Vintage Gretsch Guitars

1959 Silver Jet needs top


New year's resolution I'm going through and selling guitars I don't use, and I'm not sure what to do about this one. It's a '59 Silver Jet, but the silver top material is toast. It's cracked and peeled and not possible to save it, really bad. I thought I ought to sell and let someone else enjoy the project.

The thing is, the guitar has a killer neck and sounds really great, better than average. I have earlier Jets but none with Filtertrons, and I'm not in a position to buy a nice one right now. I was just looking at photos of new Gretsch Custom Shop guitars and thinking they had some pretty nice sparkle materials. I could see if they'd redo the top on this guitar.

Or I have heard that some people have NOS 60s drum wrap, though I don't know who those people are. Anyone here know?

Part of me says, I don't need a heavily restored version of a stock guitar, so I'd only go through with fixing it if it made something one-of-a-kind. I could use some wilder sparkle top, or even do a Penguin conversion... maybe not changing the headstock though, or maybe so.

What would you do?


Post a picture. But I'm partial to cosmetically trashed Gretsches.


apossibleworld... good to see you on the GDP! So are you selling all of your guitars? You KNOW which one I want! Please email me if it's on the block! - Ed.


Oh look what I've started. I don't have a photo handy, it's in my storage unit. I may well sell it, but I'd like to consider first the fun things I could possibly do by keeping it, to both respect what is original about it but also do something special.

Ed, of course I'd call you first if I ever sell that other one! But not this time around.


Drumwrap? I find those sort of things on Ebay


But...then, I wouldn't deny a fella a chance to go here Link or a similar outlet to get the implements of construction to do a custom flake job and drown that thang under some high build and finish clear coats.

just sayin'

I stopped by my space to take some photos. As you can see, the top is really beyond saving. Let's forget about the notion that I might sell it. What would you do? Try to restore it as new, or make something special and unusual out of it, considering it will never be original?


nothing wrong with that top where I come from


Maybe someone in the Gretsch custom shop can help? That's just too nice to do something weird/custom with. And it's not like there are a lot of them out there. Drum repair shop?


Tough call. Stripping the nitron off and reskinning it with something close in look will not be easy. I suspect getting the wrap to bond correctly over the compound curved top will require vacuum forms and maybe even some heat. So, I think I might try and spray some flake and maybe some light amber clear coats to make it look older. Like Billy said, maybe glue the loose bits back down and go with the original look.


What's the backstory on this one, what caused the damage to the nitron top?


I'd glue the loose bits down and play it.


The photos make it look less extreme than it really is. I haven't found a way to glue it down without severely damaging the top underneath. I gave it to one prominent repair guy, who held on to it for a year and told me there was nothing he could do. I should probably get a second opinion from a more creative shop.

I have no idea what would have caused this! Maybe it sat next to a heater for many years? I've seen lots of Sparkle Jets where the tops have shrunk around the edges, like this one, but never another one where it's cracked in the center. It still sounds fantastic. And the case is really really clean, so it makes no sense to me either.


Thanks for posting the pics. That top sure looks crazy. What shape is the back in?

Years ago GDPer Deke had the nitron replaced on a jet. I wonder if he kept any pics of the process.

I believe Curt used a heat gun and putty knife to remove the nitron from my jet.


That's just too nice to do something weird/custom with.

That's how I feel about it too. Not only would I personally prefer it to remain silver (the variants never looked as good to me), but it will likely be easier to move that way, restored rather than hot rodded.

Obviously, reskinning has been done, so it can be done again. If it were mine, I'd be trolling vintage drum forums to see if you can hunt down the correct silver sparkle. Apparently the stuff Gretsch currently uses doesn't have the same size of flakes. But maybe other modern brands do.


I don't know what the difference is between celluloid and nitron but I do know they are basically the same thing.

I used one of those metal paint brush things that I use to remove bridges, fingerboards and things like that. The glue that was used was some sort of contact cement that probably used chlorinated solvents.

It's unlikely that you'll find a material that matches that flake or thickness. You could find someone to paint it but there would be hours of prep work to do it right but I'm sure they can match the flake and hue.


I stopped by my space to take some photos. As you can see, the top is really beyond saving. Let's forget about the notion that I might sell it. What would you do? Try to restore it as new, or make something special and unusual out of it, considering it will never be original?

– apossibleworld

If it was mine, I would be sending it to Curt for a retop/refinish, and have a tinted lacquer top coat shot on it.


How do you wreck the top on a vintage Silver Jet? It's tougher than a NASA space shield.


That was my thought, too!

Like a bulletproof plastic cutting board...


another vote for Curt, he can resurrect the dead.


No clue! I got it this way... from a Guitar Center, if you can believe that. I have seen several vintage Sparkles where the top was shrinking at the sides, so I don't think it's that indestructible. Like this one, though it's much less extreme

The rest of the guitar is in great shape, no other damage from whatever caused the top issues. At this point you could basically peel most of the top off without heat.

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