Good day gentlemen,
I am a Roberto-venn certified luthier and i have been performing repairs and building fretted and non-fretted stringed instruments For the last 4 years.
I have a tech friend who lost 120 guitars during the 2010 Nashville Floods. When we last met he offered me 4 Gibson Les Pauls And one taylor acoustic (i believe it is a 600 series) that had been destroyed in the flood. On the Les Pauls the Maple joinery has let go on every one from small to large gaps and in some cases the maple has let go of the mahogany to some degree. The ebony head laminates have come off. And there are some water stains in the maple ranging from 2-10 ( 10 being the worst). All the hardware had been removed before they came into my possession. I am looking at these instruments as an opportunity for some experience.i may have to dis-assemble and re-assemble, sand, I will have to paint/dye/stain, setup, level crown and polish frets, install electronics ext...
So i feel like i have a few options as far as restorations go and i am looking for some insight before i get started. It seems like i will be able to A) keep a few of the les pauls as close to les pauls as possible if getting the top rejoined and bleaching out the water stains goes over without any problems or B) Have a few les pauls that are not (visually) les pauls any more (dramatic color choices translucent or opaque) odd binding selections and maybe even a strip of wood to cover the small joinery gap if i choose not to dis-assemble.
As far as the Joinery goes. I feel like i have two options. Option 1) I can Heat up the tops and use a spreader to push the two pieces apart and off the mahogany AND THEN rejoin them. As you can imagine this offers up a bit of a problem. Depending on the amount of material i remove during the joinery process i may lose an acceptable tolerance for the hardware insert spacing. I thought i could possibly find a piece of wood or attractive binding scheme that wouldn't look awful in between the two pieces of maple to make up for the lost material....or maintain the tolerance if there is any and on top of that keeping the maple from warping terribly.
Also i would have to make custom binding to reach the outside edge of the mahogany...Or i can install regular binding and rout/sound the small remaining edge of mahogany down to it's new edge.
My main issue is that it feels like no matter which way i go i am going to be doing MORE HARM.
Option 2) I can simply plug/fill/dropfill/ the gaps of the joinery and then paint them as gold tops or opaque colors, pearls or flakes.i also considered routing a strip down the center and using an attractive piece of wood to fill it and using the same wood as the new binding. (might look nice) It just seems like such a tragedy to cover up these wonderful maple tops.
So if anyone has any suggestions or warnings i would love to hear them. I Wouldn't mind coming up with a few les pauls that were just radically different from the average with custom paint jobs and such but with the maple under them i don't know if i can call them legitimate restorations or just repairs for instruments that were devastatingly ruined.
Hey Bob, The cracks look small enough that a spline might do the trick. As to glueing back the caps to the body, I'm not sure of which glue was originally used, could effect the bond. Are the bodies straight? I'd try for transparent finish if it's possible. Great friend you have there. :)
Right!? And once i get these done there are more lined up. The bodies and necks are very perfectly straight surprisingly enough. I have been sifting through my maple scraps trying to find some similar or complementary figure for shims, but those gaps are so tiny...i would like it to be a flawless transition but it may be my best option... iv'e heard that they use titebond for the caps but the marine glue (resorcinol resin) for the neck pockets. I should get in contact with Gibson and verify.
Thanks for your input Eric. I appreciate it. If i can get em lookin good and wired up with some lollars i will be happy.=)
I've used veneer for splines, thinned where needed, with success on this size crack. Resorcinol in the neck pockets ??????????? Someone call a cop.
Okay, so why are these cracked? (I knows, flood damage.)
Are they cracked because of swelling, shrinkage, or because of shrinkage after swelling?
I'm mostly curious, I've never actually considered what the actual stress was that caused cracking, the combination of grain orientation, different species, etc.
They were floating around in the flood water For a day or so before pulled out. And then dried. So They Swelled like crazy and then they shrank. So that contraction is what pulled them apart i'm pretty sure. Oddly enough though they still are perfectly aligned at the pickup pockets and the hardware mounting locations as far as the maple lined up with the mahogany. Crazy.
Thanks for the response Mark! hope your having a good one!
Looks like you have your hands full, Bob. I have no usefull info for your Resto-project, but however, just wanted to comment on my sadness over the destruction of soooo many fine instruments and amps and gear in that Nashville flooding....That in itself is devastating, let alone how it affected so many people and their lives.
Good luck with bringing the guitars back to utility again.
The individual who lost these is truly one of the finest people walking the planet. A very hard working Guitar tech from Nashville. And actually before i was born my father was a luthier and this individual was his apprentice for a few years. Ever since he has been regarded as a great luthier and tech and one of the nicest people on the planet.....Besides the floods the only time i can recall seeing him showing signs of "hurt" was when my pops passed away...the flood was truly a tragedy.
He told me to just sell these off or keep them but just enjoy the journey of whichever i choose to do...i hope to return the best turnouts back to him. The acoustics he gave me will be the REAL challenge. But first the LP's
Thank you for you comment, it truly was a bad hand for such a cool city.
Those appear to have been guitars in process at the Gibson factory when the waters rose. None of the 'top shot's' you posted have pup mounting ring screw holes in the tops.
The penciled-in markings on the Std could be interpreted to mean" HS = Historic series & 58??? meaning the 'historic' year they were replicating. Overall, one of their very high end instruments.
You've gotten great advice from some super talented guys, so I'll only offer a suggestion for aesthetics:
BTW: as a player, I like your idea of an inlaid strip on the separated top plates ( a 1/2" wide inlay would be stunning) w/matching binding. Purpleheart or Redheart would look great with a Gretsch Orange transparent finish.! It would look amazing under stage lighting :)
Best of luck our new friend,
Bob, I would also agree with the centre strips. It sure would make life easier for this repair too. Whatever you end up doing, please keep this Forum in mind, and post lots of pictures ok?
We LOVE photoessays here, and this is a perfect place for it.
NO PROBLEM!!! i am looking forward to some insights and reflections on this chapter of repairs. Soon enough we will have some progress.
I Really appreciate your suggestions Paul ! I am totally unaware of what the "Strings & Things" conversions are..But i am excited to find out. And i am really glad to hear that you like the center strip option. I Like it as well. But I'm still torn. So i will do my own looking but please feel free to let me know more about this photo and the "strings & things" conversions and whats happening there.
Can't thank you enough. Have a good one bud!