Modifying F-Holes On A 5120

Teledriver

Country Gent
Feb 12, 2011
1,051
Iowa City, IA
Well, that's me in the green/black martini shirt and the orange 5120 with modified F-holes.
I've posted that photo many times and nobody noticed my F's.😶

I got the idea from a post on here, from maybe 2009 or 2010 about a conversion project of a 5120 into a 6120, done full-bore (except pickup placement I think). I recently deleted that like from my 'Favorites', unfortunately, or else I'd link to it. Can't even remember the thread's author, but it ran several pages.

Given the historical heritage of the term 'Electromatic', that name proudly sits on my guitar's headstock.
Aware of the squared F's before I bought the guitar, I couldn't Un-see it. It was a glaring difference visually to a 6120, that blasted out like a neon sign to me. Mostly I found the lack of binding around the F's to make the guitar too boring. No offense to the painted-on F's of a Country Gent (a look I am not too fond of, btw) but I prefer the F's with binding on 6120s (and many, many other guitars, my Epi Sheraton for example). Binding on a squared F would look odd, and be hard to do. If I pointed the F's, I did consider adding actual binding, but shaping/gluing/clamping was WAY more than I wanted to do. What I did took a Saturday afternoon.

I had seen the results one or two others had achieved pointing the F's, I had the skill-set to do such a project, and I wasn't worried.

I wouldn't apply pressure with any kind of bladed tool. I would use a small drum sander/fine grit, attached to a Dremel, with just enough speed to keep the drum from stalling. Make sure all surfaces are marked/masked, and the guitar is properly covered.
Exactly. I took a pencil and drew a rough re-shape around the squares to see how it would look. Then I took my Dremel with the small drum sander (not the one as big as a dime, this one is more like a pencil in diameter) and had at it. Scraping poly would be a nightmare, so I just went slow and steady and with good lighting and went around the F's trying to be as perpendicular to the guitar's surface as possible. The inner parts of the middle of the F's I did use razor blade, scraping perpendicular and away from were I started- not scrapping like paint from a window glass, more like frosting a cake! That is important- you don't want to gouge the wood. This kind of didn't matter so much- to give it some visibility I actually ended up beveling things slightly, if not with the Dremel then with a sanding stick (pencil wrapped in 220 grit). This smoothed things out. I went around the F's and the parts it wouldn't reach I used a folded piece of 220. Repeated the process with 400 grit, but wasn't really needed. Next the craft paint- I got cheap acrylic water-based paint to match the guitar's binding (or else I mixed a tan color with a khaki color? Probably). Thinned with a little water, used a hobby paint brush, and went to town on the bare wood. Water-based, so if I "went out of the lines' I just wiped it off the poly surface. Easy-peazy.

Yeah, water-thinned paint and bare wood!!!
Nothing happened. No swelling, no finish cracking (on poly?? Hard to believe!!). Done.

Probably did two or three coats on this paint, as it would soak into the wood. Again, nothing happened to the guitar except it got some paint.

When this dried (in about 1/2 hour maybe) I brushed on some good-old gloss poly over the paint. This step I was careful on, as I didn't want some weird hump or anything where the new met the old finish, and the paint HAD to be covered or it would wear off when the guitar was polished or just plain wiped down. Maybe two thin coats of the stuff, could be three. Anyways, when that was dry I used some 400 then 600 then 800 and then probably some rubbing compound on a rag using my finger and just lightly went around what I'd done. You can't tell the old from the new visually or if you run your finger along it. If it looks odd in a place or two on the picture above, it's just the way the light hits it for the camera.
 

chilibike

Newbie
Sep 20, 2022
1
Wa
Okay, the " 5120" Upgrade Ideas" thread inspired me to create this one. I see some folks are modifying the shape of the f- holes and then painting them to match the binding. Others use pin striping, which would be reversible. What are your thoughts, preferably with details on how you did it or would do it?
No. Too much work for an idea that does have an effect on the violin family, but that pertains to an unamified sound chamber. Everything changes with electric guitars. That, and you may have a hard time selling it.
 

