KD 28 Guitar restoration

During the winter of Covid Lockdown I spotted a tired-looking KD 28 guitar in the local charity shop. It cost me £15.00 and I decided that I would attempt to restore it by spending less than £10.00 on replacement parts.

The KD 28 Model was made in the 1960s and 70s by the Oliviero Pigini company, whose Italian brand name was EKO. I have had an EKO Ranger in the past and, although the look and construction are very similar, the KD28 feels a lot lighter. The body is laminated with mahogany veneer on the back and sides and spruce on the front.

There were a few glaring problems with the guitar.

  • The neck action was quite high which probably meant resetting the neck.
  • There was damage to the veneer on the back near the base of the body and at the back of the neck where it joins the body.
  • The saddle was very worn and in a poor condition.
  • This guitar has a zero fret - not something I had seen before - which was also very worn.
  • The pick guard was missing - although its shape could be seen as a faded area on the front of the guitar.
  • Only a small section of the sound-hole rose was still attached.
KD28 Guitar disassembled

Adjusting the neck

The first task was to remove the bolt-on neck by unscrewing the four large screws which pass through a chromed plate on the back of the guitar. I could see that a previous owner had tried to adjust the neck by inserting pieces of cardboard between the neck and the body.

I created a shim from some spare pieces of veneer to fit between the neck and the body in place of the cardboard pieces to make the neck tilt back slightly. It is wedge-shaped, sloping from around 2mm at the front to almost nothing at the back. The final size was achieved by trial and error and much careful sanding.

While the neck was detached I replaced the zero-fret with a new piece of fret wire.

To prevent splitting the shim the holes for the bolts were drilled slightly larger than those in the body.

The shim - edge view in the neck pocket

Repairing the veneer

veneer replaced on the back of the bodyA small section of veneer on the back of the guitar was missing. I marked out a section surrounding the damage (approx 60mm x 15mm) and cut it out replacing it with a new piece. Ideally, I would have used mahogany to match the body but I hoped that the veneer I had would blend in after a few coats of varnish.

replaced veneer varnishedBefore applying varnish, I masked out the edge of the insert and used black acrylic paint to make a new border. It's not a perfect match but a great improvement on the original damage.

veneer patch on the back of the neckThe back of the neck, where it meets the neck-pocket, was also damaged. It looked as if a piece had split out and been glued back poorly. I sanded it down and used the same veneer to make a cover for the damaged section of the neck.

Replacing the saddle

The original saddle was an adjustable one, where the saddle sits in a metal groove with screws on either side to adjust its height. I broke the metal sleeve taking it out of the bridge and so decided to replace it with a new bone saddle held in place by small shims.

I had a spare bone saddle blank from a previous project and, using the old saddle as a rough guide, shaped a new saddle using small files and sandpaper.

The guitar was strung with some old strings so that I could keep checking the height of the strings until I was satisfied with the action.

Shaping the saddle

Fitting a pick guard and sound-hole rose.

Pickguard templateI created a copy of the scratch plate on the computer using the outline I could see on the body of the guitar.

I printed this onto card and cut it out to create a template which I used to mark up a piece of pick guard material made from black plastic with a 3M adhesive coating on the back.

Original sound-hole rose pieceI removed the small section of the sound hole rose and scanned it to create a template so I could recreate it on the computer.

Sound-hole rose recreatedI printed the new rose onto inkjet water-slide decal paper. This is an A4 sheet which has a thin plastic coating which can be slid off the backing paper after being immersed in water for around 30 seconds.

I applied a few coats of clear varnish to the print-out. After a few days, when it was very dry, I cut out the rose and stuck it onto the guitar. I then applied a few more coats of varnish to strengthen it.

The final hurdle

Having re-attached the neck and re-strung the guitar I adjusted the truss rod to improve the action. However, when I played it, I could hear a buzzing which seemed to be in sync with the A and D strings and seemed to ease when I pressed on the front of the guitar above the sound hole.

Feeling around inside, I found that one of the braces had become detached near the side of the guitar. Obviously, it need to be re-glued, but with no proper luthier's clamps I was stumped for how to hold the brace in place while the glue dried.

YouTube came to the rescue. I found a video of a luthier tackling the same problem using small adjustable props inside placed inside the guitar.

A makeshift propRooting around in my shed, I found a fitting which had come from some flat-pack furniture consisting of a bolt with a screw-on end piece. I drilled a pocket into a small piece of wood and super-glued the head of the cut-down bolt in place with a super-glued washer to hold it in place. I then cut a groove the same size as the guitar brace into another small piece of wood to fit on top of the prop.

I loosly fitted the prop inside the guitar and used a small syringe filled with Titebond wood glue to inject glue under the loose brace. I then tightened the prop and left it to dry for a couple of days.

This was a very tricky procedure. On my first attempt I had the guitar on its back with a small mirror and torch inside so that I could see the brace. As soon as I applied the glue it dripped down onto the mirror and all over my hands.

After cleaning up the spilled glue I decided to put the guitar on its side and put the syringe needle in place by feel before injecting the glue.

Propping up the loose brace

The finished product

After cleaning the fret board and applying lemon-oil I re-strung the guitar with Addagio medium light strings and made a few more adjustments to the saddle.

The guitar is now easily playable with a bright tone and comfortable action.

The refurbished KD28 guitar