1956 Gretsch Corsair Truss Rod Rescue

A snapped truss rod left this Gretsch non-adjustable. John rescues the guitar without removing the fingerboard.

This is a good example of how revealing “what’s hiding behind door No. 1” could be very disappointing. A look of shock and surprise came over our customer’s face as we inspected this 1956 Gretsch Corsair in his presence. Once I removed the truss rod cover, you could see that the truss rod nut was missing. No, wait! The nut was missing but the truss rod was also snapped clean off, flush up to the half-round washer. The customer had no idea that the rod was snapped, making the relief to the neck non-adjustable.

Thank goodness we have our in-house procedures when we inspect and check in customer- owned instruments. If possible, it’s always a good idea to inspect the instrument in the customer’s presence and discuss its overall condition, making sure to list any dents, scratches and/or major damage.

1956 Gretsch Corsair, Model 6014
The Corsair evolved from the Synchromatic 100, a non-cutaway acoustic archtop. It has a 16"-wide body, large open “F” holes, the open “G” tailpiece and “T-roof” headstock logo. The body, neck and headstock are fully bound, and the rosewood fingerboard has block pearloid inlays.

Truss Rod Rescue
If it weren’t for the Truss Rod Rescue Kit (Stewart-MacDonald #5680), the fingerboard would’ve required removal, as well as the filler strip and damaged truss rod. Then there would’ve been the added prep time duplicating the rod and reassembling everything, along with possible binding rebuild and finish touchup. With many hours—and at quite an expense—I’m not convinced that this guitar would have been a good candidate otherwise. It’s really fantastic that Stew Mac has come up with a brilliant alternative for repairing a snapped truss rod.

Parts List:
Hex Wrench: The cutter and threading die attach to the wrench for easy control. Cutter: Removes wood around the truss rod, exposing the rod and making room for the threading die.
Threading Die: A specially designed 10-32 die that cleans up the existing threads and cuts new thread on the truss rod.
Pilot: Guides the cutter into a 3/8" truss rod access hole for Fender guitars.
Spacers: Provide a smooth bearing surface for the truss rod nut, and cover the last few partial threads left by the die.

After I popped off the metal, half-round Gibson-style washer using my mini spatula, I was ready to attach the Truss Rod Rescue cutter to the hex wrench and give it a whirl. I used the cutter, turning clockwise to remove wood until there was 5/8" of the truss rod exposed—using only moderate pressure and letting the tool do the cutting, stopping frequently to remove wood chips from the cavity. With the wood removed, I had access to more of the truss rod and needed to create more threads. I carefully threaded the die onto the very short length of the existing threads, turning slowly and stopping when I hit resistance. From there, I continued a quarter turn, cutting new threads, then backed the die out, cleaned the threads and removed the shavings from the truss rod cavity. Paraffin was used to produce cleaner threads, making it an all-around smoother and easier job.

We were ready for a spacer (provided in the kit) to cover the last bit of unthreaded rod and provide a metal-bearing surface, and followed that by threading on a brass traditional hex truss rod nut (Stewart-MacDonald item #1018). Using my 5/16" truss rod wrench (item #6100) with its comfortable rubberized handle, I adjusted the rod, creating .010" of relief to the fingerboard. This repair was really that simple. I was concerned that I might run into a few snags along the way, making the job just a bear … but it couldn’t have gone any more smoothly. I’ll take a little credit for reviving the truss rod, but I think this one is mostly due to the Truss Rod Rescue Kit.

See you next month.

John Brown
John Brown, of Brown's Guitar Factory, is the inventor of the Fretted/Less bass. He owns and operates a full guitar manufacturing and repair/restoration facility, which is staffed by a team of talented luthiers. He is also the designer of guitar making/repair tools and accessories that are used today by instrument builders throughout the world.

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