Projects: 1970s John Birch guitar

Click on the images to view a larger version.

John Birch was one of the best-regarded English luthiers in the early 1970s. His customers included Blach Sabbath, Nazareth, Slade, Queen and Roy Orbison. His guitars had a number of features which were novel at the time but which have become commonplace, including 24-fret necks, nek-through-body construction, stainless steel bridges, and his Biflux and Magnum pickups with their multiple adjustible pole pieces. He was a great publicist, and many of his custom-made parts are stamped with his name.

This double-cutaway guitar was custom-made and is still in the hands of its original owner. It's not fared very well over the years, and needed a full rebuild. The ultramarine sunburst lacquer was peeling off and there were a number of cracks in the back of the neck. Although John Birch guitars are usually stated to be built of rock maple, this looks more like UK-sourced sycamore, and there were a number of areas where car body filler had been used on knots and other blemishes. This was beginning to separate from the wood, and needed sorting out.

Before refinishing, the badly corroded frets had to be replaced, and missing sections of binding patched in. Nitrocellulose lacquer was sourced to match the original colour.

The electrics also needed a thorough overhaul. Although the pickups were in good shape, all the pots and switches were seized, snapped off and/or crackly, and needed replacing, along with some of the wiring. It wasn't possible to match the original knobs, some of which were missing, but a 'plausible-looking' retro set was substituted.