Takes a Knockin’ and Keeps on Rockin’

Before: neck shaved and broken in two places, two big ol’ holes in the top, wrong pickups and electronics, wrong guard. But original finish and that’s why I bought it.

Every once in a while, I get an intriguing guitar offered to me that isn’t a one owner mint 62 or an ultra rare blonde 355 or an oh so desirable black 59 first rack 345. It’s a beater. Played to death and worth next to nothing unless someone comes to its rescue. I’ve had a few of these guitars and have put up the money to bring them back to the hands of appreciative players. It’s also very rewarding to bring a guitar back from the dead.

Taking a true beater (busted or twisted neck, holes in the body from added mini switches, all changed parts and any number of other indignities) and bringing it back to life is not an inexpensive proposition and, to be honest, generally won’t make sense with any 335 other than a dot neck or maybe a blonde 345 or a stop tail 355. Why not bring back a 64? Well, it’s a really expensive proposition and the finished reclamation guitar generally isn’t worth even half what a no issue one would be. So, if you don’t get the beater for really cheap, don’t waste your money. A luthier built new neck is going to cost you $3000-$4000 to get it done right using the original board, inlays and truss rod. Gibson will re-neck a guitar for you but they won’t use the original usable elements (and it’ll still cost you $3-$4K).  The good news is you can take a busted 61 that had a little teeny blade neck and put whatever size neck you want on it. I did that with a late 61 335 and also with a 60 335 and both came out great. But, say you get a beater 64 for $7000. By the time you’ve re-necked and put on correct hardware, you could be into it for $13,000.  I’ve bought no issue 64’s for that price, so it’s not good economics in that case. But, say you find a broken 61 for 9K with some original parts and you spend $4500 to resurrect it. Then you’ve got a dot neck with the neck you want for $13500. You won’t be able to sell it for much more but you could have a great guitar at a great price (considering a no issue 61 will cost you around $24K and have a neck you might not like).

So, meet my latest beater turned great player. I don’t suggest you go quite as nuts as I did on this one. This true beater 59 factory blonde ES-345 had nothing going for it except for an original finish nd a great top. The neck was shaved and then broken twice. The PAFs were gone. The bridge was original and studs were correct as were the tuners. It had two big fat holes in the front as well. So, it needed the two big holes filled and it needed a new neck. There are many good luthiers who can do the work but Gord Barry of 12th Fret in Toronto has done a few for me and he gets it. The CITES nightmare has made getting repairs done in Canada a real pain but we managed to get it done. Here’s what was done: New neck carved to my 59/64 spec-that’s around .86″ at the first and 1″ at the 12th. A little smaller than a 59. A little bigger at the first fret than a 64. He used the original headstock inlays, original fingerboard and the original truss rod. Only the mahogany was new. He filled the holes with cross grain maple dowels and did as little finish work as possible. New stock frets and new neck bindings which were thinned and rolled were done.

Hardware-wise, it’s getting double white PAF and a zebra, a new harness (335 not stereo 345) a no wire ABR-1 and a correct stop, original studs and tuners. The only repro part will be the guard until I can source a long guard with the holes in the right place (they vary a lot). What’s it worth when its done? Well the hardware, plastic and pickups alone are worth around $15K but it’s a bit over indulgent to put $10000 worth of pickups into a resurrected beater. But even with a set of double black long magnet PAFs, you’re looking at an original finish all correct blonde 59 ES-345 with a new neck and some filled holes. A no issue blonde 59 345 is a $55000 guitar. Is this worth half? I think so. I’d rather have this than a red or sunburst one that was refinished in blonde. The cool factor alone is off the charts on this one. It’ll be done in a day or two. It’s strung up now with no pickups and sounds great acoustically. I have very high hopes for this born again beater. UPDATE: It’s a monster and I’m keeping it for myself for now.

After: New neck using original fingerboard, headstock inlays, truss rod. A double white and a zebra PAF and some vintage plastic and it’s ready to rock. Converted to 335 spec. Tailpiece is a later 60’s one but I’m on the hunt for a worn short seam stop tail. Guard is a repro. Everything else is correct vintage. Killer player too.

15 Responses to “Takes a Knockin’ and Keeps on Rockin’”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, I love this story and can’t wait to see the “back from the dead” results! Kudos to you for making the effort, taking the time and laying out the coin to properly restore this beautiful rare bird! RAB

  2. RAB says:

    Gulp! Just noticed the “after” photo…gorgeous!

  3. Rob says:

    That is one beautiful 345. Did you leave the Varitone operative?

  4. okguitars says:

    It was already gone when I got it but I have a full VT harness from another 59. I thought long and hard about spending 2 or 3 hours trying to stuff it in there and decided to go with a new 335 harness which I can install in about 10-15 minutes. Weight was an issue too. The blonde weighs 7.5 lbs. Varitone/stereo harness adds under a pound but when you’re an old guy with a bum shoulder, the weight adds up.

  5. RAB says:

    Good decision on the VT! D

  6. RAB says:

    Extraneous “D”! :>(

  7. RAB says:

    As Lawrence Welk was fond of saying, “wunnafull, a wunnafull!” Turned out fab! How did the luthier fill the mini switch holes so perfectly?

  8. Jonathan Krogh says:

    Could anyone detail how the $3000-4000 re-necking fee from Gibson or private luthiers is arrived at? In a world of $10,000-100,000 guitars it may seem rational by proportion, but in work done by the hour, it’s quite ridiculous

  9. Adam says:

    I’m bringing a 66 355 back to life currently, partially inspired by this site! Though I doubt I will get my money back out of it, I love bringing something back from the brink.

    Bridge pickup was DOA (seller didn’t disclose) so it went to throbak for repair. Turns out 80 percent of the original wire on the dead coil could be salvaged. It needs a refret, which isn’t too bad, but it has a headstock replacement. That is to say, it must have had a nasty headstock break, and someone replaced the headstock with a scarf joint and some mahogany. The fretboard is original, headstock veneer is original, 80 percent of the neck is original, so I got it for a decent price. It does have the narrow nut which I don’t mind, but it’s good to know there is a great Canadian luthier who can do good renecks if I go that way in the future.

  10. James says:

    Wow, that blonde has the perfect amount of tint to it. Aged to perfection!

  11. RAB says:

    Curious about how the mini switch holes were filled? They’re perfect!

  12. okguitars says:

    In the case of this 345, there was a lot of difficult and meticulous work involved. If you’re simply making a new neck, putting in a new truss rod and slapping a new board on it, you can get it done for at least $1000 less. But I wanted to retain the original Brazilian board, the original truss rod, the original headstock overlay and the original neck bindings. The requires more work. There were serious problems with the board that need to be addressed and the headstock overlay caused some trouble as well. There’s a fair amount of cleanup involved-the neck doesn’t simply come unglued when you hit it with the heat gun. It turned out that the binding were too brittle to reuse so new ones were made and rolled and aged. The guitar spent 7 months at the luthiers and I had no problem at all spending over $3000 to get the job done. If I never get my money back, I really don’t care. I got a great guitar with a custom carved neck made to exactly my spec-essentially a 59 at the first fret and a 64 at the 12th.

  13. RAB says:

    Charlie, congrats on bringing this wonderful ES back from the boneyard! Enjoy! RAB

  14. Jonathan Krogh says:

    I should have posted this sooner, for those interested here is my complete ’62 345 rebuild thread, completely in love with the finished guitar

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