Saga of a very sad '65 Gibson SG Junior - Owner Steven Battelle of LostAlone

 

Steven Battelle of LostAlone . This is one of the rare guitars which was made for only a few months where the guitar model was changed from the Les Paul Junior to the SG Junio. The body was routed out to fit a P-90 single coil pickup in place of the original humbucker. This is Steven's main guitar for all iive and studio work

A hard working, hard traveling guitar continually touring the UK and Europe. LostAlone are an exciting live band signed to Indie Label Scorpia Records. Click any of the pics above to see a video of the SG and LostAlone playing live - hell of a sound!

The old SG Junior fell foul of a stage mishap - losing a chunk of fingerboard, gaining a large headstock crack and flying off stage with the lead still plugged in, nearly ripping a chunk of the body out by the jack socket. The Marshall amp won that tug of war.

Chris Danson, LostAlone's touring guitar tech, dropped it off with me one Tuesday night, desperate to have it back the following Sunday for studio sessions on the Monday! That Tuesday night was a long one, it was getting light by the time it was all glued and cramped ..... No time to waste if the guitar was going to be strong enough to be played hard in six days time.

The story below is intended to inform those who may need a similar repair.

Guitar headstock repair Gibson SG

 

Nice crack! It would have been easier if the headstock had come off completely, but there was about 4-5cm between the end of the crack and the top of the headstock. Time for crafty glue injection (Titebond Aliphatic Resin glue).

The hardest part is making up a jig to allow gentle and precise opening of the crack to inject the glue.



 

What you cannot see is that the crack runs up right through the headstock under the bass side tuners.

You can see, however, lose tuner screws. Over-tightened at some point, these needed filling with hardwood and re-drilling.

The lacquer, nitro-cellulose of course, was much cracked and damaged from hard use. Very cool but letting in damp, the wood registered a little too high on my humidity meter. All the chips and cracks etc. all over the guitar were sealed with a light coat of vintage coloured nitro-cellulose. No change in the cool looks but the guitar will be far more stable.

Obviously this process was essential on the badly damaged headstock.


 

 

Nasty but and easy fix compared to the headstock repair. All the electrics had to be removed and taped out of the way as injecting in lots and lots of glue is an effective way of making sure that the glue gets into all the right places.

It's also effective to dampen the internal areas of the crack so that the glue wets all the complex wood grain surfaces in the crack. Just enough water to make the rather thick Titebond flow properly but not enough water to weaken the joint.

A matter of experience really as you can only thin Titebond 5% and maintain joint strength.



 

 

The end result of landing on a pedal apparently. Luckily I have an old fingerboard from an equally old but defunct guitar. The rosewood was an remarkably good match for the original Gibson fingerboard.

Micro-chisels out, tiny dovetail joint required! Micro-chisels are fine except they have to be at least as sharp as a razor blade - they slice though hard rosewood like a knife through butter but are even more effective on fingers...

 
After repair: Six days is not enough time to totally hide a huge headstock crack like this. Nitro-cellulose takes days to harden to the point where such subtle work can be carried out. Several visits are necessary to hide major damage. It can take several weeks - mostly watching paint dry. However, the battle scars were considered cool by the band and certainly hiding the damage does nothing to improve the playability.

 

This came out well hidden even if there was only time for one pass at the lacquer. More importantly the area is stronger than it was originally.

 

The electrics were also serviced of course with a new screened output lead being installed between the volume pot and jack socket.

   

 

Not the best photo here but you can see the glue joint clearly enough. Beautifully smooth crack closure.

The critical thing is to get the crack to go back together so there is no raised step where out of place wood grain stops the joint closing properly. In this case 30 mins fiddling with magnifying glasses and fine tweezers removed the few stray bits in the crack. Great fun at 2am. This is why making up a jig to open the crack a little is so important.

If the crack will close properly then there is less glue in the joint and its much stronger.

I managed to get 6 clamps into position for gluing. The neck was also tensioned by straps to apply compression along the length of the neck.

A crafty trick this as the clamps can force a wedge like crack like this to set in slightly the wrong position. The straps push the headstock towards the body along the line of the neck helping to hold the crack closed in the correct position. Thanks to Stewart MacDonald's Dan Erlewine for this technique.

   

 

Another view, obviously the tuners were removed for the repair, the crack runs under one side of the tuners.

The re-finished areas were re-finished with lacquer colour matched to the aged existing nitro. No good spraying coats and coats of coloured nitro in one area, it would look out of place on a vintage instrument.

This more vintage effect is produced by hand painting followed by a light spray of clear nitro to soften the new lacquer into the old. I managed several coats by sanding of in between with ultra fine steel wool. This works surprisingly well on lacquer that is still quite soft. Six days - panic panic!

   

The crack is obvious from this side too. Again a total re-finish would ruin the vintage vibe. However, the black lacquer on the face of the headstock was quite damaged and lifting. The damaged areas were softened with a bit of thinned clear lacquer, followed by just enough black in the tears to cover the surface.

The whole face was then sprayed with a light coat of vintage tinted lacquer to stop damp getting in and also to stop the black colour falling off. The surface was then gently processed with 1200, 2000, 3000, 4000, 6000, and 8000 abrasive back to the original vintage worn look.

One of the tuner ferrules was missing, so I modified a spare to match - and bit of filing, drilling and general polishing and a fair match was made. The other ferrules were very loose so a tiny drop of super glue now holds then in. Still easy to remove but they won't drop out and get lost whilst changing strings etc.
 

 

Can you see the dovetailed in bit of rosewood? A better photo would help but then who employs a luthier for their photographic skills?

A very strong repair due to the dovetail joint into the side of the fingerboard.

The joint is so tight that there is no line visible on the top surface.

You can see the repair in the previous pic too.

   

 

All finished and re-strung to concert pitch with a set of 10-46 strings. Steven Battelle uses an 11 set normally but tuned down a step.

A set of 10's for the first week is a good idea as there is a fair bit of settling down to do.