Repair Journal – Silvertone Archtop Brace Repair

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This old Silvertone archtop guitar was purchased for the owner by his mother when he was a boy. A while ago one of the long internal top braces popped loose, rendering the instrument prone to collapse. Luckily, the strings were loosened and no serious damage was incurred. The brace was still bouncing around inside. Normally, a repair of this nature would supersede the value of the instrument, but the sentimental attachment and the fact that it is such an early Silvertone (and a beautiful round shouldered jumbo cutaway) prompted the owner to have me proceed with the repair. This meant that the back had to come off so that the brace could be glued back on. The neck also needed a reset. Someone had attempted to repair the neck with a drywall screw and putty at one point. I gouged out the putty and managed to remove the screw. The neck was then steamed out and the real work could now continue.

First a body mold needed to be made to keep the body from potato chipping when the back was off. I really like the shape of this instrument so I didn’t really mind making a body mold for later use. I used two single edge razor blades as sharp little wedges to coax the binding off. One was oriented vertically and the other horizontally. This slow and painful process took an entire day. Now the seam of the back joint could be separated and the back removal complete. Inside I found a veritable Tut’s Tomb of various hair balls and insect specimens from an era gone by. I felt like I was trespassing into a hidden place. I used my bow clamp fixture to glue the brace back on. While I was inside I took the opportunity to fortify a variety of other somewhat dubious looking joints. I realized when it was time to reassemble the guitar there was no way I would be able to register the back and binding separately. This meant the binding had to be glued to the back BEFORE the back was glued onto the guitar. Fair enough, this could be done. Then, to my horror, I realized that far from potato chipping, the body had corseted! It was too narrow at the waist. I would need to put a spreader bar inside if I was to get the back to register properly with the sides. With plastic wrap around the ends of the spreader bar to prevent potential glue drips from making it permanent, I tied a length of string to it and fed it through an f-hole, hoping I would be able to remove the bar after gluing the back on. I was lucky and everything went back together well and the spreader bar came out easily enough. From this point it was just a straightforward neck set.

The instrument sounds and plays wonderfully.

Another old war horse brought back from the grave.