Bought a 1947 D-28 "fixer upper" recently for a low price.  Has lots of issues. Multiple long repaired top cracks, two in the upper bout where someone had plugged holes apparently drilled for a pickup, three in the lower bout, typical pickguard crack.  Long crack running the full length of the back.  Finish looks thick on the back and sides, non-original fretboard and bridge, etc.  Somebody scalloped the braces.  Doesn't sound very good.  Has some bass, but little volume, and no sparkle on the high end.  Other than the multiple cracks, and possibly the thick finish on the back, the only obvious thing I can see that might impact the volume is that the nut slots are too deep.


I didn't buy it to try to make money, thought it would be cool to own an old Martin D-28, but I have several excellent guitars and I know I'll never play this one the way it sounds.


At what point does it become the right decision to trash the top and put on a new Adirondack top?


If I did that I would be tempted to advance and scallop the bracing.  Would it be worth any more on a possible future resale if I braced the new top to 1947 specs?


Since it would be non-original then anyway, should I strip the finish off the back and sides and refinish?  I am not experienced enought to be certain it has been resprayed, but it doesn't look right and where the finish chipped off the back the finish looks thick.


I am a hobby luthier and I have built three guitars so far, but I have not attempted any repairs of this magnitude.  I've attached photos of the top, back, and headplate.Any advice would be appreciated.

Tags: Martin, repair, vintage

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I don't work on violins so I can't tell you why I checked out this (library) book but I was completely taken in by it and had a hard time putting it down. I found it surprisingly relevant to my hobby and have never viewed what I do for "fun" in the same way since.  I should get a copy for my personal library as, IMHO, it's worth rereading.


Would this be: Violin Maker: Finding a Centuries-old Tradition in a Brooklyn Workshop


We have totally hijacked the thread. Sorry Stephen!!! ! Dave Yes, that is the book. I actually bought 4 copies, sent 3 to pro Luthiers that I personally know. And the book is'nt so much about Violins and building violins, it's more about the journey to make a virtuoso violin player happy/satisfied. There are quite a few parallels between mando building and violin building too, which makes it a terrific 'two and a half' hour book for those folks.

     That is a wonderful book. I would also recommend "Stradivari's Genius" which follows five of his instruments from inception to to where they are today. One of his cellos has Napoleon's spur marks on it. It covers the entire history of bowed instruments, including Amati, Gueneri, and the historically relevant players. This book covers so much and is so good that I almost just re-read it. Every luthier should read this one. 

     Another is the "Cellist's Life" by (I think) Colin Harwood. He describes his life as a musician from before WW1 and into the eighties with many brilliant observations on music and composers.


     Merry Christmas. 

One more recommendation, this time a book about guitars :-) "Claptons Guitar" from Allen St.John.

The sub.title is "Watching Wayne Henderson build the perfect instrument"

It's not really about Eric Clapton, or even about his guitar, but about the philosophy of old-fashioned values and craftsmanship.

I loved it, I think everybody who builds or repairs guitars should read it. Oh, and btw, merry Christmas everybody :-)



As Kerry said, that is the book. There are no diagrams, or measurement to copy. You will not read this book and have a complete understanding of how to build a violin... by you just may have a better understanding of why you would want to. 



I hope you can save that old top!
There goes Tom, trying to bring the thread back around again!
I will probably buy that violin book. I read the pages on Amazon. Sounds like a good read.  It was a good off road trip, but I would love to see that top saved if possible :)
I really don't see (from the photo) any reason why the top cannot be saved. I have salvaged worse. My vote would be to save the top.

Thanks, Tom, for reining me in, I didn't take Kerry's hint and I should have.


I agree that the top looks like it is worth saving. I usually care more for playability and sound than if a guitar is collectible or not but in this case, it may be wises to consider that too. From what I understand violin are pretty much made to be disassembled and repaired and that replacing a broken or fatigued top on an old instrument doesn't bring as many questions about the provenance of the instrument as it would with a guitar. Frank's advice to have Martin do the replacement is a way around part of this but it's still a replacement top. I think I would try to save the top but perhaps replace the muffed up bracing. If the guitar still isn't up to the sound wanted, there is probably someone else that would like it and there are other guitars.


(I have no ideas about the finish. I think I would need to see it first hand to decide what to do about it.)


One last little shot at this (have been ill and not around much):  The red spruce's range is far from limited to the Adirondak mountains and should probably be called "Appalachian" spruce - but this ice age survivor goes no further south than North Carolina.  And, as with the Brazillian rosewood the best - straightest in the case of spruce - slowest growing/stiffest grain -  trees were cut by WWII (spruce was the preferred aircraft framing wood) so any replacement top WON'T  an "Adiro" top to match the current one!  These trees still grow but while the part may be mass produced the material won't reappear in our lifetime (nor ever unless acid rain, which almost preferrentially attacks the spruces) is not only stopped but actually given a few human lifetimes to clear and replenish the soil nutrients the acids leached.

So do what you will to enjoy your guitar - that's the purpose and my 1979 Martin makes yours look "pristine" (there's a cosmetic price to fun).  But I will never buy an item historically irrepairable as a "day-to-day" player.  Kinda like finding a Bugatti and putting in a Chevey 350 and a Power Glide (although I might want front brakes <grin>).




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