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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Grahame & others who say "take the back off" are on the money!

I bought an Epiphone Eldorado on eBay a couple of years ago, & all the pros just sucked in air when they saw it,but a fiddle player I know took it on ,took the back off ,straightened the top,re-braced it & now people remark on the sound,not knowing the wonders performed with the structure.I play with fiddlers & yes,some of their instruments are more repairs than original,but they sound so much better than newer fiddles!

Thanks for all the good insights guys.  Gonna think about this for a while.
Stephen, something that has only been mentioned, and should be thought about, is picking a specialist Luthier and sending it to him or her for all the resto work.  It would cost a lot, and if you decided to sell it, you would probably be able to recoup  your money. The back really does need to come off, and the braces need to be taken care of. I've been doing instrument repair in my own shop(S) for 18 years now, and if this axe was mine, I would still , most likely, be sending it off. It is a historically significant guitar after all. What do you think?


Don't discount the satisfaction to be savoured from restoring this guitar.

Taking the back off,sorting the top,refinishing the back,putting it all back together

and then................


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