Has anyone run into anything this, augh, stupid before? The owner said he took it to someone to have the action lowered, the “repair person” instead of doing a neck set evidently chiseled out a hole in the top to lower the bridge… this stuff really upsets me… anyway, as you can image, there is just a wisp of the spruce top left and he actually went all the way thru to the plate in one area, you can see the grain lines of the plate on the treble side in the bridge footprint. I told him I would take the bridge off and see what I found. There is also a pronounced belly behind the bridge…duh,.. well I just had to vent a bit and see if anyone has possibly run into something similar. I guess any specific questions would be
1. should this guitar just be re-toped?
2. If it is to be patched would you just cut a patch to fill the hole or would you feather out the edges of the hole to make a scarf type joint?
My first thought is to patch and then make a slightly bigger plate and bridge to cover all this stupidity. I guess my main concern is the belly. Honestly I’m too bugged to think it thru right now.
Many thanks in advance for any priceless experience.

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I don't have any technical advice to offer, but the problem raises some questions I find interesting, such as

1) what would the three possible solutions you mentioned, i.e.,

  a) inlay, 
  b) scarf and
  c) retopping

do to the sound?

Obviously, you'll get the usual results when raising the saddle and string angle (volume and overtones) but, besides these effects, would one repair method or the other better improve the sound?  Thinking of the bridge/saddle as a transducer where mechanical energy creates acoustic energy, I wonder if the glue around the outside edge of an inlay or scarf might dampen energy transferred to the soundboard related to the resonant frequencies of the glue joint thereby acting as a kind of filter?

I guess there are things worse than shaving the bridge to expose more saddle. WOW!!!!!!

I'm not qualified to recommend a 'fix all' solution, however, I'd say that the top has other visible problems which would justify a re-topping.  That may prove to be the most cost effective and appropriate solution....especially if the neck reset that SHOULD have been performed as opposed to this tragedy, still needs done.

And, as you likely know, the area that needs repaired is in the location of the highest stresses on a guitar's top.

In any event, his prior 'cheap fix' is gonna hit him in the wallet now.

Hey, it could be worse. It could be a '38 instead of an '83. At least it's not a 'valuable' instrument.

Good luck with your customer, Fritz :)

 I have never seen or heard of such a repair. This is  horrendous . I really hope Frank hops in here, and I'll bet $ that he has seen this before... 

Well, yes, I have seen this before, and I think I like it just about as much as you guys do!

I haven't taken it as an attempt to lower action, but more as a well-intentioned stab at correcting a problematic repair situation.  Bridge needs to be regaled, and in the process of removal, some of the spruce underneath is damaged.  Then repairer tires to level things out by digging down just a bit to find a sound footing for the bridge.  Maybe the process even gets repeated until there's quite a hole.

Repairing this hole is a nasty bit of work, to be sure.  No matter how it is attempted working from the top, there's bound to be trouble.  The lack of long fiber integrity at the back edge of the bridge will tend to be a "stress riser" that will make holding the bridge in place difficult as the top bends beneath it.  Possibly having bridge plate that extend farther back to keep that area stiff under the bridge may help keep the top from folding in that area.  Ideally, this job would be best approached from the inside, with either top or back removal, but that's asking for a whole 'nother batch of grief.

Yet another holiday gift router at work, eh...... 

Thanks to all for the wonderful replies… Robbie , yes I am concerned about the end results of any repair I do with respect to the sound, that is my biggest concern about enlarging the bridge plate.. like most of us I’ve done many neck sets and always enjoy the new life brought to these great guitars after a proper repair.. and Paul, yes that’s the goofiest thing about this hole (pun intended) mess, the bridge is perfectly intact and full size, he didn’t shave a bit off the top, not the right thing to do of course, but I guess it never accorded to him??? and he thought it would be easier to remove the bridge dig a hole in the top???!!! geezzz Frank , as usual your wisdom is most assuredly correct, I can definitely see how working with the box open would be a lot easier and would surely enable a correct and cleaner repair, If I don’t open it up that will be my biggest challenge. And finally David thanks so much for posting pictures of your repair and the links to the others, I couldn’t get the link to your repair to work but the pictures you posted looks like the way I will go with this. I can’t say enough about the power of this forum, the ability to correspond and brain pick the best in the business is both a bit scary and humbling but no doubt tremendously helpful to all of us struggling newbie’s…
Thanks again.. exit bowing and kissing feet…

Thanks David. I just finished reading your repair and Franks 1887 Martin restoration ... two fine examples of problem solving. I can see what Frank is getting at with the back removal. I will give it some more thought but I'm felling much better and confident about the repair now with this wonderful insight..

Thanks again


Thinking about this in the abstract, even though a repair can be done, is it the right way to proceed? All of us have a certain allegiance to Saint Jude (patron saint of lost causes) and so would be glad to take the back or top off this thing and graft until the cows come home. But, as Paul says, it is an '83 not a '38.

Would the customer be better served with a new top, perhaps built to prewar specs. If one has the skills to make the repair (and I certainly don't) one probably has the skills to re-top this nicely (and I certainly don't).

On the other hand, if the customer used this guitar to record his first album and toured with it forever (at least since 1983) the decision may already be made.

But how much does a new (or used) D-28 go for?

David, your work displayed in the repair photos  is nothing short of awesome.  You totally ROCK my friend... 

Thanks Kerry,

 Joshua, I posted these links and pictures not necessarily to advocate for this repair but to illustrate options and discussions that shaped my decision about how to proceed.

I totally agree that what can be done must be tempered by practicality.

 Once the mental wheels of how to do a difficult repair get turning. It's easy to loose perspective in the " Thrill of the chase".

That said, I think the Spruce patch is a viable option.

1. Although it is a challenging repair, crafting a convincing Martin top and fitting it to an existing body is not, in my opinion, any easier. Or less expensive.

Because it is a Martin, a re-top, rightly or wrongly, may raise the question, when is a Martin still a Martin?

2. It is certainly lighter and more effective than an oversize bridge and /or bridge patch.

3. As In my own case, It may spare an unnecessary neck removal.

4. It is reversible.

Frits, there is a silver lining.

You won't have to make a new bridge after the neck set, it's still full height!




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