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FDP Forum / FDP Unplugged - Acoustic Instruments / Looking at a vintage Martin... What to look for?

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budg
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ohio

Home of the Goodyear blimp
Jun 22nd, 2019 01:43 PM   Edit   Profile  

Looking at a 1970 D35. Price is on the low side Guitar comes with the original case, has been recently set up with 12s .

There is checking on the front and back (which I expect) . He says it id just the finish. Had it set up and the frets were dressed. I asked if the pickgard was lifting , he said it was raised in one spot but the luthier glued it back down . I asked him about how much saddle was left , he said enough for maybe 2 more shavings (action is at 3/32 on the low E side . He said the binding is intact and other than the checking its in really good shape.

Any other questions I should ask or any red flags?

reverend mikey
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N of I-90, E of I-29

You're old. Then vintage. Then good!
Jun 22nd, 2019 02:47 PM   Edit   Profile  

What's his return policy in case you get it and there's something that wasn't fully disclosed?

On an old guitar like this, when you can't inspect it in hand first (or have it inspected by someone you trust), I'd be sure there is a return policy, no questions asked.

Since it doesn't have an adjustable truss rod, the state of the neck joint and action is crucial. The string height *sounds* good, but there could be other issues anyway.

Having it set up with 12's (and measuring the action with 12's) might mean it's on the brink of needing a neck reset, but maybe not. A D-35, with lighter bracing, can sound very good with 12's, but what if you want to try 13's? What will the neck do?

Old guitars can have problems that even the seller isn't aware of - it's best to proceed with caution...

(This message was last edited by reverend mikey at 04:50 PM, Jun 22nd, 2019)

6L6
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San Francisco, CA

Jun 22nd, 2019 02:54 PM   Edit   Profile  

I owned a 1970 Martin D-35 and gigged with it for many years. Dolt that I am, I sold it to fund an electric I thought I couldn't live without.

Tried to buy it back, but the new owner loves it and says it's going to the grave with him. Can't blame him.

I own a very pristine 1969 D-35 currently (Brazilian rosewood) that doesn't sound as good as that 1970. I think the best value in used guitars are 1970's Martins. Some need the bridge to be moved a bit for proper intonation, but that's an easy fix. The wood used during that decade was very good and most of the 70's Martins sound very nice indeed.

As suggested above, I'd be sure there's a solid return policy before buying. Get the guitar and have a qualified luthier check it out immediately.

Good luck!

6

budg
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ohio

Home of the Goodyear blimp
Jun 22nd, 2019 03:05 PM   Edit   Profile  

Thanks guys . The guitar is on Reverb , so if its not as described I can send it back . I wondered the same thing about the 12s . What will happen if I put 13s on it?

Luckily I dont live far from Lays Guitar Shop who is also a Martin Repair Center and a luthier who I would trust to look at it and assess it. This seller has an actual brick and mortar instrument store with their own website , so there is that.

(This message was last edited by budg at 05:19 PM, Jun 22nd, 2019)

6L6
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San Francisco, CA

Jun 22nd, 2019 08:25 PM   Edit   Profile  

LAYS has done work for me in the past. Top tier folks!

6

budg
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ohio

Home of the Goodyear blimp
Jun 22nd, 2019 09:15 PM   Edit   Profile  

That’s awesome 6. I feel lucky they are so close. Dan is a great guy to deal with and their work is top notch.

budg
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ohio

Home of the Goodyear blimp
Jun 23rd, 2019 06:57 PM   Edit   Profile  

Well I am now a hopefully proud owner of a 72 d35. I bought it today. The seller is a brick and mortar music store with great reviews. I have 3 days to decide once I get it. My plan is to take it to Lays once it arrives and let them assess it for me. If everything looks good I’ll keep it . I don’t know too many people more knowledgeable about vintage guitars than Dan and especially Martins .

Leftee
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VA

The Escalator
Jun 23rd, 2019 08:13 PM   Edit   Profile  

You can’t make me buy a vintage Martin. Nut-uh.

