In order to properly fix an open crack, or center-seam that stubbornly doesn’t close up enough when humidified (as was the case with this 1930 Gibson L2) I like to use a modified version of TJ_Thompson’s Top Crack Corrector Kit.

The kit is designed for Martin guitars, which are built with flat tops; but Gibsons are built with domed tops, so using TJ’s Martin-specific FLAT gluing cauls on a NOT-FLAT Gibson can cause unintended damage.  However, TJ’s cleat design and repair process work really well at swelling an open crack closed and locking it in place all while keeping the crack perfectly aligned, so I devised this hack to be able to use the cleats on a radius-topped Gibson.

Photo 1. Mapping the top braces and measuring the top’s radius.  The radius gauges were designed by me and are manufactured by Lewis at @eastcityguitarco (you need these if you work on Gibsons and other radius-topped guitars).

Radiused Top Guitar Crack Repair Hack



Photo 2. 12.5’ radius block roughed out.  This will become the inner caul.

Radiused Top Guitar Crack Repair Hack


Photo 3 – 5. Marking and cutting the caul with the brace positions and dimensions.

Radiused Top Guitar Crack Repair Hack

Radiused Top Guitar Crack Repair Hack

Radiused Top Guitar Crack Repair Hack


Photo 6. Adding the TJ-made cleat holder and cleat stock. The stock is genius in design with its semi-cylindrical cut and double-rift grain orientation.  The cleats are light and can be oriented parallel with the top’s grain without causing other issues.

Radiused Top Guitar Crack Repair Hack


Photo 7. NeoD magnets are used to locate the caul while working blindly inside the guitar.  The magnets are strong enough to keep everything in place while you position the clamps.

Radiused Top Guitar Crack Repair Hack


Photo 8. All clamped up.  The crack is glued and the cleats are applied simultaneously.  The system is designed to be used with hide glue, which is fabulous at swelling wood and then shrinking everything tightly together.

Radiused Top Guitar Crack Repair Hack


Photos 9 and 10. The finished product.  Tightly closed and level.

Radiused Top Guitar Crack Repair Hack


Radiused Top Guitar Crack Repair Hack

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1940-1942 were transitional years for Gibson’s Jumbos, with specs changing rapidly.  These J-35s are very unique, and come in many variants.  They each have their own sound and are therefore difficult to compare on equal ground.   I had this wonderfully clean and original 1941 Gibson J-35 on the bench that is an excellent example of its kind.

Photo 1.  The natural finished 1941 body.

1941 Gibson J-35

Photo 2.  1930s-style sawn neck pocket.  Look closely and you can see the model name pencilled on the side right next to the mortise.
1941 Gibson J-35
Photo 3. Lacquered bridge with drop in saddle. The saddles on Gibsons were always glued in place, even the drop-ins, right up until the adjustable bridges came along in the mid/late 1950s.
1941 Gibson J-35 bridge & saddle
Photo 4.  Lacquered over ebony nut.  The Ebony nut was standard on the J-35 and L-00 models.  They have this shape from around 1935 until 1942, thereabouts.
1941 Gibson J-35 ebony nut
Photo 5.  Transitional ‘scalloped’ 2 bar bracing.  When Gibson went to a 2 tone bar design they tightened up the X brace angle, used a larger bridge plate, and shorter braces.  The top thickness appears to have been increased as well.  Notice the single finger braces, as well.
1941 Gibson J-35 bracing
Photo 6.  Banner 1944 Bracing, for comparison.  Notice the wider X, smaller plate (just like on a 3 tone bar J-35, and on post war J-45s), as well as taller and more robust braces.
Interested in learning more about Gibson J-35s from this era?  Check out this post we shared about a 1940 Gibson J-35 
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We’ve had a number of requests for more photos of the black 1940 L-00, so here is a little photo-essay for you.

All told, this was a “normal” old Gibson restoration… but with a twist. There’s been no finish repair, no cleaning of the original finish, and the neck set was done with the original fretboard and saddle untouched. Our customer requested that the guitar look exactly as found, but made functional. It was a fun job.

