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Mods to Rockers

Good mods and bad mods. An added stop tail when properly placed (by someone else) can be a good mod. On a 355 or a 65 and later trap tail, it can make the guitar more desirable and somewhat less expensive.

Good mods and bad mods. An added stop tail when properly placed (by someone else) can be a good mod. On a 355 or a 65 and later trap tail, it can make the guitar more desirable and somewhat less expensive.

Not those mods, with their fancy Carnaby St. clothes and their scooters. Nope, I’m talking mods to vintage guitars that kill the value for the collectors but make them affordable for the players. This is about the modifications that make a valuable vintage guitar less valuable and don’t affect the tone or the playability. The kind of mods this rocker likes.

Stop tail conversions done by someone else are always welcome but you don’t want to do it yourself because it diminishes the value. On the other hand, it sometimes makes for a better player. The big problem is that they are so frequently put in the wrong place. Your idiot brother-in-law who is real good with a drill press but knows nothing about guitars puts the stop where the trapeze cross piece was and thinks its right. Nothing bugs me more than a stop that’s a mile off (that means yours Larry Carlton). It will still play just fine but it looks way wrong. A stop tail conversion on a 65-68 will knock off $1000 or more and you won’t care a bit.

Grovers. Not Schallers. Both are perfectly good tuners and both are better tuners, if you ask me, than Klusons. That’s why so many players made the switch back in the day. They simply work better even if they are heavier. But the Schallers usually have that offset screw that requires an extra hole for each tuner. Not good for the value. MostĀ Grovers can use one of the Kluson holes, so no new holes. Both require enlarged shaft holes but that’s invisible. The other reason I don’t like Schallers on vintage 335’s is because they look too ’70’s. They just don’t seem to belong on a 50’s or 60’s guitar. Grovers are at least correct for the era and they work real well. A tuner conversion can mean savings of perhaps $1000 on a mid 60’s but as much as $5000 (maybe more in some cases) on a dot neck.

Then there are the refinished ones. Refins, especially well done ones, will save you a boatload of dough and won’t affect the tone and playability one iota (what is an iota, anyway). The idea that a refin knocks off half the value-the same as a busted headstock-seems a little nutty to me. Especially now that so many of the Les Paul aficionados are sending their factory finished R9’s to Kim at Historic Makeovers for a pricey, better-than-Gibson refin. Who’da thunk. When HM starts offering busted headstocks as an upgrade, then I’ll freak out but in the meantime, I’ll go on about what a great deal a refin can be. Granted, there aren’t that many people who can do a really convincing dot neck style sunburst, but you see them on occasion, so they are out there. Also blondes and blacks. You know you can’t afford a blonde dot neck or find a factory black one but you might find a refin for a price that doesn’t require a mortgage and, if you’re a player, will look very cool on stage and not require an armed guard between sets. I’m not going to get into the nitro/poly thing. I don’t know if poly affects the tone or not but I suggest you look for a refin that was done in the correct nitro lacquer. It just looks better and is much more authentic.

Patched holes from mini switches, coil taps and other 70’s forays into stupid are another mod that will keep the green in your wallet. The range of competence with which they are repaired runs a gamut but a well patched extra hole or two will save you thousands. Your guitar won’t appreciate like a collector grade guitar will but it should hold its value and serve you well as a player. And besides, you can’t really see that patch from more than five feet away anyway.

I generally stay away from busted necks or headstocks. Some, like the “smile cracks” can be totally stable and will save you major bucks. But I suggest you play it before you buy it. Some headstock breaks are trouble and I can’t tell you which ones because it could be any of them. A splined repair usually means the break was major and while they can be perfectly stable, I’d still be wary.

This refinished 62 dot neck is in my top five ES's. Not my favorite color but my oh my did this baby sing. A smart buyer saved himself about ten large over an original finish.

This refinished 62 dot neck is in my top five ES’s. Not my favorite color but my oh my did this baby sing. A smart buyer saved himself about ten large over an original finish.

 

8 Responses to “Mods to Rockers”

  1. Rod Allcock says:

    Took me a while to realise that was a 355 with the varitone and Bigsby removed. Presumably it’s mono now as well?

  2. stefan says:

    Charlie, why do you stay away from headstock repairs (what kind of trouble can they cause?)?

    Most headstock repairs I have seen on vintage (and newer) Gibsons have been very good and I also thought the guitars sounded quite nice. Maybe they would’ve sounded even better if they didn’t have a headstock repair?

    You should publish a book at some point. There is a lack of 335 literature…

  3. cgelber says:

    I have had more than one bad experience with poorly repaired breaks. Either they re-break in shipping or the repair itself is poorly aligned or unstable and the guitar has playability or tuning issues. The latter is rare but it happens.

  4. cgelber says:

    yes. That’s a late ’60 that had a Bigsby and SVT circuit. The stop conversion was already done when I got it. I pulled the SVT harness which turned out not to be totally original although it was sold to me as original (no surprise there).

  5. Rod Allcock says:

    Funny about the lightweight stoptail thing. I understand all about the originality thing but for what it’s worth I recently replaced the lightweight stoptail on a reissue Les Paul with a modern (Japanese) pot metal one and the tone noticeably fattened up. I honestly didn’t expect any change but MY ears told me there was.

  6. RAB says:

    Stop tail and mono conversions are a good way to go fir a very usable fiddle! They didn’t make many original ones that way…

  7. RAB says:

    355s that is!

  8. Steve Newman says:

    Re headstock repairs: it all depends on the type of break (clean and easy to re-align perfectly or torn, shattered with irregular “teeth” and/or missing wood fibers and difficult to re-attach). If the repair is done by an expert, the neck/headstock should be as strong and stable, if not more so, than new. The key word is “expert”, not the do-it-yourself owner. An experienced professional will know the correct adhesive and technique to use, depending on the type and severity of the break and can make the break all but invisible. I recommend Joe Glaser’s shop in Nashville, but there are many competent craftsmen all across the country. If documented and done right, it is a good way to obtain an instrument that might otherwise be beyond the normal financial limits.

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