Crunchtime: 1967 D-28 Martin Guitar Structural Repair

I had this 1967 Martin D-28 on my bench a few months ago. It came in with clear packing tape over the damaged area trying to hold loose pieces in place. It looked like it had been in this state for some time, heavy crunch and missing binding.

In this photo you can see what a stunning set of Brazilian Rosewood this is. Lots of color variation, grain definition and interesting structure. It’s worth putting some time into fixing it up.

Once the tape came off, this is what I had to deal with. It turns out some of the damage had been glued up already, which we didn’t know. It was unfortunately glued out of alignment.

Here I am holding a heating element onto the side with mini quick grip clamps, keeping an eye on it with a thermometer, so the glue will loosen up and I’ll be able to realign the crack. My palette knife is slightly camouflaged due to the reflection, but I’m slowly working it in to loosen up the old glue.

Since the back was already loose and all cracked up, I tried to use the damage to my advantage. I got some small clamps through the cracks and the missing binding area in order to clamp the side cracks up. I used flexible cauls on the inside and outside in order to get a nice firm alignment.

With the side cracks glued up, I moved on to gluing the back in place. There were some tiny pieces missing from the side, which I filled in with a little bit of matching rosewood dust mixed with acrylic adhesive.

Here’s a shot of the back being glued back on, where the big clamp across the body is pulling the side in to match the back contour:

Much of the original binding had come loose as a result of the original damage, so I set about cleaning up the channel around the edge, using a chisel to chip out bits of old glue and dirt before regluing the binding:

Masking tape held the binding back in place as I glued it with water-soluble aliphatic resin adhesive.

There was also a good portion of missing back binding, but luckily we had some replacement Martin plastic binding strips. Here I have the outer layer (binding) and inner layer (purfling) laid out and getting fitted to the channel.

The old meets the new.

And is then cut down to match the contour.

Now the major structural work is done, it’s time to start tidying it all up. It’s going pretty well, but the side area has some dips and low spots in the finish where the damage was really bad. I started filling in these low areas by adding small drops of lacquer in the cracks and crevices.

Here’s a shot of the topographical aspect of the surface. As I added material and then scraped it back again, it showed me the lay of the land, and where I needed to add finish.

As I progressed the surface started to level out, and the divots began to disappear.

I added a bit more lacquer, scraped the high spots back, added more drops of finish, and set it aside to dry over the following weeks.

I wiped a little color on new binding section, to match the aged amber lacquer on the rest of the guitar.

Then I was ready to start brushing on some extra coats of lacquer to meld with the existing finish surrounding the damage.

Then I hit it with a couple of new laquer coats from the spray gun to smooth it all out.

And after some finish sanding and buffing, it’s as solid as it was before the damage, and looks almost new again.