1930s Gibson L0 restoration – Part III

In part I and part II, I was working on the bridge and the top.  Now that I’ve got the top lower and the bridge higher, I can do the neck reset, knowing that I will be setting it at the correct angle, taking into account the changes I have made.

The frets are super low, and very worn.  They need replacing, so I’ll pull them first, which will make the separation of the fingerboard tongue easier.

This clever little heating blanket warms up the tongue, and I can separate it from the top using a palette knife.  Without the frets, the heating blanket is straight onto the wood, which means it heats up quicker.

The two holes drilled into the 15th fret allow the steam in and out of the dovetail joint.  The holes are smaller than the fret, so will be hidden once the fret job is complete.

The steam comes from an espresso machine!  It is delivered via a tube and a football pump adaptor.  This nifty jig allows me to push on the heel with a screw.  I can safely separate the dovetail joint in a slow and controlled manner, once the glue has sufficiently softened.

That doesn’t look right!  I think this has been done before.

I was right.  There’s no sign of the missing pieces of dovetail in the joint (phew!) and there’s two shims in the joint.  This neck has definitely been off before.  I’ve got a little cleaning up to do to get this joint as good as new.

With all the heat and steam, the fingerboard tongue can “curl up”, so it’s important to clamp it down to a flat piece of wood.  When it’s cool and dry, it will stay in it’s original flat position.  This saves me a headache when I’m trying to glue the fingerboard tongue back onto the top.

With the neck glued on, it’s time to do the fret job.  I’ve covered that at length in my blog, so I won’t repeat myself here.  I use the Erlewine Neck Jig, which recreates the tension of the strings on the neck.  Here I’m setting up the jig to level the frets.  It is an amazing tool, and as you can see, I’m so confident with it that I’m happy to put an eighty year old guitar in it.

I think you’ll agree that the guitar looks amazing with the new frets in. and the new bridge has turned out great, really authentic looking.   Once I’d lowered the saddle and set it up, it played like a brand new guitar and looked and sounded like a 30s guitar.  Exactly what we wanted!

The customer was delighted when he came to collect it.  I was sad to see it go.  It’s impossible to sound like Robert Johnson, but with this guitar it was the closest that I would get.