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Greetings.... refinishing Martin Acoustic.

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Greetings, new to this forum. Not new to fora.

Two years of high intensity guitar playing. (Recovering keyboard player). Guitars appear to be multiplying in my home.... Damn you Craigslist, Reverb and FB Marketplace! Picked up this Martin D-16GT for a very reasonable price. Plays very nicely. Got that Martin ring and hours of sustain. Well, sort of. Then one day I look at the top under JUST the right light and I see...... Light spots IN the top finish. Since I live minutes from Martin's lair I took it there and yes, in 2001 they changed some things in their process and had some "issues" with the top coat separating from the sealer. (Sealer not being lacquer). Unfortunately since I was not the original owner the lifetime warrantee did not apply.....

Now I have choices. It's not flaking, yet, so I could ignore it (it is not visible from the "audience angle" and just play it. But, since there's plenty of other ones to play I could take it out of service for a while and refinish it. Which sounds like a cool project. I have tools, and a shop. I have dirty hands every day. Wood, metal, electric, plumbing, automotive, stage craft.... always making and fixing things. And since it's "just" a D-16 and not worth a fortune, in fact arguably a lot less than market in current condition, there is no real financial risk. So that's the plan. I've spent quite a few hours on the StewMac site.... and on Youtube-U. got some quotes and "thinking" from luthiers, ($5-600) And I've found this place. Seems like the right bunch to hang with.

So, after research,  I've come to the idea to do something interesting. Sunburst, Martin style. It would be cool, and make the thing unique. If done right it would be a snazzy looking guitar and I have no reason to believe it would play any less. Luthiers suggested sanding down the top coat TO the (Non lacquer) sealer. The latter is not compromised and getting it off would require removal of quite a few thousandth of wood. Sand to 220 for a mechanical bond then Re-apply a top coat. (There will be no chemical bonding to sealer).

For sealer I'm thinking lacquer in a can. Amber on top, then the tobacco around the edge (per StewMac instructions), spilling over on the mahogany sides (would also need to roughen those up) Fading to nothing the dark as it comes down the sides. Clear coat top and sides, leave the back the way it is. (Satin)

Thoughts? Does anyone know EXACTLY what the sealer/finish used are? Also, there's black binding around the top. Plastic I assume. Does a lacquer top coat sit over that? Does it adhere and not flake off? 

Here's a link to the factory specs on it..... https://www.martinguitar.com/guitars/16-series/d-16gt/

Picture of current condition. The separation is mostly visible at the bottom of the body but it's all over in spots.

Screen Shot 2019-06-21 at 8.59.59 AM.png

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1 hour ago, Bizman62 said:

I'm not an expert by no means but one thing I know for sure: Scrap pieces of the same or similar materials are your best friends!

Actually went as far as to order a top worth of raw sitka spruce on eBay..... so lots of "scraps".

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  • 2 weeks later...

Nice start! To me it looks like there was a rim of finish under the bridge. Take the bridge area to bare wood before gluing since glue won't stick to the finish and any rim will lift the bridge from a perfect wood to wood contact.

As I've noticed elsewhere, words can mean different things. By one sided razor blade I meant the classic Gillette type with a protecting folded metal sheet on the other side. The type you have goes by the name of carpet knife blade in my books.

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I did notice the finish under the bridge. And yes on the blades. I've ordered the one sided ones. They are also shorter. The longer blades showed me the top is not flat.

There is some bowing on the top. At the narrowest area of the body the top dips down towards the sound hole and the edges are high. In fact there appears to be some "banana effect", ie the neck working it's way up under tension. Also noticed that the free setup at Martin where the action was brought down ended up being the saddle lowered to where the string is barely clearing the bridge and the truss rod tightened to where there's a visible curve down to the head along the neck. IOW, it's twisted and needs a neck reset for any further lowering of the action.

This is bad news on the one hand, on the other hand it makes me feel less worried about refinishing a Martin. Maybe I'll end up resetting the neck myself and the guitar will serve as my learning project, which is a noble cause.

We shall see.......


Edited by oscarvan
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Have you studied the Rosa String Works YouTube channel? There's plenty of information about fixing acoustic instruments. And he speaks so loud that even a Non English Speaker like myself can understand.

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And today things got real at Muppet Labs.... sanding. 150-220-320. I believe the offending finish is GONE. 🤣 Waiting on a box from StewMac with beauty in a can..... Close up is after a wipe down with mineral spirits. I am pleased....



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