Dan’s Guitar RX: Restoring a Vintage Jazz Bass

Mashed Fender
Dan’s Guitar RX: Restoring a Vintage Jazz Bass
Photos: Kate Erlwine.

The owner of a ’62 Jazz Bass recently sent it to my shop for repair and renovation. He’d bought it new when he was 14 and, when customized guitars became cool, routed the body for a Gibson EB pickup and its wiring – a move he now regrets, of course. As much as possible, he wanted it returned to original condition including finishing the body in Olympic White.

I divided the work into three jobs and enlisted two colleagues – Ian Davlin (of Ian Davlin Guitar Repair) and Shaun Penechar (Fountain City Guitar Works) to each take one. I filled the body routs and prepped it for finishing, then did my one-third share – repairing a headstock crack. This month, I’ll show you what I did, and we’ll follow-up with Ian and Shawn in upcoming installments.

1) Here’s how the body looked after I cleaned up the routs, fashioned blocks of alder to match, and taped them off.

2) I epoxied the fills in place, leveled them, then stripped, scraped, and sanded off the existing finish, which was a very thin coat of clear lacquer. I also removed leftover Fullerplast sealer from the original finish, leaving the body for Shaun to prep.

3) The headstock crack happened after the owner installed an oversized E-string tuner. Using wood blocks on the front and back, I clamped the crack open as far as I dared, to let glue seep deep into the crack.

4) I then clamped it from side to side.

5) Ultimately, I decided the crack was so deep and dirty from years of exposure that I didn’t trust it to remain closed. So, I clamped the neck in my milling machine and cut a square slot through the glue line, giving me clean, new wood to fit a piece of filler maple.

6) The filler maple had the same flat-sawn grain as the neck.

7) Using West System epoxy, I glued and clamped the filler. The maple also had a very similar “fleck” pattern.

8) I spent a good deal of time gently scraping and sanding the piece until it was flush. Working on a complex curved surface, it would have been easy to accidentally sand a dip into the wood. Luckily, I didn’t do that.

9) I was surprised at how well the grain matched – good luck was involved, for sure.

10) The neck was ready for Ian, who has a special talent for touching-up finishes. Next time, you’ll see what I mean.

Dan Erlewine has been repairing guitars for more than 50 years. He is the author of three books, dozens of magazine articles, and has produced instructional videotapes and DVDs on guitar repair. From 1986 through his retirement in late 2019, Erlewine was part of the R&D team for Stewart-MacDonald’s Guitar Shop Supply; today he remains involved with the company, offering advice to the department and shooting video for the company’s website and social media. This column has appeared in VG since March, 2004. You can contact Dan at dan@stewmac.com.

This article originally appeared in VG’s October 2021 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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