This '95 Gibson J-30 suffered a nasty fall
It's a guitarist's worst nightmare: they let someone else play their nicely aging acoustic guitar and it gets dropped on stage. Terrifying thoughts like "how much is this going to cost me" or "is it even fixable" are quite common. The good news is that, in the right hands, everything is fixable. The real questions are: how much do I value this guitar and how much do I care abut the way it looks once fixed?
For this particular customer it would have cost substantially more to replace the guitar than to fix, and he had insurance on it so it really was a no brainer. The neck angle on the guitar is perfect and that's a repair he probably won't need on the guitar in his lifetime. He wanted the side to be fixed and the finish touched up and missing wood filled in to make it look as much like it never happened as possible without refinishing the entire guitar. The goal: fix it so that the only way someone will notice the crack happened is under a black light (new lacquer glows purple).
Crack repairs can range from simple preventative medicine (such as fixing and reinforcing a small crack due to weather changes before the crack spreads) to extensive repair with numerous cleats, patches and finish touchup. As you can see in the image above, this guitar clearly falls into the latter category.
On the Gibson J-30 we estimated that we'd need about 20 cleats precisely cut from moderately flamed Honduran Mahogany to match the wood of the sides. We selected a piece of Mahogany that matched the sides nicely and then cut out our cleats using a drill press and cleat specially made cutting bit.
Next we opted to repair the hairline crack running along the side before tackling the larger crack where cutting next strips of wood to patch in missing parts would be necessary. These plastic blocks with a guitar tuner attached to them are handy tools. The tuner holds a piece of wire that goes through the body of the guitar, through a hole cut into the cleat and loops around a brass fitting designed to equally distribute pressure along the underside of the cleat.
Check back later this week for another post on the continuation of this extensive repair.