philadelphia luthier supply

3.  acoustic strings. make sure they're sitting right in the saddle, they could be wonky because of wear

4. tuners look great, if they're stiff they can be oiled, there are videos out there on how, or take it somewhere

5. the nut is narrow- it's going to take a little getting used to playing the neck, but not impossible. 

 

start working on this one and keep an eye on where that SJ ends up!

Thanks for the info! 
The SJ ended up going to my older cousin. He’s also a musician, so I’m sure it’ll be well loved and played. If I can get some pics of that one I’ll share here. 

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22 hours ago, zombywoof said:

The double line Kluson Deluxe tuners are spot on for a mid-1960s Gibson.

My 1965 J-50 has single-line Kluson Deluxe tuners. 🙂

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