1. Using tape to determine the size of the gap that needs to be glued. 2. Threading the stem of the trimmed pipette into the brace repair tool. 3.
1. Using tape to determine the size of the gap that needs to be glued. 2. Threading the stem of the trimmed pipette into the brace repair tool. 3. Applying Titebond glue between the top and brace using this specialized tool. 4. The scissor jack and brace repair jack make it much easier to hold and clamp braces. 5. Positioned inside the guitar, a single brace repair jack clamps the upper face brace to the top. 6. The 12-string’s elongated peghead features two triangular pearloid inlays, which look particularly cool under the yellow tint of the aged nitrocellulose lacquer. 7. What a beauty! The restored ’67 Gibson 12-string.
The B-45-12 is a 12-string dreadnought that Gibson first introduced in 1961. During the ’60s, such legends as Gordon Lightfoot, Leo Kottke, and Reverend Gary Davis made history strumming on their B-45-12s onstage and in the studio. Kottke liked the warm sound of the guitar’s mahogany back and sides, and the B-45-12’s adjustable bridge and ebony saddle made for a very playable 12-string. In 1963, Gibson introduced the B-45-12N, with the N indicating a natural finish, as opposed to the standard cherry sunburst on earlier models.
The guitar featured in this month’s column was built in 1967 at Gibson’s factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It features a Sitka spruce top, solid mahogany sides and back, a mahogany neck, a Brazilian rosewood fretboard and rectangular bridge, 3-ply celluloid top binding, and single-ply back binding. Other appointments include a tortoise-color pickguard, Kluson Deluxe 6-on-a-plate tuners with white plastic buttons, and a chrome-plated trapeze tailpiece.
This guitar’s owner thought it might have some loose braces and brought it in for me to inspect. If you suspect that an acoustic guitar has loose braces—because you’ve observed structural issues or heard rattling noises—then every brace on the top and back needs to be checked inch by inch.
For the initial test, I like to gently tap on the top and back. Most of the time (but not always), I can hear if there are loose braces lurking inside. Even when acoustic guitars come in for just a basic setup, I like to thoroughly examine them. I’ll automatically inspect the braces by peering through the soundhole with a combo mirror and LED light (item #3225 from stewmac.com).
Other useful tools for examining braces include the telescoping inspection mirror (#0362) and the folding 3-piece inspection mirror (#5124)—a set of reflective acrylic panels you can fold up to get through the soundhole. Once the panels are inside the guitar, you unfold them to create a flat 7 1/2" x 12" viewing surface. Very slick!
Earlier ’60s editions of the B-45-12 had issues with construction. The guitar’s dainty bracing allowed for more tonal projection, but because they had a pin bridge, rather than a trapeze tailpiece, early B-45-12s often pulled apart—especially when tuned to concert pitch.
Luckily for the owner of this guitar, his instrument had a trapeze tailpiece. Once I inspected the braces, I found only a 1" end section of an upper face brace that was loose. Overall, that was a minor repair compared to what it could have been.
I was delighted that this project gave me an opportunity to try out a new tool I’d just purchased from Stew-Mac. Designed by Dan Erlewine, it’s called the brace gluing wedge (#0200). You use this tool to gently shim open the gap under a loose acoustic guitar brace and inject glue right into the gap.
Before using the brace wedge on the B-45-12, I did a dry run and practiced positioning the brace repair jack (#3544). For this repair I also used a scissor jack (#0490)—a fantastic tool that lets you clamp areas that your arm can’t reach when working through the soundhole.
After filling the brace wedge’s pipette with Franklin Titebond glue (#0620) and gently squeezing the bulb to inject the glue into the gap, I set up a single brace jack to clamp everything back together. The final step was to carefully wipe up any remaining glue squeeze-out.
Once the glue had dried, I removed the jack and strung up the Gibson 12-string. Tone is so subjective, but to my ears, this Gibson B-45-12N has an awesome sound with glorious sustain. It was wonderful to get the instrument back into top sonic condition.
John Brown is the inventor of the Fretted/Less bass. He owns and operates Brown’s Guitar Factory, a guitar manufacturing, repair, and restoration facility staffed by a team of talented luthiers. His guitar-tool and accessory designs are used by builders all over the world. Visit brownsguitarfactory.com or email John at email@example.com.
Looking for more great gear for the guitar player in your life (yourself included!)? Check out this year's Holiday Gear Finds!
D'Addario XPND Pedalboard
DR-05X Stereo Handheld Recorder
Wampler Pedals Ratsbane
This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
Adding to the company’s line of premium-quality effects pedals, Missing Link Audio has unleashed the new AC/Overdrive pedal. This full-amp-stack-in-a-box pedal – the only Angus & Malcom all-in-one stompbox on the market – brings a new flavor to the Guitar Legend Tone Series of pedals, Missing Link Audio’s flagship product line.
The AC/OD layout has three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone. That user-friendly format is perfect for quickly getting your ideal tone, and it also offers a ton of versatility. MLA’s new AC/OD absolutely nails the Angus tone from the days of “High Voltage” to "Back in Black”. You can also easily dial inMalcom with the turn of a knob. The pedal covers a broad range of sonic terrain, from boost to hot overdrive to complete tube-like saturation. The pedal is designed to leave on all the time and is very touch responsive. You can get everything from fat rhythm tones to a perfect lead tone just by using your guitar’s volume knob and your right-hand attack.