Gregor

Country Gent
Gold Supporting Member
Oct 17, 2018
1,478
New Brunswick, Canada
No. Too much work for an idea that does have an effect on the violin family, but that pertains to an unamified sound chamber. Everything changes with electric guitars. That, and you may have a hard time selling it.
Welcome to GT @chilibike. Thanks for the comment and your early participation in the forum.
Well, that's me in the green/black martini shirt and the orange 5120 with modified F-holes.
I've posted that photo many times and nobody noticed my F's.😶

I got the idea from a post on here, from maybe 2009 or 2010 about a conversion project of a 5120 into a 6120, done full-bore (except pickup placement I think). I recently deleted that like from my 'Favorites', unfortunately, or else I'd link to it. Can't even remember the thread's author, but it ran several pages.

Given the historical heritage of the term 'Electromatic', that name proudly sits on my guitar's headstock.
Aware of the squared F's before I bought the guitar, I couldn't Un-see it. It was a glaring difference visually to a 6120, that blasted out like a neon sign to me. Mostly I found the lack of binding around the F's to make the guitar too boring. No offense to the painted-on F's of a Country Gent (a look I am not too fond of, btw) but I prefer the F's with binding on 6120s (and many, many other guitars, my Epi Sheraton for example). Binding on a squared F would look odd, and be hard to do. If I pointed the F's, I did consider adding actual binding, but shaping/gluing/clamping was WAY more than I wanted to do. What I did took a Saturday afternoon.

I had seen the results one or two others had achieved pointing the F's, I had the skill-set to do such a project, and I wasn't worried.


Exactly. I took a pencil and drew a rough re-shape around the squares to see how it would look. Then I took my Dremel with the small drum sander (not the one as big as a dime, this one is more like a pencil in diameter) and had at it. Scraping poly would be a nightmare, so I just went slow and steady and with good lighting and went around the F's trying to be as perpendicular to the guitar's surface as possible. The inner parts of the middle of the F's I did use razor blade, scraping perpendicular and away from were I started- not scrapping like paint from a window glass, more like frosting a cake! That is important- you don't want to gouge the wood. This kind of didn't matter so much- to give it some visibility I actually ended up beveling things slightly, if not with the Dremel then with a sanding stick (pencil wrapped in 220 grit). This smoothed things out. I went around the F's and the parts it wouldn't reach I used a folded piece of 220. Repeated the process with 400 grit, but wasn't really needed. Next the craft paint- I got cheap acrylic water-based paint to match the guitar's binding (or else I mixed a tan color with a khaki color? Probably). Thinned with a little water, used a hobby paint brush, and went to town on the bare wood. Water-based, so if I "went out of the lines' I just wiped it off the poly surface. Easy-peazy.

Yeah, water-thinned paint and bare wood!!!
Nothing happened. No swelling, no finish cracking (on poly?? Hard to believe!!). Done.

Probably did two or three coats on this paint, as it would soak into the wood. Again, nothing happened to the guitar except it got some paint.

When this dried (in about 1/2 hour maybe) I brushed on some good-old gloss poly over the paint. This step I was careful on, as I didn't want some weird hump or anything where the new met the old finish, and the paint HAD to be covered or it would wear off when the guitar was polished or just plain wiped down. Maybe two thin coats of the stuff, could be three. Anyways, when that was dry I used some 400 then 600 then 800 and then probably some rubbing compound on a rag using my finger and just lightly went around what I'd done. You can't tell the old from the new visually or if you run your finger along it. If it looks odd in a place or two on the picture above, it's just the way the light hits it for the camera.
Thanks for the detailed explaination @Teledriver. You're making it harder for me to not change my mind.
 

Teledriver

Country Gent
Feb 12, 2011
1,051
Iowa City, IA
100_1273.JPG
Pretty sure I'm not gonna have an issue with re-sale...since I'll never sell it! What I did adds to the character, I feel.

