The Archtop Gets an Overhaul

Is it any wonder that I’m obsessed with hand-rubbed sunburst finishes these days?  Out here beside the Mississippi, each sunrise and sunset has been spectacular.

In the last week of class, we have begun working on prepping fingerboards, hammering and leveling frets, and setting up electric guitars.  So much attention to detail, hours upon hours of focused work, then bring it on home to get some more bench time.

Tonight, I took a break from fretwork in order to mix up a batch of hot hide glue. While the hide glue was gelling, I went ahead and steamed the neck out of my beloved old checkerboard archtop.

This 15 1/4″ plywood archtop was given to me by a family member a couple of years ago. She had bought it from a pawn shop, having fallen in love with the checkerboard binding and violin-like F holes. When I first saw it, it emerged like a swan from it’s bird-poop encrusted chipboard case. It was in a sad state, with awful replacement tuners, the bridge badly out of place, and a cornucopia of typical setup and structural issues.

At the time, I performed a quickie setup, put some Golden Age tuners on it, and fell in love with the percussive bark, with it’s undeniable class and verve. Ever since, I’ve looked forward to giving it it the complete overhaul it needs to truly shine.

So I hooked up my trusty stove-top steamer to a basketball needle, heated and pulled the 15th fret, and drilled a 5/64″ hole (actually, several) for the steaming operation. It took about 15 minutes for the steam to penetrate the old hide glue dovetail joint.

There was a lot of poop-brown old hide glue inside of the dovetail (although it wasn’t doing a great job of holding the heel in place as it was intended). It looks like Kay/Harmony didn’t worry too much about having fresh glue for their joinery.

Once everything was apart, I cleaned out all the goo, and clamped everything flat so that it won’t potato-chip with all of the moisture from the steamage.

Since everything came out looking fine, I expect that after a few days to dry out and settle down, I can start trimming and shimming the dovetail back to angly goodness. Along with the reset, this puppy is getting a refret, new bone nut and hand-made adjustable ebony bridge. This poor man’s jazzbox is finally getting the royal treatment it deserves!

One thought on “The Archtop Gets an Overhaul

  1. Penny Miller says:

    this is Sooo cool. We LIKE your blog. No, we’re not just proud parents that brag about their talented son…we really believe you are! so there.

    Going to Kelly’s today for some good food, etc. Yum. wish you were here. think about what you want me to make you (& Lizzie) give me some good ideas.

    dad just read your latest and said to tall you to send Maggie & Cindy a link so they can see what you’re doing to the guitar. He thinks they’d like it.

    I made Caroline an apple pie for her 18th birthday. Can you believe your baby cousin is an adult now?? wow. She got her first official job at the sushi place next to Lucky where Laurelee had her first job at the bagel shop. Paige is cute as ever too, they make me happy and they’re pretty accessible too when I need a kid fix.Well kiddo, happy txgvng to you? enjoy your time at your little cottage. Hi to,Eliz. Too.

    Mucho love, Ma & Pa

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