Body of a 1940 Gibson L-00 guitar in restoration

The guitar had the following work done:

– neck reset
– first 8 frets replaced with reclaimed fretwire from a 1941 J-35 (unworn upper frets from the J-35 become the lower frets on the recipient – we keep all of our old fretwire!). The fingerboard patina was untouched, no grime removed, no sanding etc.
– pickguard was partially reglued
– bridge was removed, top reshaped (with custom made Gibson top shapers from TJ Thompson’s Pro Luthier Tools)
– bridge bottom was reshaped /unwarped and reglued
– numerous back cracks were glued
– major side cracks were aligned and glued
– side puncture was repaired
– nut and saddle slots were rebuilt
– treble side tuner buttons were replaced with buttons salvaged from other 40’s Klusons
– tuning machines were restored

Images of the 'firestripe' pickguard and fretboard extension on a 1940 Gibson L-00 guitar in restoration Images of the neckjoint on a 1940 Gibson L-00 guitar in restoration Images of the tuners and headstock on a 1940 Gibson L-00 guitar in restoration Images of the binding and body on a 1940 Gibson L-00 guitar in restoration Images of the fretboard on a 1940 Gibson L-00 guitar in restoration

This is a client’s guitar and is not available for sale.  

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Q:  What do you get when you put three 6119s together?

A:  18,357


But, yeah, this is pretty cool.  The single pickup Gretsch 6119 Chet Atkins Tennessean was introduced in 1958 and existed for about a year before the model was revamped into the Tennessean we’re more familiar with (ie George Harrison’s guitar).

The single pickup 6119 is a rare bird, and having three of them in one place likely won’t happen around here again!

Essentially a dressed-down 6120 Chet Atkins hollowbody with a single pickup, these early 6119s feature the same trestle-braced body, PAF Filter’Tron, neck dimensions, and hardware as the fancier 6120.  Kind of like the Les Paul Jr is to the Special.

All three of these guitars were shipped in 1960 (as almost all one-pickup 6119s were).  Notice the color variation.  It’s not UV exposure, but differences in the color of the original finish.  Strange stuff!

Great guitars, fun picture to take!

Three 1960 Gretsch 6119 vintage electric guitars.
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A structural issue we often discover on instruments that have had a bridge reglue in the past is a separation of the X brace and top directly under the bridge wing. This can happen as a result of the heat that’s used to remove a bridge, or can happen from improper clamping when the bridge is reglued. It’s easy to miss, but can spell eventual top collapse if it’s not fixed.

This ‘37 J-35 is a perfect example if this issue. It’s flawless inside except for one sneaky loose section of X brace right under the bass side bridge wing. The challenge with this otherwise simple glue up is that the clamp landed right at the seam of the slope of the bridge wing and the top, and there was no good way to to safely clamp.

Showing a loose brace under the bridge on a 30's Gibson guitar

This wing/top caul took 10 minutes to make, and ensures a safe and accurate glue up. The notched caul on the brace itself is cut to fit snugly over the brace and is specifically made for 30’s Gibsons, which I work on a lot.  It’s drilled on the back side to index with a Stewart MacDonald clamp, and it’s small enough to allow for easy clean-up of glue squeeze out.

When gluing a loose brace you get one chance to fix it properly.  It’s never guaranteed to hold if the repair fails and you have to glue it again, so it’s worth the extra time to give it its best chance of holding tight.

Showing a caul used to glue loose braces under the bridge on a 30's Gibson guitarShowing a caul used to glue loose braces under the bridge on a 30's Gibson guitar

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Pre-WWII left-handed Gibsons are phenomenally rare, but they do exist! Here’s a look at a few that are currently at Folkway.

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Ever wonder what those plastic bridges that Gibson used in the early 60s were all about? Most Gibson flat top acoustics built in 1962 and 1963 had this style of injection-moulded plastic bridge with adjustable ceramic insert, but perhaps you’ve not seen one of them up close and personal…

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I love it when a plan comes together.

This 1940 Gibson J-35 needed the usual repairs to get it up and running perfectly – reset, refret, pickguard reglue, new nut, saddle, pins, etc.

It’s unique feature is that the bridge and fingerboard are made of what looks to be Cuban mahogany rather than rosewood, and I knew it would be hard to match the patina, colour, and wear-patterns if I were to sand the fretboard at all during the refret.  Like a maple-board fender, the trick was to do the levelling on the frets instead of the wood.  That’s routine work in our shop, but setting the neck without the safety-net of being able to tweak the neck angle with a refret is always a fun challenge.

Some guitars are cooperative, others less so, but this guitar seemed pleased to do its part in helping things go smoothly.

1940 Gibson J-35 guitar

1940 Gibson J-35 guitar

1940 Gibson J-35 guitar




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Left-Handed matched set: 1935 Gibson L-00 guitar and 1935 Gibson F-7 Mandolin

No, it’s not a reversed photo.  It’s a pair of Left-Handed Gibsons that were both built in 1935 and originally sold through Beare & Son in Toronto.

