This one turned up at my door a little worse for wear. It's an odd break that I initially thought was a flying/shipping accident but was actually a dropped guitar that just "broke" .............
At first I thought it wasn't as bad as it looked (I hoped) but after closer inspection it had a couple of real "issues" that showed it wasn't going to be an easy "glue and clamp" fix. The neck had obviously taken a jolt and broken the fretboard across one of the frets and the pressure had snapped the whole fretboard off.
If this had an adjustable trussrod I would have thought that there was too much tension on the neck and the bump had forced the trussrod to push the board off, but this guitar has a "steel reinforced" neck which means it's just got a simple piece of rectangular steel running down a slot in the neck. There's no over adjusting one of them.
With a satay stick under the remaining fretboard it was easy to see that the knock had taken most of the fretboard with it. This part was easy (or so I thought) as it was a simple case of cleaning out the surface areas and re-gluing the fretboard back on.
The fretboard had shrunk quite a bit and there was a gap down each side of the neck between the width of the neck and the width of the fretboard. This, and fifty plus year old glue would have contributed to the break.
With the neck off it was time to clean both joints and get gluing and clamping.
With both pieces back in place it was more obvious that there were other issues here. The neck had taken a knock and the tension had not only split the dry old board but caused some alignment issues as well. It looks nasty but things were generally back in place and just needed to be cleaned up so I could asses the damage and look at putting a fret back in.
Not as simple as I thought.
Some of the fretboard was impacted and lower than the rest.This may have been like this from new, it may have happened as the fretboard dried out so much, or it may be from the impact of the break. Either way, it needed to be addressed if it was going to play properly.
I thought I'd get this fret back in place and then work out just how the next fret was effected by the break. I cleaned up the fretboard and cut a new slot and installed a new fret the same size as the originals. This would of course need taking down to match the worn original frets in the rest of the neck.
With the fret installed and dressed to height it was easy to see the break had effected the previous fret badly, but things were looking much better.
So, I could have removed that part of the fretboard between these two frets and made a new piece to go in but I decided that for the type of guitar and the customers piece of mind it would be too expensive and after consideration, not entirely necessary.
I pulled the bad low fret and and cleaned up the fretboard around this slot. I then fitted a higher fret which I can level down to the same height as the others. The drop in height of the fretboard was negligible and with level frets it should play fine.
Being much higher it needed a fair bit taken off the crown to get it down but it wasn't too long before all the frets sat at the same height and just needed re-crowning and polishing.
The neck goes back on and the nut re-installed in a clean slot.
So, with the fretboard fairly level and the frets exactly level it was just a general cleanup and a little moisturizer and we're back in business.
With no trussrod I don't have any adjustment over the relief so I was hoping this neck was in pretty good condition before the accident and I didn't do all this work for nothing, or need to do much more to get it playing right.
The neck is great. A "little" too much relief for me but only "just" It doesn't have a twist either which these guitars are prone to do.
While you can just see some slight repair work on the fretboard I'm more than happy with the way this all turned out. If it was an old Gibson hollow body I would have removed the whole fretboard and either rebuilt the neck surface and the fretboard or made a whole new fretboard for it.
Being a "cheaper" Harmony I wanted to keep the price down while still doing a good and fairly non intrusive repair.
It plays great, sounds amazing and looks pretty good, especially considering what it looked like when I opened that hard case.