Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

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.
Chuck Tweedy
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Chuck Tweedy »

Barry, I was think the same thing. With all that was done to that guitar back in `76 (43 year ago!), and it was still together today. Someone did a fine job. Wonder who?
Anyhow, you are doing a fine job as well, and thanks for sharing.
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Barry Daniels
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Barry Daniels »

Yes, the work he did was intact and well done. There was a hand written note inside the guitar with the gentleman's name and address. He lived in Indiana. I don't know why but I feel I shouldn't list his name out of respect.
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Steven Smith
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Steven Smith »

I've worked on several guitars that were repaired/modified many years ago. Today the guitars have some value, $1500+ when playable and in decent shape. In the '70s they might have been worth $50 so it's no surprise that some of the repairs/mods were pretty rudimentary and likely not done by a luthier.

I'm enjoying the thread. I enjoy bringing old guitars back to life even when there's no money in it.

Gordon Bellerose
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

I have not chipped in on this thread, except to ask for pics on removing the top early on.
I have to say that I enjoy these threads immensely. The discussions of repair philosophy are very educational.
And seeing a guitar that was made almost 90 years ago, taken apart and made new again is really great.
I enjoy Barry's problem solving hugely. He goes places I have not ventured. (yet)
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

I would be inclined to save the sides and just make the repairs as cosmetically good as practical (changing out the white wood with mahogany). Some of the "17" models had a shaded finish which can help a lot to make the repaired areas blend in. Changing the top back to mahogany will help to take the guitar back to what it was, and although the guitar may never have the value of one that is totally original it can at least be representative of the model.
I have a few old guitars that I wonder if I would be better off building a copy instead of repairing the original. The urge to "renew" rather than "repair" can be hard to resist.

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Barry Daniels
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Barry Daniels »

After several other project were completed, back to the task at hand. Sorry, but the sides have to go. I made a few cuts next to the end blocks and then broke the sides off by hand. They broke like dry potato chips (seriously). They were .060" thick and brittle as can be. Five minutes after starting I am left with the back and the linings. Used a heat gun to warm up the back and taking the end blocks off.
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Barry Daniels
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Barry Daniels »

More heat gun on the end blocks to remove the remnants of the sides (will be reusing the blocks). Interesting discovery on the bottom block are three plugged holes indicating that someone had attached a tailpiece at some point in the guitar's life. Probably an interim step before the top was replaced.
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Barry Daniels
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Barry Daniels »

Using an oscillating saw with a flush cutting blade to remove the kerfing. It leaves just a bit of cleanup with a chisel and scraper.
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Bob Gramann
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Bob Gramann »

A follow-up to the earlier heatstick discussion here. This probably ought to go into another discussion at this point. The copper/beryllium rod does not conduct heat nearly as well as a piece of #8 copper wire (.125" diameter). I ran the test with a 30 watt soldering iron. I will need a hotter iron for melting glue joints, but I will use copper.

Chuck Tweedy
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Chuck Tweedy »

sounds like the sides were fully oxidized through-and-through. there's no coming back from that. thing is, the back is probably the same so watch out!

looks like you left the binding stuck to the rim of the back - what you going to do about that?
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Barry Daniels
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Barry Daniels »

Chuck, The back feels no where near as brittle as the sides. Don't know why that is. Certainly the extra thickness helps but it just is not as crispy as the sides

I am going to leave the binding on the back until the box is closed up. Then I will route the back and install a piece of binding (cut-off from the side stock) which will hopefully sort of disappear.

Bob, that is interesting. I would not have thought that a little beryllium in the mix would make that much difference. I can attest to the fact that the pure copper rods transfer heat very well. Yes, 30 watts may be on the small side. Are you making two heat sticks?
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Bob Gramann
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Bob Gramann »

Yes, I’m making two. I’ll get some hotter irons and use the copper. Thanks for your help.

