The repair of a 1966 Gretsch Country Gentleman.

Earlier last month this Gretsch Chet Atkins Country Gentlement guitar from the 60s was brought in for re-fretting. This real vintage model was all original, right down to the frets or what was left of them since 1966. It also suffered from a very common condition among guitars of this age: binding decay.

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Worn out fingerboard.

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Binding decay on Gretsch Country Gentleman guitar

Celluloid bindings used on vintage guitars shrink and crumble over time. Celluloid bindings can be changed to plastic ones when necessary.

However, the customer wanted the guitar to be kept as much as possible in its original condition and the bindings to be left as they were. He also wished to preserve the classic look of the frets being cut short and the binding extending the profile of the fret to the edge of the board. This fingerboard feature is typical on Gibson, Gretsch and other Rickenbacker guitars (plus a few others). During the production process, the fingerboard would have been fretted before being bound. Hence the need to trim the binding to the frets’ profile and the bit of binding that makes the frets’ end.

The more common approach with this repair would have been to remove the binding, then re-fret the guitar and glue a new binding on, which then would be shaped to follow the frets. But in this particular case, I had to do the re-fret without removing the binding. The old frets were removed from the slots and the fingerboard was sanded to be true and smooth. I took the opportunity to re-glue the parts of binding that were coming loose of the fingerboard. The new frets were trimmed to the exact width of the wood of the board and fitted using my usual clamping technique.

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The fingerboard is severely scratched and worn.

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cleaning and deepening the frets' slots before re-fret.

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Fret clamping

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The frets are left short and do not overlap the binding.

I then mixed some Araldite resin with some pigment to match the old binding colour. The colour was a parchment white with a subtle hint of green. The colored resin was then dropped at both ends of each fret and left to dry hard overnight. I used the same resin to patch the bits of missing binding along the fingerboard.

Resin and pigments

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Frets with blobs of resin on the end

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The sanded, cleaned and re-fretted fingerboard with bound frets' end.

The next day, the blobs of resin at the end of each fret were cut to shape to reproduce the part of the binding prolonging the frets.

I have used this technique a few times on old vintage guitars. It works very well, making a re-fret virtually unnoticeable to the unaware. Once the frets were polished and the fret-board oiled, the guitar was strung-up and set-up, and that’s it! Ready to play again.

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The guitar is now playable again.

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6 Responses to The repair of a 1966 Gretsch Country Gentleman.

  1. Humphrey ter Veer says:

    Hi,

    Do I need special tools to remove the wire harness and install a new one etc.

    regrds,

    humphrey

    • godefroy says:

      Hi Humphrey,

      I use a pair of pullers grinded flat so they can squeeze under the frets. I also melt some solder to heat the frets so they come out very easily without splitting the wood.

      To re-frets, you can use several specialist tools. I use a special custom made clamping tool and “repoussage” hammer.

      Godefroy

  2. Paul Sigmon says:

    I have a Gretsch like the one featured you refretted and did binding work on. I’d actually like to have the same kind of procedure to my 1966 Country Gentleman. Kindly request to coorespond with you via email, I’d like to know where you are located so I can bring my Guitar to you for assessment.
    Paul

    • godefroy says:

      Hi Paul, yes you can get in touch via e-mail but I now live in France and that may be to far for you to bring the guitar for repair.

  3. Hello, please briefly explain / tell me, if I can use the same method of filling or patching the awful deteriorated areas of binding on my 1983 Ibanez George Benson guitar. I have no idea how the deterioration started since I purchased the guitar used.

    I have jpegs that I can send you showing the 5 areas of the binding that is damaged.

    Peace & Kindness, Charles

    • godefroy says:

      Hi Charles,

      Yes you can use the same method for your guitar. Mix some 2 parts resin with pigments and try to match the colour as best as possible.

      Regards

      Godefroy

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