Proud of Myself

Marc Morfei

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My brother-in law-tried to trade in a Martin X-series 12-string at Guitar Center, but they would not offer him anything for it. They said it was in such poor condition that it would cost more to repair than the guitar would be worth. I don't have much experience with setups - none with acoustics - but I told him I would take a look at it. Sure enough, it was unplayable. The neck bow was something you could shoot an arrow with. The string action could be measured with a yardstick. And it was impossible to tune. But I figured I'd take a shot at it, what the heck, it's worthless as-is anyway.

First I adjusted the truss rod. These Martins (all acoustics?) require a hex wrench with a super long stem. By good fortune I had one in the right size (5mm). Gave it a few rounds of tightening, ended up bringing it all the way as far as it would go. Got almost all the bow out. Just a bit of relief, but close enough. Giving it some humidity probably helped too - it seemed pretty dry. So the neck is close to straight but the strings are still a mile off the board. Must be the saddle. Took some measurements, and I ended up sanding off a ton. I took off at least 3/64 across the bottom, maybe more. Might have still gone a bit more but I didn't want to push it. Polished the whole thing. Tightened the tuners, which were all loose and rattling. Next, new strings. I'd asked my BIL when the last time he changed them. "Never." Ah, got it. Popped the new strings on. (Lord, 12-strings are a pain....) And.....?

Perfect. The guitar plays perfectly. The nut was good. The action is now good. Maybe the tiniest bit high in the middle, but like I said I didn't want to push it and go too far, and with 12-strings you're pretty much up at the top of the neck all the time anyway. I played it quite a lot over a few days, just to see if everything was stable. Yep. Solid as a rock. And GC told him it was worthless. All it needed was a setup.

So my BIL is very happy, and I am pretty proud of myself. Thanks TDPRI, because I have pretty much learned all the little I know right here.
 
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Griendrrrr

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What a great story, I almost feel your joy. I recently asked a friend to babysit me while i tried my first setup. i learned the basics. Now whenever a guitar or bass of mine goes out, I know where to start. it's a great feeling having control over your own gear at your fingertips, right then and there. no drop off pick up, hope they set up the way you would, what are the chances ?

Great Job !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
 

Marc Morfei

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How was/is the neck angle? The X series should have the "simple dovetail" which is still a bit funky to reset. I would guess that is what GC was talking about but I would never take a guitar to them for any work (or resell for that matter).
It’s the tiniest bit off, but well within the range of acceptable. Before the truss rod was adjusted it was noticeable. You could really see it where the neck meets the body. But tightening the truss rod pulled it back almost all the way. Playability is good.
 

zombywoof

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Believe me I know the feeling you get when you bring a guitar that might be brushed off as not deserving of the cost of professional repairs back to the condition it can again do what it was meant to. It is kind of par for the course when you have a thing for old Harmonys and Kays. I recently got into a kitchen neck reset on an old Harmony Sovereign. First time that guitar has been playable in over a decade. Best guess is considering what an X Series 12 string sells for new GC figured there was no money to be had especially if they would have to throw in the time it took their repair department to do what was essentially a full set up. I would be willing to bet though if the trade was needed to cinch a deal on a $5K guitar GC would have given him something on a trade in a heartbeat.
 
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envirodat

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A nice story! I have learned a lot from folks here at TDPRI. Folks like Freeman and others who have shared their adventures and knowledge have been great helpers. Because of them, I have learned set up skills and what was once intimidating is now a fun puzzle.
 

Happy Enchilada

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Bless you! You're doing God's work!

Your BIL now owes you an IMMENSE favor. You're like the Godfather.

And I'd think twice before I did any business with that GC again ...
 

Marc Morfei

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Yeah, you know, GC is like Walmart for guitars. Might be ok for basics, but you don’t really rely on them forvexpertise.
 
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Texicaster

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It Varies.....
One trick is to pre-stress the neck and then tighten truss rod as you hold it in place. Easier if you have another person to hold the body but I've found the truss rod nut can get very tight with more adjustment left.

Plus it's easier on the threads! Just don't put so much pressure on the neck...just bend it glently flatter.

Love guitar rescue stories!
 

