'66 J45 questions...

Discussion in 'Acoustic Instruments' started by mds, Jan 11, 2008.


  1. mds

    mds Member

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    Hey guys,

    Just picked up a J45 from a guy in town. Its been refretted and had the neck reset and it plays INCREDIBLY well...feels like a Taylor or something like that.

    Couple of questions for the more vintage minded:

    1st: It has had the finish mostly removed...not sure why, but someone sanded off like 90% of the finish on the body. The neck is still finished, and the back has some spots left...maybe he just got tired and quit. Anyways, the lack of finish makes the guitar super lively and loud. Sounds great...I'm wondering though, is it bad for the guitar to be in its current less protected state? Should I rub some tung oil or something on it or even consider getting it finished?

    2nd: As a 66, it has the dreaded adjustable bridge. The guitar sounds amazing, and way better than the 4 or 5 new production J45s, Hummingbirds, etc. I played yesterday in a music store. Since it sounds so good, I don't care about the bridge, but I wonder about the pros and cons of getting a saddle placed in there. I can only imagine it will improve the sound of the guitar. How will replacing the saddle effect the value of the instrument? Its clearly a players guitar, but I don't want to do anything stupid to it, ya know?

    3rd: Typical with old acoustics, there is a little distortion in the top near the bridge. The back of the bridge is nice and arched, so I don't think there is a problem there, but the front of the bridge is sorta flat. The bridge bight be leaniing just a tad forward, but nothing too bad. Is this anything to worry about?

    4th (and final!): I want to be able to plug this in...what should I go with? Seems like I shouldn't do any more damage to the instrument by drilling holes in it. How about an M1 or something?

    Thanks!

    Mike
     
  2. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    1st. Yes, it's bad to keep playing it if it's stripped to the wood, and I cringe at the thought of it being rubbed down with tung oil. I recommend it should be taken in for a proper refin.

    2nd. When it's being refinished, the bridge will have to come off anyway. Pull the 1/4 pound of brass hardware from the top, have it patched up, and replace the bridge entirely with a new standard saddle style. You'll hear the difference.

    3rd. Hard to say. Sometimes it's fine, sometimes it's not, but it has to be judged on a case by case basis.

    4th. Don't worry about damaging the instrument by reaming out for an endpin jack or access hole for a saddle transducer. Drilling holes in the bridge wings for a Barcus Berry Hot Dot was one thing, but things like endpin jacks and transducer holes in the slot are not anything to worry about. Then again, the Baggs M1 is a nice pickup that can hold it's own against many installed pickups, so you could certainly go that route if you like.

    Sounds like you got a nice one there.
     
  3. mds

    mds Member

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    Thanks David! Not every day a world class luthier answer your question! I'm a big fan of your work. :)

    I promise I won't tung oil it, so no worries! I was just sorta thinking out loud...I'm concerned the finish would change the sound of the guitar. Is that a issue, or am I being a wuss? :) How would you recommend I have it finished? I don't think I'd want a super brand new gloss fancy finish on the guitar, sorts of robs the old guitar vibe. Maybe just a french polish or something?

    Any recommendations for a luthier in the Los Angeles area? Any idea how much getting the body finished and new bridge would cost?

    Thanks!

    Mike
     
  4. David Collins

    David Collins Member

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    I'm not entirely sure I'm the person you think I am, but what the hey - someone says I'm a world class luthier and I'm going to run with it. :cool:;)

    As for the finish, yes it may effect the tone somewhat, but the effect of a well done thin nitro finish should be fairly minimal. You should find a much bigger difference in volume, low end, and projection with the big brass threaded inserts that hold the bridge screws removed and switching to a standard saddle than would be compromised by a good finish. Some people will even have a nitro back/sides/neck finish, with a french polished top to keep the top as light and flexible as possible, though I view the protection of a lacquer top as outweighing any slight tonal effects on a steel string.

    The finish may have some effect, but it's slight. The long term view could be that 20 or 30 years from now a lacquer finish will have allowed the guitar to age gracefully, while with no finish it will more likely be an old broken down jalopy.

    As to a shop in the LA area I don't have anyone immediately coming to mind, but I'm sure there are some other folks that will chime in with recommendations.
     
  5. devinb

    devinb Member

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    You can buy a Tusq (imitation ivory) saddle made to fit your ADJ. bridge...costs like $13.
     
  6. walterw

    walterw Gold Supporting Member

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    you can also lose all the hardware except for the inserts into the body themselves, make a nice bone saddle laminated between two rosewood veneers, and fit it tightly into the saddle slot, improving the tone noticeably without altering the bridge at all. save all the old junk in a baggie and no collector should have a reason to complain.

    personally, since it sounds good but must be refinned, i wouldn't worry so much about small alterations like the bridge or an endpin jack. it might be dicey getting an under-saddle transducer to behave properly, but something like an m1 or an ibeam could be really cool.
     
