Guitar repair: Even Martins require help!

Some time back, I received a phone call asking me if I could work on a Martin. In mood for a little fun, I said that if it was an Aston Martin (the car that James Bond drives), I wouldn’t be able to do much!

The caller latched on, laughed and conceded that it was a Martin acoustic guitar with action issues, and strangely, only a couple or so years old. I called it in, and indeed, the action was high.

The young man had just finished his medicine studies and was into his internship. Medicine studies, as you might know, leave little time to eat and sleep, leave alone clean and maintain your acoustic guitar – even if it is a Martin! And it showed!

The young man was very apprehensive. It was a Martin, after all. However, I allayed his fears and assured him that the guitar was not beyond help, and that hopefully, he’d be able to play it soon (He had told me that the last time he had played it was in February 2019).

Anyway, I had taken the action measurements before I took the strings off. Dialing in the new measurements didn’t take long but the new saddle height left very little break angle (the angle at which the strings reach the saddle from their respective holes). The break angle becomes important for adequate downward pressure on the saddle, which in turn, accentuates volume and sustain.

The problem was how to increase the break angle. The only way was to cut string slots of each string, leading from its hole to the saddle. However, we did not want too big a cut. So, I marked the path as well as the length and depth of the cut.

Some eight or nine months ago, I had acquired this set of unique bridge slotting saws from the US. I didn’t have need for them then, but I knew that I would require them one day.

That day had arrived!

With the path marked, I went to work with the saws, slowly and carefully (I had never used them before…ever!). The results were indeed heartening: clean pathways paved for the strings to ride in.

The fretboard was cleaned and oiled (here I might add that the fretboard didn’t need oiling for it was a HPL). But still I put on a light coat of oil, just to make the fretboard look pretty. The hardware on the headstock was looked at, the body of the guitar cleaned, fresh strings, and did this baby sing??!

The owner was thrilled with the results.

Amit Newton

An experienced guitar tech with over 10 years of experience working on acoustic Gibsons and Martins in the Gulf region. There is nothing that cannot be repaired; the only consideration is the price at which it comes. And yet, if there is sentiment attached, no price is too high! WhatsApp/Call me: 7080475556 email me:

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