Gsweng

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My brother-in law-tried to trade in a Martin X-series 12-string at Guitar Center, but they would not offer him anything for it. They said it was in such poor condition that it would cost more to repair than the guitar would be worth. I don't have much experience with setups - none with acoustics - but I told him I would take a look at it. Sure enough, it was unplayable. The neck bow was something you could shoot an arrow with. The string action could be measured with a yardstick. And it was impossible to tune. But I figured I'd take a shot at it, what the heck, it's worthless as-is anyway.

First I adjusted the truss rod. These Martins (all acoustics?) require a hex wrench with a super long stem. By good fortune I had one in the right size (5mm). Gave it a few rounds of tightening, ended up bringing it all the way as far as it would go. Got almost all the bow out. Just a bit of relief, but close enough. Giving it some humidity probably helped too - it seemed pretty dry. So the neck is close to straight but the strings are still a mile off the board. Must be the saddle. Took some measurements, and I ended up sanding off a ton. I took off at least 3/64 across the bottom, maybe more. Might have still gone a bit more but I didn't want to push it. Polished the whole thing. Tightened the tuners, which were all loose and rattling. Next, new strings. I'd asked my BIL when the last time he changed them. "Never." Ah, got it. Popped the new strings on. (Lord, 12-strings are a pain....) And.....?

Perfect. The guitar plays perfectly. The nut was good. The action is now good. Maybe the tiniest bit high in the middle, but like I said I didn't want to push it and go too far, and with 12-strings you're pretty much up at the top of the neck all the time anyway. I played it quite a lot over a few days, just to see if everything was stable. Yep. Solid as a rock. And GC told him it was worthless. All it needed was a setup.

So my BIL is very happy, and I am pretty proud of myself. Thanks TDPRI, because I have pretty much learned all the little I know right here.
Good for you! Every so often, I buy guitars off of Reverb that are “non-functional”, so they say. If the description is accurate, pictures are good, and the price is right, I’ll buy them to repair - cracks, lifting bridges, finish issues, high action, etc. I enjoy fixing them and you can get some real nice guitars for next to nothing or several hundred off. A lot of the people in the used guitar shop at large guitar stores are ninnies. I sold some used guitars at Sweetwater once. They didn’t accept one - an almost new Guild. I asked why and the guy said, very authorative like, the bridge was coming off. He then produced a piece of paper and slid it in about an eighth of an inch into one corner of the bridge. I smiled and said thank you very much. If I would have noticed it, I would have glued and clamped it down, a five minute job. Some of these guys get trained up for a half an hour and think they’re guitar techs.
 

Boreas

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Well done! Many of the newer, less expensive Martins have a dovetail that uses a bolt to secure when gluing at the factory. It doesn't seem to have much of a purpose for strength or utility otherwise. In fact, it can really complicate a neck reset - which they OFTEN require within the first 5 years if the neck shifts! I imagine a 12 string could be even worse. I think this is why dealers avoid repairing them because being an inexpensive model, they can't recoup their losses on a reset.

SOME people however have noted a partial fix. IIRC, they remove the wooden plate covering the bolt, and see if it is loose or tight. They loosen it some, then heat the neck enough to loosen the glue. Clamp as necessary to get the angle you want, torque th bolt back to normal, then let it cool. It is similar to "slipping" a neck. This may be your next "fix" if it moves again - and I suspect it will.

If readers think it would be just as easy to remove the neck after softening the glue, I understand the configuration of the "system" assembly and clearances make it difficult to get the neck ALL the way off the body. These necks were designed to go together with ease and minimal hand work/skill, but not designed for easy removal or repair.

I own a SP 000-16R that should have a reset. Great guitar, but not worth a huge expenditure to me because they aren't particularly valuable. So, I may try the slip-neck above, or just shave down the bridge/saddle, which is an age-old cheapskate method of delaying the inevitable. But since the neck is no longer moving and seems stable, the shave might last my lifetime. Heaven knows how badly I could screw up the neck slip!😉

If I can find the YT video I posted a while back showing the issue, I will post the link.

This is one of the links:




This is another similar video. No bolts, but showing the issue with mid-80s construction around the 9:00 mark:

 
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