This is why you should NEVER leave a guitar lying on the floor: someone who didn't know it was there - stepped on it!
The story is a bit more complicated than that, but suffice to say this was about as bad an accident as we've seen.
Lester loved his Martin guitar so much he asked us to rebuild it. And the family member who caused the accident couldn't buy him a new guitar anyway ;-)
There were no less than EIGHT separate cracks in the top! Two of them went clear under the bridge, so we had to remove it. The bridge reinforcement plate was split in two so it also had to go.
One of the two main "X" braces was broken in half and the bass bars (missing braces on the right) were trashed. The top had broken free from the sides almost halfway around the guitar.
If someone came into the shop today with a similar job, I'd probably quote them twice what I quoted Lester - and I quoted it high. Frankly when I look at this photo I ask myself why I even thought I could repair this. But I could tell how much Lester wanted his guitar back and I couldn't let him down.
First we glued the cracks back together. So much wood was missing (mostly splinters) we weren't sure we'd get it all back together, but we kept at it and succeeded.
We cleaned up the broken brace areas with a micro-plane so that we'd have a clean surface to glue them onto when we put the new braces on.
Having the right tool is one of the most important things in doing repairs like this. Over the years we've managed to collect some pretty cool ones. The folks at IBEX make several sizes of this little beauty; I have a few. I love these so much I gave one to my brother for Christmas a few years ago!
We use heat to separate glue joints. This butane micro-torch comes in really handy for this. I can control the heat on the spatula so it melts the glue but doesn't get too hot.
We left the bridge on while we glued the pieces back together; it helped keep everything lined up properly.
It still amazes me that we got it all to fit back together.
My buddy Shannon Miner of Fallbrook Guitars has been helping us out here and there when he can get away from his shop. He came in at this point and took over the internal repairs. He made the new X brace, bass bars and bridge plate. After he glued everything back in, we began to feel like we were going to have a good outcome.
After we glued the top back onto the sides, it was time to get down to the small details.
Some of the kerfing - the slotted lining where the sides meet the top & back - had to be replaced. Shannon fitted new kerfing that he hand-made to fit.
I didn't have enough spool clamps to refit the back of a whole guitar, so Shannon made some more! As he once told me many years ago: "You can never have too many clamps or too much glue!"
Speaking of glue, we think we got it just right! I shot this photo through the hole in the side of the guitar where the preamp usually sits.
It looks so peaceful in there :-)
The largest missing pieces were under the pickguard and bridge, so we lucked-out there. We sanded the finish off and leveled out the top. I made Shannon do this two or three times before I was happy. But the end-result was worth it!
I mixed up some touchup paint to brush over the cracks; there were just too many for me to just leave them alone. I tried for hours before I settled on a color that would look natural under the lacquer finish. From some angles you can't even see it.
Before we refinished the top we had to touch up the finish on the back and sides. Shannon replaced some of the broken black binding trim around the edges. You can't even tell!
Lucky for me I found some touchup marker pens made especially for fine furniture, and one of the colors was a perfect match for this special Martin stain. Also lucky for me the sides and back were satin finished, so it was easy to topcoat it as good as new without too much trouble.
After clearcoating and buffing the top to its original high gloss finish we reglued the bridge back on.
We found some new vintage-looking tortoise shell pickguard material (not real tortoise, that's been outlawed for decades) and made a new guard matching the old one. This stuff is expensive, but it looks like the kind of material that was common in the 1930s and 40s.
We think it looks pretty darn good! More importantly, Lester thinks so too!
(Scroll down for the photo that makes us feel like we did right by Lester and his Martin.)