Hi everyone. I'm new to the forum and new to repairing. Looking foward to learning from you all.
I recently acquired a 1968 Martin 5-18 Terz guitar. Very small guitar.
I see 3 issues with this guitar. The first is a pickguard shrinkage crack that looks like someone attempted to repair previously. No cleats. Looks like they just put glue on the crack. I've removed the pickguard since these pics were taken and scraped away some glue. The pickguard seems to have slightly pulled the crack up along the length of the crack if that makes any sense. Would it flatten out during the cleating process? The crack seems tight enough that I won't have to wedge in a sliver of spruce.
The second issue is a smashed section of the soundhole. I am not really sure of the best way to fix this and want your suggestions. I was thinking just hot hide glue it and maybe touch up with lacquer. How should I go about clamping this delicate section?
Finally, the third issue is a crack in the bridge that looks like it's running through the saddle slot. Is it appropriate to use thin CA glue here and maybe some rosewood dust? I'd like to be able to save the original bridge if possible. Besides these issues, the guitar is in good condition. No back or side cracks, plenty of life in the original frets and doesn't need a neck reset.
Let's see. First of all I'm not sure if this should be the kind of instrument to use as a first repair/ or when you are new to repairing. But that said, I can't judge from over here whether you have any previous experience as a builder or woodworker.
- Pickguard crack, don't forget to clean out the crack and any "previous" glue, before attempting to level/reglue the crack
- Soundhole damage, Just to be sure, I would take a closer look if there are any interfering splinters/bits of lacquer, and then see how the area goes back together with a bit of pressure. After that it is pretty much like Mr Ford does here
- I would like to hear other peoples experiences/opinions when it comes to the bridge (and Martin Terz). My first thought would be to replace the bridge (because of the tension at that part of the bridge). But other people might opt for the thin ca and dust. In the case of the Terz being a high tuned instrument, (resulting in more string tension), this seems counter intuitive.
I would not replace the bridge. Wick in some thin ca and let it be.
The only thing I would add to Jelle's comments about the pickguard is to put a coat of finish on the wood under the pickguard before you glue it back down. If it's curled much you should try flattening it first or even think about replacing it completely if it has shrunk too much.
Again, I agree with what Jelle said about the sound hole. I like hot hide glue so I naturally think it's good for this repair. If the parts can be pressed back into place easily, I probably glue it and tape it then add a thin layer of spruce ( cross grain) underneath it to support the area in the future. You can taper the sound hole edge of the reinforcement to help hide it.
The bridge is a judgment call. Have you tried clamping across the bridge to see it the crack will close? If it will close, I would try CA before I replaced it. If you do, have the clamp ready to go and run some thin CA with a quick clamp up. IF It cracks again you can always replace the bridge then. If it needs to be filled, I'd just go ahead and change the bridge now. You might take a close look at the saddle to see if that end is maybe a bit tight, forcing the crack. It's seem very short for the "standard bridge crack to me but maybe you just caught it too.
Personally, I don't think the bridge is under any more stress than a standard size guitar because these usually have a scale length of 21.5 inches, a couple of inches less than standard. I understand that they can be tuned to standard tuning, which would result is less tension but the only ones that I've been exposed to were tuned a third above standard tuning.
They are small but don't sound small. It's a nice guitar. As Jelle pointed out, unless you are experienced in wood working, it might not be an instrument to start learning on. Fixing the edge of the sound hole and gluing/clamping the bridge aren't hard but repairing the pickguard area , with very restricted access to the interior of the guitar may be more than you want to take on without more experience. If you need to change the bridge, I definitely recommend that you take it to a qualified repairman. Only you can can make that call but it's a nice instrument, worth enough to make sure the repairs are high quality.
Thank you all for your advice and suggestions.
Regarding the bridge, I discovered a similar, but smaller crack on the opposite end of the saddle slot. Ned, maybe my eyes are deceiving me, but it looks like this might be one long crack running through the slot. I'll have to check again under light to be sure. It seems like the culprit of this crack or cracks may be the steep angle of the strings between the saddle and bridge pins. Maybe the saddle had fit snugly at one point, but when I got the guitar the saddle was tilted slightly foward in the slot and I think that is what caused this problem. I will try clamping the bridge to see if it closes.
I agree it's a nice instrument and understand they are somewhat rare. I may take it to someone who is more experienced, as I definitely do not want to cause problems for a future owner or repair person. I won't try to do more than I know I can handle. I will keep you all updated. Thanks again.
J, If it's cracked under the saddle I would replace it. This isn't something that will be so easy to repair with a clamp. Think of it this way; If you can't clamp it up the crack isn't something you want to just fill so you should, in my opinion, replace it.
If you CAN clamp it, the bridge is either not completely attached to the top or the top is damaged too. In fact, to properly clamp it with a crack this long, you probably need to remove the bridge anyway so you just as well replace it and have peace of mind.
While you are at it, you should take a look at the bridge plate on the inside to see if it's is also split. It may need attention too.
