Hi folks,

I recently acquired an early Martin, possibly a model 17, somewhere around 1867 thru 1889. No serial number but stamped on the inside back brace and just below the ice cream cone style heel, Martin and Co New York. It has bar frets, as you would imagine. The action is pretty bad, about 11/64 at the 12th fret and as you can see in the photo, the 12th fret is not seated at the very end. Rather than have to mess with a neck reset with that tricky neck heel design, I wonder if I could alleviate some of the issue with compression fretting. That being said, how do you go about deciding what size frets and which frets to start with? The current frets measure .048 to .05. They may be original and took a bit of cleaning. Any info is appreciated. Thank you.

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Compression fretting will not provide the desired results.
The guitar requires, at minimum, a neck reset.
I strongly urge you to seek the services of a technician well versed and extremely experienced with 19th century Martin construction techniques and repair/restoration.
Unless you have those qualifications, this is not a “non-professional DIY” project.
Best of luck getting it back to good playability.

I understand it won't completely deal with the issue. I am looking for alternatives to a reset that would get me closer to the mark. I hope to get the 12th fret action down to at least 7/64ths from 11/64ths. Also wonder about a neck heat "reset" would work.

Neck resets and compression refrets correct two different situations, and we can't tell which procedure is warranted. If a straightedge that spans frets 1 to 10 or 11 shows a big gap in the middle, compression fretting will help that [that being said, necks with bar frets are pretty bloody stiff to begin with so I doubt that's really your situation]. If the relief between frets 1 and 10 looks normal, but your long straightedge still dives toward the soundboard, a neck reset is needed to re-orient the neck relative to the body. You can't solve that issue with compression fretting- you'll wind up with high action plus buzzes at the same time.


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