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  #1  
Old 08-29-2016, 04:44 PM
PistolPete PistolPete is offline
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Default Buying advice - Gretsch Synchromatic 100

I'm hopefully going to get out & play this 1954 Gretsch this week with a view to buying it & I wondered if there were any pitfalls or common problems I should be looking for?
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Old 08-29-2016, 06:10 PM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Some general impressions from a lifelong Gretsch lover:

First off, while the present owner claims to have done a neck reset the fact that the action is 5mm with the saddle bottomed out - BTW, you don't sand the saddle (actually the adjustable portion on which the strings rest) unless you're prepared to lose tone in the bargain - leads me to believe that:
  • [a] the neck reset was done improperly
  • [b] the neck is warped/twisted (those old Gretsches didn't have adjustable truss rods)
  • [c] the top is flattened/sunk, possibly as a result of loose braces
  • [d] any combination of the above

The modification done to the bridge/pickguard is also one of the worst hack jobs I've seen - I'm a retired teacher and quite frankly I've gotten better work from nine-year-olds - and, given the rarity of the original parts (especially that Brazilian rosewood Synchromatic bridge) deals a major blow to the value (a point which he backhandedly acknowledges); conversely, the binding deterioration mentioned is a common ailment among Brooklyn-made Gretsch instruments - I have a '64 Double Anniversary electric with the same problem, and I'm surprised that celluloid tortoise pickguard hasn't yet followed suit - and he did right by replacing it, as it can lead to other issues when it starts to "gas off" inside the case. I also have some questions as to why he chose to partially refinish the headstock - BTW tuners of that type never came with covers - and abandon what appears to be a restoration job midstream...

My thoughts: I'd say this bloke bought in haste based on rarity alone (there aren't a heck of a lot of these pre-1955 Gretsch guitars around, especially when it comes to acoustic archtops), found himself with a money pit (there are some very good reasons they didn't sell well, even in their heyday), and he's looking to unload quick and recoup his losses ("...take into account the work that has been done..."); I've been on the prowl for an old Gretsch like this for years, and the fact that this is a '54 (my wife's birth year) would make it tempting, but I wouldn't touch this one for love or money...
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Old 08-30-2016, 02:32 AM
PistolPete PistolPete is offline
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Thanks Steve,

It looks like this guitar went for £220 at auction in December, with the binding, neck reset & pickguard hack already done, so I'm not entirely sure what the current owner has done to it, especially to justify a £350 profit. I'm mostly a slide player so I'm not too scared by the high action, but I'd like a stable neck, at least to ensure it doesn't get any worse. I guess I was entranced at the idea of getting an old archtop for half of what the L50 I was looking at went for. And Gretschs are cooler.

I was already somewhat cautious based on his slightly sketchy English & the fact he suggested meeting up at a third party location, which is one of the reasons I thought it was worth posting on here to enquire.
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Old 08-30-2016, 07:05 AM
MC5C MC5C is offline
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It's a mistake to think that a guitar with a failed neck joint will be OK for slide. The neck, if it was indeed reset recently, will continue to fail. Once the fretboard extension hits the top, it might just start to pop off or collapse the top. If you can get it for a decent price and fix it, I think it would be a worthwhile choice - if you like old guitars for their own sake. I do, so I might take a run at it. It probably won't ever be a valuable guitar, though, not "investment grade" but it could be a right nice player.
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Old 08-30-2016, 07:08 AM
Hot Vibrato Hot Vibrato is offline
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I think it's disingenuous for the seller to tout a neck reset as a selling point. The guitar has had a butcher job of a reset in the past, but the action is WAY too high, so it now needs to be reset again, hopefully this time by someone with some skills. Assuming it wasn't done with epoxy, it can be removed and touched up, which would be at least $500-600 here in the U.S.. Sanding the bridge down is just not the proper way to fix this.

The seller didn't mention the frets, but they are probably in pretty bad shape. In my experience, when the action comes down on a vintage guitar (after a reset, etc.) the guitar will often have some pretty serious playability issues, due to the fingerboard plane being wrong, and because the frets are worn or unlevel. With the original frets, the chances are very small that it can be rendered into a great player. It almost certainly needs a refret , which would be about $400 or so.

If you want to play this guitar and not just look at it, you should count on spending another $1000 or so for a luthier to make it playable.

Edit: I noticed you were also looking at L-50s. I've seen a few of those old Syncromatics, and I've seen lots of L-50s. While the Gretsch obviously looks cooler, it has a laminated top, whereas the L-50 has a carved top. More importantly, an L-50 typically sounds way better than the Syncromatics that I've played (which didn't sound very good at all).

Last edited by Hot Vibrato; 08-30-2016 at 07:20 AM.
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Old 09-01-2016, 08:38 AM
PistolPete PistolPete is offline
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So I've just got back from looking at this - ultimately I didn't jump, but I did like the instrument.

The action was high, but better than I'd anticipated. The neck reset was messy, but seemed solid & it didn't seem recent. I might guess it had been done 10 -15 years back. I'd have put the high action down to the neck bow & it also had a warp, which is what the messy grooves in the bridge were counteracting. The frets were fine.

The tone was also better than comments here had lead me to anticipate, really nice & balanced, but it didn't quite set my world on fire enough to overcome all the guitar's other shortcomings. Perhaps a bit better for fingerstyle than slide.
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  #7  
Old 09-03-2016, 09:48 AM
zombywoof zombywoof is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
conversely, the binding deterioration mentioned is a common ailment among Brooklyn-made Gretsch instruments .
Also a common ailment among NYC-made Epiphones. Both the binding and pickguards gave up the ghost on my flattop and archtop Epiphones which had been left shut up in a case for many years before I got hold of them. Adding to the woes, the pickguards on the flattops were actually set into the guitar so a replacement had to be a balls-on accurate replacement.
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