Removing the bridge or bridge plate are not beginner repairs. It' pretty easy to create more damage on the top if you are not sure of what you are doing. In this forum there is a lot of help available but most of us, with more experience, are reluctant to give advice if the poster doesn't seem ready to handle the repair. It's not a matter of protecting our knowledge, it's a matter of not having the guitar in our hands and being able to evaluate what we see in pictures first hand. Our advice is our best guess and as informed as they may be, it's completely possible that any one of us would do something different if they instrument were in our hands. In essence, it has more to do with protecting you and your instrument than anything else. The less we know about your level of ability and experience, the harder it is to give good advice.
There are also aspect of the processes that just require experience. A pertinent example is that when I remove a bridge I "feel" my way with the knife I'm using in a attempt to avoid submarining through any rounout that may be present in the top. Sometimes it's fairly easy to see the runout in the grain so you can come in "with" the grain but often, it's not so clear. Booked tops may have runout in one direction on one side and the other direction on the other making it harder to get the center of the bridge loose even if you can identify the direction of runout. Sometimes I get them it off clean and sometimes I don't but it ruins your whole day to remove a bridge and find you just created a hole in the top. That's something to experience on a junker, not a nice guitar like that one.
An idea that's floated here before is that you might see if there is a repairman in the area that would evaluate your guitar and do what you aren't ready to take on leaving the others for you. It may even be possible that a repairman would be willing to allow you to spend some time watching him as he works on your guitar as well as helping you with the other repairs. It isn't something you should expect for free or even a reduced rate but it could be a real education for someone interested in repairing instruments.
My disclaimer is that I'm a hobbyist with years of experience accumulated at a much slower rate than any of the professionals on the forum. It's completely possible that someone else will turn up with much better advice than I'm giving you so don't be too quick to go with my advice.
Ned, I appreciate your insight. I admit that I am in my mid 20s and not very experienced. I am leaning towards taking the guitar to someone more qualified. I like your idea of maybe watching them repair or having them help guide me along in person. I understand this isn't the kind of guitar to make mistakes on. I do want to do things the right way and learn as much as I can in the process.
I'm always glad to come across a young person that's interested in learning about this. It' a lot easier to do today than it was when I was your age.
My best advice would be to read everything you can find from reputable sources and resist the urge to hurry. The Internet makes this much easier but be aware that there is also a lot of "so-so" advice/information there too. Find a junker and do your best to take it apart with a minimum of unwanted damage. This will help you figure out what tool you may need and start giving you a feel for using them. It just takes time to build skills and one of the mistakes I see most often is when someone hurries into a repair before they know what they are doing.
One of the hardest lesson for me, personally, was patience. I finally learned that it's better to leave an instrument alone until I'm ready to deal with what must be done to make a good, proper repair. I have a Martin 2-15 mandolin with a cross grain break in the top. I've had it for years but haven't done more than remove it from the case every once in a while to look it over. Frank has an excellent write up on his .com site covering how to approach this type of repair which made me realize that I didn't have the skills required to do it well. Since it's not critical that I get this repair done. I decided to wait and do other, less demanding repairs until I could build the skills I need for this one. Now, I think I can handle this so it may be my next project... that is, if I can resist an old guitar I picked up that's been converted to 8 strings, maybe to be used as a mandocello.
It's loads of fun but there is an investment in time and tools that you will have to manage.
All I wish to add is something that I'm surprised no one has mentioned.
Before evaluating the overall condition of the instrument, make sure it's properly humidified. Most of those pickguard issues result from a guitar that's too dry. If that fact still exists, it must be corrected before any addressing of cracks can be performed.
Good luck and NICE GUITAR. I've been looking for one for decades (at a sane price). When you get it back in playing shape, string it with extra light bronze strings (10-50 or so). The instrument's sound will open up compared to the medium gauge strings that were the only thing available when it was manufactured.
Best of luck with the guitar AND your interest in repair work. Welcome aboard :)
Yup, I'm definitely learning patience. I picked up a junker today to work on.
Here's a blog I found of a repair person who worked on a 5-18 http://antebelluminstruments.blogspot.com/2014/12/1953-martin-5-18-... Similar bridge issue as mine, except his split along the peg holes instead of the saddle slot. I also notice his is a long saddle version instead of a drop in saddle, but both had the saddle pushed foward. He had to make a new bridge and the alterations he made to it makes sense. He does use medium strings, but only in standard E I think, "to make up for the fact that the tension is lower with the shorter (21 3/8") scale length." I don't know if I have the guts to use mediums on it even in standard E.
Paul, I think I lucked out with the classical strings that were on it when I bought it. You can see some of them in the photos. I think nylons were used for most of its life, hence the playable neck angle. It even came with an extra set of classical strings, but those won't make it onto this guitar as there's just not enough tension to drive the top. I will probably go with 10s like you suggest, possibly 11s. I do want to be able to play it in "terz" tuning as it was intended. I've also been keeping it around 45% humidity since I've acquired it. It doesn't seem like a dry guitar. After a day or so the sponge is still quite moist and I don't believe I am over soaking the sponge. Thanks for the kind words. I can't wait to play it! (There goes my patience, or lack thereof)
"I've also been keeping it around 45% humidity since I've acquired it."
EXCELLENT!!!!! :) You're already ahead in the game.