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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Good Luck on the repairs, Jeff! And good call also.

I have hand buffed several old Gibson finishes with two different grades of Meguires compounds with excellant results, that would blind ya with shine.    I love it!

I see that you have some structural work to do. I am not that experienced at that.....BUT I can make a worn-looking Gibson finish be the best it can be....I have turned turds into diamonds and don,t have a penny to show for it......Of course, they are my own guitars...Ha!


By the way, I have a 'minty' and 'shiny' Guild JF30 Maple Jumbo (Westerly RI made) if he wants to trade for 'shiny'....Jes Sayin'

Hmmm, I not so sure this victory for the Luddites and advocates of the "fashionably worn" look should go unchallenged within the confines of this forum:  

There is fundamentally no difference between a pair of new Levi's and a pair of their pre-worn or recycled Jeans other than a doubling of the price tag for old stuff.  Similarly, relic guitars, and replicas of old or signature artist guitars are also very popular and somewhat at a price  premium.  Old bombs and vintage automobiles are another "ditto" with outrageous prices being paid for any old crap except when the economy crashes and the price reverts from "collectable" levels to what something is really worth by way of utility or performance.

I'm not sure that dictating personal opinions to customers about what they should do based on price and collect-ability is a course of action I would take. Talking-up the value and performance of old guitars is equal in use to talking-up the performance and future value of new 'inovative' guitars.In other words it is a pointless excercise in marketing, and guitar voodoo folk lore.  

Criticial appraisal of individual instruments and courses of action to enchance or maintain performance while providing the customer with a look that he desires and is happy with seems to me to be more in line with professionalism. 

The tone and look of an older instrument  has merit in the mix of what we advise but it is not an absolute - a regular absurdity bought on by this worship of the "collectable/original look"  genre involves the inability of musicians to refret or repair their instruments due to the loss of value dictated by the "get rich quick collectors and their inflation prone retailers who get fat on selling old crap to investors and wannabee musicians who don't know the difference". 

Ultimately, our effect is the opposite to what we wish to achieve - instead of an reasonably priced instrument going on to play for it's lifetime and provide, in some cases, better tone as it ages - the instrument becomes unplayable and is taken from play and stored or sold to some fool with a lot of money.

My fundamental opinion is that we have created a monster with our slavish devotion and arbitrary "nod" to keeping things looking old for no good reason.  But, there is far too much money already spent and invested in old guitars to head of the horses now and the "The Emperor's New Clothes" are becoming well worn in our community.

I'm no more right than anyone else with a personal opinion here - this is an opinion piece to add to ones thoughts - it is not a personal or professional attack on any other forum members or their beliefs,rather it is a view that I hold and wish to express to my respected peers for consideration.

I tend to agree with a lot of what you are saying Russell

My objection to refinishing the "box" of this guitar is based on the likelyhood that the top wood in particular would end up thinner than original if an attempt was made to prepare it for refinishing, with a resulting loss of the original sound, and structural problems.

That would have been my approach to the customer rather than aesthetics or "value"

Thanks Jeff,

I wrote the last with some trepidation - a bit worried that any discussion  would be negative and personal - there are a bunch of challenging issue for us all in a lot of things we do and this truly international Forum is provided at great time and efforts by the best luthiers in the business for us to talk among ourselves - it's a privilege for me to be able to talk and opine from time to time.  Thanks again for "getting" what I was prattling about!   


You're opinion is fine but you've kind of gone off the deep end. The way I look at a musical instrument is something to make music on, and it has to be structurally solid, setup to play at its optimum. Refinishing an instrument has nothing to do with playability or keeping the instrument functional, it's just the looks.

Personally old guitars have history that all the dings and scratches prove, why should it look new? 

Of course there are others that prefer something that looks nicer. And as far as refinishing an instrument just because that is what the customer wants, doesn't mean the repair person has to honor the request. For me it would be a travesty to refinish something that didn't need it, even though the customer requested it. He would have to take the instrument elsewhere, and I'm sure the customer could find some repair person to honor his request. Just because we repair instruments doesn't mean we are obligated to accept ever job.

It's not unprofessional to politely turn down a job.



Hi Bill, see my following to Rob to fill in the gaps , but "it's just the looks" pretty much sums up modern society/consumer attitudes across a whole raft of consumer related behavior - what I'm ventilating is just where one sits in this modern environment and what our positions are.  

Nothing esoteric here, all Professions, Guilds, Trades and Crafts have certain traits and characteristics which form their culture and attitudes, but, so do customers and we need to pay attention to the change that is all around and reflect on why and how we do things from time to time.

Nothing important here, it's just a discussion, and;  the trick about "going off the deep end"  is being able to swim well.

Regards, Rusty.