I'm not saying "do this" to you, the owner of a 5120, but I am saying it's what I did, and it can be done. I don't feel I ruined the guitar in any way. What I did was subtle and not over-bearing. From some angles you don't even see it, as in the poorly-lit picture above. I trusted my abilities, went slowly, and did it basically pretty cheaply, but doesn't look 'cheap' to my eyes.
When I'm famous, my sig Gretsch will be a 5120 with this change, so act now and avoid the price increase! (lmao)

Sorry for my some-what defensive posts. I just got a vibe I needed to speak up for F-hole modification, although there's only a few of us that have done it, it seems. I believe 51XX's were the only models to have squared F's. Wonder why Gretsch started to point them with the 54xxs?? Maybe the same reason I pointed mine.
 

Gregor

Country Gent
Gold Supporting Member
Oct 17, 2018
1,478
New Brunswick, Canada
T
View attachment 190849
Pretty sure I'm not gonna have an issue with re-sale...since I'll never sell it! What I did adds to the character, I feel.

I'm not saying "do this" to you, the owner of a 5120, but I am saying it's what I did, and it can be done. I don't feel I ruined the guitar in any way. What I did was subtle and not over-bearing. From some angles you don't even see it, as in the poorly-lit picture above. I trusted my abilities, went slowly, and did it basically pretty cheaply, but doesn't look 'cheap' to my eyes.
When I'm famous, my sig Gretsch will be a 5120 with this change, so act now and avoid the price increase! (lmao)

Sorry for my some-what defensive posts. I just got a vibe I needed to speak up for F-hole modification, although there's only a few of us that have done it, it seems. I believe 51XX's were the only models to have squared F's. Wonder why Gretsch started to point them with the 54xxs?? Maybe the same reason I pointed mine.
That really looks very nice and being a woodworker is well within my capabilities...I'm still pondering the idea...decisions, decisions!!! I'm really not all that worried about resale value either.
Thanks for posting all the details Teledriver.
 
Last edited:

Teledriver

Country Gent
Feb 12, 2011
1,051
Iowa City, IA
No problem.
Remember, it's your guitar! Leave it all original- that's cool too! Those squared F's DO make it say "I'm a 5120" and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that!! It speaks to a certain generation of guitars that Gretsch made, so it's 'historical' and accurate to the period.
 

Marv666

Synchromatic
Jul 26, 2020
762
Germany
View attachment 190849
Pretty sure I'm not gonna have an issue with re-sale...since I'll never sell it! What I did adds to the character, I feel.

I'm not saying "do this" to you, the owner of a 5120, but I am saying it's what I did, and it can be done. I don't feel I ruined the guitar in any way. What I did was subtle and not over-bearing. From some angles you don't even see it, as in the poorly-lit picture above. I trusted my abilities, went slowly, and did it basically pretty cheaply, but doesn't look 'cheap' to my eyes.
When I'm famous, my sig Gretsch will be a 5120 with this change, so act now and avoid the price increase! (lmao)

Sorry for my some-what defensive posts. I just got a vibe I needed to speak up for F-hole modification, although there's only a few of us that have done it, it seems. I believe 51XX's were the only models to have squared F's. Wonder why Gretsch started to point them with the 54xxs?? Maybe the same reason I pointed mine.
Double anniversarys have squared f holes too
 

Webby

Electromatic
Dec 22, 2020
32
germany
Here's a guitar to completely confuse you all:

Adriano-BaTolba-4.jpg
 

Gregor

Country Gent
Gold Supporting Member
Oct 17, 2018
1,478
New Brunswick, Canada
Turned out really well.
Indeed it did. Congrats. I'm thinking now I'll go for it. When I look more closely at the stain job in the f-holes themselves, surprisingly it was pretty poorly done at the factory so it's not that pleasing to the eye.
I assume you varnished over the paint job? I'm thinking of a wipe on poly.
 
Last edited:

Henry

I Bleed Orange
Apr 9, 2014
19,240
Petaluma
The difference seems to occur across lines. Look at the current flock of Annis. The classic smoke green with unbound f holes is square off, but the Annis with other colors and bound f holes are pointed. This is the case with my 6118JR and 6120JR2 as well.

2022-09-2817.04.261659508826611782091.jpg 2022-09-2817.04.487704075371584835577.jpg
 


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