12 February 2015
Vintage Martin neck reset - 1971 D-35
Getting her in shape for her next 40 years

Just on the bench was a 1971 Martin D-35. This dreadnaught guitar was in great overall shape for its age. It needed a neck reset and some attention paid to the lower bout where 12 inches of binding were missing and the back had separated from the sides.

After decades under string tension a steel string guitar's neck pulls forward relative to the body and eventually the neck must be removed, refit at a steeper angle to the body, and glued back on. Having a guitar's neck reset is sort of like having your car's transmission rebuilt;  it's a big job and if you own the thing long enough you will have to have it done, and once done it will perform like new again. You don't typically do it to an imported disposable cheapo, but any well-built solid wood guitar is a candidate for this procedure. If your saddle is very low, or flush with the top of the bridge, you should have your guitar evaluated for a neck reset.

For the other part of the job, 2 of the back braces were glued back down, the back was glued to the sides, the missing binding and purfling were carefully replaced with new material, then a tinted finish was sprayed over the white binding to match the aged yellow finish on the rest of the instrument.

This guitar came out looking great and playing like a dream. It's got a nice tall bone saddle and the frets and fingerboard are level and clean - ready for another 40+ years of making music. The best part of the job was getting to play a perfectly setup 43-year-old Brazilian Rosewood Martin!

Martin D-35 missing binding The damaged lower bout. Missing binding and back is separated from the sides.
D-35 closeup of damaged lower bout A closeup of the damaged lower bout. Here you can see the back brace is separated from the back.
Martin D-35 neck removal

Steaming the neck joint to remove the neck from the body. The jig puts pressure on the neck heel as the glue loosens.

This neck came off in under 2 minutes!

Martin D-35 dovetail neck joint The dovetail neck joint, before cleaning up the old glue. Note the hand written model number and partial serial number.
Martin D-35 Gluing down the back to the sides Gluing the back down to the sides.
Martin D-35 - new binding in place The new purfling and binding are in place. The plastic binding is white, even the old binding. The yellow color comes from the old finish, and the new finish will have to be color matched.
Martin D-35 - spraying over the new binding Spraying over the new binding with tinted finish.
Martin D-35 - finish on new binding matches old A very good color match. You have to look closely to tell there's been a repair!
Martin neck reset - checking the neck angle Checking the neck-to-body angle before gluing the neck back on.
Will Bright playing a Martin D-35 Enjoying the fruits of my labor - strumming a perfectly setup 43-year-old Martin D-35.


Posted by willbright at 1:56 PM in Repair and Restoration | Link

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