😋

jefe46
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State of Jefferson

Jun 24th, 2019 08:30 PM   Edit   Profile  

Take it to someone who knows Martins N O W !!
Before your 72 hrs is up.


1970 to 1979 Martins were well known for having the bridge located in the wrong place.
Worn jig and high production/lack of quality control.

Just turned down such an instrument (1971 D-35) for that very reason.
The asking price was $2400.
Cost of the needed neck reset, (they all need it.. 100% failure rate) re-fretting and placing the bridge in the right place (if it could be saved) $1600.

If it was a D-28 maybe.. but not a D-35 with those 1/4 inch braces...
Simply not worth it.

I'd pay $1500 for a mint to near mint D-35... no more

Not if it was a D-35S.. (best guitar I ever owned) ( which because of its 12 fret configuration and bridge in the right place and 1 7/8ths nut width and built pre CFM IV) I'd be a player.


Simply put..
1. CHeck the intonation and or string length from nut to the 12th fret and 12th fret to the saddle.. if off.. bag it.

Check the saddle height..If there is less than a 16th inch saddle left pass.

Lay a ruler/straight edge on the frets .. push it toward the bridge.. if the straight edge hits the bridge (not the saddle).. pass.


If its a D-35 that needs anything pass.

72 one of the worst years for the neck reset program..

One of the worst years for the bridge placement intonation problem...
They are all 100% off. and expensive to correct.

If it's correct the work has already been done.. don't count on it.

Best of luck.

(This message was last edited by jefe46 at 10:42 PM, Jun 24th, 2019)

jefe46
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State of Jefferson

Jun 24th, 2019 08:46 PM   Edit   Profile  

"Thanks guys . The guitar is on Reverb , so if its not as described I can send it back . I wondered the same thing about the 12s . What will happen if I put 13s on it?"

12's because the neck needs a reset ?

What is the saddle height etc.. see previous post.

Moving the bridge is not so simple as in most cases the bridge will need to be moved far enough that you will see the bare top and former footprint of the bridge. Often this requires a larger bridge to cover the former footprint.
But again, see my previous post.


budg
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ohio

Home of the Goodyear blimp
Jun 25th, 2019 04:11 AM   Edit   Profile  

"Take it to someone who knows Martins N O W !!
Before your 72 hrs is up."

" I have 3 days to decide once I get it. My plan is to take it to Lays once it arrives and let them assess it for me. If everything looks good I’ll keep it . I don’t know too many people more knowledgeable about vintage guitars than Dan and especially Martins . "

Yep thats the plan as soon as it comes in. The place I am taking it has restored and repair many Martins of just about every era. If I dont like what I see , it goes back. There are plenty of things to look for with the 70s era Martins for sure.

The one thing that was in the description was “ no neck reset needed at this time”. We’ll see if that is the case, but if it ends up being a solid guitar I’ll know it.

(This message was last edited by budg at 08:40 AM, Jun 25th, 2019)

larryguitar19
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South Florida

larryguitar
Jun 25th, 2019 07:57 AM   Edit   Profile  

Wow. I find it hard to accept a guitar that was made while I was around and already playing is 'vintage'.

I feel old.

reverend mikey
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N of I-90, E of I-29

You're old. Then vintage. Then good!
Jun 26th, 2019 12:25 PM   Edit   Profile  

Yeah, the word "vintage" is usually applied most accurately to Martins from the 30's, 40's and *maybe* 50's.

Martins from the 1970's can still be wonderful instruments if their necks and bridge issues are addressed. And fortunately, since they're NOT YET considered "vintage" by the guitar snob crowd, you can get away with doing mods on them to make them better, like scalloping braces, shaving the back braces, removing the popcycle brace, replacing the heavy Grover tuners, etc.

