Restomod Guitar: making new old guitar


Forging a restomod guitar
looks and sounds old but plays like its new



This a personal diary of my experience restoring/modifying an old guitar; building a reliable playing instrument while modeling it after Justin Trosper's guitar.

The Project
(purchased in 10/2001 at a pawnshop)

The bright red color doesn't excite me, so I'm going to use this site to guide me through the refinishing process. I'm thinking about an aged Gibson SG-like finish using Heritage Cherry aniline dye. I think the black pickguard will work well with it. I'm replacing out the mutible mechanical bridge. Its just unnecessary like training wheels on a motorcycle or something. the nut on the new neck will have the bearings(fender part) under the strings so the tension on both sides of the nut is equal and locking tuning machines. The neck is the most difficult thing to replace. I'm currently looking for a replacement neck that suitable for this project(possibly it's going to be a Godin custom order). The original neck is no longer playable, the truss rod nut is completely striped, creating an action that is great for slide guitar. I'd like to make my own headstock design. Well actually the design is a copy of a teisco ET 460

I was told that I can expect some more shrinking of the pickguard when its taken off the body for refinishing so I hope I can use it after I'm done with the body. I'll keep this site updated as this project moves along.

update(9/10/02)

Bigtime delay as financing was not available. (Its still a problem but if I wait any longer I'm sure it just won't happen. I'm stuck in the old "have time/no money or no time/money to burn" paradox) I found a website that sells unfinished guitar necks. Great prices too. The particular one that i ordered has an unfinished paddle headstock. I have to work on the neck abit to get it to work though. The 22nd fret will be removed and the heel must be shaped so it fits snug in the pocket of the body. A loose fit heel will rob a guitar of sustain. The headstock shape will be the largest challenge. It's definately worth it though because anything I can come up with will be better than a fender strat headstock sold on 80% of the replacement necks. After the headstock is finished and the tuning machine holes are drilled I'll spray a lacquer finish on it to give it dated look. Amber lacquer will cover the light colored maple with yellowish stain popular on older guitar necks from that era. I can at least try to make it look like it came stock with the guitar.

I think the best way to replace the bridge is to modify a jag-stang bridge to work on this guitar. I'll either have to saw off two posts or just drill out the rivits, depending how its fastened, then I hope mounting holes matchup and its just a bolt right in situation. Since it will be a new part on an old guitar, I plan on putting some steelwool to it to age it abit. Also hear that chelated iron will further hasten the process.

I've changed my mind about refinishing the guitar, the red guitar with black pickguard will work I guess afterall. Its been banged up abit and I'm starting to like how it looks.
from here on out the updates should be much quicker.

update(9/13/02)

After removing the mutible bridge it appears that it was a modification. The screws were twisted in through the pickguard w/o drilling before hand. There are two posts that were underneath the bridge that are to anchor a gibson style bridge. I wish I had close up shots of justins guitar to confirm this. So plans of the jag-stang bridge mod are on hold. Due to intonation and autheticity I'd like to use the bridge posts in the guitar. To make matter worst, the posts are closer(2.75") together than gibson(2.930").

Talking with repairmen in the business, it seems that modifying a gibson tun-o-matic bridge to fit on the posts is my best bet. May loose some sustain but at least the proper bridge will be on the guitar. Tonepros makes tun-o-matic bridges that have allen wrench screws to tighted the bridge up to the post. This will help since i'll be filing those post holes in the bridge closer together. The allen head screws will increase contact.

update(9/17/02)

The headstock design is still up in the air. The more I go to the drawing board the more I want to recreate the headstock on Justin's guitar. The problem with that is the blank headstock doesn't have enough material to shape that design. I'm thinking about glueing on an extra piece of maple to the headstock and then cut out the design. The amber lacquer will help hide this but questions about the integrity are not altogether answered.
The neck will need a throuogh going over. The heel needs the 22nd fret removed as well as shaping. The length of the neck could be abit thinner for added playability. I was thinking about picking up the bridge now but seeing the amount of time that the neck requires, perhaps its better to just work on this for now. I'm still reviewing photos to help chose the right bridge, however tonepros does look like the hands down best candidate because of the modification required. I'm also looking at trying to pick up the stock bridge as a vintage item online.

update(9/21/02)

Picked up a japanese bridge from the late 60's/early 70's on ebay. The seller claims its from a teisco guitar but I've found no pics of this bridge on any of their guitars. Also of note here, the saddles are the same style as on the bridge that I had removed so I feel they are related parts. (Whether they are related to the stock bridge is another question though) The posts for the bridge on the guitar body has no threads so they will have to be replaced. Just one more step away from authenticity as playablity improves. I guess I knew this was a "resto-mod" project from the word go. This bridge should fit in better with the rest of the dated hardware than putting in a gibson style bridge. Also needed to consider the tremolo; with the nashville/abr-1 type bridge the tuning would never go back after a dive, but with the rounded saddles, at least there is a chance.

