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Unglued brace collapsing top (pic heavy) Hope my experience will help someone else

#1 User is offline   Oringo 

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Posted 06 February 2011 - 02:11 AM

Hey guys,
I'm going through an Ebay heartbreaker at the moment and I thought I'd share my experience with forum members. maybe I can help someone avoid a situation like this.
I've bought a number of guitars on Ebay over the years, and have never had a problem, but they were all solid bodies, I was very familiar with the model I was buying and I never had a bad surpise because I knew what to look out for. I've been having GAS for a thinline electric archtop for awhile, now, and after a few failed attempts at some Gibsons (being a Firebird nut I wanted to find an ES325)I decided to bid on a rare guitar I've always had a crush on, a Martin F55. The photos looked great in the add, the seller has a 100% rating and has sold a ton of vintage Gibsons, and the guitar was billed as in excellent condition with no issues.
I received the guitar well-packed, the box in perfect shape and opening the case the guitar is gorgeous. As stated in the add, the neck is great to play on, and the old DeArmonds sound fantastic. I fell in love with the guitar after the first chord. That's why this is a heartbreaker!
Being a professional violinist and a very serious amateur violin-maker (my dad repaired violins and I grew up in his workshop) I couldn't help noticing the treble f-hole, the lower half not covered by the pickguard, wasn't right. The Martin has real "Stradivari" violin style f-holes with a large horizontal swing and wide "wings" (what we call the pointy part insed the f-holes) and the lower wing was a good 5mm proud of the top below it.

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Close up of the good (bass) side

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Close up of the treble side showing the top sinking

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Looking inside (with a mirror) this is how the healthy bass-side brace looks.

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Here's the treble side brace that has come unglued.

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In this view you can see the dried glue from previous attempts to repair it.

So as I said, this is a heartbreaker, because the guitar feels great and sounds great, and I want to keep it, fix it and play it. The seller has been a nice guy about this, and although I think he was negligent in describing the condition in his ad, he has offered to pay for the repair. The price I paid wasn't excessively high or low (these Martins don't fetch high prices) and I'm confident we'll work this out.

The real reason for this post is that going back over the photos in the listing, I realize now I should have picked up on this problem. Maybe experienced archtop and acoustic collectors are fully aware of what to look out for, but if you're relatively inexperienced buying a guitar like this as I was going into this, I hope the following photos will help you avoid this kind of problem!

What I should have seen in the seller's photos:
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BTW the seller took his photos in sunlight, mine are indoors, rest assured this is the same guitar!

#2 User is offline   B Chas 

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Posted 07 February 2011 - 01:28 PM

I learned something from your post, thanks.

#3 User is offline   ladyscaglyc 

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Posted 10 February 2011 - 02:19 PM

What's the game plan for that kind of repair?
Is it something that you'd use a Stew Mac type of jack to bring the brace back up after cleaning & glueing?

It would be an interesting post.
s/Vin


'65 Firebird 12 string

'05 Gretsch White Falcon

'06 EPI Emperor II Joe Pass w/ TruArc

'82 MIK Fender Strat

'00 "Vintage vibe"Squier Strat

#4 User is offline   Oringo 

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Posted 11 February 2011 - 02:29 AM

Hey Vin,
I've started the repair, so I'll post some pictures as I go. I'm hoping the reason the previous repair didn't hold was that whoever did it was in a hurry and just tried to glue back the bar without trying to re-shape the arch first.
An internal jack would be a good way to go, but I wouldn't use it alone.

Here's what I've done so far:
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First I cut some straight grained spruce to fit the arch of the back and the shape of the bar and fit it to push up on the bar where the bridge had been pushing down. I don't want it too tight, especially at first, because I don't want to deform the back or put too much stress on the top right away.

To keep the back from being distorted, I put a brace under it where the post is pushing up and very lightly clamped it to the edges of the top.
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The clamps are just barely tight, and I'm checking the guitar every day to make sure nothings coming unglued and no cracks are forming.

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After a few days, the arch is gradually coming back and the unglued end of the bar is closer to the top. I'm going to leave the guitar like this for at least three weeks before gluing the bar back in, and cut slightly longer posts to push up the bar as the arch comes back. I may leave it in this jig afterwards for a few weeks to make sure it's stabilized before stringing it back up. Some luthiers would use heat and moisture to help reshape the top, and that's the right thing to do with a solid spruce top, but I'd be afraid of de-laminating the plywood top on this guitar. Also, it would mean desoldering at least one pickup to get the harness out, since these DeArmonds won't fit through the pickup cutouts. I'd like to leave the original harness untouched, if I can.

A pro violin restorer often has to re-shape arches on old violins, and the process is pretty amazing. After taking off the top, they make a plaster cast of the top as it is, gradually correct the arch on the cast, and press the top against the cast with hot sand bags. It's a lot of work, and of course they only do it for valuable old violins. If your instrument is worth a few hundred thousand dollars, a 10000$ restoration is worth it, but I'm afraid that's not the case for this poor old Martin electric. These are really nice guitars, well made and I think they sound great, but they're not worth nearly as much as Gibson or Gretsch thinlines because no one seems to know about them or want them.

#5 User is offline   retrorod 

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Posted 11 February 2011 - 06:51 PM

Very interesting post, ORINGO. I,m sure that was dissapointing. I would be hard-pressed to have noticed it from the pics, until you pointed it out.
Not sure how the seller did not notice and disclose this disformity of the top?? Just goes to show....caveat emptor. I have been fairly lucky with Ebay, but it is always a 'chance' when buying from other people....experienced or not>...Rod
"You never know what worse luck your bad luck has saved you from."--Cormic McCarthy

Celebrating the sixty years of "white privilege" that i have just recently learned that I was born with...

#6 User is offline   ladyscaglyc 

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Posted 15 February 2011 - 09:46 PM

Nice setup there, Oringo.
Patience & Technique - That guitar is in the right hands.
Keep the step by step coming, it's way too cool!

Vin
s/Vin


'65 Firebird 12 string

'05 Gretsch White Falcon

'06 EPI Emperor II Joe Pass w/ TruArc

'82 MIK Fender Strat

'00 "Vintage vibe"Squier Strat

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