Vintage Gretsch Guitars

60’s Viking lefty conversion

1

Hello,

I plan to do this on a gretsch viking body i just bought. It’s only the body, with the usual rot on the binding, so it doesnt have a great vintage value...

Any advices or pictures of converted guitar welcome !

2

Another lefthanded member from France (gazoyey) has done some conversions. The G100 and the G400 linked on his profile page and at least another hollow body that he showed on the other Gretsch forum (as far as I recall).

http://gretschpages.com/com...

Looked very nice!

Don't forget to post your progress. As a fellow lefty it is always nice to see.

3

Hey, Cyril,

Whee! This is going to be fun.

I have had one Gretsch lefty conversion done, and it actually started as a '60s doublecut 6120. In fact, when I got it, it was already a half-baked conversion, and it was a mess, which I had cleaned up by experts:

Knobs and switches were moved to the other side of the guitar and the original holes plugged. Thumbnail inlays were put on the right side of the fingerboard, and the originals on the left side were removed and the cutouts for them filled in. The right-handed Bigsby (that was hacked to make it left-handed; the spring cup was sawed off and bolted to top on the other side! Yikes!) was replaced with a proper lefty B6. The mute system was removed and the holes filled. Refretted and a bad headstock repair was made a good headstock repair (this had nothing to do with the conversion, of course) Other cosmetic cleanups, and some new hardware.

Since it was buggered and had no vintage value, I had it refinished in a two-tone color combination that I've always liked, but despaired of ever seeing on a factory lefty.

The initial result is pictured here, with a Chet arm on the Bigsby and no pickguard (not sure why it wasn't installed).

Paul/FF909

4

Nice clean look without the mute(s).

5

It subsequently received a gold Bigsby and its pickguard, then I put the aluminum B6 with the Chet arm back on it. All-gold hardware just didn't look quite right.

The finish is Ivory and Platinum Gray.

Paul/FF909

7

So much better with the pickguard, Paul. Really pulls the whole package together. Fantastic colour scheme.

Single-cuts look cool sans-pickguard but the double-cut sure needs it to complete the look.

8

So, for yours, Cyril, it would be great to see what you're starting with.

I trust that you realize that the Viking body quite differs from the '60s 6120 body, as it is 17" (vs. 16" for the 6120) wide, has a 25.5" scale (vs. 24.6"), a differently shaped headstock, and large, open f-holes (vs. little fakes). Here's a photo of my 1968 6120 alongside my '68 Viking. I'm offering this pic as information, so that you can project the outcome of your endeavor.

Paul/FF909

9

So much better with the pickguard, Paul. Really pulls the whole package together. Fantastic colour scheme.

Single-cuts look cool sans-pickguard but the double-cut sure needs it to complete the look.

– ade

Oh, yeah, it looked naked and ashamed without the guard. I was really glad that the gold guard worked with the ivory, because I would have had no idea what color to use on the guard if it had not.

Paul/FF909

10

Hello Paul,

I guess the Viking is a different beast than the 6120...

The guitar I start with : Link

It seems to be in good shape, except for the headstock veneer and the binding. The seller told me there is no structural issues, the broken veneer is probably from removing the tuners. I bought it as a project guitar, inspired by your other posts about lefty conversions Since it's lost the hardware it don't have any vintage value, so I guess I can do whatever I'm pleased on it.

The simplest refit is to build it as a righty again, as a guest guitar (believe it or not, I have righty friends !). But if the guitar is in good shape I could be tempted by a lefty conversion. I would like to remove the old binding myself if it's crumbling too much, and try to save the finish. I didn't think it was possible but I saw some exemples on the net, so why not. I will either let the old binding or remove it by myself, because the cost involved will be too expensive for the final value of the guitar. Then I plan to either glue another binding, or take it to a luthier.

Problems of not refinishing is the old holes on the righty side, they are always visible even with the best luthier. I saw a guitar with chrome inserts instead of touchup, maybe better... There is also stain of the right bigsby, but it will fade away with years with direct sunlight... And if the finish is screwed by my poor binding removal technique, I will go for a complete refinish..

