Work Shots on 1850s Guitar

Here are a few shots of an 1850s gut-strung guitar (probably German) that I'm working on. This first shot is of the guitar, all clamped up this morning -- glued it up yesterday and so everything's all set, now.

So, what's going on here? 1. Bridge reglue 2. Seam separation reglues on the back 3. Headstock seam repair (headstock is separate from neck and had two hairlines that are also gluing at the same time) 4. Cleats on soundboard hairline below and above bridge (little grey circles are magnets holding holly cleats in place under the top).

This StewMac bridge regluing jig helps a lot, but sometimes you need to shim it a little bit on odd-shaped bridges like this triangular-wedge shaped old bridge.

Seam repairs: note that the end pin is broken off inside -- I'll be drilling that out and fitting a new one.

Big old clamp on the headstock worked wonders.

...starting the fret dress -- they're all level, now.

And now I'm using my 3-corner file to bevel the fret tops. This is really the only way to do work on old frets like this. The modern "fret files" that bevel the top are all too large for lower and smaller vintage frets.

Here are some all done.

To lower the action and provide (more) correct intonation I have to cut the bridge edge slightly. The "wedge" of the bridge also extends up above the fret saddle -- which is peculiar -- so that would have needed to be addressed anyhow.

Here I've cut the top down and shaped it loosely. Like many old bridges, this one is ebonized maple, so when you cut it you have to recolor it to match.

And here's the finished bridge! Fret saddle back in place and I've re-ebonized the top, as well as polished it up slightly. I "distressed" it a bit to look a little more natural.


Anonymous said...


These "action" shots are just an awesome insight into luthiery repair. Can't get enough. Thank for taking the time and for allowing us into your workshop.


tpfliss said...

Thanks Jake,

I just started reading 'Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology' and these photos really illustrate a lot of the techniques in the book. It's fascinating looking at the jigs in action.

Antebellum Instruments said...

Ben: Thanks for appreciating it... usually by the time I get around to doing photos the stuff is all done!! I couldn't help but want to take pics of this guitar, though, as everything was going on all at once... ie, the most typical repairs -- bridge glue, seam glue, crack glues, setup, etc...

Fliss: There's loads of different ways to make eggs but I tend to like the more traditional ones best. If you're intent on building a guitar -- do yourself a favor and invest in 30 or so of those cello side clamps (about $90) -- they make life really easy. The bridge regluing jig is also quite a timesaver. I had several different wooden jigs I made and was using that just shimmed up to proper heights but this one is super convenient with the extra down-pressure on the bridge wings. I really like it.

matt said...

Neat! Thanks for posting the behind the scenes look.