Hey Rusty,


Do you really know what a "Luddite" was?  First off those in question never referred to themselves as such but instead "followers of Kind Ludd" or of "Ned Ludd."  Secondly they were skilled crafters well familiar and comfortable with technology.  At that time textile piece work was done in the home, mostly by women, who were paid reasonably well and could also take care of children and work the hours they wanted to.  Then the "factors" - from whom we get the word "factory" - insisted on paying them by the hour, not the piece, and moving the equipment into a central location where the laborers hours could be tightly controlled.  We're talking about at least 12 hour days with 1/2 for lunch and perhaps a toilet break.  The "rebellion" was an economic one against raw ripoff capitalism.  The "Luddites" were more like the individual who does repair work in a home or small shop with much control on time.  So, by an accurate definition of the term I suspect that there are more "Luddites" on this forum than not and, despite my familiarity with and use of many technologies, I proudly claim the title as originally applied (although I really like Frank Herbert's "techno-peasant" myself).  Let's not mix up workers trying to control their economic, safety, and work quality situations with those who simply avoid the unfamiliar - "Luddite" more fits conservative politicians who refuse to acknowledge global warming and other environmental threats while the ultimate Luddite is a near retirement military officer who wishes to retain cavalry regiments in a tank era (WWII has great examples) or an American president (Reagan) who spends millions of dollars refurbishing a WWII era battle ship in which a couple of hundred thousand dollar missile can sink in minutes.

But you probably already know this.


Yes, Rob, I do know what a Luddite was, and I am quite aware of how I couched the term relative to the modern day - and no, I don't already know how Reagan or old cold war warriors (and the Americans have a few of these spare) relate to the nature of being a Luddite and I have no particular compelling reason to get on a political soapbox on a luthiers forum. 

Mind you,  If you are an American, which I suppose you are, you will surely lament that the Luddites sentenced to penal transportation were not in the time frame when criminals were sent to the American colonies...rather, and with some good fortune, those Luddites that were not executed by the Poms were sent to Australia where they contributed to the fine race that we Australians have become.  Nice touch eh.  

Notwithstanding this,  I never assume I am smarter than my readers - but I do like to explore the basis upon which attitudes and practices are formed within a genre - not paying attention to changes in customers attitudes and expectations can be fatal to a business man - or as so quaintly put, a crafter, who makes their living by providing a service to those who wish to pay. 

It's up to the individual tradesman whether or not he chooses to  take a job or adopt new work practices, no drama there - but probably not up to the shop keeper to dictate what a customer should think:    I'll leave that to Apple.


Regards, Rusty.


I think I have been threw this topic before on another thred about doing what the customer ask to have done. And i still say the same I will do just what he or she asks me to do .After all they owen the Insturement I don't  and I don't have a nickel invested Bill.'''''''''''''''''''''''

Ah, I've long expected that your ancestors arrived on on a prison ship <grin> - that's how the smart ones escaped the industrial revolution in England.  Sorry about the old soap box coming out but I'm from the Appalachian Coalfields where the miners were one of the last hold-out as unionism was executed in the USA (Reagan and Thatcher were probably separated at birth) and while coal is very problematic we've been reduced from a high wage/high benefit area (much of the rest of the USA also) to selling prepackaged unneeded prepackaged consumer "junk" for Walmart wages! Dunno if you've got Walmart in Au but I'm sure some other commercial cancer replaces it.  It's sort of reverse socialism with more and more concentration of wealth in the paws of the few - and it's hard not to be bitter as one's health fails while the "Reprobates" dump their elephant shit on our heads and hoard more and more of a shrinking pie.  Even old Adam Smith lectured about responsibility coming with wealth but some how that part always gets ignored (actually a fairly moral person - although his followers seem to be social cannibals). 

Ah, caught me again.  But I spent time as a community organizer and environmental "activist" (really never liked that term) and it's hard to be emotionally, culturally, and - especially - financially tied to a "national sacrifice area."  An energy and natural resources colony as exotic to most Americans as Australia would be (visiting your country was always one of my dreams that will probably not pass).

OK, I'll shut up and try to behave but I only have to walk or drive a couple of miles to have it rubbed into my face!

With respect.  Rob

Thanks Rob, 

Regardless of my previous posts which were just cut and thrust work stuff, I apologize for my lack of grace.   I can assure you that you are not alone in your disappointment of the wreckage that the economic rationalists and hyper capitalists have visited upon the working man.  The damage and divisiveness that people like Thatcher and her 'winter of discontent'  have caused is not reversible - not in my time anyway. 

Sadly, your soapbox and my soapbox is as relevant today as it was a hundred years ago -  and I note that organized struggle and union solidarity has been a hallmark of the Appalachian miners for about that period - unfortunately, we here will also echo the lament " you don't know what you have till its gone" in due course.  No doubt. 

In Solidarity Comrade,


Rusty, I never saw anyone here say that the repair person ought to dictate to the customer what he should think.  No one ever said it isn't the customer's guitar to do with as he pleases.  As you have said, the customer is entitled to do what he wants, but he is not entitled to have a particular person do it for him.


One of the things that distinguishes a member of a profession from a laborer is that the professional is not simply for hire to do whatever task his or her  employer directs.  A professional undertakes the additional obligation of giving his client the advantage of his expertise and experience by advising the client about what might be in his best interests, and possibly declining to do work that he or she thinks is wrong for practical or moral reasons.  I see nothing high-handed or dictatorial about musical instrument repairers acting as professionals.


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