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Crack repair on a Gibson ES-350T ("Byrdland Lite?")

Issue 169 July 19, 2012

One guitar I’ve always wanted to own is a Byrdland, Gibson’s beautiful hollowbody design from the 1950s. The Byrdland’s lower-priced cousin is pretty nearly as great: the ES-350T (pictured above). ts0169ES350TA similar ES-350T came into my shop for a crack repair last week, then two hours later someone else emailed pictures of the Byrdland at left. He inherited it along with some vintage amps (lucky guy!) and wanted help dating the guitar. To answer his question, I pulled out George Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars. ts0165danmug
ts0169ES350TDating these guitars
Based on the serial number of this Byrdland, Gruhn’s book showed me that it’s a 1957. The ES-350T here for a crack repair is a 1958.The Byrdland design was a collaboration between Nashville guitar legends Billy Byrd and Hank Garland – hence the name. They wanted the large body of a Gibson L-5CES, but thinner: 2-1/4" deep rather than 3-3/8". They gave it a narrow neck and a short scale (23-1/2"), and a fingerboard that tapers very little from end to end. The string spacing is narrow, so the pickup polepieces have narrow spacing too. Gibson also introduced the ES-350T in 1955, a plainer and less expensive version. To compare these two models, here are the advertising descriptions from Gibson’s 1955 catalog:
ts0169nastycrack Repairing a nasty crack
The ES-350T had this damaged side, but at least the crack’s edges were clean. My shopmate, Elliot John-Conry, used hot hide glue for this repair.Elliot dry-clamped the crack to test the fit before actually gluing, and luckily it closed up nicely. This was good, because the owner only wanted to pay for a simple glue-up without any kind of finish repair.At each end of the crack, fractured wood lifted away in little flaps. These had to be glued at the same time as the crack itself, adding complication to this job.Elliot glued both of them with #20 medium super glue before gluing the long crack.
Behlen Ground Hide Glue
ts0169knife Elliot warmed the crack area with a desk lamp and test-clamped to make sure everything squeezed together okay, since he’d need to work fast with hot hide glue. He held the crack open with X-Acto knife blades and a cut-down offset disassembly knife...
ts0169flooding ...while quickly flooding the crack with hide glue.
ts0169spoolclamps He clamped the crack shut with spool clamps, while pressing the flaps in. I helped by lending a second pair of hands at this point. The pressure of the closing crack and the spool clamps kept the flaps from popping loose. We didn’t have time for any photos at that point. Spool Clamps
ts0169clear After drying overnight, a rag dampened with hot water cleaned up any excess hide glue. The repair was just what the customer wanted: simple, clean and honest with no lacquer touch-up whatsoever. You could see a few missing flakes of finish. (We’d have preferred to drop-fill the crack with clear lacquer and buff it out.) ColorTone Lacquer
ts0169guitar Once it was back together, of course Elliot fell in love with the ES-350T. I did, too: It’s not a Byrdland, but it’s mighty close.
Erick signature

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