My good customer Jim bought this old guitar from the estate of a dear friend: a pre-Civil War Martin. It had seen better days. The neck had been broken and repaired probably more than once. The tuning machines were long gone. The bridge was being held in place by a pair of #8 wood screws. The original "coffin" case was in several pieces, but still had all its original hardware. The body was sound, having only 2 small cracks in the Brazilian rosewood back. Although the top was well worn, all of the bracing was present and tightly glued.
The stamp on the back graft offered a clue as to the guitar's age. After examining a few photos sent them by yours truly, the good folks at Martin identified this as a size 3 guitar built in 1839-40. C.F. Martin moved his operation from New York to Nazareth, Pennsylvania in this approximate time frame. Since this stamp says "New York", it was built before the move to Nazareth. Jim and I reckoned it to be a good candidate for the needed repairs.
As I mentioned, it appeared that the broken neck had been repaired several times. Someone finally took some drastic measures to ensure it wouldn’t need fixing again!
They also ‘customized’ the headstock with brass tacks like an old Winchester 66 rifle....the kind used in the Indian wars after the Civil War.
The bridge was completely split in two along its length. It had been held in place with 2 round head screws into pine blocks inside the sound box. Once the screws were removed, both halves of the bridge fell off the soundboard.
I fashioned the new neck of quartersawn maple and matched the ‘vee’ joint at the headstock like the original. Hot hide glue was used for all of the repairs. Incidentally, hide glue is wonderful stuff. But that's another story for another time.
I also duplicated the original joinery at the heel namely, a miter with blind dovetail and spline. That’ll test your woodworking chops!
Here’s the roughed-out new neck next to the original.
Randy Allen supplied the 23 7/8” scale fingerboard with .051” slots. T.J. Thompson supplied the bar fret wire.
Once the neck was carved and finish scraped, I applied shellac and lamp black, true to the original. After smoothing up the color coats, I French polished the entire neck.
I carved the replacement bridge of good gaboon ebony and made it slightly oversized. The saddle slot was routed and the pins fitted after the bridge was glued in place. Repairs were also made to the worn out holes on the bridge plate under the soundboard.
The new finish on the neck was distressed to replicate the wear on the original. The original Jerome tuning machines were installed.