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'53 semi-conversion... to go all the way or not?

Stratoben127

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Jun 30, 2013
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I know you've all heard about this guitar a lot... but it sometimes keeps me up at night. I love the thing. It's a late '53 original thin wraparound guitar (though it now has a MojoAxe on it). It's all original aside from a fret job and being crudely routed for humbuckers. I'm a 'bucker guy all the way and I love it with them. The main thing that bugs me about the guitar is the patch/crack in the top, obviously. It's been stable for 40 years and has had a piece of leather over it for as long, but I certainly wouldn't mind having some wood there.





I have two main questions about doing this repair.

1) Is there anybody who can fix it and make it look significantly better than it does now WITHOUT having to refinish or significantly overspray the top? In other words, the damage and patch isn't very noticeable on stage, so if I were to get it fixed I would want it to be as original looking as possible or it wouldn't be worth the time and money. I can't imagine how that's possible without some serious finish work but I'm no expert. I will not remove any significant portion of the original finish.

2) Part of my aversion to doing any serious restoration to it is because I bought it from the original owner like this for the most part. Some days I think "well, it's a player, so why not do what I want," while other times I think "it's got mojo and I shouldn't touch it." If I go as far as fixing the control cavity, I might entertain the idea of converting it to an ABR/stoptail, essentially making it a '57. Thoughts on this? Reasons to do this are...
-There's not enough space behind the bridge pickup to restring the top 3 strings without removing all the strings and bridge. Not great if I break a string on stage
-Looks kind of naked with just a wraparound when it's already been converted to humbuckers
-An ABR and tailpiece would somewhat cover the screw holes in the top or whatever touch up repair I might do to them

The thing is I do love the sound of it as it is. It's VERY bright and snappy, almost like an SG with more lows and my main guitar is an SG so I like that a lot. I'm not sure how much the wraparound has to do with that. I've played 50s Les Pauls much brighter with a TOM/stoptail set up and I've played ones much darker with a wraptail. I don't want to ruin the guitar, but a '57 Gold Top has always been my "unrealistic" dream guitar and the idea of having almost exactly that is fairly enticing.

Keep in mind this guitar is on the road quite often without a direct backup, so if I were to get this work done I would need it to be as affordable and quick as it can be without sacrificing quality, if anybody knows the guy for the job.
 

Aloha_Mark

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Dec 15, 2011
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Shoot a message to BCRGreg for a workmanlike repair quote, or contact member kthsheep for a top refin. I would go for the latter since there is no pretty way to locally repair the split around the pots. Kim will get as close to possible in applyng a vintage correct finish.
 

Stratoben127

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Shoot a message to BCRGreg for a workmanlike repair quote, or contact member kthsheep for a top refin. I would go for the latter since there is no pretty way to locally repair the split around the pots. Kim will get as close to possible in applyng a vintage correct finish.

Yeah, that's what I thought. No chance I'm refinishing the top. The wear is too unique on the original finish.
 

62lespauljr

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Apr 21, 2003
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I would think it would be possible to just patch that spot and finish a small area. Maybe I'm wrong but a partial refin around the knobs seems like something Kim could do. Cool guitar If it was mine I wouldn't plug and ABR it. Its kinda like a Jeff Beck goldtop.
 

Reno_1ted

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Sep 21, 2014
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As you asked for opinion:

As the damage is stable, and as you love the sound of the guitar, and you gig with it a lot (so it's not collectable/case queen) I would keep it as is, leather and all. It's pretty cool and, unique. No one else has that "Leatherface" Les Paul. It's yours.

I would spend my money on a few other leather patches for fun.

If you decide to repair, ABR1 etc then a top refin is the way to go I'm afraid.
 

Jumping@Shadows

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Dec 11, 2003
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To inlay the missing wood is straightforward, and without spot matching the gold would look minimally different from now with the knobs fitted, just plain maple instead of a void.
I'd seal the new wood then spot match the gold with an airbrush with no over-spraying of the original finish, but not try to disguise the repair, plus re-do the routes correcting and creep the bridge pickup forward- basically 'do the job right' as it should originally have been.
As for converting to a '57 TOM...it's your guitar, but I really wouldn't- I'd far rather preserve the original finish, and tweak the guitar with minimal invasive procedures, OR convert to TOM/stop and just touch in the stud holes/control cavity patch/humbucker route plugs in one sitting.
 

jubelo

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Oct 30, 2001
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If it was mine I would get the top totally repaired and refinished and get p-90s back in her.