Clay Schaeffer
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Clay Schaeffer »

Chuck,
If Barry did away with the back, he would be left with a couple of end blocks as the only original part of the guitar. In the 70's it became a Frankenstein, what will it be after this recent anastasis?

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Barry Daniels
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Barry Daniels »

Clay, the neck and tuning machines are original.

I feel sort of bad about having to ditch the sides but they were simply not salvageable. I refuse to hand back a guitar to my client that I have no assurance will not fall apart in his hands. My philosophy is to replace parts that are "not sound". Originality is second in priority to structural integrity. I am sure others will disagree, and that is fine. I am willing to discuss all comments and outlooks, and this is why I post these threads.

To be quite honest, I am now looking at the back with disregard. Not only is there two and one half full length cracks that were previously repaired (somewhat poorly) and will have to be redone. But there are more than half a dozen additional cracks that need repair. Also, the lower bout has a wing repair in beech that will have to be replaced. Also, that maple binding replacement to be attempted with matching mahogany will always stick out. The Martin brand on the back graft (which would be perhaps the best and only reason to retain the back) was sanded out during the previous repair and almost is not visible. I can spend a lot of time trying to save the back, but I feel like it will be a terribly weak spot in an otherwise sound body. Man, this is a classic slippery slope I am going down. The only saving grace is the neck. It is sound and has been repaired. Could I call this a simple body graft? Argh.
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Bob Francis
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Bob Francis »

Well now I'm lost. So, if the back is trash too this will be a restoration of the heel blocks and tuners?
Honestly this is a great education thread regardless of approach but somewhere I went sideways with the lesson plan.

Gordon Bellerose
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

Wow! This repair has turned into a bit of a nightmare.
At some point the owner has to decide if the "repair" is actually worth it.

With the body basically being trash, and the only parts original to the guitar being the neck, tuners, and end blocks, you cannot call it a Martin any longer in my opinion.
Although, with the skills you've shown in the past Barry, I'm certain it would be better than original.
I don't know what you would do to bill for your time if he decided against the repairs.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

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Barry Daniels
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Barry Daniels »

Bob, the "lesson plan" is always up for modification.

When I see replacement as considerably less costly than repair is when things take a turn. And really, I feel I probably should have turned the project down to begin with so I am willing to adsorb some of the cost. And in my retired status, cost is low on my scale of concerns. I may be crazy, but I never raise the cost of the project when I discover additional problems.

Gordon, I am not calling it a Martin even though the headstock label still says that. To me, it is creeping into "tribute" territory. But I refuse to see this as failure. In reality, the Martin was lost a long time ago. We also found out that the gentleman who did the work back in '76 is deceased. I will get over it.
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David King
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by David King »

Let's hope this guitar isn't cursed. I say replace away!

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Barry Daniels
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Barry Daniels »

Let me describe my decision making process. I imagine sitting in my parlor with the subject guitar. Would I rather have a guitar with a new top and sides, and an original back that has about 10 repaired cracks and is still fragile? Or would I rather have a sound body attached to the original neck. In other words, is the value of the original back worth putting up with the patched together and fragile condition? Does the original back increase collectibility? It doesn't for me. To me it just reminds me of the abuse that the guitar has gone through in its life.

But I am not a collector and can't put myself into their mindset.

I have not made a final decision on the back and haven't discussed it with the client. So it is still open.
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Gordon Bellerose
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Re: Restoration of a 1931 Martin 00-17

Post by Gordon Bellerose »

Barry,

I certainly wasn't throwing shade at you. :D
I have been in the same boat with a couple of repairs.
One was the recent 1970's Yamaha. I quoted a price, and only raised it by 50 dollars even though it needed a complete re-fret, after the neck reset.
The owner was really emotionally attached to the guitar, other wise I would have told him it wasn't really worth the price of repair.

Another is a neck that needed a new fretboard. Someone had tried to file scallops into the original, with really bad results.
I am still in the refinishing stage with that one.

Repairs are a tricky thing some days.
I need your help. I can't possibly make all the mistakes myself!

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