My 1st post here. My story is that a friend of mine gave me an old Martin that someone gave him when he was 17. He's nearly 90 now so it was awhile back. We drove down to Gryphon last summer to have Frank and Richard evaluate this guitar and they concluded it was a 1906 0-30.
As you can see it's very beatup. Sorry about the picture size and shooting from the bathroom.
Somebody sanded the original finish off the top. My friend when to a repairman to fix the bridge and he replaced it with a non original bridge and kept the original Martin bridge. There's cracks in the top, big ones in the lower bout, the top of the upper bout is starting to crack and the back is forming a crack starting at the lower extremity of the body. Also much of the ivory binding is loose or missing. The action is on the high side and is gets out of tune fast as you go up the neck
My goal is to put this guitar into decent playable condition so I can use it to mess around with. My friend gave it to me because he knew I was playing it everyday. Plus he's an accordion player!
My plan of attack was to start by...
1) removing the back to get access to the major components but I'm reading from you guys that it would be a bad idea to do that.
2) repairing the cracks in the top, back, and sides (Titebond then linen tape re-enforcement?)
3) having access to the neck block, I could remove the neck and do a neck reset. (yeah I know this sounds overly ambitious but I'm feeling cocky after doing a complete re-fret and re-installing the bridge on an old Gibson [also given to me by a friend who was given this guitar but he's a lefty so he passed it onto me)
4) putting everything back together if I ever get to the point that this could occur
5) performing a re-finish to the top, sides, and back with a French-polish type finish (unless I hear the majority of responders pleading not to do such a sacrilegious thing)
This guitar reminds me of watching Leon Redbone on SNL and being totally blown away. I wish it was a D-18 but grateful my sweet friend parted with it. Just trying to make a good home for a little bitty waif of a guitar...
Hi David and welcome. Sounds like you have some nice and generous friends, and that old Martin is very sweet! Definitely deserves some TLC and renovation. Judging just from the photos (good images btw) it all looks fixable. Whether to remove the back is a big question. How is the condition of the bracing and the bridge plate? If they need work as well then it would probably justify taking the back off, and all of the crack repairs repairs would then be a whole lot easier. But if the structural elements of the top are OK I am guessing you might be able to do the crack repairs with the box intact.
I am sure you will get some good help here to workshop this one.
Thanks for the advice... I haven't looked inside yet but that should be my next move sounds like.
I was thinking with the back off I could repair the top an side cracks easier plus inspect the bracing and do any shoring up needed.....
Get back to you when I can...
I have more pictures... some of the inside. I thought Richard told me this was 0-30 was made for gut strings. I was expecting some fan bracing but don't think this has that type of bracing...
Hello again Folks,
I received an email from Martin today informing me that they don't sell replacement bridges direct but they'd be happy to fix the guitar for me. Problem is I don't think this guitar is worth enough to justify the cost of having Martin fix it.
Can anyone steer me to a place that sells old guitar parts that might have a bridge that I could replace this awful thing that's on it now? (unobtanium?)
Have you considered making one by yourself ? Here is nice introuduction on how to proceed, https://www.leavingthisworld.com/how-to-make-pyramid-guitar-bridges.... An ebony blank is not that expensive, and worst case is that you are just some hours older should you fail to make a nice bridge. I dont think this bridge is particularly awful though, looks very similar to a 1920s Oscar Schmidt. FYI , most Martins made for gut strings had X bracing, though they experimented with fan bracing on some of their first steel(!) strings guitars post WW1.
Hello again.... Progress Update
1) I have the neck removed
2) I have the non-stock bridge removed and a new one has arrived from StewMac (thanks Frank)
For now I want to focus on the body. There is a hump in the body that you can see with a straight edge placed parallel and perpendicular to the bridge. Reading my Don Teeter book has got me thinking about replacing the bridge plate to help with the deforming of the top. Can this type of humping be repaired or do you have to put up with it in vintage instruments?