Prewar Gibson lefties are exceptionally rare, as you might imagine.  This is the only lefty F-Style Mandolin we’ve ever seen, and the L-00 is one of two we’ve ever encountered.  To have both in the shop at the same time is epic for us lefties.

These instruments were individually brought to our shop recently for consignment by their local custodians, each of whom are related to the original left-handed owners. They are now both listed for sale on our site.

1935 Lefty Gibson F-7 

1935 Lefty Gibson L-00

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Presented by the Old Town School of Folk Music

Join Fretboard Journal‘s Jason Verlinde and acclaimed luthiers TJ Thompson (Pro Luthier Tools) and Mark Stutman (Folkway Music) for this informative class on the care, feeding and collecting of vintage acoustic guitars.

Over the course of this discussion, Mark and TJ will discuss variations between pre-war and collectible Martins and Gibsons, some of the most common issues they find on their repair benches and how to avoid them. We’ll talk about restoration work, neck resets, proper storage and shipping. At the end of the class, we’ll field questions from the audience on the buying, selling and preserving of these unique instruments.

08/12/2021 (1 meeting)
Thursday · 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM (Central)

Details and Registration HERE

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Mark tours us through an incredibly rare Gibson-made Recording King 807 from 1930.

Built for Montgomery-Ward, the 807 is essentially a Gibson Nick Lucas Special with different appointments. This model wasn’t produced in significant numbers and very few remain in existence today.

Mark has just finished an interesting restoration to this guitar and describes the steps involved in detail.

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Mark shows the process of gluing a hard-to-reach back crack in a ‘32 Gibson L-00 using a cleat system designed and marketed by TJ Thompson.

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Your guitar’s X brace is a crucial part of the top’s support system. An X that is loose in front of the lap-joint can promote a spectacular top failure, so it’s best to check on it every now and then, particularly on a 12 fret Gibson flat-top from the 1930s like this 1932 L-00.

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Here’s the 1940s Regal X brace conversion that I finished up earlier this winter. I’ve finally managed to convince my daughter to let me take it back!

The guitar started as a ladder-braced instrument with Regal’s ‘Small Jumbo’ body that measures 15.5″ at the lower bout and has a fairly deep body depth. It’s a good-looking guitar but needed much repair to its original bracing, bridgeplate, bridge, and top, so was a good candidate for an x-brace conversion experiment.

The guitar’s neck and top and were pulled and all the top’s braces were removed. The top was originally about 1/8″ thick, so I opted to thin it to more of an early 30’s spec, and ended up at about .105″. After gluing a few top cracks, loose sections of back braces, and a couple of back and side cracks, I carved away all the excess back brace spruce to open up the back’s tone.

The top was braced similarly to a ’31 Martin OM, complete with early 30’s shaped scalloped Sitka braces and tiny stiff maple bridge plate. Some modifications were made to the layout to accommodate the guitar’s 000 scale length of 24.9″.

The top was reinstalled with its original binding and without any finish repair or touch-up. The bridge is a 1930’s proportioned small rectangle with through-cut bone saddle, 2-1/4″ string spacing and Antique Acoustic unslotted style 28 pins.

The frets and nut are new, and the guitar plays easily. The original Kluson tuners work well and are fitted with new Antique Acoustic buttons.

The guitar has a lightly-built tone, with lovely openness and warmth in its bases, strong and clean mid-range and trebles that are well balanced. The overall voice is something of a J-45 meets 000-18 and is quite unique among the vintage instruments that we have in stock. The neck has a round, chunky, almost-Banner-Gibson feel, with a 12″ fretboard radius, rolled edges, and a 1-3/4″ nut.

In the end, I discovered that converting ladder braced guitars to X braced guitars is something I won’t do with any regularity, as attending to the details the way I’ve become accustomed to in vintage instrument restoration is simply too cost-prohibitive. As a hobby, sure, it’s a great way to spend one’s time – but as a job, doing a conversion with the care and attention to detail that a pretty old guitar like this deserves is simply not a viable way to make a living! Still, this was a fun and worthwhile undertaking, and certainly a great distraction from the wintertime Covid blues!

Headstock of 1940's Regal guitar after X-brace conversion 1940's Regal guitar after X-brace conversion Routing the dovetail of a 1940's Regal guitar during X-brace conversion and neck set. Inside braces of 1940's Regal guitar after X-brace conversion

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