Steve Mason Luthiers
INSTRUMENT REPAIR - LAWRENCE, KS
 
 
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Questions and Answers

My Gibson J50

Q: When I was a teen I played guitar, but in about 1964 I was in an auto accident holding my Gibson J50 and it was destroyed.

The insurance company bought me a new J50, but it never seemed the same, didn't play as well, seemed hard to tune. I went to college soon after and never reignited my passion of playing the guitar.

Now, 40 years later I'm retired and I have brought out the old J50 and it still seems out of sorts. A friend recommended at luthier to adjust the guitar, flatten the frets, whatever is necessary to make it play properly. He recommended you -- but I'm in the Omaha area.

What is most practical. To send you my guitar (I'll need help is knowing how to pack it)
-or-
a recommendation of someone in the Omaha area that could do the job.

Thanks so much...
Doug

A: I don't know a good luthier in Omaha. Reason would demand that you check to see if there is someone. Every music store will say that they are up to the job, but they mostly don't know enough to know how little they know. Look for someone who actually builds guitars and ask them if they have had any experience with old Gibsons. When they say yes, they should turn slightly purple thinking of past frustrations. In about 1963 Gibson started putting adjustable bridges on J-50s. You adjust a guitar saddle once every few years, but every time you strum the guitar you have about a half pound of adjustment mechanism between your strings and your top. If you smashed a pre-63 in 1964 and replaced it with an adjustable, that could be part of your problem. Beyond that, wood changes shape every time the
weather changes and guitars are not adjusted when they come new from the factory. Your guitar has probably needed to be adjusted for all or at least most of it's long life.

I would love to work on your J-50. The best way to ship your guitar
to me is to go to a local music store and get a Taylor or Martin shipping box. Take all of the junk out of your guitar case's pick box. Put a lot of packing behind the peghead, inside the case. Then put lots of packing inside the shipping box, around the guitar case. Ship it United States Postal Service. Insure it for $1500. Just an action set, and new strings will cost you $65 + 6.50 + return shipping. Putting on a pre-63 bridge is
$150.

I don't suppose that you still have the smashed guitar? Even if it
could not be restored for a reasonable price, there would be many
salvageable bits (including the bridge).

Steve Mason



 

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