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Ethics of repair - fix vs leave it alone

If you have a string instrument of any kind that needs fixing, a mistake you made in building a new instrument that you need to "disappear," or a question about the ethics of altering an older instrument, ask here. Please note that it will be much easier for us to help you decide on the best repair method if you post some pictures of the problem.

Ethics of repair - fix vs leave it alone

Postby Brian Evans » Sat Jul 15, 2017 1:36 pm

I recently traded for a quirky entry/mid level instrument around 55 years old. Silvertone 1445, Kay made iconic three pickup archtop thin-line. 1960's as anything could be. It's playable and fun, but has two cosmetic issues and one structural issue.

Cosmetic - the white celluloid binding is heavily faded towards brown, shrinking, cracked and fallen away in some small places. The only repair idea I have is to mix up some celluloid paste and acetone, and try to blend the cracks, scrape, and probably make a heck of a mess. The other idea is to route it off and replace it with similar celluloid or plastic binding. The other cosmetic issue is the sides are painted black over maple veneer with nitro clear finish, and the black is chipping off over around 20% of the area. If I were to do the binding, I'd probably refinish the sides, if I don't I could either scrape off the black and polish the clear nitro or respray with black. BUT - the other side of me says it's damn near as old as I am, and why change anything?

Structural. This is a laminated stressed skin guitar, probably on cut out sides (not bent sides) with zero internal bracing. The top is very slightly collapsing at the bridge. It now is at the point where the bridge has run out of adjustment, so it's down around 1/8" anyway. It's a bolt on neck so I can super easy just shim the neck, but I have this desire to install a bridge block to stabilize or even restore the top to where it originally was. It's an electric guitar so bridge block is probably an upgrade. BUT - same story, it's not dead yet so why do anything?

What do you think? Are there ways to restore old bindings that I haven't thought of? Is it "OK" to restore the old chipping finish, or is it "patina"? The top and back finish is quite acceptable, btw.
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Re: Ethics of repair - fix vs leave it alone

Postby Barry Daniels » Sat Jul 15, 2017 2:29 pm

Using binding paste to patch the binding would not be my approach. If the binding is falling apart it will continue to deteriorate. So I advise replacing the whole strip with new. Since it is chipping out, removal should be quite easy by prying away with a chisel. No need for a router.

Since the top and and back finish is fine, I would refinish the sides. Spray black lacquer then clear coats. This will also make the binding replacement easier to do. Mask off the top, back and neck and spray away.
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Re: Ethics of repair - fix vs leave it alone

Postby Freeman Keller » Fri Nov 10, 2017 10:54 pm

Brian, I know this is an old thread but I just saw it and I recently did a binding replacement on an old '70's Ibanez. The guitar was a pretty nice L5 style archtop with remarkably good finish, its just that the binding had completely rotted and the back was separating from the neck block

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I routed it off as close as I could - the pufling was good so I stopped a few thousands from it and used scrapers and chisels to get the last little bit off. Also had to use sharp instruments around the neck

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It was pretty tricky scraping back to the side and purfling - kind of like the way Gibson scrapes bindings when they do finishes.

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I didn't want to touch the finish but since it was lacquer I had a little bit of flexability. One slight problem is that the original lacquer had aged to a lovely amber over 40 years - I shot a couple of coats of tinted lacquer right on the binding, then clear over that. I fogged the clear onto the sides and very lightly onto the top and back, then sanded and buffed

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Oh, replaced the heel cap too.

Very time consuming project and there are some flaws - it is so much easier to scrape binding while the guitar is white - but the owner is delighted (and paid me a little bonus). If you haven't already done the project I would suggest going ahead.
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Re: Ethics of repair - fix vs leave it alone

Postby Barry Daniels » Sat Nov 11, 2017 10:00 pm

Nice job Freeman. I'm impressed.
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Re: Ethics of repair - fix vs leave it alone

Postby Mark Swanson » Sun Nov 12, 2017 10:45 am

Me too, that is a really difficult job, very time consuming. And most repair folks charge a lot to do it because of that.
    Mark Swanson, guitarist, MIMForum Staff
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Re: Ethics of repair - fix vs leave it alone

Postby Brian Evans » Mon Nov 13, 2017 9:11 am

Super, thank you for thinking of updating my old post, I appreciate it!
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