The top appears to be plywood, with the grain turned sideways. It looks to me from the images, that the splits in the finish are from moisture damage to the plywood. Amalgamating the finish won't cure that. It is probably best to remove the tape, clean it and mostly leave it alone.
Binding on the top looks pretty good, the part I can see anyway. If your missing some chunks, just address that and re-glue anything that is loose. The back is a complete mess. Very thick looking, which you see on a lot of old archtop Epiphones. You have a lot of clean up! I have been using Luthier's Mechantile's FCA binding cement and like it better than Duco cement or CA. Your in for a project!
Can't help with the old pickup.
Hi Paul, thanks for the reply.
Yes, the top is plywood, but the wood is actually in good shape. Just the finish is coming up, and it does make it look like the first ply is lifting, but that isn't the case.
Although the binding appears okay on the top, it is so shrunken that there are edges where the channel is, and there is so much lifting/missing from both the top and back combined, I think the best option is to replace it. I am going to play this guitar, so I don't want the binding catching and falling off. I'm just wondering if I should use a binding that can be applied with a non-destructive glue instead of regular PVC binding.
The back is actually thick plywood like the top, and again, just has surface issues, which is why I'm considering the amalgamation method.
Thanks again for your input!
I'd second the LMI FCA binding cement recommendation. Clean as a whistle and as a contact type cement, there's no squeeze out (with consequent finish damage) as long as it's applied carefully with a brush. Cleans up with acetone. I've used it with several binding repair jobs and it's great! Much easier and cleaner than either Duco or CA. I've used it for several dissimilar-material joints on non-instrument jobs as well.
Can't help on the finish issue--others with more experience know much better. Nice ax, though!
I think this is a great candidate for refinishing. Trying to save that finish is a tough proposition - not possible without imbedding all that dirt and stuff that's already in the cracks And, replacing binding without scarring the finish is a real challenge to put it mildly. IF I were restoring this one, I'd strip off all the finish, then replace the binding, sand it all nicely and refinish.
Thanks for the reply, Frank.
I love the original sunburst, and spraying a sunburst is something I've never done, so I'm not very eager to remove the finish. Is there a "next best" option? Could I clean it, and then go over it with Shellac to help seal it? I am planning on playing it, so I don't need a perfect finish... just one that won't fall off while I'm playing.
Thanks again, Ivan
For the pickup info, contact Jason Lollar. firstname.lastname@example.org
He knows old & unusual pickups inside & out.
Best of luck with your complex restoration project :)
Your going to have your hands full. I would suggest leaving the top finish and binding alone/intact for now and just deal with the back binding. You may end up just securing the loose binding on the top and not worrying about the small ledges from shrinking binding after your experience replacing the back binding.
Applying a shellac over spray on the top won't help the old finish in any way, I wouldn't do it. Butyl Cellosolve won't necessarily re-bond the old finish to the wood where it's loose either. You'll need to accept some of what you see as patina, short of a re-finish, as Frank suggests, there is not much that can be done to reverse it's condition.
You can still make the guitar play and sound good without looking pretty. Some players are very into a relic-ed look. Some guitars are sold brand new that have surfaces rubbed off, dents and corrosion purposely added for this look.
Here is a picture of Andy Cohen's J45. Not much lacquer to look at but it sounds great.
Thanks for the reply. Yes, I actually like the patina and worn top, so I think I'm going take your advice and keep the old finish. If it peels off slowly, then so be it. I just love the old sunburst look, so I wouldn't really want to remove it unless I had to.
The back binding will be a chore, but I think I need to do it, along with the heel cap. I'm going to attack the electronics first and see how that pickup does with new pots/wiring. Then on to the binding!
Thanks again for the reply!
For fun, here is the original patent application for the pickup in your guitar: http://www.google.com/patents/US2175325
Sadly, it doesn't show the detail of the tone control. I have a 1944 Epi Zephyr, it has a Master Voicer tone control that I suspect has both a high pass and a low pass filter, rather than just a simple low pass filter like most guitar tone controls, but I haven't taken it apart to see.
As far as your guitar, very cool. If the neck is similar to the neck on my slightly later and slightly more up-market Epiphone it's an extremely playable and fast Vee shape that I find super comfortable to play. I would refinish it to keep the wood in good shape, and replace the binding. You can learn how to do a nice sunburst with hand applied stain on youtube.
Further - Epiphone used the less expensive bar pickup in the entry-level guitars, and used the adjustable pole-piece version in more upscale guitars. Les Paul did most of his early experimenting on Epiphones because they had that access panel on the back. He could install different pickups, and he added steel plates to make them effectively solid body. He made the Log guitar using body pieces from an Epiphone Zephyr.
Thanks for the reply, Brian. Take a look at this wiring.
It looks like one pickup lead goes to a .05 cap (which goes to the magnets, then through the red wire and dead-ends grounding the tailpiece), then goes to the ground tab on the volume pot. I’m assuming this dumps some treble to ground. The ground tab on the volume goes to output ground as well as a .03 cap then to the center tab on the tone pot. I’m assuming this allows treble to pass to the tone, which controls treble back to the volume. The output of the tone then goes back to the middle output tab of the volume.
If anyone as comments on this, please let me know. I am planning on replacing caps, pots, and then trying the pickup again (the first try was buzzing more than anything should).