Hi all-

I've decided I want to try my hand at restoring an old parlor guitar.  I found this old B&J Serenader for about $60.00 and thought I'd jump in with it.

Here's the obvious.

1) There are three cracks behind the bridge that will need to be repaired as well as two smaller cracks at the sound hole by the fretboard.

2) One of the back braces is missing and will need to be replaced.

3) There's damage to the bridge where the strings come up and over the saddle.  From what I've read, this sometimes happens when there's no bridge plate.  Assuming there isn't a bridge plate, I'll need to install one.

4) The fretboard is pretty worn.  I'm assuming I'll need to level the fretboard and re-fret it.

So let me beat you to it.  I know I'm jumping headfirst into the deep end.  I'm cool with that.  I'm reasonably handy with my woodworking tools and have a fair amount of patience.  I'm really eager to learn how to do this so I figure, what the hell.  Jump in.

So, what recommendations can you give me on where to start.  I figure the three cracks will be the most challenging, so any advice on how to proceed with that would be appreciated.

I'm all ears!!

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Hi Will.... just a short note to say that, many times, a post such as this will get "mulled-over" for a spell before some of the more insightful members chime-in.  Don't despair if there's not an immediate onslaught of help. 

Let it simmer for a bit and those who have the most to offer will slowly rise to the occasion!  Best of luck to you. 

Hey, Mike!

Thanks for that insight!  I posted something similar on a couple of FB groups and rather receiving encouragement I got just the opposite, with people telling me I was jumping in over my head, etc.  Here's the deal.  I understand that some of the things I've trying to undertake might be ambitious.  That said, I'm pretty patient and a quick study, so I figure I'm not going to lose too much on a $60.00 investment.

Thanks again for your response, Mike


Will , Id probly hydrate the body and watch those cracks , they'll like;ly close up , then look at rubbing some tightbond in and clamping with soundhole clamps , then maybe cleat the inside of them . The bridge and fretboard I would probly just stain the worn bits .The bridge looks ok to me , and fingernail wear doesnt really effect playing .  Are you in a dry area ? If so it may explain the cracks .

A bigly.... important question here:  Does it need a neck reset?

You can determine this for yourself by placing a straight edge on the frets that extending it out to the bridge.  If the neck plane comes in below the top of the bridge it needs a neck reset.  If it comes in below the height of the bridge plus the fret height, respectively... it may need a reset or is on the way to a reset.

If the thing does need a neck reset and not to be like a Facebook group (who can be correct too by the way....) it may be over your head.

Some considerations that I have about project guitars such as this one.  Will the work that needs to be done have any value that can translate to other future work?  A good example is a guitar with a dovetail neck joint.  Resetting that will have valuable lessons toward resetting other quality guitars where as resetting an import with a dowelled neck joint has very little if any learning value IME.  This one likely has a dovetail but I can't know for sure without something to reference or my Vet's X-ray machine.

Not to disagree with Len but it's been my experience that cracks that have been left open for a very long period of time if you can force them closed with RH manipulation you don't want to because it will quickly crack somewhere else if these are forced closed.  That means that filling the cracks is a better idea.  That's an advanced Lutherie operation by the way meaning that you may be over your head here too.

Is the bridge lifting?  Proper bridge removal, cleaning up the surfaces and regluing is not all that easy.

Do you have experience with HHG because that's what this one was made with and what should be used where appropriate to restore it.  

Lot's of considerations.  It's true you will never be out much but my concern is more along the lines of what will you have to show for jumping through your sphincter for a couple of years and not having anything to enjoy to show for it. 


I'm picking up the guitar today, so I won't know until I have it in hand whether or not it needs a neck re-set. That's certainly not something I'd undertake on my first take at repairing/restoring an old guitar.

I am assuming that the cracks do need to be filled.  How do you suggest I learn doing that, short of going to lutherie school?  Understand, I'm not expecting perfection out of my first project, but I do want to learn.

An important question to as is " If this were a structurally sound instrument in good condition; do you know how to do a complete setup?".
I only mention this as a skill level inquiry.
If you do, you're on your way.
If you don't, you may have additional skills to learn. It's all fun work.
Best of luck with a great project :)

Thanks, Paul!

Yes, I'm good to go in the setup department!

I picked up the guitar today and it looks and feels far better in person than the photographs show.  I'm also happy to report that I consulted with an experienced luthier here in Vermont who specializes in pre-war parlor guitars.  In fact, that's all he does.  He very kindly extended an open invitation for me to come to his shop where he offered to guide me in this endeavor.

I hoping this will be the first of many more to come!

Cool, and that's a great offer from your local Luthier, good on him!

Speaking as a rank amatuer who has a penchant for ancient parlour guitars in less than mint condition one of things I always consider before buying is the wear on the neck. I lot of wear shows that the guitar was loved, played and treasured for years. Might I suggest that when restoring less is more. Try to keep as much of the guitar's patina and history, use sympathetic materials, and read everything you can find before you start. 

Hey, Steve-

I like the way you think.  I'm in no hurry and am more interested in doing it right, rather than fast.



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