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Do I neck reset a guitar that has been reset in the past?

Hi all

I have a golden rule that I don't reset necks on guitars that have already had neck resets. The reason is that if they used the wrong glue, I'll ruin the guitar trying to get the neck off it.

Am I being too cautious? It's annoying potential customers.

I also have a golden rule that I only do neck resets on Martins and Gibsons (I feel like you know what you are getting with these companies), but I break that golden rule all the time. Should I start breaking my other neck reset golden rule?

I feel like these rules are seriously losing value. How do you all feel about resetting necks on previously reset necks.

I should point out that the reason why I am asking this question is because a customer has asked me to perform a neck reset on a '53 Martin D-18 which is rare due to it's engelmann top. It's obviously a nice guitar, and I'd hate to discover too late that there's a bunch of epoxy in there or some such thing.

Tags: Neck, reset

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Get a good lawyer and Insurance policy if you proceed unless you are a Martin descendant w/access to the vault! Can you find the person who did the reset?
No I can't. I haven't seen the guitar yet. The customer assures me that the work is well done, but it was prior to his ownership of the guitar. He also thinks it is done with hide glue, but I have no idea how you could tell. The only way I know to tell is by trying to steam off the neck. If you destroy the guitar, then it was epoxy.

I guess from this answer that I'm being sensible rather than paranoid. Does everyone share this same rule then? I think I first heard it from Frank when I was studying at Roberto-Venn. Frank, if you read this, did I get this pearl of wisdom from you?

Thanks for your answer, Tim.
Hi Jim, I can't answer your question about the rules, but I've had success with 3 guitars whose joints were re-glued with epoxy. Removal's not easy, but can be done if your careful and patient. I cut the fingerboard extension off at the joint, exposing the dovetail, then used an alcohol burner to heat an artist spatula and slowly and carefully 'melted' my way down the dovetail joint. Granted, these were low risk guitars, under 1K in value, but it worked. One of the guitars was actually epoxied along the 'cheeks', too, so I had to take the spatula in from the sides of the heel, which left some marks, but the messy glue had done some finish damage, too. Hopefully the D-18 wasn't a sloppy repair.
And thanks, Frank, for his informative frets.com, where I learned about thinning the spatulas to make them ultra thin.

Can you determine if the prior neck set was a 'steam-off' job, or some other neck removal technique? That may help you plan a course of action. Good luck..Tom
Thanks Tom. That's a useful answer. I don't fancy doing this to this guitar, but it's good to know if I take it on and the neck doesn't move, I've got a backup. This certainly seems like a better idea than sawing the neck off.

Hmmmm. That's one "yes" and one "no". I think I'd better get him in so I can see it. I'm reluctant to do that, because if he comes in, I'll probably end up taking the job, so I kind of want to make the decision first.

Any more opinions on this gratefully received. He says it's a good job, so it's probably hide glue, but I still feel that the uncertainty is there.

Jim
I'm an amateur so I don't think I really warrant an opinion but I would like to post my reaction to reading this thread. I cringe at the idea that a '27 Martin ( or any other fine old guitar) would be condemned to hanging on a wall because it has a neck reset in the '50's or 60s and now needs another reset. I'm not judging anyone, just giving my reaction.

Ned
Hi Ned

Glad to have your opinion. Don't feel that being an amateur means your opinion doesn't matter.

I agree that it would be a shame, but I'm just looking after myself. If some lunatic decided to use epoxy when they first did the job, then I could damage this guitar trying to get it off. I'd have to try and get the neck off to find out, and once you've started, you have to finish. Tom's helpful suggestion above is obviously the next step, but do I need this, with all the risks involved. Tom himself said that he's only done this on sub 1K guitars. If I break this guitar, I've bought it.

The people to judge are the repairmen out there who do things like epoxy necks on guitars. I'm probably turning down an easy simple neck reset, just because I can't necessarily trust the work of others. I don't think there's many out there now who do this sort of thing, and I think standards of repairs are really high, but you just don't know.

Luthiers don't have it on their shoulders that we have to rescue guitars for the good of the general guitar playing community. I have a mortgage to pay. I've got plenty of work and I'm not going to risk my business and my house so that this guitar can stay playable. I love guitars. That's why I spend all day working on them and building them. I'd love to take this job on because I'm sure this job would be hugely satisfying when complete, but I'm not going to.

I have spoken to few repairman pals about this, and the general consensus is, leave it. I'm in the UK, but i spoke to some friends in the states, and they all said they'd say "send it to Frank Ford".

Thanks to all for your comments. I have decided that I'm sticking to my rule. That's what rules are for. I've turned the customer down, but it was tough to do.
Jim,
I completely understand. I recognize that the business you are in is just that, a business and you have to make business decisions. I don't feel that you are in any way doing something "wrong" in turning down this job. It's your decision and I respect that and appreciate that you are not willing to take a job that is beyond your comfort level. It is a quality that would make me more comfortable were I to bring my instruments to you.

That said, I hope that that the owner finds a way to have this guitar repaired.

Ned
Thanks, Ned

The annoying thing is that he was a first time customer with me. The good news is that he clearly knows about guitars and is going to be hugely fussy with who he takes it to. I should think that he'll find someone to do the job.

This was my first post, and I have been delighted with the speed and quality of the replies. Thanks to Frank for frets.com, and to the guys who replied. I've finally found a forum I want to use.

Jim
I have found that if I turn down a job and tell him that I am not comfortable doing the job and not positive of the results, you haven't lost a customer as he wants a good job! He may get some one else to tackle the job and maybe screw it up and he will like you more for being honest with him.

Ron
Hi Ron.

Thanks for your comments. You are absolutely right. I received a very positive email reply from the customer after refusing the job. He signed it off as follows:

"i'm glad you were up front about the risks and reasons for turning it down and now I know where you are i'll pass word about. The region can always use another Luthier/repairman."

So I think this is a good lesson for us all. Turning down work is always a bit scary, because you think that the customer will tell all his friends that you aren't up to the job. Knowing that this isn't the case is good.

I do hate turning work down, but at least I'll sleep at night.
So far, I haven't had a problem with previously reset necks, and I haven't declined any because of them having old work. I do know a couple of guys who have encountered epoxy in the joint, but so far I've dodged that bullet. . .
If you are concerned about the glue in the neck joint it seems to me that you could discover the type by drilling a test hole after removing the fifetenth fret. You'll have to drill a half inch or so off center and angle it forward a little to hit the joint surface. Epoxy will stick in the drill bit and will definitely be easy to tell from tite bond or hyde glue.

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