- Three knobs to control Volume, Gain and Tone
- Die-cast aluminum cases for gig-worthy durability
- Limited lifetime warranty
- True bypass on/off switch
- 9-volt DC input
- Made in the USA
MLA Pedals AC/OD - Music & Demo by A. Barrero
Energy is in everything. Something came over me while playing historical instruments in the Martin Guitar Museum.
When I’m filming gear demo videos, I rarely know what I’m going to play. I just pick up whatever instrument I’m handed and try to feel where it wants to go. Sometimes I get no direction, but sometimes, gear is truly inspiring—like music or emotion falls right out. I find this true particularly with old guitars. You might feel some vibe attached to the instrument that affects what and how you play. I realize this sounds like a hippie/pseudo-spiritual platitude, but we’re living in amazing times. The Nobel Prize was just awarded to a trio of quantum physicists for their experiments with quantum entanglement, what Albert Einstein called “spooky action at a distance.” Mainstream science now sounds like magic, so let’s suspend our disbelief for a minute and consider that there’s more to our world than what’s on the surface.
I recently spent a day filming a factory tour of Martin Guitars in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. After we wrapped, we discovered that Martin has this amazing museum that showcases more than 170 historic instruments. We decided to meet at the museum at 7:45 a.m. the next morning to film a few choice pieces before catching our flight in not-too-near Newark, New Jersey, that afternoon.
These were not ideal conditions for a performance. Neither my brain nor my fingers work well before 10 a.m., plus I hadn’t slept well the night before. Even so, we loaded into the museum, met the curators, set up the shoot, and began rolling by 8 a.m.
The first guitar was an 1834 gut string, perhaps the oldest Martin in existence. It was beautiful but had some tuning issues and did not project very well, so playing it felt more like work than music.
Next was a prewar D-45 worth over $500k. The strings were ancient with that rusty feel, like you’ll need a tetanus shot after playing it. I’m sure it sounded great, but I was tired and thinking more about making our flight than playing guitar. Wonderful instrument but uninspired performance on my end.
Then, I played a 1953 D-18 coined “Grandpa” by Kurt Cobain. I picked up the deeply sacred D-18, and my hands went to an A minor. This sounds like hype, but honestly, I closed my eyes and connected with a deep, beautiful sadness. The feeling was palpable as soon as you picked it up. This guitar pretty much played itself, leading me to a sad version of “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” I don’t know if it was any good, but I know I felt something deeply. That’s why I started playing guitar in the first place. I don’t have to play well to feel moved.
I later talked to the museum director, who told me the D-18 was given to Cobain by his 1991 girlfriend Mary Lou Lord. Cobain played it on tour before and after Nirvana’s Nevermind. It was returned to her after Cobain married. Shortly after that, Mary Lou loaned the guitar to Elliott Smith, who played it until his death.
When I’m sad, I make myself play guitar to feel better, because it usually works. This 70-year-old guitar spent a lot of time literally pressed up against the hearts and chests of two artists who were so tormented by their emotions that they ended their lives. That’s heavy. You can’t explain those feelings that make the hair stand up on your arm, or when you feel like crying for no reason … but hitting that A minor made me feel it.
We had to split for the airport, so Chris Kies and Perry Bean started packing up. As they did, I saw this cute little 1880 Martin 000 that belonged to Joan Baez. In the photo next to it, Joan looks like my mom in the ’60s. I asked the curator if I could play it, and Chris grabbed his phone to do a quick Insta video. I swear there was a happy vibe coming off this tiny guitar. It felt like watching my mom dance—like a warm hug I needed after Cobain’s D-18.
In Chinese culture, there is a superstition that antiques may hold evil spirits, and chi (energy) transfer can bring this negativity into your home. Feng shui is all about objects carrying good or bad chi. Here’s how I see it: All matter is made of atoms. Atoms contain energy. Ergo, everything contains energy, or, more aptly, everything is energy. Ever walk into a room and feel powerful emotion: joy, sadness, fear, tranquility? That’s energy. We all have felt energy coming from people, places, and things. But that’s what I love about old guitars: Their atoms spent the first few hundred years as a tree in the forest connected to nature. Then, they’re turned into an instrument that makes people happy or consoles them when they are sad. That’s the kind of chi I want around me.
The Saddest Martin Ever? A 1953 D-18 Owned by Kurt Cobain & Elliott Smith
Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters are designed to offer a fat midrange and a smooth top end.
Billy Corgan was looking for something for heavier Smashing Pumpkins songs, so Joe Naylor designed the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One pickup. Sporting custom artwork etched onto the covers, the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One Humcutters have a fat midrange and a smooth top end. This pickup combines the drive and sustain of a humbucker with the percussive attack and string clarity of a P90. Get beefy P90 tone plus amp-pummeling output with the Railhammer Billy Corgan Z-One.
Patented Railhammer Pickups take passive guitar pickups to a new level with rails under the wound strings lead to tighter lows, and poles under the plain strings offer fatter heights. With increased clarity, the passive pickup’s tone is never sterile.
Railhammer Billy Corgan Signature Z-One Pickup Demo
For more information, please visit railhammer.com.