Martin Guitar Repair and Restoration
There is probably no more contentious area of discussion in the acoustic guitar world than the topic of repairing vintage Martin guitars. In previous decades, guitars (even fine Martin guitars) were treated very differently than they are treated today. They were knocked about and treated at best like novelties or musicians’ tools not fine possessions, at worst they were stored in barns, hot attics or freezing trunks of cars and every conceivable space in-between.
And for most of the history that spans the existence of Martin as a builder of guitars, when it did come time to repair or “restore” a Martin, that restoration was often either poorly executed, or (worse) the guitar was “restored” to “like-new” condition with a complete refinish and often replacement of historically correct parts with contemporary Martin parts. The bottom line: only in the past 25 years or so has there been a general consensus that guitar repair or restoration should be done with the goal of preserving as much instrument originality as possible. Don’t try to make the guitar as “like new” as possible. Rather, keep original finish and original parts in place. Only “fix” what absolutely needs to be fixed (like cleating big cracks, or replacing a broken or shaved bridge, or replacing frets). And when replacing parts, spec replacement parts that are historically correct not “right for today’s player”. At Vintage American Guitar, we’ve restored Martin guitars built before Abraham Lincoln was sworn in as President, and 1930’s Martin dreadnaughts, and every kind of Martin in between. And done so correctly, using hide glue as was used for over a century by Martin. We’ve repaired the first Martin size “0” guitar made (in 1854… and it plays beautifully). We work with historically correct bar fret material for fret replacement on pre-1935 Martins.
We’ve seen the personal handwriting inside Martin guitars– from the Martin factory foremen– from the 19th century– and we adhere to the same principles of craftsmanship as did those men before us.