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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If it were mine I would take it all apart and make it look like new. but that is just me anyway .Then you will have another excellent Guitar Bill.''''''''''''''''''''''

IMHO, if you want to still call it a Martin, then you should keep and repair the original top. Replacing the braces to the original specs maybe the way to go...

Keep us posted!

- Steve

Let YOUR own taste be your guide.  A new top would make it a new guitar, and a new Brazilian rosewood dreadnought is stupidly expensive from Martin these days.  If I were having a new top done, I'd have Martin do it, and I'd probably go with scalloped braces for my idea of best performance.  A new Martin top would keep the best resale value, and they are the best at making Martin tops - by definition.


No reason you couldn't preserve the original, though.  that's what I'll be doing for this Brazilian rosewood Guild 12-string in the first months of next year, by request from its owner:


It's going to require disassembly of the body because most of the top braces are either broken, loose, or simply missing.  For sure it would be cheaper to replace the top, but that's not a consideration this time. . .



That doesn't look close to new top territory visually.

I'd take the back off, repair all the cracks with HHG, and then cleat them, and replace the braces with new, non-scalloped ones. I'd be more inclined to try and restore the structural integrity, but otherwise leave it as original as possible, rather than restoring it so well that it looks like a new one, After all, it's over 60 years old, and a really old Martin with a few battle scars is soooo cool! Just my $ 0.02!


I agree with Howard,it doesnt look bad enough to start over,also agree with Grahame fix what you have there my friend, that is a wonderful peice of history

Sounds like a case of the Theseus paradox.

If George Washington's axe has had the handle replaced three times, and the head twice, is it the same axe?

It's your guitar and your choice. You can always have it changed, but you can never make it original again.

Whatever you do, have it done right. Old dreadnaughts are scarce and getting scarcer.



Frank is totally right. Do as your heart tells you. If Frank says the top is salvageable, then use that ( if you so desire) as your benchmark. Take the guitar to one of the two dozen or so qualified people in the U.S. that can do the work, get the back taken off, braces replaced (either scalloped or not), and possibly the finish checked out as to wether it HAS been redone or not. I would think with this work done, you would be able to turn it over being totally transparent about it, or keep it. The guitar will never be all original again though. Just live with it.

Many thanks to all of you kind gentlemen who took the time to reply.

I read a book a couple of years ago called "The Violin Maker" ( I think).  In it there are some passing remarks made by the repairman/builder, who repairs very fine instruments, that many of the violins that are considered the Standard against which other violins should be measured, have had so many repairs and replacements parts over the decades that there may be very little of them was is original.


That said, I like the idea of repairing what needs to be repaired and keeping the changes to minimum.



Ned, I have started threads on two sites now about this book. It is truly amazing read, and I would think that there is'nt a Lutier in North America that would'nt like to get it as a gift.


After learning of it's existence here in Neds reply, and seeing what you had to say about it, I decided to treat myself to an extra Christmas present, although it probably won't arrive in time for Christmas.I just ordered it from Amazon, € 19.95 shipping free:-) It was the last copy they had, which I'm taking as a sign that I'm going to be very happy to have it when it arrives. Every time I've ordered books where it says "only one copy in stock, order now!", (I have lots of books), I've never been disappointed.




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