Hey Guys,

I have a customer who's brought in a 1957 Gibson J-45 with extensive damage. He's wanting to have it restored. I took some pictures of it and the damage to ask you guys what you would do. He would like to have it refinished , new frets, new bridge, and resurfacing of the fretboard. The top has damage from using a pick and a soundhole pickup. Also there's a hole in the side where an input jack was installed. And there's extensive damage to the back of the neck in the finish. My question to you guys is, what is the best option to keep the value of the instrument as high as possible. He's not intersted in selling it after I do the work. Also, I wonder what you guys would charge to completely restore the guitar including refinishing the whole thing. After I added up what I thought it would cost at my rate of service, it was really high. I don't want to rip the guy off. Any help would be appreciated. There are some pics below.

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Here are some more pics. It's hard to tell from the pics, because I didn't take a picture of the whole top  before he left my shop, but the finish is in really bad shape. The top is bellying, and the bridge is coming up. I'm not even sure if it's the original bridge. I'm no expert in vintage guitars. This thing is really bad dinged up, everywhere. I know the rule of keeping it original, but with the extensive damage, I think if it was mine, I'd just strip it down and make it look new again. But that's just me.
Here are some more pics
I personally would just do the structural repairs(bridge etc.) and leave the finish alone. The finish can be cleaned and buffed with proper compounds. The checking does not bother me!

I'll start with my matra, adapted from the Red Green show; I'm an amateur but I can change... 


That said, I don't know how you can rip off the customer if you give him an honest assessment and and honest estimate. It's his choice to either pay or not. 


My 2 cents worth is that  I don't think that what I see of the finish in the pictures really looks all that bad for a "50's Gibson. There is crazing but then I don't recall every seeing one of these with original finish that wasn't crazed.  I think I  would worry if there wasn't. The back of the neck may need special attention, like maybe trying to reincorporate the finish as Frank did in his article on reincorporating the finish on an old, crazed Martin.


BTW, I also noticed that there is a crack and an offset in the top under the high E string that could indicate that the neck block may be shifting. While you are looking at braces and such,  you might want to check that too.


 In a nut shell, I wouldn't want it to look new if it were mine and I wouldn't refinish but I would do a lot of touch up. Of course, time is not a problem when you work like I do, that is for free ( which is probably pretty close to what I would make if I were a pro, slow as I work.) I love these old jumbo Gibson and think they are worth saving but I don't know if it is worth all the repair and a complete refinish. Others here with more real knowledge will correct me but I would guess that a complete refinish would probably reduce the value significantly unless there is much worse damage than I saw in the pictures.



Yes Ned, I saw the crack and offset. What would you do? Seal and cleat it? That's what I was planning on doing. When I had it in hand, it didn't look like the block had shifted, but who knows. What exactly were you referring to about what to do with the back of the neck? Can you send me a link to that article?

You don't want to refinish it, you will destroy the history this instrument has. All I might do with the finish is seal bare wood around the soundhole with shellac or lacquer.
All I would do is refret if needed, patch the jack hole, and only replace the bridge if absolutely necessary. I wouldn't thin the fingerboard, maybe repair wear divots.
The above repairs shouldn't cost that much and will retain it's vintage value and you should have a great playing instrument.

After looking at the additional pictures, this guitar does not need a refinish, you would destroy it's value.

If the customer likes new shiny guitars, just suggest he or she go buy a new one and leave this one like it is.


I didn't think refinishing was a good idea, and I told him that. He just wants a shiny new guitar honestly. I was going to seal the bare wood spots though.
That is NOT a guitar in need of refinishing.  Do frets and fretboard as needed, reglue the bridge, plug the hole (cut a plug from mahogany) and paint a shellac finish over the plug with some brown stain to match as well as you can.  Refinishing will cut the value by a lot compared with doing nothing.  And you can do nothing for free!

Yep... basic structural repairs only.  The old crazed finish and patina are nothing but 'plus' for the old gal.  Ned had a good eye when spotting the crack & offset under the high 'e' on the top. If it's a cracked block, then further disassembly may be warranted.  

But she's a diamond in the rough. Mend the faults, sure...  but not too much cosmetic surgery is warranted.  That's a nice looking J45.  

I'm with the other guys, structural repair only, and just put a jack back in that hole.

Maybe drop fill a few cips in the back of the neck.

Besides anything else, if you sand back enough to get out all the wood damage, that top is going to end up mighty thin, change the sound and deform from string tension 

As I lost the picture of the whole top, the pics I do have don't show the damage. The top is REALLY beat up, chips and dents all over. I wouldn't dare sand that thing down. If that's what he wants though, I'd recommend a new top, although the value would plummet. I don't think he is interested in the value, but I am. I would hate to see a vintage piece destroyed by installing a new top and refinishing the whole thing.
That's what I told him should be done. Thanks for your comments.


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