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.
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.
Gibson’s EM-150 is an electric mandolin that was introduced at the outset of Gibson’s Electric instrument production, back in 1936. It was offered alongside the ES-150 guitar, EH-150 Steel, and ERB-150 banjos and was originally fitted with a “Charlie Christian” style pickup. The design of the EM-150 evolved similarly to the ES-150 guitar, and by the late 1940s was built with a P-90 pickup and plywood maple body.
This example is one of 51 built in 1962. The EM-150’s highest production years were 1953 and 1954, when 158 were built in each year. In total, about 1950 EM-150s were built during the model’s post-WWII production run.
This particular instrument has sold.
Designed by Folkway’s Mark Stutman and released as a 24 guitar limited production model, the 0002H Custom Traditional is Collings’ first Traditional Series 12-fret 000, and an exact recreation of the guitar Mark spec’d for 3-time Grammy winner Joe Henry.
Check out our listing for the right-handed version here.
Check out our listing for the left-handed version here.
Pre-WWII left-handed Gibsons are phenomenally rare, but they do exist! Here’s a look at a few that are currently at Folkway.
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…
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.
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)
Mark guides us on a casual and impromptu tour of four 1940’s Gibson J-35s that are all at the shop at the same time. The differences and the similarities between these four guitars are pointed out and discussed. The guitars were all built by Gibson in 1940, 1941, and 1942.
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.
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.
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.
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!
In this video Mark discusses some of the unique construction details of an early sunburst 14 fret L-00 from 1933. An L-00 isn’t just an L-00… there’s always more than meets the eye!
A clean brace reglue is all about taking the time to set things up precisely. Gibson brace ends are notorious for popping loose, and getting them back down again can take some real coaxing.
In the case of this early ’50s J-45, the shrinking pickguard had cupped the top so badly that the upper soundhole brace, X brace, and a finger brace were all loose from the top and tightly sprung. The pickguard was removed, the top ‘ironed’ flat, and the braces are now getting reglued one-by-one.
It’s not uncommon to need to make custom brace-end gluing cauls that are specific to the guitar being worked on. It’s a lot of extra work, but a well-fit caul is critical to a clean end-result and a repair that will hold in the long run.