I saw a 72 D-35 at Dave's guitar shop in LaCrosse, WI yesterday...messed with it for a few strums. It definitely needed a neck reset; didn't really check the intonation. I don't remember if it was on consignment, but the strings on it were ancient - so it was hard to tell what kind of tone it could actually produce. But at the right price, it could be an interesting project...

reverend mikey
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N of I-90, E of I-29

You're old. Then vintage. Then good!
Jun 26th, 2019 12:27 PM   Edit   Profile  

P.S. There were several NEW Authentic Martins hanging on the wall at Dave's that were miles better than that '72. They were priced accordingly ($4.5K and up), but wow, there were 3 that I would have gladly taken home if money was no object...

budg
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ohio

Home of the Goodyear blimp
Jun 26th, 2019 12:38 PM   Edit   Profile  

For 4.5 k they better be better. Since I’m only paying a third of that I’m ok with that. Someday maybe.

larryguitar19
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South Florida

larryguitar
Jun 26th, 2019 01:39 PM   Edit   Profile  

Years ago I started by GAS with a Martin HD-28. I think I paid about $2100 and maybe another $150 for the Fishman UST.

I have never looked back or regretted that decision.

I had the good luck to meet Brian Sutton and play his '38 D-28. I will admit it did sound better. The story is that some family in Kentucky owned it and worked out a deal it should go to Gruhn's with the proviso it go to somebody who will do it justice.

To my way thinking Brian is one of the finest bluegrass flatpickers and, being a professional touring, it's only right that he should have that guitar. That guitar found exactly 'the guy'.

And for me as a weekend warrior my HD28 is the right guitar for me and I'm really pretty much done in my search.

I also bought a Gibson J-45 about the same time. Frankly it was more of an after thought. But now it is the preferred choice as I walk out the door to my next open mic.

The Martin is therefore that precise stuff. The Gibson is what you want if you want to thump the chest of the guy in the back row.

budg
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ohio

Home of the Goodyear blimp
Jun 27th, 2019 06:20 AM   Edit   Profile  

Well it arrived yesterday , but I didn’t have a ton of time to play it. These are my first impressions.

The action in nice, even a little on the low side for me. The pickguard will need replaced at some point . Showing the very beginning stages of lifting. The bridge looks good. There is no lifting whatsoever. I love the V neck. The guitar stays in tune and sounds great. Cosmetically it’s as described. Checking with some buckle rash and a few dings and scratches.

Taking it to the guitar shop to have them assess its condition. There is a fair amount of fret sprout. I’ll see if properly humidifying it will help or if the ends need filed.

(This message was last edited by budg at 08:35 AM, Jun 27th, 2019)

jefe46
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State of Jefferson

Jun 27th, 2019 08:04 AM   Edit   Profile  

At first glance, how much saddle is showing?

Have you measured from the nut to the 12th and the 12th to the saddle ?

Looking forward to a positive report.



reverend mikey
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N of I-90, E of I-29

You're old. Then vintage. Then good!
Jun 27th, 2019 09:56 AM   Edit   Profile  

Looking forward to the shop's RX. Hopefully it won't need too much work. "Sounds" like a keeper!

budg
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ohio

Home of the Goodyear blimp
Jun 27th, 2019 02:02 PM   Edit   Profile  

So I went to the guitar shop and had him look over the guitar and he said for what I paid for it , it was a no brainer. He said if someone brought that guitar in as a trade he would put it upstairs and tag it for 2500 and would easily be able to sell it for 2100 without thinking hard.

The frets are in good shape , the neck is straight as an arrow , saddle height looks good , action and relief looks good . He says it looks like a neck reset has been done , but cant tell for sure. He said guitars this age with out a reset have much less saddle left than this. He said I could probably call Martin to verify. The pickgard looks good, no cracks and all the binding is intact.

The bad.... The bridge is in the wrong place , which I suspected when I tuned it and checked it at the 12th fret. He is going to fill in the original spot with a plug and rout another place in the correct position . That will cost me about 100 dollars . He will take care of the fret sprout at this time. All in all pretty happy with this one . 100 dollar repair into a 1500 dollar 47 year old guitar is a no brainer in my book.

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FDP Forum / FDP Unplugged - Acoustic Instruments / Looking at a vintage Martin... What to look for?




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