1974 Gibson Dove Custom Repair


1974 Gibson Dove Custom #B002045 - identical to Elvis'

I bought this guitar in 2004 on eBay from Boger City Pawn in North Carolina primarily because it was identical to the one Elvis used onstage in 1976 and it was an opportunity to photograph it for the page about it here on the site. They misrepresented it in the ad by not stating that it was a factory second and the guitar was in need of a neck reset.  Aside from that it has an unbelievably awesome sound and despite the high action it played excellent. However, after two years with it I decided that it had to be right so packed it up and shipped it to Elderly Instruments for a neck reset. The bridge was also splitting and would require the manufacture of a new one at the same time.

After shipping it to Elderly, Arnold Hennig, came to the conclusion "that the reason the guitar is a factory second was because the bridge was incorrectly located, and the intonation was consequently sharp. Since it needed to be replaced at that time and the design has plenty of open unused space on it, it would be easy enough to make the corrections in the course of making the new bridge."

"Ideally you want the new bridge to fit the same footprint on the guitar's face as the old, so as not to have to mess with the finish on the face. The strange thing is that the bridge has the normally needed slant in saddle position (adjusting the amount of compensation from treble to bass) built into it, but it has been located such that the saddle is perpendicular to the strings, i.e. there is no compensation at all, treble or bass. Retaining the bridge position and adding the needed compensation will result in a slightly exaggerated appearance, though I don't believe it will be enough so to be noticeable to someone who is not looking critically at it. The bridge pins will have to move back about 1/8" from their present location and the holes in the face will have to be filled and re-drilled also) and the saddle position moved back just over 1/16" on the treble end and 5/32" on the bass end."

James V. Roy
May 23, 2007

Arnold's Notes:


1. and 2. - Checking the Scale length
Photo courtesy A. Hennig

Pictures 1 and 2 show the problem with the scale length. Distance nut to bridge should be twice the distance nut to 12th fret plus approximately .01". At 2*12.67=25.34, somebody forgot to add the tenth inch compensation for stretch. They also set the bridge saddle perpendicular to the strings. Steel-stringed guitars need a slanted saddle because the amount of sharpness from stretching increases with the diameter of the string. The holes in the face needed to be plugged and the new bridge made with the necessary
compensation so that the guitar could be played in tune.


3. - Bridge cracks
Photo courtesy A. Hennig


4. - Pickguard masking
Photo courtesy A. Hennig

Picture 4 shows the method used for masking gluing areas when finishing the guitar. The same method was used for the bridge. A masking piece was put in place, the guitar finished smooth, over the mask, then someone had to cut through the finish and lift out the mask. A lip of finish was allowed under the edges of both pickguard and bridge, so as to reduce the potential for errors to be visible. There are two problems here:

1. In the intervening years manufacturers have listened to repair people and learned NOT to glue pickguards directly to the wood of a guitar top, because over the years the plastic shrinks and causes cracking in the wood surface. I used shellac to finish over the bare wood and double-stick adhesive to reattach the pickguard.

2. Because of the stresses caused by string tension, it is preferable to have a slightly less visually perfect joint and run the glue joint to the edges of the bridge. This was done when the new bridge was put on.


5. - Spruce overlap
Photo courtesy A. Hennig


5a. - Tenon
Photo courtesy A. Hennig

Pictures 5 and 5a show that this guitar was made during the period when Gibson first fitted the neck and then put the top on over the joint before adding the fingerboard, making the joints very difficult to get apart for repair.

Picture 5a also shows that the tenon was not cut straight sided, but curves away from the sides of the joint starting from about halfway down the side of the guitar. Pictures 10 and 11 show the modifications made to produce a standard, tight-fitting joint.


6. - Bridge removal
Photo courtesy A. Hennig


7. - Bridge removal
Photo courtesy A. Hennig

Pictures 6 and 7 show the method for removing the bridge. An aluminum foil protects the face while the bridge is heated to soften the glue.


8. - Bridge removed
Photo courtesy A. Hennig


9. - Bridge removed
Photo courtesy A. Hennig

In picture 9 you can clearly see the print of the bridge outline over the finish.


10. - Mortise ready
Photo courtesy A. Hennig


11. - Tenon ready
Photo courtesy A. Hennig


12. - Bridge blank
Photo courtesy A. Hennig


13, 14  - Cutting the Pearl
Photo courtesy A. Hennig


15. - Routing for Pearl inlays
Photo courtesy A. Hennig


15a. - Bench
Photo courtesy A. Hennig


16. - Gluing Pearl inlays
Photo courtesy A. Hennig


17. - Gluing Pearl inlays
Photo courtesy A. Hennig

Pictures 12 through 17 show the making of the new bridge. The spaces for the inlays were hand fitted after the initial routing, so there was very little gap, and some ebony dust mixed into the epoxy used to glue the inlays into place so as to make the joint invisible.


18. - Glue pot
Photo courtesy A. Hennig


19. - Bridge glued and clamped
Photo courtesy A. Hennig

I use traditional hide glue for most of my wood joints, and picture 18 shows the simple pot used to keep it at the ready.


20. - Neck reset and all back together
Photo courtesy A. Hennig


21. - Stringing it up
Photo courtesy A. Hennig


22. - Ready for shipping
Photo courtesy A. Hennig

In picture 21 you can see that I have fitted the bridge pin holes so that the pins fit snugly but all the way seated. I believe that the tendency of manufacturers to leave the pins sitting high leaves guitar owners with the temptation to cram them into the holes as tightly as possible, which in turn leads to cracked bridges. In reality it is not necessary for the pins to be tight, or even snug. The ball end of the string, when the string is pulled to tension, rests against the side of the pin and is sufficient to prevent it's falling out of the hole. Of course, the ball end must rest against the side of the pin and not the end of it, for in the latter case the string is capable of shooting the pin across a room.

Arnold M. J. Hennig
May 17, 2007

Elderly Instruments Repair Shop
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