Advice on replacing Gibson J-45 top (stepped on)

Discussion in 'Restoration & Repair' started by Wayne Hickman, Dec 24, 2015.

  1. Wayne Hickman

    Wayne Hickman New Member

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    Hi. My name is Wayne and this is my first post to this forum. This is my first time restoring a guitar but I've been woodworking as a hobby all my life.

    I've recently acquired a Gibson J-45 from someone that stepped on the top and crushed it. It was free to me and I don't want to spend a ton of money restoring it to factory original but I do want to stabilize it so that it plays well - regardless of cosmetics. Gibson wanted $2700 to fix it which is out of the question.

    My two options are 1) replace the crushed top with a new top and bracing, or 2) remove the crushed top, replace the broken bracing and glue the rest of the top together best that I can and put it back on there.

    Does anyone know where I can get a replacement top with backing? Even a blank would do as I'm confident that I could trace the old top onto a new blank and cut it to fit. It's not necessary to match the sunburst paint.

    Also, what is the best way to get the old top off. Do I need to remove the binding? Shall I apply heat to loosen the old glue? And do you think I need to find some hide glue for the repair or is my woodworking glue OK?

    Here are some pics of my guitar. Please look away if you are squeamish.:ohno:

    Any advice is appreciated. Just looking to have some fun with this rebuild and do it on the cheap and would like to do it myself if possible to keep the costs down.

    Thanks,Wayne
     

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  2. Duplex Dave

    Duplex Dave Active Member

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    That's a really daunting task, even for the most experienced luthiers. Your first step would be to remove the neck and plan on doing a neck reset after the new top is installed. Ideally you would want to put the guitar in a mold at some point before installing the new top to keep the sides from springing away from the original shape. It looks like you have some side to tail block issues as well, a mold would help this. With the neck off the body you can trace a new top onto your un-braced replacement top or make a template. Then you would remove the top binding to expose the top to kerfing joint that needs to separate (this is why you need the neck off). Using a clothes iron you can heat and remove the top with a thin spatula. If the guitar is not in a mold you will want to install your new top asap to keep the shape intact.

    That's just a rough outline. There are sooo many other things involved from kerfing repair and replacement to bracing a new top correctly. The ends of the braces have to fit into the existing notches of the kerfing, the top arch needs to be matched, soundhole and center line need to fall into place. You will also need to re-bind the body and install perfling and on top of all that set a dovetail neck joint to the proper angle. And do something for a rosette.

    I don't think there are any braced tops available as an aftermarket product but you can do a search. The closest thing you may find is a rough top already jointed without a soundhole.

    The quote from Gibson is not that bad. I would break that down into $1500-$2000 for the top repo and rebind, $500 for the neck reset and the remainder for finish and set up fees.
     
  3. fumblefinger

    fumblefinger Member

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  4. B. Howard

    B. Howard New Member

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    Depends on lot's of things....Do you have the missing piece of top? If so I would likely pull the back and keep what's left of the top connected to the rims as best as possible. This also allows for the neck joint to be left intact which will need to be undone to replace the top in it's entirety. Making a new top is an even more daunting task than repairing this one....

    While this old Guild was in better overall shape it had also been stepped on and then badly repaired. Here is how I went about the task of making proper repairs.Brian Howard's guitar building & repair blog: Opening the soundbox for major repairs
     
  5. CatonGuitars

    CatonGuitars Member

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    IMO even if you have the pieces of the top I would suggest a full top replacement on this guitar. The top has split perpendicular on the front edge of the bridge. This is all fixable but that break can cause issue after issue even after repaired. You can do tricks like a bigger/thicker bridge plate, heavy bracing, maybe even a slightly bigger bridge that lays over it a bit and a few other things come to mind. But I would just rather replace the top then to risk having to deal with that in the future. Plus there is no way you are going to get away with not having to reset the neck. That neck has to come off.

    If you must keep the original top I would pull the neck, put the box in a temporary mold, then pull the top so that it can be rebuild off of the box, fix whatever needs fixed on the rims, re-glue the top, do the binding & finish work, re-glue the bridge, and then set the neck.

    Either way this repair is gone about, it is not a small task. There are plenty of professional "luthiers" that wouldn't do this correctly.
     
  6. Adam

    Adam Well-Known Member

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    Or do it at all :lol:
     
  7. CatonGuitars

    CatonGuitars Member

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    Good point! Hope you really like the guitar. This is a lot of work that will not be cheep.
     

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