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  Project File:
40's Era Gibson L-50 Refret & Inlay Work

1. A customer was so happy with the work I did on his 1963 Framus that he brought me this 40's Gibson L-50 archtop to work on. It belonged to a family member who had passed on and he found it in a garage or barn. I had to remove a fairly large mud dauber wasp nest from the inside of the guitar. Luckily there were no wasps living in there!


2. It was in bad need of a refret and several of the inlays had come loose. We decided to replace the plastic inlays with some real pearl. The fretboard had developed some fairly deep finger indentions up in the open chord area, from years of chording. So I decided I could sand those out when I leveled the fretboard.


3. First I had to remove the frets. The rosewood fingerboard was very dry and I knew it would be tough to remove the frets without chipping the board so I slathered on some lemon oil and let it sit a couple days before trying to remove the frets. The frets came out easily and with no chipping. 


4. Here is the fretboard after the frets were removed. I checked it with a straight edge and found a rise in the tongue that was preventing me from getting the neck totally straight. I marked the area with a white China marker and sanded it down until the board was straight.


5. The bottom of the inlay cavities were covered with 50 year old brown adhesive (epoxy?). I had to scrape all of that out before I could fit the pearl inlays. It was fortunate that these inlays match the Les Paul Standard inlays, otherwise I would have had to cut them myself which would have been more costly for the customer. The Les Paul inlays were almost an exact match, I just had to sand them a little to get them to fit.


6. Once the inlays were installed, it was time to sand a little more with a 12" radius block. The board came out really nicely. Then I prepared the fret slots and was ready to start fretting.


7. Here, I am installing the new fret wire. Notice how the tang has to be cut to fit inside the binding. This is one reason why refretting a guitar with binding is a little more money. You can see the Titebond glue in the slot. This doesn't hold the fret in place, it acts more as a gap filler. The frets seated nicely.


8. After the frets were installed I left them clamped up for 24 hours. Then I clipped off all the fret ends, beveled them, and dressed them. Here, I am rounding the fret ends with a 3 sided file.


9. Wow, looks great! Can't wait to string it up and test her out.

I could hardly believe how sweetly this guitar set up! The action is really low without any buzzing. It plays like butter. If only I could play it like Robert Johnson.


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