Secondly, there are so many cracks on the top and sides, plus with the bridge plate issue I'm still considering removing the back. I've got a 3" think piece of shipping foam I'm thinking about using to make a mold of the back to hold everything together. There's no binding on the back so I feel like I'm almost 1/2 way there. Once again appreciate your observations.... Dave
It looks like the back is already at least partly loose or poorly glued from a past repair. That might convince me to pull it off. You'll get the benefit of the added access and will need to deal with the joint anyway. Are you actually missing wood from the lower bout in the picture above?
No there's no wood missing but it looks that way likely because the previous owner kept it strings on it with this humongous crack in the side and the crack got ever wider as time went on. Not the best way to have a side port on a guitar
Well the day of reckoning is here; I have the back off and can see inside. I think I made the right choice as there is so much work to do inside. 1) The long side crack in the Brazilian rosewood had 15 cleats installed. the have all popped off; the last 3 fell off when touched by a paper towel and are made of mahogany dyed to match the color of the rosewood. 2) The Spruce Top: There are numerous patches over the cracks in the top. The ones in the middle have separated despite the patches. then there's the crack in the middle of the upper bout in a awkward place. 3) The Bridge Plate. The bridge plate is very thin and deformed. I believe it was damaged when the last so called repairman used a drill instead of a reamer to widen the holes on the non-stock bridge he installed. I purchased some bridge plate stock from StewMac to make a new one. I'm going to try to remove the old one to use a a template.
-------My Thought On Repairs-----------------------------------------------------------------
1) The Side Crack: Rosewood is oily and hard to glue. I've read Overholtzer's book where he soaked the rosewood blanks for the sides of his guitar several times in a strong detergent solution to get enough oil out of it to be able to glue it. I think I'm going to have to clean the inside around the crack and inside the crack to get the glue not to fail. [My question for you: a) what kind of glue would you use? b) do I need rosewood for cleats or is there another way of reinforcing the crack from the inside? I wish I could use Gorilla Tape!]
2) Spruce Top Cracks: I would love to remove the old cleats then glue and clamp those cracks on the upper and lower bout but maybe some of you would advise to clean those cracks out and fill them with a spruce sliver. I purchased some spruce patching material from StewMac just for that purpose.
3) The Bridge Plate: I think this is pretty cut and dried but I could be missing something.
4) The Bulging Top, Lower Bout: My thinking is I can do one of two things: a) perform the above repairs, install the new bridge and leave the bulges alone. Or, b) Flatten out the top first, then do the repairs, then install the bridge. Method b is something I've never read anything about and wouldn't have the foggiest idea how to do such a thing.
Sorry, I don't like to write such long posts but there's so many decisions to be made. Copious amounts of comments would be welcomed!
When I think about what's to come after this; the back, regluing the back to the sides, fixing the neck issues, and doing a neck reset, finishing, it makes me tired! I'm going to take a nap now... Dave
Whoops, forgot to mention the signature; I doctored it up to make it easier to read...
Hi Dave, I have done jobs as described above, but I'm always hesitant to give advice to others as I do not have the guitar in question in front of me. So I will describe what worked for me and things I considered along the way.
I make my bridge plate template before removing it, as it often comes out in more than one piece anyway. You can always get the outline for the new one from the footprint left behind after the removal. Most of mine have been done through the soundhole and I have a draw full of templates from different guitars. If the bridge pin holes are too big in the top I glue the plate in place and fill the large holes with spruce. I drill the new holes through the bridge holes with a caul on the inside to stop breakout from the drill.
I would flatten the top first. I reckon that those cracks may want to close a little as the top is pushed down. I would then replace the bridge plate and the bridge and then fill the cracks with spruce and cleat on the inside. I would also use hide glue for all the repairs. The cleats I use are spruce with the grain running across the crack.
Regarding the large open crack in the side, I would check to see what stress is caused by forcing it closed and where. It may cause problems with cracking elsewhere down the track, so filling may be a safer option. But that will leave the guitar a bit out of shape, maybe.
Good luck, gonna be good to see it finished.