Repair of '74 Martin D-18

If you have a string instrument of any kind that needs fixing, a mistake you made in building a new instrument that you need to "disappear," or a question about the ethics of altering an older instrument, ask here. Please note that it will be much easier for us to help you decide on the best repair method if you post some pictures of the problem.
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Barry Daniels
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Repair of '74 Martin D-18

Post by Barry Daniels »

Up next on my bench is a '73 Martin D-18 that has been poorly modified. Besides a poor refinish, a set of pots was added for a saddle transducer. Originally, I thought it would be no big deal to pull the pots and plug the holes in the top with some matching spruce and a little touchup. I also knew that a refret and neck reset will be necessary. But then I looked inside and much to my horror, I found that installation of the pots created a lot of brace damage. One of the pot holes was directly on top of a finger brace which got knocked off and relocated to a new location. But the real issue is the X-brace, which falls between the two pots, was completely notched out down to the soundboard. The installer put in a sister brace next to the X-brace in an attempt to re-strengthen the area.

I could not get a very good photo with my phone of the notched X-brace but when I get my new boroscope tomorrow I will rectify that. But I an unsure of how to fix the damage. I will certainly remove the sister brace. But I can't REPLACE the X-brace. And splicing in a new section would be problematic. I am definitely open for suggestions on this one, but let's wait for better photos so you can better see what's going on.
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Barry Daniels
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Re: Repair of '74 Martin D-18

Post by Barry Daniels »

Since major work is going to be required I am also considering taking the '70s era bracing down a bit and replacing the humongous bridge plate with a vintage era size one. My client has given me carte blanche on this one because he inherited it from his brother.
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Bob Gramann
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Re: Repair of '74 Martin D-18

Post by Bob Gramann »

How well did the sister brace work? Does the top distort under tension? How does it sound? In other words, if it works, consider leaving it.

How much harder would it be to just retop it or take the top off and rebrace it. After all, it will never be original.

I’m glad it’s on your bench and not mine.

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Barry Daniels
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Re: Repair of '74 Martin D-18

Post by Barry Daniels »

The sister brace just looks so wrong. And it definitely introduces a huge stress riser. However, the top is not distorted at that location so the sister is apparently working. There is a pretty good bulge behind the bridge though, even with the huge bridge plate.

Retopping it? Hadn't really considered it but that would probably save a ton of work in the long run and would look much better. The finish on the old top looks really wrong and there are some severely worn places. You got me thinking Bob. Since a neck reset is needed that would be the time to retop if I go that direction.
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Bryan Bear
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Re: Repair of '74 Martin D-18

Post by Bryan Bear »

I can't wait to see how you decide to approach all of these elements. Keep posting progress!
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Tom Owen
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Re: Repair of '74 Martin D-18

Post by Tom Owen »

I would consider removing the back and then re-bracing the top... I have re-topped guitars before, but I would think of that as a last resort. while 74 wasn't the best of years from Martin, that guitar has had 47 years of playing time on, while re-bracing will have an effect re-topping would be a new guitar.

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Barry Daniels
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Re: Repair of '74 Martin D-18

Post by Barry Daniels »

The top has a number of serious issues. Here are better shots of the braces. Both of the pots fell directly on top of a brace; one being the lower leg of the X-brace.
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Barry Daniels
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Re: Repair of '74 Martin D-18

Post by Barry Daniels »

Tom, that is an approach worth consideration. The top could be saved, but it sure is ugly.
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Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Repair of '74 Martin D-18

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Barry wrote:
"My client has given me carte blanche on this one because he inherited it from his brother."

If his brother is still around it might not matter how much you change the appearance, if he has gone on to greener pastures it might make a difference.
Ultimately I think what the client wants is what he gets. If I don't agree with it he gets it from someone else! :lol: But I don't do a lot of repair work for other people, so that is easy for me to say.

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