I am not into the scrungy battered look of the relic fanatics or even of the worn out look of real wear and tear.
 

jimmi

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Oct 8, 2012
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You have already had Tom look at this one. I doubt anyone else will bevable to offer much more than he did. You could just reglue the depressed wood between the bridge controls and the resulting seam may just look like cracks when you are done. Many vintage gibsons have stress markes there or outright cracks. imho, that is the least you can do and it might satisfy you. Should be cheap as well. The rest would just look like mojo.
 

CDaughtry

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Yeah, that's what I thought. No chance I'm refinishing the top. The wear is too unique on the original finish.


Refinishing this guitar would be criminal in my opinion. Converting it to an abr-1 would as well. Get someone like Greg to fix the wood issue, match the paint as best as he can, and then play the crap out of this mutt. Mutt's are the best...they are so appreciative of getting a good hard ride!:hee
 

sws1

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^^^^

That's what I would do. Leave as much as original as you can, and patch up what you can.
 

buyusfear

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Refinishing this guitar would be criminal in my opinion. Converting it to an abr-1 would as well... ... Mutt's are the best...they are so appreciative of getting a good hard ride!:hee

+1

Spend the money on having the damaged area repaired by a pro.
The story afterwards is so much cooler IMO.
And there's just no way you're going to be able to recreate that gold top mojo it has going on. I would love to find a guitar like this one day b
 

brandtkronholm

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Refinishing this guitar would be criminal in my opinion. Converting it to an abr-1 would as well. Get someone like Greg to fix the wood issue, match the paint as best as he can, and then play the crap out of this mutt. Mutt's are the best...they are so appreciative of getting a good hard ride!:hee

+1

The recommended luthiers should be able to fix the wood, match the paint and possibly even age it a bit to match the rest of the guitar. This kind of repair job is as old as any Stradivarius violin.

The SG is your main guitar so if you do break a string on the gold top, then it's back to the SG. I say keep the wrap tail - and "play the crap out of that mutt!"
 

oldsongs

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I like one of the suggestions above - move the depressed wood back into place, and patch any missing areas with maple, and just leave that unfinished. The wood will oxidize and I think look less offensive than an attempted paint match over the area. You can always get the finish touchup done later.

There are a couple guys that could probably make it look nearly perfect, but I don't see any of them mentioned above. Just get Glaser's shop to repair the area and then figure out what to do with the finish later.

I personally don't see any value in moving the pickups or changing the bridge or refinishing the top. None of those things will make it a better guitar than it is right now. Repairing the missing wood in the top, however, will help you adjust the tone & volume while you play.
 

latestarter

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I'm also with CD. An ABR could, probably would change the tone.

A refin out too for me...a d matching the colour and wear for a patched area would be very difficult. Ask the pros and get some device in that dept.

At the end of the day you've got a killer guitar as is. Maybe go looking for another mutt that needs more comprehensive work?
 

Reno_1ted

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Sep 21, 2014
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Had another look on a bigger screen instead of phone.

If the depressed wood was pushed back up straight how much wood is actually missing? What gaps would be left aside from the bit around the knob?
 

Stratoben127

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Jun 30, 2013
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The wood is not as depressed as it looks. The pictures pretty accurately represent the amount of missing wood when the top is level.

The leather patch doesn't affect the function of the controls at all. It doesn't feel like it's there.
 

mike1100r

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May 19, 2008
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If it was mine I would send it to an experienced Luthier.

Guess it will be possible to renew the broken area, fill up the drill holes and sort of "smart repair" the finish as good as possible.


Keep the Wrap Tail - to me these Wrap Tail Lesters are usually extremely good sounding Guitars


No Top Refin please. Would kill the Mojo. Your Axe is a pretty cool one.

And no further conversion please.

Food for thoughts - even with a repaired Top it will be Kind of unique.

There is only one possible !!!! reason for a full package Restauration - 100% back to 1953 Specs incl. P90´s back in.

But even than... it will be a perfectly restored 53 LP, but no longer cool :)
 

jhmp

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A guitar like that doesn't come around very often, verify the stability and play the hell out of it.
 

Mr. Big

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Sell it to me as is.....cheap, I would hate to have you loosing any more sleep over it. :)
 

ChevChelios

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Jan 22, 2012
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Kim (Historic Makeovers) or Dave Johnson would most likely be able to fix the broken region and blend the repair. The knobs and pointers will hide a good part of the repair. Maybe they can also plug the holes behind the wrap around (if you want them plugged).

I'd also ask them to do the humbucker routs "right". I wouldn't put an ABR1 on this guitar. There's something special about old wrap around Gibsons.
 
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