Barney Kessel Quartet – 1961
In these modern times the term “working out” is most regularly applied to a variety of unspeakable acts of physical training and I apologise if I have caused any alarm in using it. Thankfully there are alternative and potentially less intimidating definitions of the term. For example, when a trapped or embedded object is slowly edged free of an unwelcome grip or when a particular situation or problem is resolved to the satisfaction of an individual or an assembled throng.
It is unlikely that we shall ever be sure of what was in the mind of Barney Kessel or those of his quartet when they named their 1961 album Workin’ Out! but given that the cover photograph is a rare snap of Barney with his Gibson signature model guitar (he is most often seen with a Gibson L-5) and moreover that the rebuild of my Shaftesbury copy appears to be working out as it progresses, I thought I might unashamedly shoehorn Barney and the album into the conversation at this point.
I now had the sides, back and top of the guitar body ready to assemble. Somewhat unexpectedly though the top and back did not align properly with the sides, a clear and immediate cause of consternation. No matter how I pushed or squeezed the sides to match the other pieces some unfortunate distortion took place elsewhere.
After careful rumination and moderate consumption of red wine I resolved to deploy a regiment of devices known as spool clamps which I had purchased from Stewart MacDonald for this precise purpose. Having originally imagined that these would be deployed simultaneously around the circumference of the body I had to rethink that strategy to overcome the issue of distorting the sides to meet the edges of the back. So I decided it was necessary to glue and clamp small sections in turn, over a couple of days, as the glue dried out. This is demonstrated in the photographs below.
The slow and meticulous method worked and those errant and wayward sides now faithfully tracked the lines of the guitar back. Given that the top was identical in shape it could be glued and clamped in one sitting however due to an unexpected and inexplicable moment of lucidity the realisation washed over me that this would be the last time in which access to the inside of the guitar would be so free and open. All future interaction with this internal space would require the deft skills of a surgeon working through a pair of small entry wounds known in guitar parlance as the f-holes.
Grasping this final opportunity the trusty orbital sander was employed to clean all residual paintwork and the numerous glue droplets masquerading as pearls formed within the mantle of this giant plywood mollusc. In a curious act of self flattery I created and printed off a label similar to those of the Gibson Custom Shop detailing my name, the date of the rebuild and the original Shaftesbury model number. This was glued in place so that it would be visible through the upper f-hole.
The sanded and washed internal space with strategically placed label
A bead of Titebond III PVA glue was placed around the top kerfed lining and the box was finally formed. Fully surrounded and in the steely grasp of the spool clamps the poor old girl looked as though she had been involved in some horrific accident. This time however I was confident we could nurse her back to full health.
Setting the clamps for the top
Fully Clamped Top
The build label just visible through the roughly trimmed veneer around the f-hole aperture
I now possessed a restored box something akin to its original condition. It now sported stronger neck and tail blocks, a newly applied maple veneer on top and a boastful internal label proclaiming that the project was complete. We were in truth some distance away from the proclamations of the bold orange label.
My next blog entry will detail the process of binding the guitar edges and preparing the neck block dovetail joint. Those of you who feel that your life is inexplicably enriched by extraordinary moments of schadenfreude should have to hand a small libation and prepare yourselves for a short period of immense joy.