Other Guitars

1936 SS Stewart Restoration Question

1

This is a circa 1936 SS Stewart acoustic archtop.

It needs work as you can see. The action is bad it just needs work. These guitars have no truss rod.

I cannot do the work myself. I was wondering if any of you gotten an old archtop restored? If so what did it cost you if you don't mind me asking?

Thank You

2

Those guitars and a lot of old archtops are really cool but have no particular value... just depends on what you want to do with it. Guitars with bent necks that have no adjustable truss rod -- that's a problem. I'm not saying it's a wall hanger, but make sure it's something you want to play if you have it worked on.

3

Those guitars and a lot of old archtops are really cool but have no particular value... just depends on what you want to do with it. Guitars with bent necks that have no adjustable truss rod -- that's a problem. I'm not saying it's a wall hanger, but make sure it's something you want to play if you have it worked on.

– DCBirdMan

I can attest to that. I have a mid 1930s round neck Dobro® that has come down through the family. Same story, no truss rod. I don't know how many times I've had a technician try to straighten it out. It just won't stay put. About the only thing I can use it for practically speaking is slide playing. It's great for that.

4

DC hit the nail on the head.....it comes down to the guitars' value if restored, compared to the cost to buy it (unless it's been given to you) and restore it, assuming of course it doesn't have a sentimental value - dad's guitar, that sort of thing - which can influence the decision to restore it.

I agree that these old vintage guitars don't really have much of a value, even a fairly pristine example. They were a low end model and not made with any frills. Of course a restoration can improve on that but then your costs start to escalate rapidly. The price of top quality tuners, an upscale tailpiece over those ugly plain-Jane things we see so often, a nice wooden bridge and repro pickguard are already exceeding the guitar's value. A big expense would be having a truss rod installed.

Regardless of my dislike of sunbursts, more than 95% of these vintage cheap guitars by all builders are these dark foreboding looking things and will readily identify a guitar as being a cheapo in a lot of folks eyes. I have no way of proving it but I believe one reason they were finished this way was to cover the use of inferior woods that would be seen if finished as a natural or 'blond'. To strip a cheap guitar and refinish would again add to the cost.

My Fleetwood archtop restoration is an expensive venture beginning with a new neck, to my specs however this is a rare guitar and also a top-of-the-line model, right up there with the Eldorado, and only available as a custom order at the time, so the money I'm investing in this restoration would be realized if I were to sell it, whereas the cheap vintage archtops it wouldn't be.

5

Hofners up to 1960 had no truss rod, but the necks were generally reinforced with an aluminium H-section up the centre of the neck - and, they left a lot of wood on there as well!

Action problems are just as likely to be the hide glue neck joint moving as a bow in the neck. A very small movement at the heel translates into, say 1/8" difference in action.

Both conditions are able to be addressed. A neck reset (removing and re-gluing) would address any structural movement. De-fretting and planing the fretboard straight might fix a small bow. Otherwise, it's fretboard off, and look at installing something like graphite rods before re-fitting the board. These suggestions get progressively more spendy, so do get an estimate...

H59

6

To get an idea of whether or not the neck is bowed, capo a string at the first and fret it at the 14th fret. How much of a gap is there between the string and, say 7th fret?

H59

7

Thank you everyone on the input on this. I hate to just keep it as room decor and not have it playable yet you all have a good point that it will be expensive and maybe not easy to get back to playable shape. I may just not do anything on it yet and apply money to work on my mid 60s County Club instead.

Hofner59, after church today I'll try the capo check and see about the gap. Good thing I have a business card from some place I bought some guitar parts on that has a neck measurement type of ruler on it that will make it easy.

8

To get an idea of whether or not the neck is bowed, capo a string at the first and fret it at the 14th fret. How much of a gap is there between the string and, say 7th fret?

H59

– Hofner59

I was wrong about the business card. It's not a gauge as well.

I can't measure it but let's say there is no space on the 7th fret when I do the capo test.

I can play it in open position at least. I'll keep it for that purpose and not do bar chords or any fancy stuff.

I have a nice Brownsville acoustic archtop that plays and sounds great. I know, I know, it's a Chinese made Sam Ash House Brand but it's unbelievably great sounding and feeling acoustic archtop.

9

Right - so if there's little or no gap between the bottom of the string and the top of the 7th fret, then the neck isn't bowed forward. The string functions as a straight edge.

If the action is high, then that suggests that the neck angle is wrong - likely through the joint having moved through years of string tension, and the hide glue joint degrading.

Next test - grab a 2-foot rule (or a good straight edge of about that length), and lay it, on-edge, up the middle of the fretboard, so it overhangs the body, with the end just in front of the bridge (not laid over the bridge).

What's the gap between the strings, and the bottom of the ruler/straight edge?

To put it another way, measure the height of the strings off the top of the guitar (just in front of the bridge), and then measure the height of the bottom edge of the ruler, from the same place on the top of the guitar.

H59

10

Try doing it yourself. I've done resets, adding trussrods under fretboard, steaming, all kinds of stuff just by trying not to be afraid and taking my time..... and not having the money to have someone who really knows what they're doing go at it. If you mess up/ give up, bring it to the shop. I'd bet that you could fix it pretty well yourself though.

11

A commendable attitude from Hilosean, but different folks have different levels of ability, and different ideas about what their level of ability is. I can make nuts bolts etc on a lathe - none of my friends can do this (or want to, but that's not the point) - but would I call myself an 'engineer'? Not really, no.

It would be useful to sort out what the problem with the guitar is, first off. The OP says the action is 'bad', which I've taken a guess as meaning 'high'.

If all it needs is a simple hide glue reset, then a look around ought to turn someone up who does these as a matter of course. Thinking laterally might help - archtop guitar repairers are possibly less common than folks who repair violins, violas and the like, all of which have an instantly 'relatable' neck joint.

Ebay is full of old Hofners which have suffered well-meaning attempts by owners to fix things - wood screws in neck joints and so on (Hofner never fitted them as standard - they made the neck joints fit properly before gluing them), and in the main, it turns a nice instrument into a 'project' at best, and 'scrap' at worst.

H59

12

Different levels have different answers.

No repair skills: Get a deep well socket, retune to DGDgbd. Everyone needs a slider around.

Some skills: With a hot pallet knife remove the old fretboard ( and nut), clean both surfaces as best you can. Steam neck off. Dampen and clamp neck to a flat surface, slowly applying pressure over hours. When you believe it suitably straight for working, Route in an 1/8 in. channel and drop in some carbon fiber rod Link from St/Mac or a kite shop. Reglue fretboard , clamp, new nut, level and dress frets.

Tha Skills; Duplicate the neck, custom profile,frets nut, woods, inlays. Include truss rod in the build (carbon fiber rod not a bad idea too.)

So everyone could get something out of the instrument

13

I had a neck reset done for about $350 on a 1958 New Yorker and now It plays like a champ. The guitar was in very good condition for its age and no other work was needed or done.

Would I do it again, Yes.Would I blow a ton of money to completely refinish it and make it look like it did in 1958,Never,

If it is unplayable,I'd suggest the D.I.Y. route and see what you end up with, It wouldnt hurt since its basically a paper weight anyway. Lots of knowledgeable people here and on Youtube to assist you. I redid my binding on another guitar with StewMac parts and it turned out pretty good.

Go For It.

14

Cool-looking guitar!

Post a picture of the area at the neck/body joint - a side view. This should show the action and how the neck set is holding up.

Check one of our sponsors, Old School Guitars, Curt can probably take care of it.


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