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View Full Version : Restoring a Gretsch ukulele



Henning
12-26-2015, 07:57 PM
This is a Gretsch from probably the late 1940s to 1950.
It needs a neck reset and additional work.

But when the top off I got rather surprised concerning the quality of the inside work considering that these were made to compete with(?) the top of the line ukes of those days.

What would you do with those ribs that are no round edges and placed obliquely?
Leave them the way they are or fix them?

Do you think it would make any acoustical difference to alter them in the "proper" way?

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Michael N.
12-26-2015, 10:20 PM
No, leave them. If you want to improve on a Gretsch make a new instrument. One of the worst dovetail joints I've ever seen was on a Gretsch guitar.

Henning
12-27-2015, 04:40 AM
If the ribs are rounded off, that will reduce the moving mass.
But how will that affect the sustain and the power of the tone, please?
Softening the edges does...anything?
Regards

RPA_Ukuleles
12-27-2015, 06:33 AM
Henning, I rebuilt a 40s Gretsch but I removed all the bracing and bridge patch, and replaced per Martin soprano specs. I also added kerfed lining for the top. I added some ivoroid binding for fun and refinished in lacquer. It's an absolutely marvelous soprano now. As sweet/mellow and loud as any Martin I've heard. It amazes everyone who picks it up. And I really like the ivoroid keystone tuners! But to answer your question, I don't think you'll find much difference in rounding/not rounding. But perhaps replacing them with good quality stiff spruce (and more carefully placed) would be a fine way to go. You should end up with a fine little instrument.


http://i913.photobucket.com/albums/ac331/rpashop/gretsch_zpsvnp7jgn7.jpg

Tigershark
12-27-2015, 07:09 AM
There is no "proper" way to make braces, everyone does them a little different. Martin put a bit more finishing work on the interior of their instruments than most but square braces are fine.

The sides look very thick, maybe that's why they didn't use kerfing. Why did you remove the top?

Henning
12-27-2015, 08:43 AM
The sides look very thick, maybe that's why they didn't use kerfing. Why did you remove the top?

Yes, I think so too. It would make a more stable instrument with kerfing. But Id say I consider that (as an option).
I took it apart because there was a rib loose and cracked, as well as cracks in the top and bottom.
Then I realized it lacked another rib.

I went to the violin maker of the city and bought some hideglue.
He also sold me a mahogany rib as a spare for the missing one.
I guess the others are spruce. If not rounding the corners will make any difference, then the material choice of mahogany might not matter either, will it? :o

I think I would prefer the neat looks of straight and rounded ribs. But if you say that wont matter maybe Ill change my mind.:confused:

Henning
12-27-2015, 10:22 PM
, and replaced per Martin soprano specs. I also added kerfed lining for the top. I added some ivoroid binding for fun and refinished in lacquer. It's an absolutely marvelous soprano now. As sweet/mellow and loud as any Martin I've heard. It amazes everyone who picks it up. And I really like the ivoroid keystone tuners! But to answer your question, I don't think you'll find much difference in rounding/not rounding. But perhaps replacing them with good quality stiff spruce (and more carefully placed) would be a fine way to go. You should end up with a fine little instrument.


Now what is the per Martin soprano specs. What do they look like?

Sven
12-27-2015, 11:29 PM
Tjena Henning, this is a good plan of a Martin:

http://www.grellier.fr/plans/Soprano_ukulele/Soprano_ukulele_en.pdf

I have some really old spruce if you want some for patches and braces.

Henning
12-28-2015, 01:01 AM
Tjena Henning, this is a good plan of a Martin:

http://www.grellier.fr/plans/Soprano_ukulele/Soprano_ukulele_en.pdf

I have some really old spruce if you want some for patches and braces.

Tackar Sven, do you think the mahogany piece that I had from the violin maker is no good for the purpose, as a rib?
He actually gave along a piece of mahogany for patches too, 6 mm width and rather thin, just to cut pieces. :)
Do you have any opinion whether the choice of mahogany in front of the spruce rib would be of any importance? :confused:

Thanks for the response, offer and the plan. I think I try to adopt it to this as much as possible.

Sven
12-29-2015, 10:50 AM
Looking at the plan again I see the patch is mahogany and the braces are spruce.

Henning
12-29-2015, 08:18 PM
Considering this is a 60 maybe 70 years old ukulele and looking at the oblique top,
I guess there is one thing I can do and that is to remove the bridge brace and reglue it.
I dont know if that is a suitable approach. What do you think?
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Sven
12-30-2015, 08:24 AM
Not all famous brands made decent ukes. The Swedish guitar factory Levin (sold under the name of Goya in the US) made horrible panzer-ukes. They're what the cockroaches will live in after nuclear armageddon. Jumping the uke bandwagon shouldn't mean you build a bandwagon. That you can jump on.

But I don't know about Gretsch. Thay have to be better than Levins.

Henning
12-31-2015, 10:42 PM
But I don't know about Gretsch. Thay have to be better than Levins.

Actually, neither do I. Ive never played any vintage of them (Gretsches). But I know they were made to compete with the Martins and Favillas of those days.

The Gretsch ukuleles of today are rather attractive instruments for being an industrial product. Though Ive only for some moments tried their long neck concerto.

BlackBearUkes
01-01-2016, 08:19 AM
I have had a few of the Gretsch ukes in my shop over the years in for repairs. They didn't appear to be anything special and certainly not on par with the Martin ukes as far as construction. If I had this uke in my shop, I would add new braces. The old ones appear to be of inferior wood with wide grain and not finished off. Most of the uke manufacturers with the exception of Martin and some Gibsons, used junk for the braces, not caring too much about grain direction or wood quality IMO. If you are going to all the trouble of rebuiding this uke, use the best wood for braces and do it right. This is not a highly collectable uke with little monetary value, so you might as well try to make it a good player.


Actually, neither do I. Ive never played any vintage of them (Gretsches). But I know they were made to compete with the Martins and Favillas of those days.

The Gretsch ukuleles of today are rather attractive instruments for being an industrial product. Though Ive only for some moments tried their long neck concerto.

Henning
01-03-2016, 05:40 AM
If I had this uke in my shop, I would add new braces. The old ones appear to be of inferior wood with wide grain and not finished off. Most of the uke manufacturers with the exception of Martin and some Gibsons, used junk for the braces, not caring too much about grain direction or wood quality IMO. If you are going to all the trouble of rebuiding this uke, use the best wood for braces and do it right. This is not a highly collectable uke with little monetary value, so you might as well try to make it a good player.

Thank for your valuable opinion. I find that there are marks in the top after the sawing, a symmetrical texture, not too deep. Should I remove them, sand it down completely or just round it off?
Would a complete sand down risk the stability of the top?
It is now a thickness ~1,7 - ~ 2,1 [mm].