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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.

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This sounds like a guitar that sat on it's back, in a case, on a basement floor, for a few years. With the back off it's all straight ahead, The long split that won't realign can probably be persuaded with patience and time and the biggest job will be getting the back on. Why do you think it needs a neck reset?

I dont think for sure it does, it was borderline. Just wondered if itd be worth 'slipping' the back since its off anyway, since itd save a step or two. Although refitting the back would be more difficult doing it that way. Ive never slipped a back for a reset.

Personally if it's borderline don't reset it. I would rather have a vintage guitar that had the bridge planed down than one that had a neck reset. I can make a bridge that is the same material and looks exactly the same as the original and there are several guys on this forum that can do it better than me....better than exactly lol. A neck reset is an invasive and difficult job that is done too often.

Just something to consider:

Given the extensive repairs needed to be performed on this very worthy instrument, I wouldn't worry about keeping it 'original as possible' when it comes to the bridgeplate or pickguard. It's a 'player grade' instrument, not investment quality in 'fine' condition. The same would apply to any other removable component (nut, saddle, tuners, frets, etc). Just keep them for sentimental reasons.

I especially recommend a new pickguard made of modern material (keep the old one in an archival/acid free envelope) attached using the same 3M double sided adhesive sheets sold by Stew-Mac that Mike Kolb mentioned in his reply (good stuff, 'eh Mike).  The MAJOR advantage being: as the top moves from age/humidity changes, the adhesive will allow the pickguard to 'float' above the top without warping. This is why all major manufacturers use this method.  Oh ya, and future replacements are a breeze.

Again, I submit these only for your consideration. Feel free to disagree or ignore.

I'm still looking forward to the pictures of the completed instrument :) No rush though. Good things always take (and are worth the) time.

Best of luck, Andrew :) 

Maybe showing my ignorance here but I have always thought that shaving a bridge was a stop gap measure to postpone a reset. If it's going to be done sooner or later anyway, why not do it now while everything else in being done and save having to replace the bridge AND do the reset later?  Any finish touch up involved in the reset can be incorporated in the general finish cleanup that's going to happen anyway and the guitar should be completely functional for a much longer period of time once everything is complete. When I see a shaved bridge, I see a lot more work in the future. 

In many cases the bridge is tall enough and the neck has moved as much as it ever will and planing down the bridge is all that it needs. I've planed many bridges over the years I can't think of one time where I later had to reset the neck.

You may be correct for the foreseeable future but what about the next generation? Guitars never stop moving in my experience, so that reset will come someday anyway, so I'm with Ned. You'll get the added benefit of being able to apply the steam through the bottom of the head block so the hole will be covered by the back. I'd seriously consider this guitars future value and leave the bridge alone.

If guitars never stop moving that would mean every guitar will eventually need a reset. A dovetail can only go so far unless it breaks. So that is just not true. I have customers that have been coming to me for well over 20yrs and the guitars that had bridges planed 10 to 20 yrs ago still play well.

A well made bridge -if that needed to to be done- would be virtually the same as the original to the point that it would be difficult or impossible to tell it wasn't original. An unlucky or poorly done neck reset could completely devalue a guitar. 

I do neck resets but only when they need to be done, in my opinion they are done too often. 

I guess we all have different experiences and different opinions.

When I wrote what I did, I was thinking about a mid '50s J45 that my brother and I had. It was the first really decent guitar we ever purchased and we had to have a bridge put on it before we could play it.

 It was a great "boomer" and we held on to it for a long time then regretted selling it when we let it go. The point is that we started using light strings on it when we first started playing it but later realized that it was a GREAT Bluegrass guitar with mediums. It didn't take long for the neck to move when we made this switch. It didn't move much but it DID move and continued to do so over the years.  

When we sold it the guitar was in need of a neck reset. Maybe, if we had continued running light strings it would not have needed it or maybe there was some other thing we did to this guitar that contributed to the cause.  I don't think we made the wrong choice but the choices we made seems to have contributed to moving that guitar down the road to a neck reset. Now maybe the bridge could be shaved but the bridge wasn't all that thick so I don't know how much support would have been left to hold the saddle upright.

To me, if there is ANY chance that the guitar will need a reset, now would be the time to do it.  Don't get me wrong, I don't underestimate the complexity of a reset but there is already so much to do that NOT doing the reset now would seem almost negligent to me. (opinions differ). It's like leaving the last paragraph out of that mystery novel. If everything else is being addressed, why not this too?

BTW, I do have one guitar that doesn't seem to have changed in setup in any way that I can tell. It's a fairly high end Japanese guitar that I've had for just over 30 years. It's spent more than half of that with low string tension as it sits in a case waiting for someone to play it. I noticed changes, over time, in all of my regular players and I take very good care of my players. I also accept that idea that wood moves and guitars need neck resets.  Again, just my opinion.

Its my understanding that it isnt the dovetail that moves, but rather the body changing shape and affecting the plane of the fingerboard in relation to the top/bridge as well as the height of the bridge in relation to that plane. If the dovetail itself was shifting then it would seem there would be more guitars in need of resets due to loose or poorly fitting necks, which is not usually the case in my experience.

The top is where the most movement occurs due to the many changes in moisture/temperature/string tension. That being said there are also changes in the body geometry and the neck itself to account for. Movement in the headblock is usually inconsequential unless the dovetail comes loose. I'll stand by my assessment regarding the reset because I can't count the many bridge replacements I've done due to shaving, when a reset was all that they needed.

I repair guitars for a living, The math would say that a neck reset would push an already expensive repair past what the guitar is worth. Slipping the back is probably a good alternative.

For the record I can talk a customer into a bridge plane for an extra $80 but I can't talk them into a $500 repair on a $500 instrument.

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