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Thread: Crack repair in 1940's/50s gretsch soprano

  1. #1
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    May 2019
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    Default Crack repair in 1940's/50s gretsch soprano

    I hope I have the right spot for this post. If not please let me know and I will repost accordingly.

    I picked up circa 1940's-1950's Gretsch Soprano for a steal recently. It was/is in really poor shape badly repaired and refinished. However as I have started to strip it, I've discovered it to be quite beautiful and what I had assumed was a really bad fill job, just turned out to be slopped on glue which is slowly coming off.

    So, I've got several cracks and braces to reglue on the soundboard and maybe three on the back. All cracks seem tight once the braces are positioned as they are supposed to be.

    My question is what is the best glue to stabilize them? CA? tightbond (if so which)?

    Is it absolutely imperative to put cleats across them? The soundhole is less than 2" wide which is quite challenging to get in and place anything.

    Lastly the bridge has come off. What glue should I use there as well?

    Thanks,

    Ian

  2. #2
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  3. #3
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    If I found an almost 80 year old instrument for a steal with issues, I'd pay a luthier to do it properly. If you're asking what glue to use on an 80 year old Gretsch, you may want to purchase a cheaper uke to practice on first. Have you got the proper clamps etc. to reglue the bridge and cracks? Do you know where to place the bridge and setup for intonation? Not trying to downplay what you want to do. With a proper repair, you could end up with one fine instrument.

  4. #4
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    Ian,
    Do you have any idea of the nature/cause of the cracks? Perhaps dehydration, aging stresses, physical damage?
    Are the crack edges clean or grimy?

    Can you post some close-up pics of the front and back to give the resident repair specialists a better idea of the correct approach to the method of repair?

    Going from the age of the instrument, I would be looking to do some research on the use of hot hide glue in guitar repair, as there is a lot more info on this for guitar than for any other instrument.
    The prime advantage in using hot hide glue for this purpose is that it negates the need to thoroughly remove all of the old glue from the existing joints.
    Have a look at the 'two thumbs' method for 'pumping' the glue into the top and back cracks, but be aware that it doesn't work too well where the crack traverses the braces.

  5. #5
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    May 2019
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    Thanks, I look forward to spending some time digesting it when I get a moment.

  6. #6
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    Hello, This is a simple Gretsch that even in near mint is going for not much more than a couple hundred dollars on ebay or Reverb. I am somewhat confident that if I could find a luthier near me to attempt the repairs I would end up far more into it than what I could get out of it.

    To answer your other questions, yes I have the appropriate tools to effect the repairs (I started in my current line of work as a Scenic Carpenter and I grew up apprenticing as a carpenter under my grandfather). In regards to proper bridge placement I have the old glue position of where it was (along with the finish marks).

    I won't be doing anything that can't be undone with some work by a Luthier down the road. The current repairs on it (done by whomever had it ahead of me) are atrocious and even if I just reglued the bridge, it would be unplayable.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Patrick Madsen View Post
    If I found an almost 80 year old instrument for a steal with issues, I'd pay a luthier to do it properly. If you're asking what glue to use on an 80 year old Gretsch, you may want to purchase a cheaper uke to practice on first. Have you got the proper clamps etc. to reglue the bridge and cracks? Do you know where to place the bridge and setup for intonation? Not trying to downplay what you want to do. With a proper repair, you could end up with one fine instrument.
    Hello, This is a simple Gretsch that even in near mint is going for not much more than a couple hundred dollars on ebay or Reverb. I am somewhat confident that if I could find a luthier near me to attempt the repairs I would end up far more into it than what I could get out of it.

    To answer your other questions, yes I have the appropriate tools to effect the repairs (I started in my current line of work as a Scenic Carpenter and I grew up apprenticing as a carpenter under my grandfather). In regards to proper bridge placement I have the old glue position of where it was (along with the finish marks).

    I won't be doing anything that can't be undone with some work by a Luthier down the road. The current repairs on it (done by whomever had it ahead of me) are atrocious and even if I just reglued the bridge, it would be unplayable.

  8. #8
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    May 2019
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    Quote Originally Posted by bazuku View Post
    Ian,
    Do you have any idea of the nature/cause of the cracks? Perhaps dehydration, aging stresses, physical damage?
    Are the crack edges clean or grimy?

    Can you post some close-up pics of the front and back to give the resident repair specialists a better idea of the correct approach to the method of repair?

    Going from the age of the instrument, I would be looking to do some research on the use of hot hide glue in guitar repair, as there is a lot more info on this for guitar than for any other instrument.
    The prime advantage in using hot hide glue for this purpose is that it negates the need to thoroughly remove all of the old glue from the existing joints.
    Have a look at the 'two thumbs' method for 'pumping' the glue into the top and back cracks, but be aware that it doesn't work too well where the crack traverses the braces.
    bazuku, unfortunately I don't have any history. I found it in an architectural salvage place stuffed in an old violin case (which they wanted $95 for, the Uke was labeled $20). I will try and post some pictures when I get a chance to get some. As I'm stripping the finish and previous attempts at gluing, the cracks seem tight and solid (especially when the braces get reglued on the one side). When I set the brace, the top seems level so that's a plus. The cracks in the back seem solid as well. I'm still on the fence if I should attempt Cauls or not. I want to try just a base glue up of the crack first.

    Unfortunately, several of the cracks do cross a brace or two. But I will definitely look at the two thumbs method.

    I haven't worked much with Hide glue, is there much of a difference between a Hot Hide glue and something such as the Titebond Hide Glue?

  9. #9
    Join Date
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    Australia.
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    Ian,

    Do try to post some pics. You will likely get a few more responses if the specifics of the problems can be clearly seen, as general advice can sometimes be, at best, unhelpful or at worst, damaging.

    The reason that I mentioned hot hide glue, is that any repairs you attempt can be relatively easily reversed if they don't go as planned.

    If you do decide to use cleats on that instrument, try to keep them out of sight of the sound hole.

    Some repair persons associated with ukulele clubs do sound work (no pun) at reasonable prices.

    For new builds Titebond original and hot hide are both excellent glue choices. IMO, instruments that were new-built with hot hide glue deserve to be repaired with it, as they are usually old enough to be 'interesting' and worthy of preservation, even if not valuable classics.

    Liquid hide glue (reportedly) has preservatives added to keep it in a liquid state. There are many opinions for and against its use in lutherie.

  10. #10
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    Jul 2012
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    Mangawhai NZ
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    I have a bottle of Titebond liquid hide glue.
    Experience has taught me that I should restrict its use to gluing down the maker's label.
    Miguel

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