I have a dilemma and wondered how some of my fellow repair persons handled this situation. I am restoring a 1927 Martin 0-45. It has never had a neck set so the action was way high. The neck came out clean and now I have the heel cut and the dovetail shims fitted... ready to glue in...but what to do with the fingerboard tongue. Since the neck had to tilt back considerably to get the correct action and saddle height there is a large drop off above the twelfth fret. On an unbound fret board I would just make an ebony wedge to raise the tongue. My personal 1940 00-18 is now on it's third neck reset and has a large wedge (1/8" at the soundhole end) to make the fret board straight from the nut to the sound hole but it's unbound ebony and the wedge is nearly invisible except for the difference in the fret board thickness. But the 0-45 has a beautiful thin ivoroid binding and the wedge will be very visible under it, so the question is what to do??? Wedge so it's straight or no wedge and live with the fall off.

Thanks for your thoughts.


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I saw a similar guitar that had been reset by a well known and respected repair/restore/build person. He had the extension bend down and the difference in fret height was made up by the rectangular frets. It looked odd to me (perhaps a bit sitar like) but made some sense.

The repair can't be invisible, so what is more offensive; The extreme drop off or the wedge? I might prefer the wedge.  

This might sound silly, but... why not bind the wedge?

 I have inserted a wedge in the second last one I did,. It looked pretty bad. I will do a drop off only from here on in.

"I am restoring a 1927 Martin 0-45........"

And you are doing this without showing us any pictures?!

C'mon, where is the love???

C'mon...we all know what a 0-45 looks like. But just in case here are the requested pix of the project. The last pic shows a 3/32" saddle blank under the top of the fret board and that is exactly what it will take to make the fret board tongue you can see my dilemma.



More pix


And a few more...


If the guitar was being repaired for me, I would want the extension shimmed flat. What does you're client want it to be, or is it a personal instrument? I think most players would want the extension flat, especially on a 12 fret guitar. 

Personally, I think a good Black Ebony would suite my taste. The binding idea mentioned may pan out but I think it would be hard to patch in binding and expect to get a seamless match. Another idea would be to bind the shim with some Abalone to emulate the purfling.

I wish I could ask the client... who is my Dad. He's 96 and has dementia and is in a nursing home. I bought the guitar with his money (I'm his power of Attorney and his only relative still on this side of the dirt) which had been sitting in a bank CD earning the princely sum of about .000001% interest. My plan is to restore it and sell it to pay for his obscenely expensive nursing home costs. I bought it "right" so I can make considerably more than .000001% profit for him and he really could use the cash. So my concern is what's going to be most palatable way to do this job to a future prospective buyer. A nice ebony shim is my personal preference but people who buy expensive old guitars can be so... particular. And peculiar. This guitar is obviously beyond ever being a pristine collector item but I still want it to play properly and be as desirable as possible given what I have to start with.

Geez, sorry to hear about you're troubles. My dad is 87 and still at home...for now...

Put the shim in it, it can always be taken out if you find that it is a deal breaker from you're potential buyer. 

Thanks for the pics Terry.  Now you have made my day.  That is a beauty!

There are quite a few discussions on the UMGF about this dilemma.  It seems that the world is pretty much evenly divided into pro-shimmers and dropper-offers, so that doesn't solve the problem for you.  I have also seen a suggestion elsewhere of going half-way - a small wedge, and a bit of a drop-off, but not too extreme of either.  Anyway, it is a nice problem to be grappling with.  Please show us pictures of the final result to help me decide next time I am working on a pre-war '45 (I wish....)



Nice guitar!  Love the little pick guard.

Mark is correct, the 'vintage' Martin world is pretty split on this...and don't even bring up finish or bridge plates! ;-)  

 I usually take it on a case-by-case basis .. if the drop off is 'extreme' I'll shim, if not I won't .  Sometimes, I'll split the difference, and that's likely what I would do in this're gap doesn't appear all that bad from what I can see in the photo.

What the vintage market won't accept on a guitar like that is the gap filled either with binding or abalone.

I believe your potential buyer won't grouse about a nicely done ebony shim under the extension.

Good luck with you worthy project, I know a bit about both dementia and high cost of care.



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