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Cut Hole in Side of New D-35 for Preamp: Ethics and Methods

Thanks, Frank, for setting this up. Hello forum members.
Part 1. Ethics
I have a job offered to me thru one of the companies I work for. A gentleman has purchased a brand new Martin D-35 and wants a Fishman Prefix Plus T installed. I have no ability to contact him directly. Now if for example, someone called and said "please put a floyd rose in my 57 strat", I could politely tell them "no!" and with several good reasons. But, I looked at this beautiful guitar and thought, is there any reason to value this guitar any less than one made in the 30s 40s 50s or 60s? Someday, it will be that old. Will someone look at it and say, "Why the #### did they put that preamp on the side of that beautiful instrument???" or "Gee, remember when they used to do that? (chuckle)". I know, as Dr John said, if I don't do it, somebody else will (Mr Glyn?). And nothing against Fishman, they make great stuff. I just have a problem with the invasive and IMHO unnecessary nature of this modification, on such a gorgeous, solid rosewood guitar.
I would love to hear from the members of this forum on the subject.

Part 2 of this topic: Methods.
I have not done this job before. If I decide to do this, Fishman recommends a Fein Pneumatic Detailing Sander w/ 2.5" diameter saw blade to cut the hole. I have a Makita that should work, with the right blade, but, how about a small X-acto saw? Any other thoughts or cautions on this job? I am going to carve up a practice guitar a bit anyway, whether I do the Martin or not.
Thanks folks, I would appreciate any kind of input on the above.

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I always seem to manage to talk people out of doing this.

You should add a reinforcing layer to the side with birch hobby plywood (3/64 thick will conform to the bend) before cutting to avoid cracking the side.
Hey David..... Im not up that much on Martin and Co. Do they make a flat top with electronics already installed from the factory?? If so then Im wondering why the client didnt buy one that way and then modify it and keep the origonal parts for put bk. if they ever have a mind ot sell it.

Meanwhile.... a dremmel tool does a verry good job of puting holes in just about anything .. there is a bit that looks like a drill that will (with some practice) put the desired hole shape in the side of that D35..
(gads somehow I still cant see doing it ) Practice on some 1/4 inch plywood first ! ! !
Hope this helps----
Donald
Hi David. I always try to talk customers out of cutting holes in the sides of their guitars, but in the end I grant their request if they insist. Everyone has a different reason for wanting to do it, and some people end up being happy with a less evasive pickup with maybe controls at the soundhole like the Fishman Ellipse. I always let them know that it's best pre-installed at the factory if they can get one that way, but sometimes the guitar is bought used or the customer doesn't want to wait for another or special order it. If it was a vintage guitar and a customer wanted major changes done that would greatly harm the guitar and its value, I would turn them down for sure, but this is a new guitar. As painful as it may be, I try to not get in the way of the owner and their choice unless it's just plain crazy.
I like to use hand tools as much as possible. I use the template that Fishman provides and tape off the area on the side of the guitar and trace onto the tape. Then I drill four holes in the corners. I use a very small hand saw to cut out the wood and then shore everything up with files. I also add reinforcement inside around the edges of the new hole, (square). I try to use hand tools more than power tools around instruments because I like to have more control, but that is just a personal preference of course.
Hello David,
A) When I'm faced with this kind of situation on a really nice instrument, I try to find the least invasive route. I'll have to agree with Mr. Mirken on this and try to talk them out of it, or in the very least try to talk them into an "Under the Top" pickup such as L.R. Baggs Ibeam combined with an outboard pre-amp such as a Para D.I. also by Baggs. No routing required, only a larger hole reamed for the output jack.
Sounds pretty good to boot.
If the customer doesn't care for the PU or the pre-amp at least you gave them an option, and the guitar a chance to have a history, as it was built.

B) Go with a Dremel, router bit, jig set-up and careful planning.
Just some thoughts...
I have used the Dremel circular saw attachment to cut sides for preamp installation on some less expensive guitars. It works pretty well but visibility is not the greatest due to the shield around the blade. Like Greg, I reinforce the side around the area removed. For a Martin, I would agree that a more suitable pickup and installation alternative would be best.
Hi David

Interesting ethics.
I believe that the assertion “if I don’t do it, somebody else will ”
never could be an acceptable principle - not to any matter.
It's like allowing one evil, by refering to another.

