Crusty’s Aria Pro II PE-450 Resurrection

Some time ago Jeff H. had contacted me about a PE-450 he had posted about. After fighting with it and realizing it was not quite his style he came to the decision to let it go. Since I'm a bit of a PE nut he asked me if I was interested. After a few e-mails back and forth, and the following 4 pics we agreed to trade a couple of hollows I had for it since I was not playing the hollows any more. The pics gave me a pretty good idea what I was in for, but now that I'm close to finished it was not as much of a pain as I thought it was going to be. One of the hollows he got in trade has gone to a young aspiring classical musician (piano and classical guitar). All involved are very happy with the swap. I know I'm having a blast!

I will say right at the start that Jeff had given me plenty of info on the 450, and the "obstacles" presented were not of his doing. I knew very well what I was in for, and believe it or not, most of the time enjoy the "you know what" out of bringing a jewel back to life again. This is easily one of those times.

Full shot in the case.

First shot of the neck pocket damage.

Second shot of the neck pocket damage. I could see here it was more than just a finish crack, but not too extensive to scare me off. I have dealt with MUCH worse.

Third shot of the neck pocket damage. Here I could see what appeared to be glue smeared across the repair. Lo and behold, it was as I had thought. A previous owner (NOT Jeff, before him) had cracked the neck pocket and used a tube or two of super glue to effect a repair. I knew I would have my work cut out for me.

One of Jeff's biggest complants about the guitar was the excessively high action. No wonder! When the previous owner not only used super glue, but didn't clamp the area and ended up with a huge hump (huge in that where it is can affect action as much as 1/4" or even more). Slowly but surely I had to re-shape the bottom of the pocket, sanding, test-fitting, sanding again, test-fitting again, and so on. After about 2 hours of shaving tiny layers at a time I had a very good mate between neck and body with about the correct pitch on the neck to allow good action. I did go back and touch it up just a bit more after I got this shot.

I am guessing that same previous owner had torqued the truss enough to bow the neck a bit backwards in an attempt to lower the action. Since this would have caused string rattle at the lower frets it looked like he/she had then taken a file and done an agressive spot level. With crowning files, sharpie, fingerboard guard, and a dose of patience the frets once again look more like frets and less like badly dimpled wedges.

Next was the step I was not looking forward to, but if I wanted the guitar playable, another PE, then it was unavoidable. There was no way possible to remove all the superglue even using several bottles of de-bonder I was left with one choice. Make sure the bond was good, then go at the aftermath. With careful sanding I managed to re-shape the area to some semblence of it's original contour and the first stain matching and drop fills went on. Next was applying about 6 coats of lacquer to fill and level. Things worked out well save for the fact that some of the stain pen work faded. To be expected. It never works out perfect, and every time it is a little different. At least the heel felt as it should and the super glue overload was gone.

After re-assembling and leaving it sitting overnight I found two small stress cracks had re-surfaced. Back at it again. This time I took advantage and re-stained the faded areas. I'm sure it will darken a bit over the next day or two, but the gleaming light spots are not as obvious now. Hopefully this does the trick. If the cracks come back I suspect I will address them with the neck bolted in place and simply drop-fill them.


On the back there was what appeared to be cat scratches, but I am guessing they are from an enegetic player with a new key or two on his/her keyring. You know, the keys you have made at the hardware store that are sharp enough on the freshly cut edges to carve steak with. Fine wetsanding and about 4 coats of lacquer later most had been filled. After feathering the new finish into the old as good as could be done much of the havoc had been masked and only a few more prominent of the scratches remained. They are not near as "loud" as they used to be and in light of having to feather and polish again and again, I think I can live with it.

One of the last things on the list of repairs was preferrably using one of the sets of rings I have here, but none fit so repairing the the original was the only option left. These are odd sized rings and nothing I had here came close enough. With a ply top, plugging mounting holes and drilling new is a pain in the rear. A solid arched top is much easier, but since there's nothing but air under the arched ply top, the plugs have a tendency to pop through. A tech for a well known national act (no, I DO NOT drop names) turned me on to a little trick using a piece of toothpick as bracing and then super-gluing it in place under the lip of the ring. The rythm player for that band was notorious for breaking them in a rock induced frenzy on stage. It was quicker to patch than replace so the tech came up with this 5-minute fix to get through the show. There was already a good bit of superglue (yeah, Mr. Blobby two or three owners back) so the gap is still visible, but it no longer looks like a white bubbly wart at the flailing end of the broken ring.

Finally finished! I have GOT to invest in decent lighting. Shooting outside works better than anything else I can do but still presents problems. I have to say this guitar surprised me. It turned out rather nice, and I love the tone this thing is capable of!

The original knobs were badly corroded, but fortunately I had a couple of brass knobs here that worked well with the guitar's theme. I don't remember what they came off of. I seem to recall them on the Vantage X-88, but I'm not sure.

With most of the rash on the back smoothed out it looks more like a guitar it's age in the care of a musician. In certain light the feather between old and new finish can be seen, but here it's just reflections and what appears to be feathering is nowhere near where old finish meets new.

The face of the headstock may have been re-sprayed at one point as there is a masking line not well hidden inside the bat ears. It took about an hour to clean the tuners up, but now they look new.

Before work on the neck pocket there was a very noticeable gap between neck and body at the heel. The two mate up just about as they should, and the neck pitch is where it should be.

Although the posts are a little chewed up from small screwdrivers, the bridge cleaned up nicely.

Now that all the angles are right the action is where it should be, not a mile high. It's no longer an air guitar! This one is staying, so now I have to find the right new homes for both the Westbury Custom and the Aria Pro II Knight Warrior.