Vintage Gretsch Guitars

Sacrilege? Thinking of finally “hot-rodding” a 6186…

1

Normally, I don't come down on the side of hacking up vintage guitars, but lately I've been wondering if it wouldn't be a good idea to "do" something with a '63 6186 I've got lying about. I have a same-year Tennessean that now needs a pickup transplant and I figured that once the 6186 gave up it's H-Tron, I could set about doing who knows what sorts of wild and twisted things to the carcass. First thoughts were some sort of head-stock overlay, Gretsch bigsby, wild paintjob, and (of course) a second pickup. Hell, maybe even a third...

I know these guitars are student models so its not like I'm hacking up a 6120 or anything...

When I was on this page YEARS ago, I know the prevailing opinion was to leave 'em alone, even if its a Clipper. But, have attitudes changed? AND, does anyone know a good custom-shop / luthier near Philly they would trust with something like this?

2

I have a wildly modified Clipper the community came together for and put together a few years ago that I love dearly. It's a great guitar (although a wild ride with that wide open body and hot dynas). Go for it. I'd talk to Curt. Philly ain't that far from him.

3

Awesome! That's exactly what I'm looking for. I love the completely hollow, thin body, it just looks like it was put together by a first grader...

4

Some guitars can’t be brought back to full vintage specs. I say go for it but please share your journey here.

5

Absolutely!

It's not in terrible shape, though someone has obviously made a few changes (bridge, tuners, bigsby). I do have the original tailpiece and what I believe to be the original rosewood bridge in a box...

Considering what can be done with cling wrap on cars these days, I'm wondering if anyone has tried anything like that on a guitar? I could "refinish" the body and headstock with a "sticker" and so long as I didn't punch any new holes for a second pickup, the guitar could be easily returned to "stock."

6

I don't have any probs with this but as I have learned many times over with my Many Demented Projects -- even if you really improved something, made it more functional, cooler sounding more relevant to now than 1963, etc., should the time come to let it go you will find it hard to find someone who digs it, and even if they do, they aren't going to pay for it and will even offer less. Unless you got into it on the cheap, breaking even genreally is not an option. Reversible mods of course are a different story.

7

I often think about hot-rodding my Clipper to make it my dream rock guitar (thinline, trestles, and 'trons), but it's such a sweet picker as it is. Maybe I'll get another and hot rod that!

8

I often think about hot-rodding my Clipper to make it my dream rock guitar (thinline, trestles, and 'trons), but it's such a sweet picker as it is. Maybe I'll get another and hot rod that!

– Otter

I'm right with you. I've had this thing for over 20 years and have thus far resisted changing anything as it sounds so good (???) the way it is. It is even semi-usable unplugged!

9

If you've already had it 20+ years I'm guessing you're never going to sell it so you may as well make it the way you want it, especially if it will encourage you to play it more.

10

I've always believed that you should "Make It Your Own"............

11

I've always believed that you should "Make It Your Own"............

– senojnad

this is how I feel too!

12

Clippers are never going to be particularly collectible or valuable, so I say go for it. It's not like any of us cringe when we see a hot-rodded Clipper the way we might with a '50s 6120 or Country Gent. If it was a freakishly clean example, then I'd say it's an object worth preserving for posterity. Otherwise, have at it.

13

Definitely make it your own if you want, however if you like any open body acoustic tone it may have I imagine wrapping it in cling wrap will not be ideal for that. Aside from the open F-holes they're pretty functionally similar to Tennesseans. As you know Tennesseans are also fully hollow thin bodies they just have the funky painted on F-holes. If you want to try other pickups and don't want to route the top you could try DeArmond 2000s which while they sound pretty close to vintage DeArmonds don't have the large mechanical armature on the bottom. This is of course providing your bridge is high enough.You could even mount one floating off you pickguard if you were clever. I did this with a hilotron on my convertible and it worked great. I might be switching it to a 2000

14

Definitely make it your own if you want, however if you like any open body acoustic tone it may have I imagine wrapping it in cling wrap will not be ideal for that. Aside from the open F-holes they're pretty functionally similar to Tennesseans. As you know Tennesseans are also fully hollow thin bodies they just have the funky painted on F-holes. If you want to try other pickups and don't want to route the top you could try DeArmond 2000s which while they sound pretty close to vintage DeArmonds don't have the large mechanical armature on the bottom. This is of course providing your bridge is high enough.You could even mount one floating off you pickguard if you were clever. I did this with a hilotron on my convertible and it worked great. I might be switching it to a 2000

– Toxophilite

I was thinking this as well, and with the same pickup. Do you have any pictures?

15

Sure I'm always happy to inflict pictures of my guitars on people! Here it is originally and with Hilotrons None with the Bridge hilo floater setup(current) Metal flat bar under the hilotron (bolted to it using the normal mounting holes in the pickup cover.) remainder of bar is bolted to the pickguard(have it extend across the guard for a couple inches and bolt it to the guard in 2 spots for extra stiffness and strength) You can also put a block of felt under the bass side or affix it to the bridge somehow like German guitars sometimes have.

16

Yup. I have a '59 Clipper and while there is routing beneath the HiLo, you don't need it. The polepieces when fully extended clear the surface. If you make a new pickguard, it would be easy to attach a plethora of pickups, as well as separate controls. That way, you could experiment with tones.

17

Thanks All! This has really got my mind humming now. In fact, I'm liking the two-tone look more now so maybe I'll make the top a contrasting color (white / red) and do the floating pickup idea so that I don't need to send it to a luthier.

Was even thinking about having a square metal plaque made up for the headstock -put something really f* up on there.

Here we go!

18

A two-tone Clipper with dual DeArmonds and a Bigsby would be hella cool. I think that's pretty much what Baxter's is?

19

I once saw what I believed to be a factory two-tone slim Clipper: black back and sides but with a Lotus Ivory top. The chrome and silver appointments looked outstanding.


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