One of our most interesting repairs of the last few months at Mass St Music has been Dan Heavin’s 1936 000-28 Martin, which our Repair Shop manager, Mike Horan worked on. Dan, who is a civilian fire captain working on a US Military base in Afghanistan, received this amazing vintage Martin from his mother in 1996. It was originally purchased by Dan’s grandfather, new, back in 1936. It’s been well-loved and well-played over the years. At some point in the ’50s it had a significant amount of work done to it – most likely by Martin Guitars. They did a refret, replaced the inlay with larger pieces, refinished the instrument, and possibly did a neck reset. They also installed new tuners, which was the definitive clue that the repairs were done in the ’50s.
The back of the neck in particular had an unusual flat, darker opaque finish. The bridge also had been replaced with an oversized one which had been shaved away over the years to compensate for the neck angle, which over time often needs to be reset. Why the new, larger inlays, larger bridge and darker finish?
“You have to keep in mind that back in the 50s, this guitar was maybe just 20 years old and had some real wear and scratches,” Mike explained. “They weren’t envisioning it being a valued vintage piece, they just wanted to make the guitar look and play like new again.”
As Dan was overseas, he wanted a little reassurance we had received the guitar in once piece (even though we were about to take it apart!). We kept in contact with him, as we were able, throughout the journey of the restoration process. Mike gave Dan a ‘thumbs up’ in the photo above that everything was looking fine so far. We also documented the serial # markings for posterity.
Mike set about restoring the instrument, removing the neck from the body, and tackling the bridge first. He replaced it with a custom reproduction bridge he crafted in the repair shop himself. He also re-glued 6 back braces.
Next up in the process was the refinishing of the neck. This was the most time-consuming of all the repairs. Here you can see Mike’s restoration with a more authentic color and a truer, translucent finish that shows the wood beautifully.
Mike then reattached the neck to the body, then set about first restoring the inlays which were larger from the ’50s repair work. He pulled the inlays, filled them with Ebony, sanded them down and replaced them with smaller inlay correct for a ’36.
He then refretted the guitar. (Check out this Bourgeois repair for images of Mike doing a refret). Adding period-correct Waverly tuners was the last major step.
All in all, this extensive repair job (balanced with other repairs he was tackling concurrently) took about 8-9 months. We’re happy to report that this ’36 Martin 000-28 was shipped to Dan Heavin’s home last week.
Dan said his mom loves the guitar and that she told him, “Grandpa would be so proud of it.” He added, “Thank you all once again for doing such a wonderful job on it. The sound on it is amazing. I could not have asked for anything else. It is perfect. I played it and then played my 2010 HD-28V and the ’36 sounds so much better.” He also told us that the guitar will stay in the family and he looks forward to giving it to his own son someday.