If you go along, there might be some comfort in that
it is possible to nicely replace the cutout, if required.
Thanks for your reply, danove and all of you who have written.
I appreciate your thoughts on this matter. Maybe it is not really ethics, but philosophy. No, I cannot base my decision, or any decision, upon the idea that "if I don't, someone else will".
However, I have asked this group of professionals for their opinions on this matter. So, what you would do in this case has some influence upon my action.

Yes I see it can be done nicely. And undone nicely. More work for some luthier down the road. Thank you all for your advice on how. I still do not really think it is a "nice" thing to do to this fine guitar. Part of the reason is this question: Is this not just as fine an instrument as those made years ago? Those instruments we, or the market, value so highly. That we would never consider doing this to. Will it not - god willin' and the creek don't rise - someday take its place among fine old seasoned instruments? And if so, why put this big, relatively-soon-to-be-outdated component, in the side of it?
Thoughts and techniques still very welcome.
Thank you.
my main reason for not recommending customers install these large preamps is that the little sliders etc onboard aren't up to the job and often become crackly in a few years. Horrible.
As far as cutting out a part of the side to fit it, I'm not too bothered if its a new guitar, give the guy an informed choice and get stuck in I say.

I fit in-line preamps 99 to 1 to the bulky side mounted jobs, but it isnt just about 'damaging' the guitar so much as quality of tone, and longterm reliability and partly about upsetting the weight & balance of the thing with the more hefty pre-amps.
Steve,
Thanks for your response. I too favor the inline style preamp. And, stick-on, low impact, light weight, virtually invisible, soundhole positioned controls are available for them. And if the pots die in that system, you reset the dip switches inside the preamp and carry on, out of control. Hey, do a soundcheck. Trust your friendly neighborhood audio engineer. He or she is there to help. Stop adjusting your onboard parametric eq, and clicking your phase button, and PLAY!

Many of those preamps are even crackly when brand new. Squirt a tiny bit of contact cleaner and they are ok, for now anyway...

As regards damage: Altering the quality of tone, providing dubious long-term reliability, and upsetting the weight/balance of the guitar all qualify as 'damage' of a kind. At best, they represent a compromise. And I do not see much on the other side of the scale. What's the upside?

As regards "new guitar", what's that quote? "They don't make them like they used to, and they never did."
It has been brought to my attention, by guitar builders, that the guitar building art/science/craft has never been better than it is right now. Why then are new guitars, well-built, GOOD new guitars like the D-35 in question, not valued as old ones are? In 50 years, this will be a good old guitar that no one would even think to cut up, however perfectly and 'reversibly', to stick a, by then, very obsolete preamp in.
The more I read these posts, and talk to musician friends, the less likely I am to do this mod to this guitar. If this person were any one of the musicians I have worked for in the past, and approached me to do this, we'd have to have a little sit-down about it. And I think I'd be able to get my point across, since so much of my outlook on this probably comes from my experience with them anyway. Since I do not have that access in this case, I'll just have to pass on it through my intermediary and hope everyone understands.
I am still going to practice the install on a previously damaged practice guitar. I want to be able to do the job, I just can't do it on that guitar.
I'm not a fan of electronics of this nature on a nice acoustic guitar.
Some of the more simple pickup are fine, but not the type where they are installed in the side.

If someone brought a guitar to me to have this work done, I'd refuse, because for one, you can purchase a guitar with the electronics installed at the factory,cheaper,two, I'm not interested in doing this sort of work.

Jim
I happen to like barn door preamps, preferably with tuners built in, and all my own instruments have them, but then they aren't Martins, Just my own self builds....

as to the "ethics" of doing what the customer asked and is paying youto do?

you are a PROFESSIONAL!!!

take the money & ruin his guitar!!
HAH! yay Martin!
The vendor who wanted me to do the job for the guy who wanted his guitar ruined, handed the job to someone else (a professional i guess) - deciding it for me. I won't do it anyway.
In related news, I talked another guy into Not putting a strap button on the heel of his beautiful new CSN Gerry Tolman Martin. Martin made that one easy for me with their Acoustic Strap Hook.
I have done a lot of those, but in his case, it was just not necessary.
As far as the built-in tuners; close enuff for jazz. When Peterson makes one, I'll think about it.
Thanks to all who checked in on this topic.

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