I finally finished a project that has been near and dear to my heart: this early 60s Gretsch Anniversary. If you look in prior posts you’ll see that I had bought a derelict Single Anniversary that someone had unfortunately abused severely. All the paint was stripped off; the back even showed damage from a disc sander that had been used in the process. Some bozo had spraypainted the guitar an ungodly turquoise at some point, the evidence of which was all over the interior of the guitar, completely covering the label inside (meaning I don’t know how old it actually is). I had originally done some research that pinpointed it between 1961 and 1964 based on its Rosewood fretboard. That being said, the binding and structure of the guitar were entirely intact. The neck just needed to be reset, and so, I began the process of bringing this vintage axe back to life.
To have a guitar of that age and quality in such condition was kind of freeing; I really couldn’t go wrong unless I did something completely tasteless: like a Pokemon-themed guitar, or something like that. The Anniversaries were a budget model for Gretsch anyway, so no guilt. I went with something approximating the Cadillac-inspired original paint scheme and added a waterslide decal similar to another Gretsch Anniversary (that had its neck reset as well) online. All in all, I…
1. a. Steamed out the neck
1.b. Cleaned up the old glue
1.c. Rebuilt the joint on the guitar body and neck
2. Carefully reset the neck (not a job for an amateur on any high quality guitar, but I understood the basic concepts, and again, this was in such rough shape that it was a good learning opportunity)
3. Fixed chipping and damage to the peghead
4. Filled nicks and sanding damage on the guitar
5. Reamed out the tuner holes for Sperzel Locking tuners, filled old tuner screw holes
6. Glued and clamped the peghead that was starting to split
7. Cleaned up the binding (sanding it evenly, regluing specific areas)
8. Cut a second pickup hole
9. WEIRD CHANGE: Installed brass inserts into the bottom of the fretboard end over the body. I actually drilled screwholes through the neck block (after CAREFULLY checking the interior dimensions) and bolted the neck into place. Not conventional, but I wanted to add all possible support and stability. The neck was also glued and screwed into place by the traditional method as seen on the original model.
10. At the same time as step 9, glued the neck in (hide glue *IMPORTANT… adjustable with heat) and used the original screw in the neck block.
11. Reglued heel cap and binding near the neck joint
12. WEIRD CHANGE: Older Gretsches have been studied; they’ve found “trestle bracing,” which was a unique way of supporting the top of the guitar. Two parallel pieces of wood span a portion of the top, connecting to the back of the guitar. These pieces run right underneath the ends of the bridge and were found to contribute to a better tone. In my guitar, there were two parallel pieces of wood, but they did not connect to the guitar back. I carefully fit 3 maple pieces under each brace and glued them into place. After doing this, it occurred to me that using pear wood would have been a better idea; violin makers use this wood for such purposes as it is resistant to changes in climate. If the guitar starts pushing itself apart from the inside, I’ll have a good idea why. I really don’t think it will.
12. Masked binding and primed guitar
13. Painted lighter top color
14. Masked top and painted darker back, side, and neck color
15. Dyed peghead veneer darker black
16. Relic’ed the paint job
17. Applied Vinyl sealer
18. Applied thin Behlen stringed instrument lacquer finish
19. Applied the waterslide decal with Micro Set and Micro Sol decal solutions
20. Went through the sanding and buffing process, boring.
21. Installed hardware
22. Installed TV Jones classic humbuckers. Electronically, this guitar is wired as a Brian Setzer Hot Rod- a 3 way switch, 1 volume, and that’s it! No tone control other than the 3 way.
23. Ordered a flame maple pickguard on eBay that was made from a Gretsch template. It was just a piece of wood cut to the shape of the standard Gretsch pickguard. I wanted to do something flashier than the original Anniversary pickguard… that green plastic thing doesn’t do anything for me. I dyed the wood a deep reddish-brown mahogany color.
24. Designed a GRETSCH waterslide decal to go on the pickguard to make it look authentic. I paid a seller on eBay to print the waterslide decal in gold foil and mail it to me.
25. Polyurethaned the brown pickguard. Applied the GRETSCH decal with Micro Set and Micro Sol. Then polyurethaned it again for a sleek, factory look.
26. Installed pickguard… AND DONE.
There were many steps, and the guitar is not perfect; but, it is playing, looking, and sounding MUCH better. 100% better.