Gibson ES125 Restoration

Here is an other project I have in mind since a while now. This Gibson is from 1955, no serial number but a FON for Factory Order Number who start by a « W ». Someone tried to fix it previously and did a bad job. The table started to sink and the fix was to put a piece of wood inside between the back and the table to hold it in place. Also the back and the soundboard start to crack and be unglued with the  binding.

I decided after watching some videos on You-Tube to start this project…. I know this is crazy, it is a Gibson, and I know this guitar sounds amazing. The neck is awesome to play. My main question is about the finish, should I get rid of that old crack finish and put a french polishing on it with Shellac ??? Some we’ll say NOOOO don’t touch that old finish, but what I am going to do after installing the new binding to match that old finish, Mission Impossible !!!

I start by taking the binding of the guitar. The binding came pretty easily, as you can see on those pictures there is a gap, I was able to put the knife in and cut all the way.

After removing the binding  I use the same razor blade to cut the glue between the back and the side, that was not too hard.

Ouf nothing bad happen !!! now I can see inside the guitar, a lot of dust accumulate since 1955 !

Now I can see why the table started to sink. As you can see on those pictures there is only two braces on each side and both was not glue on their end with the table.

I read you can apply a damp clothe on the table and put some weight on it to try to give the table his original shape…

 

I spend a lot of time cleaning and taking off the old dried glue.

I took the binding off the soundboard and try to clean with the knife, I did not take the entire table off, I could not do that because I did not want to remove the neck and make a mess where the bottom of the fret board is glued on the table. After a good clean I glue the soundboard with the side and then did the same thing with the back using Titebond III wood glue and let it dry for 24 hours.

 

I receive the binding, and it looks similar to the old one, a bit less yellow. The glue is a really strong glue, not as super-glue but close, it dries quickly. I installed the new binding and dry fit before start using the glue.

After dry fitting the binding, I cut a lot of blue tape pieces and start gluing…

When I removed the blue tape some of the old clear coat or finish came with… And I also realize there is a gap between the inside of the binding and the back maybe 1mm…

I think I am going to sand that old varnish anyway, I will have to sand to flush everything before applying any finish.  Also sand the neck, I know this is crazy talking, but too late….

I ordered some spray can from Stew Mac, they have the right color to do the sunburst in Nitrocellulose lacquer and I also get 5 spray can of clear lacquer.

It took me a while to apply the color and clear, here it is really humid in florida, and I don’t have a spray booth so everything is done in my garage.

I gave a try and I realize that the edge on the soundboard was really dark, and the transition with the side was not the best, I decided to put some tobacco brown on a side and try the sunburst on the neck and back.

After I was done with the color I applies the clear, let it dry for 2 weeks and then start wet sanding 800, 1000, 1500 and finish with a 2000 grit. then it was ready for the polishing buffing.

And finally after a month and a lot of drying and curing time I put everything together.
I was really anxious to try the guitar after she was redone, I was thinking maybe the sound is going to be really different and I may have to spend a lot of time to set it perfectly. But after all she sound great, I didn’t change the string in 4 1/2 years so hard to tell , but without plug it in an amplifier, the sound is clear, it seems there is more volume which will be normal I guess. I had the opportunity to plug it in the same amp I have in France a Fender ProReverbAmp, and yes she sounds awesome.

Now some will say I should not touch the original Finnish! But changing the binding was necessary and I could not think of any good solution. I am pleased with the result of the sunburst. And after all it is a Nitrocellulose finish, so with the time it will start to crack…

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