Intonation may become a problem. The scale of the old neck vs. new neck is different. Its questionable now I start to think about it, whether or not the original post location will be viable to allow saddle adjustments for proper intonation. Old problems solved and new problems arrive. Perhaps I won't need to pull the old posts after all. I need to call up a luthrie and find out what is the correct nut to bridge length of this scale.(24" jaguar, 24.75" gibson, 25.5" strat/tele)Using a strat to compare, it appears that the new bridge will sit further back on the guitar. Less original everyday. I may need to drill into the pickguard and guitar body to create a space for the new posts. My only hope is that the bridge hides this modification. Hey if it plays like a dream, what the hell its only 35 years old. My tombstone will someday read "butcher of cheap vintage guitars"

update(9/22/02)

The neck met the rasp for the first time. The rasp worked well when lots of pressure was one it. Maple is a hard wood, so progress was slow. Shaved off quite a bit of wood off the back of the neck though. It feels like I'm holding a guitar neck now, not a branch. I guess when the catalog says "unfinished" they mean it. No way this was a bolt right in and play.(unless you like how the neck on the jeff beck strat feels) The rosewood at the edge of the fretboard was too sharp. Couldn't wrap my thumb over or fingers under it without the rosewood pinching abit. Sandpaper around a pipe smoothed out the fretboard edge real nice. Feels like its been played now. Cut the 22nd fret off and shaped the heel abit. Still needs more shaping to fit into the body snug. This was the first day so i took it easy. Still ended up sweating it out in the garage for 90 minutes so it's gonna take some time. I'll check it out every once in a while to get more ideas about its shape. Have to find some maple soon to glue to the headstock. I hope i can find the right thickness because I don't have a way to mill 1/16"(or whatever) off if needed. Still need to pickup the nut, tuners and amber laquer. Probably get those in November.



update(11/29/02)

The headstock is much too difficult to replicate. The blank headstock isn't really large enough for any design other than a fender-like design. According to a few different luthiers I could extend the headstock and get the oversized headstock design i'm looking for, As long as the tuning maschines are placed within the original portion. I don't want to scrap the brand new neck because of this so i'll give it a shot now that I have more time. So i'll shave the width a bit more and find some maple to bond to the headstock(shopping around for parts has really become a highlight of the project). I did find an older guitar with an oversized headstock. The nice thing about this old neck is that it is the same scale as the original so it would have to place the bridge back. (didn't buy it though, perhaps if i really screw up the blank...) A beautiful mosrite copy on the right for scale.
The body is so long as well. I hope that the guitar strings are long enough to make this work out. more updates soon.



update(12/28/02)

Hey, i'm just looking for a neck right now, thought i'd add a few pics. The ad is for the 1st unwound show that i saw. Went to see fugazi really. It was a busy couple days with sonic youth the next night. Both nights i managed to see the shows for front left of stage(Lee/Vern's side). Anyways its slow development until the neck is finished, then i'll add a tab section based on the vid footage that i recorded of their so cal tours. Believe it or not, i don't even consider myself a huge fan but i used to drive up to LA to see them, go figure.

update(02/25/03)

project is again on hold while i decide to either change the neck scale to a longer length or wait for the correct neck to become available and retain the original scale.

update(03/20/03)

Finally came up with a solution to the nexk issue. I found an oversized headstock and i'm crossing my fingers that the scale is the same. The guitar that has this neck was built in the same factory as the body i will be mounting to it. So I'll hopefully get lucky and when it comes trim it down like the pic. I guess this is how justin did his as well.





update(04/22/03)

I received the neck that I had planned on reshaping. It really didn't appear to have any lasting qualities so I decided to go with another next. It was a hollowbody gibson 335 copy. I 'm still waiting for the neck in the mail. Picked up some tuning machines as well and yet again, they looked cheap so I'll get rid of those and decide from there what I'll replace the tuners with, if at all. Its also not clear, but either the headstock was painted on the neck or the black paint on the back off the neck was removed. I'll have to finish that so it looks clean. Supposed to made from mahogany. very dense neck.



update(11/14/03)

been along time. I removed the black paint off the headstock. Going through reranch to get the material needed to coat the headstock clear. Picked up some very cheap tuning machines of ebay. They're too to use. So i'm still shopping. Going to put extra effort to finish this by Feb 1, 2004. Its needs to get played.
update(2/08/04)

Lagtime huh?
Sold all my guitars on ebay. I feel better not having any fender crap around. Sold the 1963 fender and spent the money on a ski trip in utah. Just have this "i'm a unwound wannabe guitar." I have the stain for the neck as well as a spray can of nitrocellulose lacquer. Its supposed to produce that mirror-like shine quality we have all grown to love. Big push to get it together before i go back up to the bay area. I'm lagging bigtime.
last update(5/05/04)

Its done. The stain came out looking like crap. luckily it was only on the neck. Took awhile to find a guitar strap since I haven't had a reason to plug in for about 18 months. I thought it was going to be John Denver cover tunes on the acoustic from here on out. This guitar is a monster. I don't know why i knew it would sound great but i knew it would. There are so many qualities in the tone that were absent in all the fenders I had had. All I need to do know is get an echoplex and I'm on my way to wannabe stardom, right.