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Old 12-02-2020, 05:33 PM
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ArchtopLover ArchtopLover is offline
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Join Date: Sep 2020
Location: Blanchardville, Wisconsin
Posts: 110
Default Completing this Project

Over the past few weeks I have continued to make excellent progress and I have completed the repair of this wonderful vintage 1949 Epiphone Blackstone archtop.

Setting the Neck

Once the yellow glue had dried and the dovetail shims were trimmed, scrapped and carefully sanded, then carbon paper checked for an even fit, it was time to glue up, clamp and set the neck. For this application I have been using Stew-Mac fish glue for the past few years now. I am very happy with the performance of this adhesive. It has a nice long set-up time and this adhesive responds very well to steam-heat type of neck removal techniques once it has cured. It also wipes clean with a damp cloth.

The fish glue was applied to the dovetail joint contact surfaces only and not to any part of the neck heel or body of the guitar. One long quick bar-clamp was used to pull the neck heel into the body, and two smaller quick bar clamps were used to squeeze the dovetail into the joint. A neck-to-body alignment straight edge was taped to the side of the neck (along the binding edge) and to the body. This way I was 100% sure the neck was dead-straight to the center of the body while the glue set. I didn't take any photos of this step.

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Cleaning and Polishing the Top

Once the neck joint glue was cured overnight, it was time to clean and polish the top. This vintage Epi has a beautiful sunburst lacquer finish and my objective here, was to just clean it up and bring out the clarity and stunning grain pattern of the carved Adirondack Red Spruce top. I strongly believe that a vintage guitars original finish should be respected and all of the scratches,dings and dents be left alone (for the most part, bare wood being the exception). In other words I never overspray or apply heavy touch up. In this way I keep as much of the vintage aged character as possible. Only where there is significant bare wood showing, will I apply a light coat of finish.

To clean and polish the top I have found that a light, wet-sanding of the finish produces the most satisfying results. By keeping the 3M sanding pads wet (tap water and a drop of dish soap), and using a swirling motion by hand, using no power tools, removes the dirt, grime, dull and faded surface, without causing any damage. Note that I have placed cotton rags into both F holes to catch any drips.

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Profiling the Bridge Foot

Probably the most important detail involved in setting up an archtop acoustic guitar is making sure the string bridge foot is accurately and precisely profiled to match the curved shape of the sound board. In this case it was obvious the original bridge foot was only roughly profiled, and never got the sort of time and attention that really makes all the difference in volume, tone and sustain in these vintage archtops.

To begin, I located and marked the baseline position of string intonation using two pieces of masking tape placed at the farthest edge of the lower bout and then pencil marked the tape.

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Next, the bridge was disassembled and the bridge foot was mounted to my archtop bridge foot profiling alignment tool. Once this was done, the vertical alignment was set by adjusting the height of the roller-bearing contact bar to the soundboard top.

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Once the vertical alignment was set, I marked the bottom of the bridge foot with white pencil so that I can monitor and control the progress of wood being removed.

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Now that the foot has been prepared for profiling, I selected a coarse 80-grit sandpaper for the fist few passes. Using low-tack frog tape, the sandpaper was attached to the top, centered at the position of string intonation. The centerline of the body was marked at the top and the bottom positions of the sandpaper, as a visual indicator to make sure I have not veered off to one side or the other while sanding.

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Keeping the sanding strokes as short as possible, ideally no longer than the width of the bridge foot, the exact profile of the top was matched to the bottom of the foot in short order. Although not shown, this process was repeated two more times, once more with 150 grit and then finally with 220 grit sandpaper.

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Repairing Headstock Truss Rod Slot Damage

Next, the headstock needed some detailing. In the process of installing the new truss rod, wood was removed under the nut position while milling the truss rod slot. I installed the bone nut temporarily and then filled the damaged area behind the nut with a glue/ebony dust paste. Once this patch had cured, the defects were chiseled, filed and sanded roughly level. Note that I used a piece of teflon fret dam material behind the nut so that the patch would not stain the bone nut.

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After the major damage had been covered up with the wood-dust/glue paste filler, I used a combination of CA glue and black stain to fill, scrape, stain and then polish the area just behind the nut, keeping some scratches and minor defects in place so that the repair looks "vintage".

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Mounting the Trapeze Tailpiece

Now that the headstock truss rod slot damage was repaired I turned my attention to the bottom end of the guitar. Using a precision 2 degree tapered reamer I carefully reamed the end-pin hole and fitted a new bone endpin. I then reattached the repaired and modified original tailpiece to the tailblock. Although the tailpiece was repaired by the previous owner, I considered this repair a workable and acceptable alternative to a cheapo new Chinese made replacement. The hand-made brass tail hook is nicely made, with an aged dark patina that is not at all distracting from the vintage beauty of this instrument; so, for now, it stays put.

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String Up and Set Up

I chose a set of D'Addario PB mediums, 12-53's, strung up and set the intonation using a Korg electronic tuner. As can be seen in the photos the neck angle is slightly over-set. I am measuring about 1-3/16" for a bridge saddle height above the soundboard.

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Fabricating and Attaching the New Pickguard

Using the old replacement pickguard that came with the guitar as a profile template, I crafted a new, traditional style pickguard using the 0.090" brown tortoise material available from Stew-Mac. This stuff is very expensive, but it is a very good match to the pattern and look of 1930's single ply pickguards. I did not take any photos of the fabrication process. This could be a project for a repair thread maybe at a later time. Once the pickguard was finished I used 0000 steel wool and dulled the gloss finish. It looks more like a vintage aged part this way, rather than a shiny distraction.

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She Sings Again!!!

As I believe I have noted earlier, this is the first vintage Epiphone archtop I have owned. I have read a number of comments on this forum that have spoken about how extraordinary these instruments are and how spectacular they sound. Of course, until you actually play an instrument, it is always difficult to fully grasp another musicians ear for tone, projection, perceived loudness, etc. However, in a short few short words, this noise machine is everything I have read about and more. It is hard to explain how different it sounds from my room full of Gibsons. This Epi is loud, brassy, clear, with projection that is more like a punch in the face than the warm plush mellow sound my L-50s produce.

Enjoy the final photos. I'm still waiting for the new Carvin style truss rod cover plate from Kiesel Custom Guitars, but for now I'm making noise and loving the feel of the wonderful soft D shape neck and the ability to dial in perfect string action with a new 2-way truss rod.

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1949 Epiphone Blackstone repairs 11-25-2020 015.jpg

Last edited by ArchtopLover; 12-15-2020 at 10:15 AM. Reason: Nine image attachments at the beginning of the reply are broken and need to be replaced.
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