  7. Stubee

    Stubee Member

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    I am not a luthier by any stretch nor even close, but have owned and worked on a bunch of old flattops and David C. and others have great advice. I wouldn't get too worked up over the belly bulge, but have it looked at. The refin may affect tone a bit, but it should have a good finish & it will still sound good.

    I'd do all the recommended changes above and not worry about the value. A refinned guitar is, roughly, worth 1/2 of the same model/same condition anyway. But it's already lost that value from the sanding.

    '60s J-45s, up 'til about late '68 IMO, can be great guitars, and as yours has already had the big stuff (neck reset, refret) done, it's a great candidate for finishing up. Enjoy that gittar.
     
  8. mds

    mds Member

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    Thanks guys...spent some more time with it last night and it is a really great guitar. Lightyears past the current production J45s I've played...maybe its just because it is unfinished, but it has a huge, warm yet clear sound. My Larrivee is getting nervous... :-D
     
  9. Jeffj

    Jeffj Supporting Member

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    I bought a 56' J45 a few years ago that had a lot of problems....had a few braces missing, several cracks, bridge pulling up, bridge plate was wore out, etc. etc. Luckily the finish was good (considering)frets & the neck set were good also.

    Anyway, if you havent looked into professional acoustic repair, be warned that it is VERY EXPENSIVE. I spent more on the repairs of my J45 than I have ever spent buying a guitar. That was also with no finish work at all. I nearly passed out when I got the quote.

    That being said, it seems that you are very satisfied with the playability & the tone of the instrument. If you dont mind the "look" of the guitar, one option would to be to leave the guitar as-is. I do agree that the wood needs some protection, so I would definately explore the options there. Maybe some kind of laquer clear coat?

    As mentioned the guitars origionality has already been comprimised, so I would install whatever pickup suits your needs. Its a hard decision on these old acoustic guitars because you can get "upside down" pretty quick when you start throwing money at them to get them back in shape. A lot of times by the time it is said & done you could have bought a pretty nice vintage one for the same money you spent on your guitar, plus the origional one will holds its value very well.

    So............if it was mine, I would put some kind of protection on the top, install the pickup, & enjoy the guitar & give it lots of play time. :dude Let us know what route you go... Any pics?
     
  10. mds

    mds Member

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  11. JohnM

    JohnM Member

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    Speaking of expensive repairs, I just sent a '49 J45 in to get the neck reset, cracks repaired, pickup installed...big fat price tag, but it's worth getting it fixed.
    If you have funky wavy looking lumps in the top near the bridge, I would get it checked out for loose braces, since that can get nasty if left unfixed.
    Some would cringe at the fact I decided to put a pickup in it, but really, to a good luthier, reversing a pickup install (done right in the first place) isn't that big of a deal.
    The only catch with a '49 is the 'through-saddle' bridge, which takes a bit more finesse to make a saddle pickup work. I wnt with the iMix system, since I already had the iBeam in it.
    It's DEFINITELY worth getting your '66 finished, that will make much more stable and long-lived.
     
  12. Jeffj

    Jeffj Supporting Member

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    I like it....price getting a good refinish & then make your decision. I would be curious what a total refinish would cost. If not as much as I am figuring, then you may want to go for it. If it is very expensive, I would seal it & go on.
     
  13. mds

    mds Member

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    After getting to know it a bit, I'm wondering if it hasn't been sealed somehow. It has a very smooth texture. I can't really feel any grain or fiber of the wood when I run my hand over it. The weird thing is that the back has 2 big strips left from the original finish. Not sure why someone would remove most the finish and then seal it...kind of weird. I need to take it to someone and get their opinion...
     
  14. Stubee

    Stubee Member

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    I had an early '50s J-50 that had been sanded like yours, looked pretty much the same except it was really beat & had water stains or something else on it. Somebody had put some kind of finish (French polish, shellac?) on it, crude but it worked OK. I loved that guitar and played it everywhere until it finally needed a neck reset & some other stuff. As the guitar was so totally worked over already, I decided to sell it & bought another "player" early '50s J-45 to replace it. It, too, will need a reset someday, but a better candidate as it at least has it's original finish.

    You can put a pup in any flattop w/o messing with the saddle at all. Check out a "Pickup the World" pup or other similar. They mount to the soundboard underside, not under the saddle. I've got one in my J-45, a great pup IMO though kinda rare on these internet sites. Mine already had an endpin jack, and that's no problem for a sanded or otherwise "player" guitar anyway.

    If yer not sure if your guitar is finished, take it to a good finish shop, they'l tell ya. if it's "sealed", you could just play it like that.

    Sounds like a nice guitar, I love old & played flattops.
     

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