So I have this archtop Gibson..The heel is cracked ( was fixed once before...It opened up again...It also has a small crack in the body itself on the bass side..So....First I tried steam..It was blowing out of the F holes like crazy , to the point of almost blushing the finish..So I have the fingerboard extension loose , and the whole top part of the neck wiggling like a loose tooth..The lower part of the heel is still firmly attached..No amount of wiggling would get it to come out...I finally decided to take the extension off and look,,The dovetail is cracked , and that's what is letting it wiggle..As you might see in my pics , the upper parts of the dovetail are firmly attached on each side...I've opened a can of worms , and I'm not fishing...Tempted to try remove the top part of the dovetail and hope it pops free...Which will probably open a new can....Any thoughts ?
Also...The top part of the crack on the body moves , and the lower part is solid..
Check for a dowel or screw under the heel cap.
Yikes... this will be an interesting repair to follow. Maybe one approach would be take it all apart in pieces (broken, etc) then repair each component as needed, and reassemble. You're right, it's a can of worms.
Probably a screw or dovel through the heel to be found under the heel cap. Keep working and get everything loose, with water and a thin knife (beware!) or spatula eventually you will get it off. Then glue everything together again. For something like this I'd drill a hole for a birch plug through almost the whole heel and use epoxy glue to fill all the voids and get a water proof glue line.
Is there even a heel cap? This looks like an L-50 and I'm pretty certain there was no heel cap. If there is one, take it off (and remove any hardware or whatever else you might find) and drill into the dovetail from there. Try to keep the guitar face up so the steam rises into the front of the dovetail.
So you'll be done with this around St. Patrick's day, right? I didn't say which year.
From your description and images, I'm pretty sure the neck block is split and maybe partially loose as well. That would explain the steam you describe blowing out of the "F" holes. You're going to have to get it pulled apart in pieces if necessary and then deal with the aftermath. Once you get it apart check the neck block and it's glue connection to the top, back and sides very carefully. If it is indeed split, it will be obvious.
I would also endorse the use of quality epoxy, like West System, to re-build the dovetail and neck heel but hot hide glue for everything else. If the neck ever has to be removed again there is a much better chance that the neck parts will come out in one piece than if you use Titebond or hide glue.
Don't see any heel cap in the first image.
That's my guess...It's a full bucket of ugly....But I've fixed worse...It's a handful...
No heel cap
No heel cap....Whoever repaired it previously just smooshed glue into the crack when it first showed up...Of course with the dovetail also cracked , it was useless...