Second problem is the neck, I think I will go for a symmetric inlay job as it was sometimes done at the factory... But if the neck is badly out of tune because of the T tempered fretting, maybe it will be a good reason to let it as a Righty for guests...

I will order some Imperial tuners with kidney buttons, and when i will receive the guitar put a spare hilotron pickup and a bigsby on it an do a test, to know if I bond with the old lady :)

11

I edited the title of the topic, I used an old topic without any posts on it to start the topic, I now understand why Paul told me Viking and 6120 were different animals... I didn't planned to convert a Viking in a 6120, just to do a lefty conversion

12

And there is a problem with the serial number of the guitar, it's supposed to be a '64, but there is a hole for the thing fork which was introduced 1966 or 67 ? But there is no stamped number on the back of the headstock so I guess not a '67...

14

The label inside the guitar is numbered 70393 which is 1964ish or so. But it does have the hole for the Floating Sound Unit which is quite odd for being this early. This must be one of the very very first guitars using the FSU. A FSU can cost anywhere from $100 to $300 when available, but for my money they are worth it because the dang thing works. And with the two different Supertrons's, the sound of a Viking is pretty awesome. And Toxophilite is absolutely correct -- Cadillac Green is the way to go. I have a Viking in Cadillac Green and it is a distinctive color. If you don't care about being "vintage" there is a wide pallet of lacquer-based paints to choose from. Go to any auto parts store and look at spray cans of lacquer-based touch up paints to get an idea

15

The #703xx serial number places this Viking in the debut batch of Viking models. My research strongly suggests that this batch was comprised of serial numbers #70350-70499. Not the first time we've seen a Gretsch debut batch of 150 guitars.

So yes... this Viking "is" a very early one. However, all of these Vikings from the debut batch are 1965 model year examples. I have many data points from guitars with earlier serial numbers possessing pots dated in the April/May 1965 timeframe.

Enjoy your project!

16

Thanks for the answers, so the serial can be '64 and the guitar finished in '65. No problem for me since it's not original anymore. Cadillac Green is nice but I like the sunburst finish, if it's possible to keep it I will, and I will fill the righty knobs holes with a bunch of switches, why not a Stereo Viking with effects build in I've always wanted to have a sustainer guitar, with this model I will have room left for additional electronics

17

I just had the guitar, i quikly made the sum of the parts i already have

18

It’s in good condition except the crumbling binding... I will enlarge the tuner holes and put strings on it, if I like it I will convert as a lefty, if not it will stay righty...

19

Tuners holes manually enlarged, from 8,5 to 10mm for new imperial tuners

20

Lovely :) I will have to touch up and spray the headstock because of chips in the veener (i believe when the old tuners were put off the guitar...).

21

I found various links of viking binding refit, this one Link is really lovely. but he goes for a partial spraying of the sunburst, I also saw Curt Wilson website he seems to manage to put off the old binding (and glue and scrap the new one..) without damaging the finish and only spray clear coat on the binding.... I will see how it goes, it’s really crumbling in a lot of parts....

22

Nice guitar, lefty conversion is cool. Maybe consider not getting caught up in attempting to make her a showroom piece. Changing the binding is a solid idea, a lot of original Gretsch binding seemed to have failed with age.

Having an old guitar with some dings and marks really just creates a sense of vintage class for me. But to each their on, enjoy !!!

23

Thanks for your comment, I agree with you i don’t want to make the guitar new again, but the crumbling binding on the neck will make it unplayable soon... Having an old guitar with dings doesn’t bother me, even if i LOVE my other japanese Gretsches ‘94 to 2014, which all still look as new :)

24

I scraped a little bit of the binding to see the depth of the groove. I think i can manage to laminate a 3 ply BWB binding (1,5mm ) with an outer white binding (2,3mm thick). the binding is really crumbling at some places so replacement is really needed if i want to use the guitar.

25

I made a try on the back of the guitar. I tried different scrapers (a lot of dust but not very easy to remote bindings) but the most effective way for now is a big chisel with very light hammer taps on it, 0.1mm by 0.1 mm... I will try to cut a line off the varnish first, to avoid chipping the finish too much, and maybe mild hair dryer to soften the binding...


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