How much would it cost to fix binding rot on a vintage Gretsch

Discussion in 'THE Gretsch Discussion Forum' started by golem, Jul 5, 2021.

  1. swivel

    swivel Country Gent

    May 13, 2018
    Wow, how long ago? I thought the binding would 4 digits .....
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  2. knavel

    knavel Country Gent

    Dec 26, 2009
    London, England
    A thousand is a good number to keep in mind for a guitar that is bound on both its front and back. A Tennessean is only bound on the front. You can pull about $400-500 or so off of the price on that basis, IF you can find someone competent and willing to do the job, which is also not always so easy these days.
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  3. Jackrd

    Jackrd Electromatic

    Nov 27, 2017
    New York NY
    I disagree. I have a 57 Firebird that is perfect, also several other 50's and early 60's equally nice. But, it is hardly a myth. The material from that era is going to rot at some point. When, no one can say, but it is simple chemistry. All I can say is never keep your vintage guitar in a case lest you learn earlier than you should that it will too happen to you.
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  4. Rmccamey

    Rmccamey Gretschie

    Aug 28, 2020
    December 2020. Lambs Music, Ft. Worth, TX.

  5. afire

    afire Country Gent

    That's what I kept thinking while reading this thread. Tennesseans should be one of the cheapest Gretsches to rebind.

    Forever, it was a late '60s thing. Then you started seeing it on mid '60s Gretsches. Then early '60s. About 10 years ago, I was eyeing up a '57 6120 at Guitar Broker, and sure enough, the binding was starting to crack all over. FOBR (fear of binding rot) was not a small part of why I sold my '59 Gent recently after owning it for 10 years. I've come to the conclusion that it is indeed going to happen sooner or later. It might take another 60 years, or it might start tomorrow. All I know is that for that particular guitar, its pristine condition was a huge part of its substantial value, and I didn't want to be the one holding the bag when the binding started to go. I wouldn't have felt the same for every guitar, especially one that didn't have four ply binding front and back. But I am at the point where I want to limit my potential exposure to binding rot headaches. I'd almost prefer one that's already been rebound or definitely is in need rather than paying top dollar for one with perfect binding, knowing that it's anybody's guess how long it's going to stay perfect.
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  6. afire

    afire Country Gent

    Also, golem, do you know what year that Tennessean was? So far, I've operated under the assumption that binding rot was exclusive to Brooklyn Gretsches. And I also thought that the real Baldwin changes (new shapes, Burns gearbox) happened when they moved to Booneville. But now I'm getting the impression that those changes were made before the move to Booneville. What I'm curious to figure out is whether the new-style Gretsches I've seen with binding rot, such as this one, are actually late Brooklyn, and Booneville guitars truly are immune to rot.
  7. j.s.c

    j.s.c Country Gent

    Aug 19, 2008
    I think you could pick-up any pre 1959 eyes closed... perhaps few late 1958 models had the first experiment with this bad glue/plastic mix.
  8. wildeman

    wildeman I Bleed Orange

    May 10, 2015
    All you gotta do is name it a Gretsch apparently:D
    My '44 New Yorker that was not even made by Gretsch (per the general consensus) more likely a Harmony, Regal, Kay stencil had terrible binding. There are videos on YouTube of the rebinding process of a Gent and it looks bleak, real bleak.
  9. Jackrd

    Jackrd Electromatic

    Nov 27, 2017
    New York NY
    Wildeman, it is not the brand but the binding that was used. Back in the 50's and early 60's in Brooklyn Gretsch and John D'Angelico would use the same vendor of bindings (and at times, hardware. I had a very early '63 DuoJet that had the same tuners that were used on D'Angelico's.) That is why D'Angelico's are notorious for the same rotting of bindings and pickguards. And to your point about other brands, the same applies. It was the plastic used that was at fault, not the brand or manufacturing.
  10. Jackrd

    Jackrd Electromatic

    Nov 27, 2017
    New York NY
    I really agree with this post. I often think that maybe selling some pristine vintage Gretsch's makes sense when the value is so much higher. Why, as you say, be the one 'holding the bag'? The moment rot appears, and it will eventually, there goes the value. Now, I have often wondered how Gretsch collectors feel about a beautifully rebound vintage guitar? I have had work done on two. Incredible job that is not at all visible (though I would always point it out should I ever sell). Is the value of the guitar increased? Decreased? Certainly, future rot is eliminated and thus any risk. But these repairs are expensive and I wonder if you can ever get back your investment? The two I had done I expect to keep. But I cannot say down the road I would not sell them, esp. as I get older and need to downsize. I guess like anything else, the market will determine value, but I value other opinions from people on this forum.
  11. Luthier47

