Our main focus in the shop has always been to serve the local music community in New Orleans. As we are musicians ourselves, we attached great importance to the symbiosis of the music scene here, and it was very important to us to do our part to make it prosper and to build meaningful relationships with our customers. Even during a global pandemic, musicians still find a way to create their art, despite being walled off with live streams in their home studios, and we’re still here to keep their gear going. But over time we get more and more calls and emails from people out of town asking if they can send their instruments over to us for repair – a notable example is an email we received recently where we inquired, Mike Campbells (from Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers) Vintage Gibson Dove. We asked ourselves: “Also he doesn’t have a local shop to fix his stuff ?! “
We began to reconsider our previous reluctance to accept delivery work, thinking if people value our work and our dedication to the craft, why not open our doors to them too? So we finally started saying yes. This post is about restoring a remarkable guitar for a remarkable musician, but that doesn’t mean this is an exclusive club. For us, no job is too big or too small and it doesn’t matter who you are or what size stage you played on. We treat every guitar with the same care and each customer with the same level of respect. That means: check out this gem of a specimen that I brought back to life!
This is a rare bird indeed. This Cherry Sunburst-style, dreadnought-style flat-top acoustic guitar was made right on the cusp of many changes at Gibson. The Norlin era was on the horizon and would usher an emphasis on more automated production and less precise craftsmanship. It was around this time that they switched from Brazilian rosewood to ebony fingerboards, switched to reworked bracing, and moved away from the hand-inlaid pearl doves. The double pickguard is the really rare feature here. These guitars are very difficult to find in the vintage market. That said, it was in pretty bad shape and practically unplayable when it arrived. It needed help.
After half a century of being punished by 200 pounds of incessant string tension, the neck angle had dropped hugely, the heel block inside the guitar collapsed, the Tune-O-Matic bridge had broken, and the neck itself had a tremendous amount of tremendous forward relief. Fortunately, all of this can be fixed if you’re ready to disassemble a collectable antique … which I love to do.
Before we remove an acoustic guitar neck, we take accurate measurements and calculate exactly how much the neck angle needs to change, but this is not possible until the bridge tabs are where they’re supposed to be, so in a. ordered a brand new Tune-O-matic bridge and I modified it to match the factory bridge that Gibson would have used to ship this guitar.
After the bridge worked properly, I put the guitar back on pitch, did my calculations, and began dismantling.
While the glue around the neck joint was still soft, I put the heel block back into position, added some fresh Titebond wood glue, and clamped it in place. I also glued some sheets of spruce into the guitar to reinforce the cracks that had formed in the top.
A good amount of material had to come out of the heel to readjust the neck angle.
We remove the bulk material with chisels and sanding blocks and then switch to the dragging technique to fine-tune the neck angle and center line.
Once I was happy with the angle I underlayed and adjusted the dovetail joint to ensure a tight mechanical fit before gluing them back together.
With the guitar reassembled and the neck in the correct relief condition, I was able to find that instead of rebinding the instrument, I could get away with using PLEK to level the original frets. This, along with being able to keep the original saddle, was great news for the guitar’s originality.
The guitar has been restored, refurbished and plays better than ever!
And now a testimonial from the Heartbreaker himself:
“Thanks to Strange Guitarworks in New Orleans for making my Vintage Gibson Dove play and sound so much better! It’s perfect. ”- Mike Campbell
Thanks Mike! Visit us anytime!