Coming soon to a Wilco concert near you! This Martin OOO-28 needed the standard work-over for a guitar of that age and man, was it worth the trouble!
We love working on old Martins here. They are repairman-friendly and always satisfying when they’re finished. This one dates back to 1948, and is in excellent shape for its age. It needed some repairs that are very common for any steel string acoustic over 25 years old (and for many that are far younger.) We wound up re-gluing a separating bridge, re-setting the neck to its proper angle, and re-fretting completely. With a combination of Sunrise (soundhole) and Fishman (under-saddle) pickups, it will be a nice addition to Jeff Tweedy’s collection of stage-worthy Martins. Here’s a look at the process.
About the only visual blemish on the guitar was the series of scratches, scrapes, and dents on the back of the neck. One peek inside the case explained where they came from.
This capo is probably nearly as old as the guitar and makes us think of Civil War era medical tools! A little cork on the back-of-the-neck side would have been nice, but the marks and scars of honest wear and tear are nothing to complain about. They simply add to this guitar’s character.
The neck angle is the first thing we check on any old acoustic guitar. One tip-off is high string action and very little bone saddle showing above the bridge. After inspecting it closely, Dan determined that the neck angle had changed over the years and needed to be re-set. Decades of more than 100lbs in string tension was enough to compress the wood fibers a few thousandths of an inch – drastically affecting the playability of the guitar. (It also speaks to the great craftsmanship at Martin in this era that these repairs didn’t need to be done for more than 60 years!)
Around this time, we also noticed that the bridge appeared to be lifting off the top slightly. It only took a little pressure from the repair knife to pop it off completely. With the neck already off, it was a good time to take care of the bridge.
Once we cleaned off the old glue residue from both the bridge and the top, we re-glued it using hide glue.
While the bridge glue dried, Dan starts reinforcing and shaping the dovetail joint, insuring a perfect fit with the correct angle.
Once the fit and angle are correct, he applies some traditional hide glue to the neck joint and clamps it back together!
With body and neck back together, we turn to playability and can see clearly that these loose frets need to go. We leveled the fretboard and installed the new frets before stringing it up!
Finally, we installed a Fishman under-saddle pickup in the bridge and made a new saddle to insure a great fit. Jeff combines the signals from the saddle pickup with a Sunrise sound-hole pickup, running both through tube pre-amps for one of the best acoustic stage tones you’ll ever come across.
Hopefully we’ll be seeing and hearing more of this guitar soon on tour with Wilco!