The following images are a photographic record of the restoration of a 1952-53 Gibson ES 295.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my thoughts and feelings on vintage fret instrument restoration and modification. There are a lot of collectors out there who shudder at the thought of doing anything to a vintage fret instrument, regardless of its current condition. My feeling on the subject is this: If you have an instrument that is “all there”, but has a worn finish, or a little wear and tear, don’t do anything more to it than set it up. I do not recommend “customizing” vintage guitars either. However, if you have an instrument such as the one shown,the only thing to do with it is to restore it. The “Collectible value” of this intrument is already destroyed. It still is a vintage Gibson arch top however. With the proliferation of foreign collectors over the last decade or two many pristine examples of American instruments have disappeared from our country. With that in mind, I beleive that anything that can be done to polish up one of these old beauties, should be done. Otherwise, they’ll just end up in the trash bin, along with a lot of other legacies of by-gone eras. The viewer should also know that we don’t always restore instruments to “like new” condition. There are many instances when a client wants his instrument to still look “old” but play and sound great. In these cases a “pre-aged” finish will be done. Often times we are able to put back some of the original “dings” into a new finish and very closely try to match up the checks of the original finish. It’s all in what the customer wants.
So enjoy the photos and captions, and bear in mind, that in another thirty years or so, the new nitro finish will become an old nitro finish.The new luster will satinize with age, and the new top will lose its new wood smell and become permeated with the older and more complex aroma of the back and sides, that will by then have soaked in almost a hundred years of odor from every room it has ever been in.
Then who knows, perhaps some old man may take this beauty out of its case on a day in the distant future, when everything has become a digital replica of the real thing, and plug it in to an old Fender black panel. He’ll let it warm up, turn up the volume on a pair of P-90s. and hit a chord. He’ll look at his grandson, and say “This is what we called real tone.”