Gibson “Johnny Smith”

Gibson “Johnny Smith”, 1966 model

Michael contacted me about having some work done on his Johnny Smith and I was intrigued because, even though I’d heard of the guitar, I’d never actually seen one, let alone having been asked to work on what has to be one of Gibson’s truly iconic instruments.

My initial impression was how well the guitar had survived the forty-odd years since it was made. The guitar needed a fret dress- Michael thought that it might have to be refretted- and the scratchplate had warped somewhat as the celluloid had shrunk. And it had a bit of a scratch in the paintwork on the lower treble bout. But everything else was pretty much as I would have expected from a “closet classic”- except it really was 46 years old…

First- dismantle the guitar and then address the frets. The fretboard was as good as the day it was made, and a tweak on the truss rod brought the neck completely straight.

The frets levelled, reshaped…

…and polished.

Now, to rectify the scratch that went all of the way through the lacquer…

…I need to try and replicate the colour as nearly as possible, so the process will require some yellow dye in the nitrocellulose lacquer that I’m using to build up the the thickness.

This just can’t be rushed. I’ll apply the lacquer and let it dry before repeating the process as often as is necessary.

After a series of applications, I can rub back the applied lacquer with fine wet and dry paper.

When the surface is completely level again, the new paint is polished…

…and while in this case I can’t make the damage disappear, I can certainly minimise it.

While the paint is being rectified, the warped scratchplate is being attended to.

The old scratchplate has shrunken over the years but the piece of acrylic- Perspex- glued to the back as reinforcement hasn’t…

The best approach is to gently heat the plate while it’s clamped to a flat surface.

And this seems to have done the job.

Now to put the guitar together again…

The truss rod cover looks as though it might have actually been hand made…

And while I’ve got the strings off, I noticed that several of the ferrules had come loose and I’ve applied a judicious amount of wood glue to keep them in place.

Now, doing a little research on this particular guitar, I came across this on the Mandolin Bros, New York, website…

I thought that the article was speaking about a very familiar guitar, and on checking the serial numbers on the guitar on my workbench…this was the very same guitar!

I had to agree with all that was written…

And to cap it all off- the original swingtag was still in the original case…

The guitar is fitted with the new strings that Michael has supplied and I’m astonished at how resonant the guitar is- and just how good it looks.

It sounds truly wonderful through my little Vox amp…