    Luthier47 Electromatic

    Apr 22, 2021
    East coast USA
    Sadly, I had sold my 1964 WhiteFalcon due to this problem. At the time, it had so many sentimental values I did not want to even think about selling. Then upon opening the case, the headstock and lower bout really needed attention and I was not as qualified as I may be now to do this job so I got scared and sold it… that was 25 years ago.
  12. Back in Black

    Back in Black Country Gent

    Jun 22, 2020
    Ontario Canada

    You could probably budget anywhere from $100. to $150. an hour for labour, plus material and supplies, and packaging, plus return shipping if you have to send the guitar out of the area.

    Look at about 25/30 hours. It's a long/slow tedious process. The clear lacquer covering the binding has to be re-applied/leveled/color sanded/polished.

    There is lots involved to do it right, and to make the new binding look like it's always been there.

    You may want to consider buying a brand new Vintage Select Tennessee Rose. I would, as these old Tennesseans don't have any ''real'' value.

    Just me.


  13. Synchro

    Synchro The artist formerly known as: Synchro Staff Member

    Jun 2, 2008
    Admin Post
    I would agree. There comes a point where restoring something, restoring anything, is not economically feasible. It can still be done, but one will never recover the costs involved.

    There’s a TV show called Graveyard Carz, about a shop which restores Mopar muscle cars from the ‘60s and ‘70s. In the case of cars with rare and desirable options, no expense spared restorations are common, because they cars can sell for very high prices. However, for cars with more common options from the factory, it’s not likely that anyone will ever invest enough to restore these cars, unless there is a specific emotional attachment which means that cost recovery is not a real consideration.

    So the restorations performed are either hyper-rare options, such as convertibles with Hemi engines, or someone fulfilling a deathbed promise to restore the car a relative cherished, even though it may not be all that desirable in the marketplace.

    The Tennie about which this thread was started, is not a particularly desirable instrument from a collector’s point of view. You’d be far better off with a new Vintage Select Tennie, which is exactly how I scratched my itch to own a guitar just like the first Gretsch I ever saw in person, a new ‘67 Tennessean.

    The quality of the new production Gretsch are very high. I’ve owned vintage Gretsch instruments and I prefer my Terada and Dyna Gakki made instruments over the vintage pieces.

    It’s a minor miracle that a 50, 60 or 70 year old guitar can be plugged into a modern amp and played. Likewise, a new guitar can be plugged into an amp from the ‘50s and it works fine. Vintage instruments are great, but they are still old. One of the biggest problems with vintage instruments is that they are evaluated on the basis of originality. So a very desirable ‘59 Gent which develops binding problems leaves it’s owner on the horns of a dilemma; repair it and lose resale value, or relegate it to a museum piece and lose the utility of the instrument, because you don’t want to risk damaging it further.

    Of course there is a third choice, which is to play a reissue. I’ve wanted a single cutaway Gent ever since seeing one on a Chet album cover, and I play a G6122-1959, which does everything an original can do, and is a lot less likely to be damaged, just by the act of playing it.

    I would love to have one of those restored Mopars I see on Graveyard Carz, but if I were going to drive a car every day, it would make more sense to just buy a new Challenger and take advantage of the safety and efficiency of a newer car. Likewise for guitars; vintage is great, but if you want to play it every day, a reissue will work just fine.
  14. j.s.c

    j.s.c Country Gent

    Aug 19, 2008
    noonoonoo Noo !

    Btw "Look at about 25/30 hours"... wouldn't be wise for a Tenny to have this being made by a pro luthier for a 35/30h time budget which is a quota for reaching perfection...

    But you could do 5 hours ~$500/side for the job done just the way it's not perfect but in line with the Tenny market value.

    Moreover, when after >60y they're in playable condition, they could be lovely, very textured guitars and a personal sounding instrument ... kind of unique tool. From my few experiments this "open tone" is not replicated by newer production (I don't know if it's old wood or vintage hilo, or both).
    bigjohnbates likes this.
  15. Back in Black

    Back in Black Country Gent

    Jun 22, 2020
    Ontario Canada

    That's a great post!

    1969 Roadrunners are near and dear to my heart.

    The first attached photo is my 69 Roadrunner. the car was about 3 weeks old when this photo was taken.

