1930s Gibson L0 restoration – Part I

Another great guitar has been dropped off.  This is the kind of guitar Robert Johnson would have been playing back in the 30s.  Lots of work required on it, as it’s 80 years old.

Lots of cracks to stabilise.

The bridge has really lifted.

This straight edge is flat against the fingerboard.  If you want any chance of a nice, low action, this should be level with the top of the bridge.  It’s much lower, so a neck reset will be the only way of getting a low action.

Step one was to remove the bridge.  The bridge was barely hanging on, so a little heat and a palette knife and it came right off with no problems.

This photo shows the extent to which the belly has bowed.  It has gone so far that it has also broken the bridge plate inside the guitar.  Removing and replacing this bridge should flatten the top to the point where a bridge can be fitted, and will make it more structurally sound.

A fold-out mirror nside the guitar means I can clearly see the old bridge plate.

This little jig helps me remove the plate.  I heat up this strip of metal and attach it to the jig.

With the heated plate clamped up like this, the bridge plate will heat up and soften the glue.

This sharpened coat hook will help me separate the plate.

Here you can see the tool is beginning to get inbetween the plate and the top.  It’s a slow and awkward job.

Here’s the old bridge plate removed.  No damage to the top, but you can see where a crack had formed accross the bridge plate made it come apart when removed.

This shot shows the inside of the guitar with the plate removed.

Here you can see I’m using magnets to hold the new plate in place while I do a final fit.  The new plate is larger so the extra surface area will force the top into a more flat shape.

While gluing up, I use a large flat piece of MDF as a clamping caul, which will aid in pulling the top flatter.

Now, when I place the old bridge on the flattened top, you can see how the bridge no longer fits.  It has been bent to the old shape of the guitar.

If I were to fit the bridge, I’d have to sand so much off the bottom that there would be almost no wood left in the “wings” of the bridge.  Since the old bridge had been planed down to allow more saddle to protude, I made the decision to make a new bridge.

The “originality” value had been lost by the work done to it, and there’s no point doing a neck reset for a lowered bridge.  The saddle needs at least half of it’s height to be in it’s slot, and a short bridge means a short saddle.  It won’t be long until the guitar would need another neck reset, so a new bridge and saddle is the best repair, and this will be covered in part II.