A guide to helpful books on restoration and vintage guitars.
This month I would like to talk not about the hand tools that I use to restore instruments, but rather the research tools that I have used time and time again to restore an instrument so that it’s as if it had never been altered from the twenties, fifties or sixties.
Pages 58 and 59 of this book show a gallery of guitars from StewMac’s finishing recipes.
Throughout the years I have used many videos, books and guitars in my research for reference when restoring an instrument to its originality. Quality books still keep coming out with more detailed information. If I’m not getting my books from Stewart-MacDonald, I’m online going to amazon.com. You can punch in just about any word at Amazon and they will have it in hard or soft cover. At stewmac.com you have Dan Erlewine and Don MacRostie with Spray Finish Basics and Sunburst Finishing on DVD. These two guys also put out what I consider to be an absolute must-have book for every restoration facility: Guitar Finishing Step-By-Step. This book gives out recipes for many famous vintage finishes. This book will save on a lot of down time from trying to reinvent the wheel by reformulating the finish. There are also other important DVDs by StewMac relating to restoration, like Advanced Fretting, Vol. 2 which details Fender “sideways” fretting. There are many talented people at StewMac, but the one that I’m keeping an eye out for in the future is Erick Coleman. I think we’re going to see more and more of him in this business.
As you can tell by the picture, this book really gets a heavy workout and now needs to be restored itself
Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars is a fantastic guide for referencing a vintage instrument. We use the first and second edition by Mr. Gruhn in our shop. I even like to use my Blue Book of Electric Guitars or Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars for reference, as I never rely completely on any one book for information. It’s a practice that I started many years ago—there are times when very bright and intelligent people may just have one detail that’s not perfectly correct, or maybe it’s simply a misprint. It’s not about calling anyone out on it; it’s just doing my job to the best of my ability. That’s really what we are all trying to do.
My favorite web site for gathering information is guitarhq.com. This site has a lot of eye candy and information. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed—check it out.
Another good source of information might be right in your home town. It’s always a good idea to have solid relationships with guitar collectors and vintage guitar stores. There have been many times that holding and inspecting an all original guitar has given me a more precise understanding of just what I need to do to a guitar that’s on the bench in my shop, waiting to be restored.
The latest book I’ve been in search of is one that covers the details on guitars from the seventies, as we are seeing continued restoration projects from this period. It’s all very interesting, since there was a time when nothing good was said about instruments that were manufactured during that decade. Now, they have not only held their value but have gone up in price.
This is a short list of books that I have used or currently use in my shop for gathering information:
Guitar Finish Step-By-Step by Dan Erlewine and Don MacRostie
Gruhn’s Guide to Vintage Guitars, 1st and 2nd edition by George Gruhn
The Beauty Of The Burst by Yasuhiko Iwanade
The Fender Bass by Klaus Blasquiz
Guitar Identification, The Fender Stratocaster, Gibson Electrics: The Classic Years and The Fender Telecaster by A.R. Duchossoir
The Bass Book by Tony Bacon and Barry Moorhouse
The Fender Book by Tony Bacon and Paul Day
Gibson’s Fabulous Flat-Top Guitars by Eldon Whitford, David Vinopal and Dan Erlewine
The Guild Guitar Book by Hans Moust Illustrated Directory of Guitars by Ray Bonds
Norman’s Rare Guitars by Norman Harris with David Swartz
Martin Guitars by Jim Washburn and Richard Johnston
Blue Book of Electric Guitars and Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars by Zachary R. Fjestad and S.P. Fjestad
The Fender Guitar by Ken Achard
I’m excited and looking forward to doing some videos and books myself. But for now, I am enjoying the ones that I have gathered throughout the years. Have a successful month.
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.