Article: Martin 000-28 neck reset
dealing with a 65-year-old goof-up.
This guitar presented a couple of interesting challenges. When
it was built in the late 40's, the fingerboard had been placed on the neck
incorrectly, resulting in a guitar that had always played flat. At some point,
someone popped off the bridge and moved it forward, toward the neck, to remedy
the problem. That helped the intonation problem, but resulted in an unsightly
scar behind the bridge, and two overlapping sets of bridge pin holes in the
top. See the photos that follow for clarification.
It was brought to me because the neck has shifted forward from age, resulting in high action despite a very low saddle. A neck reset was definitely called for, but could we do something about the bridge, too? I considered several options.
--The original bridge, which also was cracked, could be replaced and relocated in the original position. Since the neck had to come off anyway, I could remove wood from the heel so the 14th fret aligned with the body edge and the intonation would be correct. This was rejected because although the scar behind the bridge would be covered, a new touchup would be required in front of the bridge. Also, the heel would be noticeably smaller and since the shape is tapered, a "shadow" would show around the new outline.
--An oversize bridge could be fitted to cover the scar, leaving the neck at the original position. This was rejected because oversize bridges look clunky, especially on 000 and smaller guitars.
--The replacement bridge could be glued in the same spot, the finish repair behind the bridge improved as much as possible, and the neck reset normally, without altering the heel. This is the course I chose. I believe that the error in fingerboard attachment, while definitely an error, was part of the originality of the guitar. Since the bridge modification had already been done, and successfully corrected the intonation, I would deal with it. I was confident I could make it look a lot better.
After removing the bridge, I reamed out the overlapping holes in the bridgeplate and inlaid maple plugs, using a Stewart-MacDonald tool designed for this purpose. The spruce was in bad shape under the bridge, so the holes and gouges were filled with epoxy and leveled. I carefully brushed aged lacquer into the area behind the bridge, to match the color of the guitar and level that area. Some 1200 grit sandpaper and a little buffing resulted in a hardly-noticeable touchup.
The reset went without any surprises, and with its new bridge, tall saddle, and low action, this guitar is now a dream to play. It's certainly a 000-28 with character!
Here's how the bridge looked when I got the guitar. You can see that it has been relocated about 3/16 inch forward. Some half-hearted touchup had been done on the exposed wood.
I have removed the neck. You can see the offset between the 14th fret slot and the end of the heel. These are supposed to line up! The missing 15th fret is where steam was injected to loosen the neck joint.
The neck pocket has been cleaned up. The tape on the sides protect from scratches while the neck heel is fitted.
The bridge is off and the area has been cleaned up. The pin holes in the bridge plate are filled by maple inlays, and I filled missing spruce (there were two sets of overlapping pin holes) with epoxy. The touchup behind the bridge has been improved.
The reset is done. By removing a tiny bit of wood at the bottom of the heel, I brought the neck angle back a bit. You can see that the 14th fret offset is still there; we decided not to change that. The fingerboard has been dressed and cleaned up, but the hole where steam was injected into the joint hasn't been filled yet.
Now I have filled that hole, so obvious in the last photo, and refretted.
Here's how the new bridge looks before shaping the saddle. In this and the next picture, you can see the faint line behind the bridge where the new lacquer meets the original finish.
The bridge is done. We have a good saddle height- the break angle across the saddle is important for tone.
Sighting down the neck. Good saddle height, great action. Altogether, we were very happy with how this guitar turned out in all three problem areas; action, intonation, and cosmetics.