i have a 70's Martin D18 and over time the action has become a bit high. I live in a small town miles and miles from nowhere so bringing the guitar in for repair is a problem. someone told me that the action could be improved simply by removing the strings, pulling the white piece out of the bridge, and gently sanding the back side of it. it sounds simple enough, but i need someone who knows what they are doing to advise me of the pros and cons of doing this. i would rather suffer high action than damage this fine instrument.

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Hi Brad,
There are several variables that determine if this is as easy as sanding down your bridge or much more complex than that. Personally, I don't feelqualified to try to talk someone through it. Perhaps some of the others here may give you more direct instruction on checking thing out.

Actually, my purpose is to say that you sound as if you need to study up on guitar construction/repair a bit before you attempt to do anything. No offense meant but your comment that a friend said to sand down the saddle ( "the white piece out of the bridge" ) causes me to think you have not been interested in these things before now. As the eyes and ears in this, your ability to analyze the guitar, neck and top are crucial to determining what may need to be done. The better informed you are the better you will be able to determine the condition of your guitar.

One of the best places I can think of to start is to spend a lot of time on one of Frank's other sites; There is a mountain of information over there and it's well organized. There is a LOT to learn there and you may be surprised at how much you may be missing on this subject.

Ned, you are correct that i know next to nothing about repair. i thought it sounded way too simple a fix and figured that i better get more information before i created a bigger problem. i may just have to bite the bullet and bring the guitar to an expert even though this means hundreds of miles driving. thanks so much for your reply, bradly
Hi Brad my 2 cents, take the time to find a luthier to evaluate your martin, and determine the right course of action, many factors can cause high action, dont let the local plumber work on your mercedes, It will be worth a little drive and time to let a qaulified luthier to fix it, if it was a cheapie guitar yea go ahead and reduce the saddle height slightly, but that wont fix it if you need a neck reset or other work,
mark, good advice. i once let the plumber work on my pick-up truck and now when i lower the driver's side window the upstairs toilet flushes. like i told Ned my best bet is to take the guitar to an expert. thanks for your comment, bradly
Hi Brad , I'd like to add another point of view. Lowering the action does not have to be a huge job.I would say if the action is high , look at how much saddle (white piece) is showing above the bridge, now if you can , measure the action at the 12th fret. Say its 7/64" you then sand off 1/32 (2/64) from the bottom of the saddle, and the action at 12th comes down by 1/2 that or 1/64".So your playing action comes down by 1/2 the amount you remove from the saddle.You need to mark the saddle before you start , with a pencil so you know when to stop sanding .That's the basic method and assumes that the action is equally high across the E to E span .Having said all this , my recommendation is that you order a couple of martin saddles from stewmac or other supplier , and save the original .I don't see how you can go wrong , as long as you are capable of changing strings and sanding on a flat surface, and providing that you have some saddle height to work with.Len
All good advice here.. I agree with Len that if you feel confident to do what he described there, try it out. The guitar may still need more work than that, but it can't hurt to try. I think it's great to get a little more in touch with your guitar by doing minor things like this. If your not happy with it afterward, then take it to a professional in town. Or even if you are happy with it, next time you know you'll be in the city and have the time, take it by a reputable shop (perhaps one with a Martin authorized repairperson) and have 'em check it out. They may point out things that can be improved. In the end.. it's your guitar, and doing such a minor adjustment is extremely unlikely to mess anything up. unless you fall on the guitar while working on it.

I agree that "lowering the action does not have to be a huge job", but the first question I see it is not IF the action can be lowered. The first question I see is; WHY does the action need to be lowered?. There's a lot more than saddle height to consider in answering this question. Sanding the saddle doesn't seem so obvious to me, you see, my D-18 has a through saddle which is not so easily replaced. What does Brad's have?

Besides, if the guitar needs more, which I think is very possible on a 30-40 year old guitar, shaving the saddle may put off the correct repair for a while but it will probably increase the cost of repair when it can no longer be avoided too. The bottom line is that Brad is the one that must make these decisions. I recommended that he do some reading because I think he will be better equipped to make these calls if he gains some knowledge.

If this was a Sigma "Martin" then I would say go for it but, personally, I think this guitar is probably worthy of an expert evaluation at least and that's Brad's call, not mine.
Just my 2 cents.
Measure the distance of the high E and low E strings off the twelfthfthfret. High E should be 3/32" and low E should be 1/8". Find the difference between these standards and what you have. For example, if the high E string is 1/8" off the twelfth fret, it is 1/32" too high. To lower the string by 1/32" at the twelfth fret, you'll have to lower it at the brigde by 1/16". Pull out your bridge piece and measure the amount you need to take off exactly under where the string crosses the bridge. Connect these points with a sharp, clear line and carefully sand the bottom of the saddle down, keeping it square till you hit your line..
I agree with Lens advice, but only if You do it by trying out on additional saddles and save the original. This way You´ll allway have that as a way back and I don´t see any big riscs with this.

I also recommend to browse through the pages as Ned says before you start. There are some very ilustrative article on how to check the overall status of your guitar.



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