R ESTORING AN ORIGINAL
This month I would like to talk not about the
hand tools that I use to restore instruments,
but rather the research tools that I have used
time and time again to restore an instrument
so that it’s as if it had never been altered
from the twenties, fifties or sixties.
very interesting, since there was a time when
nothing good was said about instruments
that were manufactured during that decade.
Now, they have not only held their value but
have gone up in price.
Throughout the years I have used many videos, books and guitars in my research for
reference when restoring an instrument to its
originality. Quality books still keep coming
out with more detailed information. If I’m not
getting my books from Stewart-MacDonald,
I’m online going to amazon.com. You can
punch in just about any word at Amazon
and they will have it in hard or soft cover.
At stewmac.com you have Dan Erlewine
and Don MacRostie with Spray Finish Basics
and Sunburst Finishing on DVD. These two
guys also put out what I consider to be an
absolute must-have book for every restoration facility: Guitar Finishing Step-By-Step.
This book gives out recipes for many famous
vintage finishes. This book will save on a lot
Pages 58 and 59 of this book show a gallery of
guitars from StewMac’s finishing recipes.
of down time from trying to reinvent the
wheel by reformulating the finish. There are
also other important DVDs by StewMac relating to restoration, like Advanced Fretting,
Vol. 2 which details Fender “sideways” fretting. There are many talented people at
StewMac, but the one that I’m keeping an
eye out for in the future is Erick Coleman. I
think we’re going to see more and more of
him in this business.
Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars is a fantastic guide for referencing a vintage instrument. We use the first and second edition
by Mr. Gruhn in our shop.
As you can tell by the picture, this book really gets a
heavy workout and now needs to be restored itself.
I even like to use my Blue Book of Electric
Guitars or Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars for
reference, as I never rely completely on any
one book for information. It’s a practice that
I started many years ago—there are times
when very bright and intelligent people may
just have one detail that’s not perfectly correct, or maybe it’s simply a misprint. It’s not
about calling anyone out on it; it’s just doing
my job to the best of my ability. That’s really
what we are all trying to do.
My favorite web site for gathering information is: guitarhq.com. This site has a lot of
eye candy and information. I don’t think you’ll
be disappointed—check it out.
Another good source of information might be
right in your home town. It’s always a good
idea to have solid relationships with guitar
collectors and vintage guitar stores. There
have been many times that holding and
inspecting an all original guitar has given me
a more precise understanding of just what I
need to do to a guitar that’s on the bench in
my shop, waiting to be restored.
The latest book I’ve been in search of is
one that covers the details on guitars from
the seventies, as we are seeing continued
restoration projects from this period. It’s all
This is a short list of books that I
have used or currently use in my
shop for gathering information:
Guitar Finish Step-By-Step by Dan Erlewine
and Don MacRostie
Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars, 1st and
2nd edition, by George Gruhn
The Beauty Of The Burst by Yasuhiko Iwanade
The Fender Bass by Klaus Blasquiz
Guitar Identification, The Fender Stratocaster,
Gibson Electrics: The Classic Years and The
Fender Telecaster by A.R. Duchossoir
The Bass Book by Tony Bacon and Barry
The Fender Book by Tony Bacon and Paul Day
Gibson’s Fabulous Flat-Top Guitars by Eldon
Whitford, David Vinopal and Dan Erlewine
The Guild Guitar Book by Hans Moust
Illustrated Directory of Guitars by Ray Bonds
Norman’s Rare Guitars by Norman Harris with
Martin Guitars by Jim Washburn and Richard
Blue Book of Electric Guitars and Blue Book
of Acoustic Guitars by Zachary R. Fjestad and
The Fender Guitar by Ken Achard
I’m excited and looking forward to doing
some videos and books myself. But for now,
I am enjoying the ones that I have gathered
throughout the years.
Have a successful month.
John Brown, of Brown's Guitar Factory, is the inventor of the
Fretted/Less bass. He owns and operates a full guitar manu-
facturing and repair/restoration facility, which is staffed by
a team of talented luthiers. He is also the designer of guitar
making/repair tools and accessories that are used today by
instrument builders throughout the world.