I purchased a '73 - '75 (couldn't get specific year from serial number) Gibson J55 not too long ago in preparation for my first neck reset. I didn't pay much so don't feel bad about giving me bad news. What I need to know is if there is anything to look out for, like a really atypical joint. I've got a series of other issues to address on the guitar that i'm pretty sure I have a grip on but may bring up later.
Would it be the ubiquitous "paddle-joint" perhaps...??
If it's that one with the big block under the end of the fingerboard it could well be the infamous paddle-joint thing, and if that's the case, welcome to Hell. . .
I somewhat expected these things from a Norlin era instrument. Seeing a response from Frank, I was ready for a rather in depth tutorial and a frets.com link, but i'm equally humbled by being welcomed to hell, I can't wipe the grin off. I'll give it a few more days to see if anyone knows for sure what's going on inside. The neck block does look rather big, and there is a gap at it's base where it meets the back. The block looks to be perfectly flat on the bottom, and the convex back creates the gap under it. A bolt conversion might be in it's future.
Speaking of the paddle joint, anybody have a pic? All i'm getting when I search is of the nautical application. It this what I get for all those years of suggesting customers use their cheap chinese guitars to row a boat?
There was an article in America Lutherie #110 by John Calkin describing an odd Gibson Neck Joint, It might be the same neck joint (or something equally horrible)
I have tried to scan a page from Gibson's Fabulous Flattop Guitars illustrated history...but failed! Anyone who might have this book can check out page 94. There is an example pictured. and if so, maybe they could put it up on this site!
What Josh has posted above looks like 'beast'
I have a friend that has the book, i'll take a look, but it sounds like this isn't going to get anything even close to a traditional reset. Unlike the ebay sellers describing their guitar as having decent action that is actually twice the standard tolerance, I'd like to get this playing well and will probably just go for a bolt on conversion. Any opinions on flush cut saws? I have a Woodcraft near me. Mainly all i'm wondering is what tooth count should I use to not rip it too much but still be an efficient cut? Also, this is a square shoulder model, so what do you prefer to protect the finish during the cut. I like Frank's .002 steel strips idea, i'm just open to suggestions.
Those steel strips are called shim stock, took me years to learn that.
Update for everyone. I abandoned ship and have since sold the guitar for a bit more than double my initial investment. The money will be used to buy a more suitable project. I did get the book "Gibson's Fabulous Flat-Top Guitars" from my friend and here is what it said:
"In the mid 70's Gibson designed a new neck joint that used a paddle shaped tenon at the top of the dovetail. This was to give extra support to the fingerboard extension and keep if from dipping into the soundhole or collapsing. This joint is extremely difficult to reset: first, the paddle eliminates easy access to the dovetail area with steam; also, because the paddle is a mortise and tenon joint in it's own right, a second tight fitting joint has to be loosened. Since the paddle is glued to the underside of the fingerboard extension, heating and loosening the fretboard during the reset is difficult. Also the paddle dovetail itself is only half the normal strength. During a reset the bottom of the heel, which isn't connected to the dovetail and consequently has no strength, may remain glued to the body while the rest of the neck comes loose. These necks can be reset, however, and many guitars built with the paddle dovetail are great instruments-especially those assembled after '84. The paddle dovetail was discontinued by Gibson Montana in the spring of 1992. Gibson knew of the strength given by the paddle to the fretboard extension and for the entire neck block area but found the intricate design unnecessary. According to Gibson's Ron Ferguson, "We didn't need it. We don't have any problem in that area because our tops are arched and pre stressed; they don't cave in anywhere. We went back to the traditional dovetail so that future repair people would be able to pull these necks, if they need it. Just as easily as pulling a vintage Martin or Gibson. We glue the necks in with animal hide glue for that reason." :end:
I might also add that the very next article in regards to repair procedures that is entitled "Broken Pegheads", the very first sentence reads "This has never been a Gibson problem." It's quite a good read from there on. I have to assume there was a silent partner in the publishing of this book. :)
That was a very good call - there are TONS of fun project out there, and now (barring other things in life imposing on your wallet), you have the funds to go get one.
I cannot recommend strongly enough that you do a Harmony guitar first. The Sovereigns are really fun - fantastic quality wood coupled with ladder bracing that just screams ennui, and neck joints that are REALLY easy to work with. The best part is the shock on someone's face when you hand them a Harmony guitar that is actually playable.
The Harmony archtops can be really rewarding too, since they have such a great coolness factor. I've got one in process right now, and it has been a shock to have FUN with repairs for a change, instead of sweating the details and worrying about screw ups.
I've heard that the earliest Japanese Yamahas are also steam-off-the-neck candidates, which can be fun and give you a great sounding guitar. Just about all those old red-label Yamaha's need a reset, and they go for a song.
I think I'm the one who bought the j-55 from you on ebay. At your suggestion I looked at this site and here I am. So an update on that there j-55. It was made in '73 ser# starts w/ 00. So it is a first year run, made from left over parts apparently as I have worked on three of these so far (the other two were in newer but in much worse condition different bridges, different necks (one had BR stamped into it, the other had no mark but it had been reset before and had a different neck block)., all needed a neck and bridge reset. It is the common Gibson dove-tail, however the neck on this particular j-55 was for a j-40 as you can see stamped into the end of the tennon, it is also too short for the mortise and along with a lack of glue and that they knocked off the "tails" from the dove tail caused a lack of stability in this particular guitar.