Sunday, November 14, 2010

Weissenborn Style 1 Restoration and Repair

Although not a rare guitar in Weissenborn terms, historically the Style 1 was the backbone of Weissenborn's musical empire, and still is today. In the same way Martin brought their unsurpassed quality across a range of models and materials, Weissenborn wanted to make his proprietary steel guitars available so the average musician could obtain such an instrument.

This gorgeous Style 1 was produced in the mid 1920s at the height of the Weissenborn Company's success, and features beautiful figured Koa wood, Spirit varnish finish and all the typical construction details we would expect to see on an instrument dating from this era.

When the guitar came to my shop for repair, it had not long left another where it had received a new bridge:

Face view:

Rear view:


Now clearly this does not appear to be the work of an expert, and its unfortunate but not uncommon to see this kind of work on Weissenborn and related instruments. You can see the saddle was made so tall that it actually cracked the bridge. I couldn't tune this instrument to pitch without it threatening to tear right off.

Here you can see why you should NEVER use slotted pins on your guitar - more on this later.


The repair begins. Heat shield, Aluminum tape, and heat lamp:


The tape is used to come up and over the edges, protecting any finish missed by the somewhat universal shield:


After a few minutes under the heat lamp, the resins in the rosewood begin to bubble. I slide my repair knife underneath, and the bridge comes away without problem:


A close examination and the previous "repair" disaster begins to show. Here you can see what happens if you don't heat the joint sufficiently, or pay attention to grain runout:

The "bellied" or distorted top:

Another view:


The top distortion is of course the most likely reason behind the previous replacement bridge. In an effort to increase action height, the tall saddle was installed, much like how at old Martins they would shave the bridge instead of resetting the neck. The heart of the problem was never addressed and the tall saddle only compounds the problem on an already sensitive instrument.

One of my favorite luthiers, restoration icon T.J Thompson, recently developed a tool to reduce the belly in the old prewar Martins he is associated with, without permanent alterations to the guitar. Of course his tool would never fit a Weissenborn, but I thought it might be possible to take the same idea and custom manufacture one for Weissenborn:


Although they look simple, each tool part is machined as a matching convex / concave set:


They are headed up in my glue pot to 150 degrees:


The top is dampened, and the hot cauls are clamped into place without delay:



The repair story continues tomorrow!

1 comment:

  1. Very nice...I've got a weisenborn style 1...the bridge has been glued on with gorilla glue...want to take on another project?

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