Working on a 1970s J-50.  Just steamed off the neck...3pc neck and the little "slivers" that make the tenon released from the neck shaft and stayed in the mortise.  I got them out, but they really aren't salvageable.

I've done numerous resets on Gibsons and a few Guilds with 3pc necks.  I've had one or two where these "dovetail slivers" release from the neck..but only partially and they were always salvageable.

Now I'm considering two options:  rebuild the dovetail with new wood (which I have done on old Harmony Guitars a number of times), or convert to a bolted mortise/tenon.  I have a nice, straight tenon now!

Considering these options for a couple reasons:  customer has a budget I can't go over and really it might be advantageous to convert to bolt on for future resets. 

These guitars aren't overly valuable, and so the bolt conversion seems to me to be a reasonable course of action.  However, I'd appreciate some outside opinions from other professionals that may have run into this issue as well.

Just FYI:  I think at least part of the reason this neck delaminated where it did is because there was virtually NO gap between the tenon and the neck block at the 15th fret.  It took more steam than usual, and it wasn't able to get to the actual dovetail joint as much as it usually would.

Anyway, thanks in advance.

Edit:  Customer will be consulted prior to work in either scenario...he may not want the bolts, or he may not want the extra expense of rebuilding the dovetail.


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Is this a straight, as opposed to tapered dovetail? If straight, that has to be one of Gibson's worst ideas ever. I have done several neck resets on those(and now use the Stewmac Heatstick for removal: it eliminates damage or problems from excessive steaming, like delamination). I always convert these to a bolt-on: it seems almost impossible to get a good fit, and good neck angle, with a straight dovetail). 

Yes, it's a straight dovetail.  I tried Stew Mac heat stick maybe a year or more ago and it did not work...almost destroyed a Weller soldering iron I purchased just for this job.  Heat did not transfer well at all and melted the handle.  Was able to salvage the iron, but not the stick...very disappointed.

One vote for conversion.  Thanks for the input.

The Stewmac instructions, for the Heat Stick, recommend maximum heat(value not specified) when using the Stick, but I found too high of a setting scorches the fingerboard. 

Only once, years ago, did I remove a Gibson straight dvtl with steam. Now, that was a pain: unlike a tapered dvtl, which, once it's loose, comes right out, the straight dvtl is tight all the way out, with steam billowing the whole time. Hence my preference for the HS.

I have some photos of my 'straight dovetail-to-bolt-on' conversion: I'll try to post them ASAP

That would be awesome Dave!

After a thorough explanation of the issue, the customer has chosen to do a bolt conversion on this guitar.

Here are three pics of my bolt-on conversion, of a early '70's Gibson. I filled the dovetail slot, then sawed/chiseled out a mortise. I trimmed the neck dovetail, adding cross grain reinforcements. You will need reveres cutting 'forstner' bits, called spot facers, available from Graingers Supply. The hardware uses a barrel nut, installed in the neck tenon.

Awesome.  Great pics and info.  Thank you!!


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