Okay, this is going to be a long one so bear with me. I may introduce new questions to the thread as Ive got quite the list here, and a whack of pics...
Im repairing an old J 50 for a customer, and this is the list of issues thus far with asterisks by the ones im most concerned about right now, and accompanying questions:
- all the back braces are loose, as in dancing around inside the guitar loose
- all the centre joint lining on the back is loose (3 are right off, the other 2 will be removed and reglued)
* theres a nasty dent/puncturish thing in the side (bass i believe). This is one of the more difficult issues, though less structurally significant as some. The split on the inside of the guitar is much longer than out, and its very apparent that no reasonable amount of force will press the outer surface back flush
* another (maybe the most) worrying issue - the tail block is half loose. Do i inject glue and clamp it, or finish removing it and risk that delicate end grain seam between the sides?
- theres a hole from an input jack
- theres a piece missing from the back, and 5 other cracks, some fine, some not
- the pickguard is shrinking and curling, one small crack in the top as a result
* the finish is in horrid shape: checking everywhere, chips everywhere, worn to bare wood around the pick guard, the neck is blistered all over, and im pretty sure someone added finish to the top and bridge with the strings on. At this point, should i be at all concerned about the vintage when considering refinishing the whole shibang?
- the frets are way worn, like everything else
- the bridge plate is glued solid still, but doesnt appear to be doing its job. Replace?
Erm.. Thats the worst of it for now. One more question though, should i adjust the neck angle while the back is off by shifting the thing, or would itbe better to wait and remove the neck after the body is back in order.
Are you sure that's an L-50? An archtop?
Maybe Frank can change the title of the thread for you, and you'll get better responses.
I assume from the photo that the back is already off the guitar. If so, you're really in the deep end here. If not, can you decline the job? It's going to be a biggie!
I'd reglue the end block as it is to avoid any misalignment of sides - that can be a real issue when it comes to getting the back on correctly. Sure, I'd consider replacing the bridge plate if it's not working, but that's a judgment call for sure. If you get this thing back together and solid, refinishing will add to the non-originality, but vintage value is affected by the combination of what's been done to the guitar. It may have little value compared to a fully original and clean example. . .
Seconding Franks comments and adding that this guitars real value will be based on the quality of your repairs, and how it plays and sounds. Saving the original finish is a hopelessly tedious project and IMO not very relevant to the values I'm referring to.
"As for the bridge plate, ill put it to the customer to decide between originality and stability."
"The first concern with this thing is sentimetal value (it belongs to the guy's father) and keeping structurally sound so it can be strung up without it folding over on itself..."
How can you make it stable without replacing the (as you described "not doing its job") bridgeplate?
Is there a possibility that this instrument will end up as a sentimental wall hanger that get's strummed once or twice a year? Its final 'destiny' should be discussed with your customer. That item could change the tenor of the replies if it's going to be a wall hanger. It would also be kind of a shame as pre-1970 J-50's are cool guitars. Oh what year is it?
As far as a 'moderate to high' vintage value..it's way past that stage. Collectors are getting more discerning when it comes to instruments with major structural repairs. Even if your repairs are 'invisible', disclosure ethics would relegate the instrument to a 'fair quality player grade instrument'. Don't get me wrong, there's NOTHING wrong with that. Some of the best SOUNDING acoustics I've heard were beat to splinters. Value becomes especially irrelevant if the instrument is being kept by the family only as an heirloom.
As for the finish, Frank & Eric gave sage advice. Everyone knows Frank's pedigree and Eric is one of the most respected members on this forum (IMO). I'd give it serious consideration.
However it turns out, have fun with and enjoy this project. Just like your "before" pictures, we love seeing the "after" pictures too. :)
Best of luck & have a good one my friend :)