Vintage Gretsch Guitars

52 Electro 2 Neck Removal

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My 52 Electro 2 was a project guitar. There's another thread about it so I won't get into details but it had been refinished and was likely originally a sunburst. One thing particular about it is it had been factory re-neck with 54 or 55 country club neck(humped block markers, newer headstock logo etc. I'm not sure if it was bungled at the factory but it was high on the treble side and tilted towards diagonally across the guitar, When I installed a bigsby I adjusted accordingly. There was also a significant gap at the bottom of the heel.I had suspected it was a little loose .

Recently I had decided to paint the stinger on the back of the neck so I took the strings and tuners off. I thought I'd check the neck and sure enough I could wiggle it side to side and front to back. i tried what I did with my convertible (more wiggling and a few sharp taps on the heel) but no luck it wasn't coming off. So I made my own stew-mac style neck pulling jib out of some offcuts. long bolts, and a gear puller and also made a steamer out of a wallpaper steamer some fuel hose, a basketball needle , wood bits, epoxy and lots of duct tape (because I'm Canadian.) I removed the 15th fret drilled in and gave it a whirl. Tightened up the gig, put my steamer on my variac so I could control it a little(no controls..not even an off switch!) and started steaming. After a few minutes the neck slid out nicely! I was pretty happy. Boy oh boy though, lot's of shimmage and confirmation taht this guitar was indeed originally a sunburst
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Here's the two bits looking like they're missing each other

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Crusty neck mortise with shims on the sides and bottom. The top lifted a little on one side so it's glued with a clamp on it

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Crusty tenon with a crazy offset shim on the back. Judging by the large amount of shimming I'm betting the early electro 2s(52 53) had a much bigger dovetail tenon than the later country clubs(54 55).

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Check out this ^%$^%$ heel. This will be a challenging reset....and my 2nd!

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frigjtning..may the force be with you

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I think you’re up to the challenge. Keep us informed.

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Thanks. Just trying to decide if I should remove all the old shims and start anew. Basically the neck that was on the guitar has the later smaller dovetail tenon (like my convertible) and the dovetail mortise is MUCH larger.

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I’ve never left the old shims, and depending on your glue choice you have to remove them.

I use hot hide glue which is what the factory used and technically you can heat it up and it will flow but the joint failed so you need to start over. Titebond and hide don’t mix.

The gap is normal for Gretsch and so are multiple shims or laminated shims which is where the neck joint issues usually start.

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You’re a brave man. I have the same response to such pictures as I have to colonoscopy pictures: this is something I was never meant to see.

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Ha!

Hey Curt what do you think of titebonds 'liquid hide glue' I've read mixed reviews of it. I know Dan Erlewine from Stew Mac uses it in some applications. In this instance might also be an issue of very different dovetail sizes? On my 55 convertible the body mortise seemed a lot shallower, shorter and narrower. Of course I could be wrong, this is after all only the second Gretsch dovetail I've seen.

I will remove all the shims and start anew as they look a little sloppy anyway and I can hopefully achieve a better result (or a least something that doesn't wiggle!) I'm going to pack out the mortise some but also add shims to the tenon and do my adjusting on the tenon. Seems easier

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Old shims removed and most of the glue removed, still more to do of course I still haven't removed the mahogany 'plug' at the bottom of the body mortise. This dovetail tenon is much smaller than the mortise, probably as much as 1/2" side to side and 1/4-3/8" top to bottom. Pretty crazy. there's been some pretty drastic shaping done to the heel and bottom of the fretboard extension. One wonders how many guitars this neck has been on!!. Totally looks like a factory 2nd repurposed on an unsuspecting customer...unless the original owner was an employee.

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Are you going to build up the tenon using a titebond adhesive then shape, fit and install with hide glue? Or do the two adhesives not play well together ?

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My first plan so far, unless someone with experience has a better one, Is to either pack out the mortise with thick mahogany shims, but leaving a little room to add thin shims to the neck tenon so it can be shaped mostly at the neck. The other options is to just glue big fat shins to the neck tenon. and work from there. Word is titebond and hide glue don't play nice. I could pick up a lb of hide glue from Lee Valley. They have a darker shorter work time stronger stuff and a lighter longer work time weaker stuff. It would be another learning curve added to the mix though. hmm

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Practice gluing on something that doesn't matter first - Cap'n Ahab's wooden leg or something.

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You put the 'Pro' in Proteus! I'll have to find a non-fictional wooden legged character to practice on . I'll give it a whirl

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So I picked up some hide glue from a local luthier, great guy, Yusuke Kawakami, I get most of my bits from him and he lives just down the hill. Got some good pointers from Curt, Thanks Curt! Made some uber mahogany shims, fit the neck really tight.

I got a better neck set and I managed to get it lined up down the centre of the body instead of hugely angled towards the bass side as it was before. I also shifted it to the bass side about 1/8" which makes it line up with pickup cavities better. However because of the wonkiness of the fretboard/extension in relationship to the heel I couldn't make the fretboard level with the body (treble to bass) with out making the heel look &^%*^& crazy so I split the difference, it's only about 2mm or a 1/16" high on the treble side which is a lot better and the heel still looks decent.

Using the hide glue proved to be a snap, just be prepared. Thanks again Curt!

I did have one casualty, the humped block marker which was paper thin at the join popped out and broke, revealing once again the small piece of glued in newspaper that was shimming it up. Happily I have some real mother of pearl so I'll make a new one. the old one was chipped anyway.

Here's a picture of the guitar together and I'll include a picture of the neck join and a couple pictures depicting how kooky the fretboard was.

I'm really interested in seeing how the guitar performs with a non spongy loose &^&$# neck. I'm hoping I get a bit more ring and sustain and tuning is a bit better.

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Neck join, the black discolouration in the finish is I believe from when some PO removed the black of the sunburst to refinish it. Looks very similar to my acetone finish removal mishap with my 64 club.n It was always like that.

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The angle on the board now. to really compare these similar photos look at the top 's angle below the board compared to the bard. In the first photo the top is tilting down to the right/treble more). Still kooky, just not as bad kooky, happily the guitar plays great and it's not really noticeable.

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kooky neck heel held mostly straight. Treble side on left.

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Nice work. Looks like it'll be in much better playing condition. Or at least less weird playing condition.

I'm really interested in seeing how the guitar performs with a non spongy loose &^&$# neck. I'm hoping I get a bit more ring and sustain and tuning is a bit better.

I'm curious about that too.

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Thanks, It didn't really play wonky before, it just looked it you really checked it out. Here it is mostly assembled. i haven't got the pickguard on yet as I might adjust the pickup shims. Nice break angle over the bridge at about 1" . To me it sounds clearer with more sustain and ring...however I also put on new strings which also helps these things too.The old strings were at least a couple months old. I will wait for rehearsal tomorrow night to see if there's any sort of significant difference at volume. Strings line up perfectly.

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And here's the new 14th fret mother of pearl marker, almost as wonky as the originals!!


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