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Gibson les paul custom repair


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So my old teacher got in touch with me a couple of months ago, apparently he'd been following my builds on my facebook page :) taught me from about 97 - 2005. He had a 1990 cherry custom, gold hardware. Stunning les paul and I always wanted one - it had that plays itself action that some les pauls do, well out of price range of a teenager though. Anyway he got in touch because he had recently taken it to a luthier for a refret. The guy had it for months and went off the radar, when he finally got it back it looks like this. So he asked if there was anything could do to make it playable again.

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My initial stance was that I don't really do repairs so he got in touch with a few other luthiers. No one wanted to touch it, even my most trusted repair man wasn't interested so I told him to bring it round so I can have a proper look

He paid for a premium refret and it's had the binding sawn through, file marks all over the neck and binding, only about half of the frets are actually down so levelled to the point that the high ones had almost no crown, razor sharp fret ends and well it's just unplayable. It's also covered in new dents, nasty ones - apparently the bloke and an accident in his shop and a load of cases fell on him 🤷🏻‍♂️  including this one... A couple of inlays have been sanded through too.

So I've said I'll make it playable for him. We did talk about binding replacement and replacing warn inlays but it feels like going to far, this guitar has either been used for lessons or gigged practically every day for 30 years which is why the neck has no lacquer on it

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Headstock is still in one piece though 😆

So I started by whipping the dreadful frets out, yeah.. more like 2 hours of carefully lifting out with a soldering iron because they were epoxied in. There were no extra chips, but in places there were these thick lines, of epoxy between the board and the high frets, so I carefully removed what I could with a sharp chisel, then spot sanded all the dodgy high areas because I want to do as little of levelling the fretboard as possible given that 19 and 21st inlays have already been sanded through. The 12th fret inlay looks to be paper thin and the dark ebony is showing through it. 

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Once I got all the frets out, I had the neck pickup out to be nosey. Tenon does not reach the neck pickup route on this one and to my amazement, look how thin the top is. The break angle isn't as extreme as my mate Ollie's black beauty either so there were clearly some major design changes between the BB from 1987 and this from 1990.

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I cleaned as much of the glue and crud as I could off the binding then made some new binding/acetone putty mix. I've never tried that before so this was a live experiment, it really works! The original binding is white under nitro and has 30 years of yellowing so I need to do something with colour matching, however the previous butcher sanded all of the finish off the freboard binding so it's currently almost white (I did get some white and ivory coloured binding to get the closest match but this binding was clearly white originally)

I let the acetone soften up the binding for a good hour or so, then filled all the fret slots using a cocktail stick to push it in the gap. Once filled it was pretty hard again within half an hour but I left it over night.

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Then I carefully went at it with a razor to remove the excess (again, so there is minimal sanding of the fretboard). You can see here what I mean about the wafer thin 12th inlay.

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Now you can see the side I've scraped and the one I haven't.

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There are a couple of spots on the sides that will require an extra application, but it was at this point I realised I'm in business with this method.

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I'm going to get the top of the binding perfectly level prior to fret installation, but not going to go mad getting the binding level on the sides until the frets are in so I can file everything level at once to minimise material loss.

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1 hour ago, ADFinlayson said:

he had recently taken it to a luthier for a refret.

Are you sure there isn't a misspelling? Looks rather like taken care by a butcher!

There was a similar case here in '14, a new acquaintance claiming to be a luthier took a 40+ yo Yamaha SG for refret and some pickup maintenance at a very reasonable price of 60€. The end result was not only a poorly done fret job, the guy had also sanded the guitar to bare wood and repainted it - and asked for 100€ extra! The finish is horrible, either the sanding has been left to 80 grit or the paint has been applied by a brush - or both. The bill in the images is from a real luthier who restored the guitar into a playing condition.

Diluting binding into acetone for a putty is a clever trick!

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@ADFinlayson, you're doing a great job. I could do better than that "luthier".

Not only did he not trim the fret tang to give clearance for the binding, but he glued it in. What  trained and experienced luthier glues frets in?

If that luthier is not busy, I have a side of beef I would like cut to order.

Ron

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On 10/4/2020 at 1:11 PM, Bizman62 said:

Are you sure there isn't a misspelling? Looks rather like taken care by a butcher!

There was a similar case here in '14, a new acquaintance claiming to be a luthier took a 40+ yo Yamaha SG for refret and some pickup maintenance at a very reasonable price of 60€. The end result was not only a poorly done fret job, the guy had also sanded the guitar to bare wood and repainted it - and asked for 100€ extra! The finish is horrible, either the sanding has been left to 80 grit or the paint has been applied by a brush - or both. The bill in the images is from a real luthier who restored the guitar into a playing condition.

Diluting binding into acetone for a putty is a clever trick!

Christ, 600 euros for that butchery! I can't imagine why A refret would turn into a refinish, refinishing is the last thing I would want to do to a guitar.

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As I said, the 600 € bill was for fixing the butchery to something that the owner could look at without getting sick. Actuallyan estimate/offer, not a final bill. The butcher was Sebastian Wood Guitars/Juha Paldanius which is fair to announce since the guy had said he'd like to get publicity for his work.

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37 minutes ago, Bizman62 said:

As I said, the 600 € bill was for fixing the butchery to something that the owner could look at without getting sick. Actuallyan estimate/offer, not a final bill. The butcher was Sebastian Wood Guitars/Juha Paldanius which is fair to announce since the guy had said he'd like to get publicity for his work.

Ah I see, I misread, 60 euros, well there is a degree of getting what you pay for. In this case, Pete (les paul owner) paid just shy of £300 for a refret. He did tell me the name of the luthier that did the work but I won't name and shame because that's not me and I've only heard one side of the story. Pete will no doubt tell his students who it was that rescued it so that's enough for me. Besides, I've got to successfully rescue it yet. 

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On 10/4/2020 at 8:37 AM, RonMay said:

What  trained and experienced luthier glues frets in?

While it was butchered, gluing frets is pretty common. Mostly for insurance along with the tangs.

Doing a great job Ash! That 12th fret is BEGGING for something awesome.....

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1 hour ago, komodo said:

While it was butchered, gluing frets is pretty common. Mostly for insurance along with the tangs.

Doing a great job Ash! That 12th fret is BEGGING for something awesome.....

@RonMay Yep a couple of drops to fill the gaps is a good idea, especially between the underside of crown and the binding, last thing you want is a gap at the fret ends

Jeff, as tempting as it is, there will be no custom inlays at the 12 😆  we're going for a repair sympathetic to the condition 

 

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