Restoring a vintage archtop & hand brushing a nitro finish..

Published on October 26, 2019 at 1:21 PM

Restoring an vintage archtop.

In the previous blog post I showed of my new archtop guitar, an approximately 60 year old Hoyer Special. Last week I started it's restoration, and give it a thorough check up before I take it on the road.

The guitar is in pretty good shape for it's age and requires little structural work, but could definitely use a good cleaning. I think many players take their guitar-hygiene for granted, but if you think about all the dirt and bacteria that builds up over the years.. Admittedly I am a bit mysophobic, but I also just like to start of with a clean slate (literally..) and make the guitar my own. 

As this is my personal guitar I'm doing the restoration  in my spare time, which means I'm working on a slow pace. Nonetheless I'll try to post an update regularly, and will ultimately share a full overview of the restoration in a dedicated post once all the work is done.


So how bad is it?

The first step is to establish what needs to be done to the guitar in order to make it as good as it can be. I start by removing all the hardware so I have better access to certain area's of the guitar, and will give all those part a good cleaning prior to reassembling.

 

Fortunately I didn't run into any issues I didn't notice upon trading in the guitar except for a hardly noticeable hairline crack on the bass side. Upon close inspection it looks like the crack is supported by the neck block on the inside, but the grain of the end block is running vertically instead of with the grain of the sides. Basically when the wood moves these parts move in opposite directions which has probably caused this crack. Preferably the grain of the neck block should run in the same direction as the grain of the top, back and sides to prevent these kind of things from happening.. There is another crack on the top running from the lower bouts edge to the control plate, which looks stable but may require some work. At the moment the humidity is high at about 60% which I'll use to my advantage to let the guitar humidify while first addressing the other issues.

 

As the finish has worn of the back of neck I have decided to refinish it. Normally I wouldn't easily refinish a vintage guitar, but in this case I would consider it an improvement and don't fear devaluation. First of all it will protect the neck from humidity and dirt, but it's also a reversible repair as you can simply remove the finish (nitro) with acetone and bring it back to the bare wood again.

 

One last issue which doesn't really need to be addressed, but is interesting to say the least are two dowels in the fretboard at the 13th and 14th fret. They are too far away from the neck block to indicate a previous neck reset, but are located where the neck meets the neck heel though I can hardly imagine it's meant to reinforce that joint.. All in all it doesn't harm the guitar so it doesn't worry me, but it's purpose remains a mystery..

There is no finish left on the neck so it's unprotected against dit and moisture. The piece of sycamore shows what colour the wood once was..

Two dowels in the fretboard for unknown purpose..

A hairline crack on the side around the neck block.

Another crack running from the edge to the control plate. This one was previously fixed, but not before the crack filled with dirt and thus remains visible..


Hand brushing a nitro finish.

Another project in the workshop is this Dear Wood Telecaster which has been colour stained and now needs to be finished. As I don't have a place outside where I can spray on lacquer, and no spray booth either, I'm using a nitro finish suitable for application with a brush. I'm surprised how well this is turning out. The trick is to add enough thinner to make the lacquer watery thin, and let the finish flow on the surface with the brush hardly touching the workpiece. Some sources suggest you mustn't brush an area twice, but I found that if you notice some built-up right away you can get away with a second brushstroke as long as the lacquer is still in it's watery condition. In such an event you have to be quick though. Once the solvent dissolves (after about 10 seconds !) the lacquer get's sticky and you'd leave brushstrokes in your finish. In case you do have some ridges in certain area's just leave the finish to cure for 24 hours and sand those spots down. I haven't needed to yet, and even found on other projects that small ridges sometimes blend into subsequent coats to some extend. To be continued..


Guitar of the week !

This one sold within 24 hours after it came on the website, and for good reason! It's a heavily modified Squire Classic Vibe Telecaster fitted with a Joe Barden Danny Gatton pickup set which is about the same price as the guitar! Acoustically this Tele already had loads of potential and the pickups and other upgrades turned it into a phenomenal  instrument. It's also just looks great!


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