    I had a thousand dollars, Dad gave me a thousand dollars, and I entered the world of ''debt'' and financed a thousand dollars for twelve months...paid it off early. The list on the car, new, was $3495, as I recall, my Dad got me a $400. discount. I think the hemi was a $450. option. Hood strips were part of the hemi package.

    Hemi/auto/column shift. The car had been ordered by someone else, and when the car arrived, the original purchaser changed his mind...had to do with the limited warrantees that came with the hemi's, 90 days as I recall. It had three ''hemi'' emblems, one on each side of the hood scoops, one on the trunk lid.

    Dad was GM management, the Delco division plant was within walking distance from the house. Dad always said, the Roadrunner looked like it was assembled in the dark by blind people...but whenever they went to get groceries, they always took the Roadrunner. In the early days, Dad drove the car more than I did. Our doctor also had a Roadrunner, I'm sure Our Ontario Hospitalization insurance paid for a lot of Roadrunner conversations.

    I came home from school one day and discovered my Dad had the car out, had the turbine mags, and rear air shocks installed. My Dad's generosity/kindness was the envy of every kid I knew.

    He had two rules, I couldn't take the car to school, and if I was in Niagara Falls NY, on Friday/Saturday night, and had a few too many pops, I was to leave the car parked, get home safely any way I could, and we'd retrieve the car the next morning...which we did twice.

    Second photo, he's out in front of the house, washing my 63 Z06. this photo was taken in 1980, I was home on R&R from the Middle East. Dad owned both houses in the picture, we lived in the one on the left, he rented the one on the right.

    Would love to have him back, even if it was just for an hour.

    He was a great guy, passed in 89, bad heart...too many cigarettes...gone too soon. He was only 70. I've already surpassed his life by 2 years.


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    Last edited: Jul 9, 2021
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  16. bigjohnbates

    bigjohnbates Gretschie

    Jun 15, 2011
    I am literally going thru this right now on a 67 Country Gentleman (yes the nightmare that was seen on here). The guitar is awesome and I like the Malcolm Young vibe so I decided to rebind.

    Finding a person into it took a bit but I did find a local luthier willing to put it on the backburner. His price is $75 per hour which seems fair. I was going to remove all old binding myself but he has a tool which will do it better and much more accurately and quickly so I left it with him.

    Part of the reason is he likes the story and aesthetic of the beast and we are doing some novel things with binding which interests him. Plus we got along famously at our first meeting so that was great for both of us.
    Archtops, Jackrd, j.s.c and 1 other person like this.
  17. bigjohnbates

    bigjohnbates Gretschie

    Jun 15, 2011
    It affects all Gretsch guitars left in cases for extended periods of time. I was told there is an era in the late 50s \ early 60s (I believe) when they used a different material for the binding but it was short-lived.
  18. Groutsch

    Groutsch Gretschie

    Jun 9, 2018
    Maryland, US
    I would happily buy a vintage Gretsch with replaced binding, provided the binding was replaced with skill so that it looks good (which is the function of binding, as far as I know). I would be relieved to know that the new binding would not rot.

    I recently bought a vintage Tennesseean with some minor (so far) binding issues for less than $1,500. To me, the price was a bargain for a guitar that looks and sounds so good. I think of binding rot on a Gretsch as like checking on a nitro finish, a mark of authenticity, not exactly desirable but not an impediment to my enjoyment of the instrument.
    j.s.c likes this.
  19. Bertotti

    Bertotti Friend of Fred

    Jul 20, 2017
    South Dakota
    Well I think everyone should dump their binding rotting guitars. Then I can keep an eye out for deals because I would just rebind it myself! I will now keep an eye out for great deals.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2021
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  20. stiv

    stiv Country Gent

    Sep 12, 2014
    Firenze, Italy
    My Rally had some rot when I bought it. Nothing major, but also not something that goes unnoticed.
    To me the real difference is if the binding is still all there or not. If it is, there is various treatments that a luthier could apply to keep it stable. My guitar man did it to my Rally when I bought it and in 2 years the binding condition never changed (it’s true that I don’t tour anymore or go to rehearsals that much, that probably helped… it would have been difficult for a workhorse guitar I think).
    If there’s pieces (large pieces, if we’re talking about the guitar of this thread) missing on some fragile parts (like the neck) it’s a total different story as the feeling of playing it, not only seeing it, would get worse with time.
    Other than that, as long as it’s all there and stays stable, a bit of rot never killed anyone. After all there’s people that pay top dollars to have painting job stripped from the body or metal parts turned rusty and think it’s cool because you could “feel the mojo”.,,:D
    Groutsch likes this.
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