For the last two months, we’ve been following the process of
removing and resetting the neck on
a sweet 1952 goldtop Les Paul. (If
you’ve missed either of these installments, check out the December
2010 and January 2011 issues on
premierguitar.com.) In this, the
third and final phase of our adventure, we complete the very challenging repair and restoration job.
Here’s a quick summary of
the project thus far: When the
guitar first came to us, we saw
that, many years back, the trapeze
tailpiece had been replaced with
an ABR- 1 bridge and tailpiece. In
addition, the guitar’s neck angle
made it virtually unplayable, so
we knew that correcting the angle
would restore its utility. Because
of its previous alterations, we were
not devaluing this goldtop’s collectability, but rather giving it the
life it was originally designed for.
Removing the neck involved
multiple steps. I pulled three of the
upper frets, drilled six holes, spent
five days injecting boiling water
into the holes with a syringe, and
finally applied steam into the sides
and underside of the neck heel.
Once the neck was off, I
needed to do some trimming
and shimming. First, I carefully
trimmed the inside lower heel of
the neck using a chisel, flat file,
and sanding block to achieve a
very clean and flush heel-to-body
joint. After carefully determin-
ing the needed reset angle, I
cut a 1/8" x 1 15/32" x 4 1/4"
Honduran mahogany shim,
sanded it to a 2-degree pitch, and
then glued it to the bottom sur-
face of the neck’s extended tenon.
• Crescent Bronze Cres-Lite Extra Brilliant Greengold metallic powder
( crescentbronze.us, item #256)
• Behlen Ground Hide Glue ( stewmac.com, item #0669)
• 1-quart electric glue pot ( stewmac.com, item #0668)
• 3/8" glue brush ( stewmac.com, item #4167)
• Medium-fretwire Fret Setter ( stewmac.com, item #1665)
• Deadblow Fretting Hammer ( stewmac.com, item #1296)
Where to Buy the Supplies
Need to procure the supplies mentioned in this column? Here’s
info to help you track them down.
3/4-ounce jar for mixing the nitrocellulose, thinner, and greengold
metallic powder. I slowly stirred the
nitrocellulose mixture while gradually adding the powder. It only
took a couple of pinches to give me
the consistency I was looking for.
Here’s a tip: As a safety precaution,
store the can of powder in a Ziploc
freezer bag. If you happen to drop
the can, you do not want to have
the lid pop off and let the powder
contaminate your whole facility.
The 3/4-ounce mixing jar attaches
to one of my Badger airbrushes that
I use exclusively for metallic spraying.
Before spraying the sides of the maple
wing shims, I tested the color match
on a piece of scrap wood. The gold
sprayed smoothly and consistently,
and the blend of tinted clear topcoat
made the color match fall right into
place. I protected the neck from
unwanted overspray using Evermask
masking paper and low-adhesion
1. Crescent Bronze Cres-Lite Extra Brilliant Green
gold metallic powder provides a perfect color
match for vintage goldtop Les Paul finishes.
2. Mixing the nitrocellulose, thinner, and Cres-Lite
3. Spraying the fretboard wing shims.
4. Using a dental tool to remove the protective tape
in hard-to-reach areas.
5. With its neck reset, this ’ 52 goldtop is once again
ready to rock.
ScotchBlue Painter’s Tape. After the
neck was sprayed and while the finish
was still wet, I used a dental explorer
instrument for removing the tape in
After finishing the maple shim
supports and upper tenon lip, I was
ready to glue in the neck. I used
Behlen Ground Hide Glue—the
traditional luthier’s glue that Gibson
used in 1952. I mixed equal weights
of dry ground hide glue and water
into a Stew-Mac electric glue pot,
while stirring to speed up the melting process. It didn’t take long to
achieve a uniform consistency and
adhesion. The glue pot maintains
hide glue at 150-155 degrees F when
2/3 to 3/4 full. It is important to
always check drying time with glue
at room temperature. If you need
more assembly time when working
with hide glue, add water to the mix.
I applied glue to the body’s neck
cavity and neck tenon using a 3/8"
glue brush, and then clamped the
neck to the body joint by applying
even pressure with two bar clamps
and a fretboard clamping caul. After
the hide glue had completely cured,
I reset the three original frets I’d
previously pulled, using Stew-Mac’s
medium-fretwire Fret Setter and
Deadblow Fretting Hammer.
When the job was done, we all
took turns enjoying the goldtop’s
vintage tone and silky playability.
Talk about wow factor!
JOHN BROWN is the
inventor of the Fretted/Less
bass. He owns and oper-
ates Brown’s Guitar Factory,
a guitar manufacturing,
repair, and restoration facility
staffed by a team of talented
luthiers. His guitar-tool and accessory designs
are used by builders all over the world. Visit
brownsguitarfactory.com or email John at