Antique guitar repair: 1941 Martin D-18

Published: 17th May 2011
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Being a guitar repairman and a luthier, you really never know the type of a guitar repair project that might wind up in your repair shop. Thus splitting your repair work schedule between antique guitar repair works or their restoration and building new guitars is often the norm of the day. Sometimes you will handle some comparatively straightforward repair jobs like resetting necks, bonding broken bridges with glues, repairing cracks (typically all ills that befalls a guitar, may it be new or old), other times the repair work becomes complicated and a lot care has to be taken or given.

A client recently found a broken down 1941 Martin D-18 guitar that needed major repair works at a friend's store room. He sent a few snapshots of the antique guitar to several repair shops. One shop immediately called and agreed to do the repair work and at reasonable charges. They assured the potential customer that this is one of their favorite types of repair work a highly damaged Martin D-18 vintage guitar that had been compromised to almost being useless. The guitar could be restored back to its former self (as a great player's guitar and that would show little repair work traces if any) while retaining its original unique finish.

Built in 1941, Martin D-18 was a coveted music instrument due to its strong bass, quick response, powerful voice and great tone, also due to their extraordinary durability and Adirondack elegant finish. Currently, despite the many new guitars being built and with numerous great materials, they cannot match up the materials that were used in the past, in fact it is not possible to inject the beneficial aging effects and playing into a new guitar, thus the importance of restoring the aged 1941s Martin D-18 guitar and other antique guitars. Once repaired and restored back to its former playing self, a guitar like this (affordable yet great sounding antique dreadnought) though not quite appealing to vintage collectors sells for a fraction of the price of a new guitar.

The guitar arrived at the restoration workshop with the bass side split from the neck to the tail, in addition to some other extra damages close the guitar's end block where it had been shoved inside the body. On top of this, the three ruby buttons had bluntly been pushed into the peg head (a small separation between the top and the sides) and with numerous cracks at the back. What was so amazing was that the bracing, the bridge plate and the top were all fine and in their original shape, though with the normal wear. However, the frets were all worn out and required some new re-fretting. Due to its high action while it was in a use, the guitar also needed a full neck reset.

The repair shop didn't want to lessen the guitar's vintage value, thus they used hot hide glue for most repairs and French polish to touch it up. (It is a well known fact that French polish blends very well with most existing finishes, as compared to new spray finishes). After finishing the restoration work, there was hardly a trace of the damage the vintage Martin D-18 had suffered. That is the magic of antique guitar repair.

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