Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Gibson L-30, a love story

A few months ago a customer walked into my workshop with a very battered guitar. He'd found it in a landfill and it may have been there a while judging by its condition. The back was smashed, the top split but it was undeniably still a beauty. He'd already 'googled' it and knew what he had - a Gibson L-30 from 1938.

 He wanted a repair quote.
The back was in pieces with some sections missing, there were multiple splits in the carved spruce top, the bridge was missing. On the plus side, the neck hadn't been broken and it did have the original tuners (seized) and tailpiece.

I gave him an estimate at which he looked horrified - I could see a lot of hours spent on her. I enjoy jobs like this but I've got to make a living.
 He asked if I wanted to buy it, a price was fixed and he left it with me.

My plan was to do the work and sell her on, make a few dollars.
Now for the real fun - a proper assessment of what I had.

Bit of a mess.

I started by attaching the top braces using my 'go-bar deck' to clamp them.

 Then glue the splits in the top and support them with cleats.

Each piece of the back had to be glued and clamped in stages, a few inches at a time. Any more than this any there was an alignment problem.

By this stage I'd noticed I'd stopped thinking of her for sale on the internet and started picturing her in the corner of my living room. Funny that.
 The back sections took a lot of time to fit together. There was a missing back brace too.
 Slowly but surely.

For each join I added cleats to support it.

The back and sides are made of solid maple coloured to look like rosewood. The red/pink stain went on first and the darker colour after. The idea being to look through the brown to the red and create a deep rosewood colour.
 I had no intention of changing the lacquer at all, I like the old look, she's earned it. I ended up putting a very thin coat of shellac over the whole guitar to seal it and prevent the dried out finish flaking off any more.
 I chose a piece of maple to fill the hole left by the missing piece. It took a long time to carve the edge to marry it up with the two broken pieces but worth it.

So, do I stain the new piece or not? I decided against it. It felt more honest to leave the obvious repair. She'd been left for dead and then somehow survived - I'm happy for her to show the scars, its part of her history.

Now it was just a case of putting her together, un-seizing the tuners, making a bridge and setting her up.

I did take her home, she's become my number one guitar. We're doing our first gig together in July - though I suspect she's done a few in her time.


I am no longer repairing guitars - since covid 19 I now work full time making pickups