Repairs to 1963 Gretsch Country Club Guitar

August, 2016

(click any of the thumbnails for a higher-resolution photo)

I don't normally make a web page for repair jobs, but this one is sizeable, and I know folks like to see what I'm doing. This old Country Club was in bad shape. The bindings were rotted, and the hardware was corroded and tarnished. Putting this old boy back into service is going took lot of patience.

Construction Photos

The first step in the process is to remove all the hardware and electronics -- a lot of it, in this case. I'd expected the rotten binding to release easily, but this isn't the case (welcome to the world of repair). Although it's crumbling at the edges, the glue is still holding tight, the the binding doesn't have enough integrity to allow any sort of continuous release. The edges of the guitar are already badly stained, possibly from the release of chemicals from the deteriorating bindings, but I don't want to add any more staining during my repairs. The cleaned binding ledge is given a coat of vinyl sealer to prevent glue and finish from wicking into the wood beneath the finish. Removing the neck heel cap reveals a very poor-fitting joint, which I repair with a two-part wood filler.

I'm waiting for binding for the body -- a larger size than I normally stock is required -- so I begin work on the neck and headstock. The inner plies of the fretboard binding must be fitted over the protruding frets. An ingenious tool called a glue looper allows me to apply glue with pinpoint accuracy. Binding tape holds the binding and purfling as the glue dries. The bindings are scraped level with the fretboard and neck. I've made a scraper with both a "safe" section and a "cutting" section that allows me to scrape level with the finish without damaging it. The body bindings are taped in place, and then the glue looper is again used to wick thin glue into the spaces between the tape.

Then the tape is removed, and glue is wicked into those spaces to complete the gluing process. The binding is scraped level with the finish. A scraper with a "safe" edge works to a point, then it's precise detail work by eye and by feel; the bindings must be scraped level with the finish, but not below. As we would say here in Appalachia, this is a teejus job. The new bindings are lightly stained so that they don't look starkly new against the rest of this vintage instrument. Here I'm checking the tint against a piece of the old binding. The fretboard and body holes are masked off, and finish is applied to the rebound edges. A number of coats will be required, with adequate curing time and sanding between coats. As the finish is gradually built up on the bindings, it's carefully blended into the existing finish.

When the finish is rubbed out and blended into the original, I begin reassembling the many -- many -- parts of this guitar. The frets are dressed and polished, a new nut is fashioned, and new strings are installed, and this old gentleman has received a new lease on life.

Thanks for watching this project

All content and graphics © Skipper Custom Instruments