Hi all. I am looking to maybe get a Martin backpacker acoustic guitar for real cheap used.

The only issue with it is a top crack (see photo). I have little skills, and money, so in your

opinion, does this crack need repair?


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Arthur, I think it probably needs to be fixed. It lines up with one of the pin holes and the edge of the top board is exposed so I think it will just get worse.

 Having working on a couple of these, I have to say that there's not a lot of room inside these to even see what's going on much less getting tools in to position splints. If you decide to get it and you want to reinforce the crack. You can probably do it well enough using the "guitar string through the patch, pulled up through the crack from below" trick to  stabilize the crack in a few places.  

Before you do that, I think I should ask if you have spent much time playing one of these. I thought they were kind of neat until I tried to play one for longer than a few minutes.  I found out that, for me,  they are just not comfortable to play even if  it's hanging from a strap. The body just isn't big enough to support my right arm/hand placement and I can't play it for long without getting a cramp in my shoulder.  That coupled with the "not great" tone has keep my GAS at bay when it comes to backpackers. In fact I repaired two of these for friends and neither is in use now. They don't really like them much either.   Before you spend your money, even on a good deal, make sure you will actually use it.


Describe this 'string through the patch' technique you speak of, would you please? It sounds interesting.

It's beautifully described in Don Teeters book..  "The Acoustic Guitar: Adjustment, Care, Maintenance and Repair (Volume I)".  It's basically threading a thin guitar string through a repair cleat, tying a knot at the end of the string (or soldering a ball to the end), putting glue on the face of the cleat, threading the string up through a small hole in the center of the crack and raising the whole "assembly" into place and held with the tension of a single guitar tuner.

But get the book (Amazon carries it) as Teeter describes it in great detail, as well as how to make a neat jig to hold the tuner and some good diagrams for the whole procedure.

The bonus is you get to learn everything else in that marvelous book:)



Thank you for letting me know that I'm not the only person who considers the Backpacker "unplayable". I agree that they sound like (insert your favorite kind of 'animal poo' here).  The necks are horrible and for the street price, you can do much better.  Even a 3/4 size Oscar Schmidt is a much, much better instrument.

About 6 years ago, our local vintage guy (my 'boss') got 5 brand new Backpackers from a Martin dealer who couldn't move them.  My dealer paid $50 @ for them and listed them @ $90. I was offered all 5 for cost.  After playing one for less than 10 minutes, I scratched my head passed on the offer. All 5 for $35 @? I passed again. They all ended up being donated to a charity organization for a silent auction where they went of between $10 & $15 @. 

In fairness, at least they didn't make them out of HPL.....a piece of rare & fine Brazilian Rosewood HPL. ;)

Yes, take it camping.  It makes great kindling :)

Arthur, all that's just tech to tech talk. If YOU enjoy the instrument, then go with it.  It's about what works for you alone, not anyone else. :) The only thing I'd like to reinforce (that Ned said) is the long term comfort factor. That's the biggest overall complaint/deal breaker that, I too, hear frequently.

As for the crack, and knowing that you're not an experienced tech,  I'd simply get some yellow glue into the crack, wipe away the excess, let it cure & be done with it.  I feel it's a repair whose craftsmanship and cost is commensurate with the quality of the instrument.

To you other folks..... I've never these have any type of bracing?

Best of luck guys :)

Yes Paul, they do have bracing which makes it all but impossible to get into them from the sound hole.There's just not much room to get anything bass the braces which, btw, are all fairly rough and clunky.

 Like you, I find that there are better ( IMO) guitars available for the money that most people seem to want for their "Martin" so I'm just not tempted.

I'd use rare earth magnets for this job, cut round  plugs/cleats (thin bit of top wood, spruce cedar etc.) that will fit nicely on a magnet, use kids paper glue -the stuff that looks like chapstick- to hold it (the plug/patch/cleat) on the magnet. Use masking tape to hold the magnet on the outside and bend a piece of wire or something to get the other magnet and cleat on the right place inside.

Old school guys will say it needs to be a diamond shaped cleat...but they won't stay on a magnet and this isn't a Stradovarious. I sometimes use the guitar string machine head trick to align side cracks but this might be easier with magnets.

Ya, these are not tone kings. but if it serves your needs. Buy it real cheap and play on...

IF it's cheap, just buy it and use it.   The crack isn't the kind that would end the life of this instrument even if it got much worse.  At that point,  you could squidge some glue into it and paste on some reinforcement inside, or have somebody else do it.

It's important to work within your own comfort level, and if learning to do this kind of thing isn't what you want to do right now, just don't do it.

Personally I like to think of the Backpacker as a traveling practice fingerboard.  Nobody expects them to be loud or sound good - that's not the point.  Portability is.

Don't worry - it's supposed to be fun - just let it. . .

Hello, here's my take; Over the years I've set-up and modified and repaired dozens of these hated instruments. Once you abandon the idea of playing it on a strap there are many possibilities. First put a riser nut on it put it in an open tuning and it becomes a poor mans wiessenborn, I have clients that have 2 or 3 in different tunings and use them live all the time. Next, repairing them isn't that difficult. I've used rare earth magnets with good results and the trick for me has been drilling out the endpin to 15/16 as you would for an output jack and you can work cleats from both ends( I use a violin soundpost setter). Now that you have the hole add a contact pick-up(K&K, schatten ect.) On a few of them we routed a opening in the bottom side and added controls also a good way to get inside for repairs. On a recent one missing the bridge I bolted a "no knot" banjo tailpiece to the end and carved a bridge strung it like a banjo with a fifth string spike and it sounds great! We also added a soundpost to that one which works well on many of these. One last thing, a good friend of mine who is a music therapist at local hospitals has 2 that we set up for slide and uses them with  sick kids with great success. You can also paddle a canoe with one.

I've repaired these before by both cleating and also with super glue. I'd bet that if you humidify it, the crack will close almost completely. What I normally do is take a kitchen sponge and dampen it then place it in a ziplock bag and poke a some holes in it with a toothpick. I microwave it for about 10 seconds and then place it in the soundhole of the guitar and put it in it's case. In a few days the cracks usually close up completely. I then drip some thin superglue along the crack and clean up with acetone as I go. Now this isn't a technique I'd use on an expensive guitar or any guitar that I'd be able to get my hand in easily, but it does work well. 

But as Frank said a crack like this won't ruin your guitar. I've repaired guitars with cracks wide enough to drop quarters through and they played and sounded fine. 


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