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View Full Version : Vintage Martin 0 - bridge pull-out



Gmoney
05-05-2011, 07:00 PM
Not sure if this fits best here or in the Luthier's Lounge, but. I swapped a uke for a vintage Martin 0 (20's or 30's) & LOVE IT. The OP clearly mentioned the fact that as is true for many old ukes, the bridge string slots are pretty chewed up from age & steel strings (most likely). At any rate, I thought I'd ask how I might go about building up the bridge a bit (if possible) or if just trying out beads on the strings would be the way to go to get the strings to stay on w/o causing any further damage. I LOVE the uke, very happy w/the trade. Here's a shot of the bridge showing the condition.

23496

Is this something a luthier can help make a bit more stable? I have a great local luthier who I will take it to if it seems that there is something that can be done to improve it w/o devaluing the instrument.

Natsok
05-08-2011, 01:14 AM
HI G,
Been waiting to see what sensible ideas arose, as none so far here's a couple maybe not so sensible!

a) Cut a suitable piece of mahogony dimensions approx 12x 5x 64mm, mark the positions of the existing string slots , and saw these slots to about 2 to 3mm from one long edge (my martins are about 2/2.5mm saddle to slot). Then run a flat file against the bridge horizontally down untill you reach the top of the original knot holes. This will give you a removed section with approximate dimensions 11mm x 4mm x 60mm. Use the glue of your choice to glue the block of mahogany carefully into this section making sure the slots line up with the original hole centres. When File back the profiles and then use an appropriate slotting file to widen the slots to suit your string thicknesses. Finish as desired. You may wish to lightly remove the finish of the other side of the saddle so the overall new finish is similar. French polish or a quick fix is liberons Danish or finishing oil.

b) Alternatively and here I can hear a chorus of heretic arising.... the cheapest and simplest solution is to get a 0.8 (what ever fits your string guages) mm drill in a hand held pin vice (or dremel) and drill down vertically maybe 4mm from the saddle through the existing string slot channel and through the sound board. This distance requires a little thought as you want the string to ly in contact with the existing bridge as it emerges from the slot and exits onto the saddle, as it does now. If you drilled to far away from the saddle (depending on the degree of slot wear) it could emerge from the sound board and pass to the saddle without making contacting with the bridge. Then restring, knoting the string below the bridge and sound board, from the inside. There are a few makers who use and prefer this method of stringing. This way you wouldn't have refinishing concerns, is inexpensive and if you did decide to repair or replace bridge in the future, evidence of your invasive (.8mm hole in the dark) surgery would be removed.

maybe, maybe knot' all the best mark

examples ( youtube 4.26)
http://www.pohakuukulele.com/pages/t_pinless.html
http://argapa.blogspot.com/2009/08/compensated-saddle.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mU42wHlS-NY&feature=related

SweetWaterBlue
05-08-2011, 01:24 AM
I am no expert on the value of old instruments, so I can't speak to what this would do to the value, but it should be a fairly simple matter for a luthier to make a replica bridge and replace the broken one with that. It looks like a very simple bridge (easy to replicate), and being old is most likely held on with hide glue, so should not be hard to remove with the appropriate heat and tools. I think in the long run it would be better looking (and more valuable to me) than a patch job on that one.

Vic D
05-08-2011, 05:50 AM
On my first scratch build I laid in a strip of ebony and plastic purfling in that area on top of the bridge with CA glue, thinking that down the road the strings might do just this sort of thing, but then I figured it was too much trouble and not needed... now I'm wondering lol.. Yep, I'd say a well crafted duplicate made and installed by a seasoned luthier would be the best route for that bad boy.

Allen
05-08-2011, 10:21 AM
As it stands, that bridge is pretty much finished. Any repairs that you might be able to do on it are going to be as evident as replacing it with a newly constructed one. It's a dead easy bridge to replicate, and replacement should be a simple matter by an experienced repair person.

Gmoney
05-08-2011, 01:22 PM
Thanks one & all for the advice & possible approaches. I had thought a bit about how one might do a repair vs. a replacement. I'd though first about drilling through the soundboard as well since I've seen that method used on new ukes from a few luthiers. I've watched a few videos of steaming off a fretboard & since this is a mid-20s to early 30's Martin, I would bet that getting the old bridge off would be relatively easy for my luthier. He's certainly tackled more challenging tasks w/some of the work I've seen him handed from other instruments. I think that THAT is the best route for me to take as it ends up w/a working instrument that the rest of is just beautiful.

Anybody know what Martin used for the saddle & nut on these?? Its black; would it just be ebony? I know Timbuck makes Martin mirror-images & uses bone - in fact, his saddles are dang near close already. Maybe I just wheedle & whine & buy one of his??

Thanks again, now off to my luthier for a look-see.

Susie A
05-08-2011, 02:40 PM
Who do you use? The guys at Maple Street are good and easy to work with.

Gmoney
05-08-2011, 02:47 PM
Who do you use? The guys at Maple Street are good and easy to work with.

I've always wondered about Maple Street, but I have a local (to me in Alabama) luthier who works out of a home shop & I will probably take it to. I may take one of my other ukes to Maple Street to get a pickup installed though. I've not known anyone who has used them for uke work until now.

Allen
05-08-2011, 11:22 PM
Looks to be a mahogany bridge with ebony saddle to me. Not had any contact with vintage Martins though, so take that with a grain of salt.

Pukulele Pete
05-09-2011, 01:30 AM
I would try a bead first and see if it works before changing the bridge. After reading about a Kiwaya with an A string popping out and damaging the bridge , someone on this site said to use a bead. I have a bead on my Kiwaya KTS-4
and my 1930's Martin style 1 just to be sure that thin A string doesnt pop out. Works great for me .

Gmoney
05-09-2011, 05:03 AM
I would try a bead first and see if it works before changing the bridge. After reading about a Kiwaya with an A string popping out and damaging the bridge , someone on this site said to use a bead. I have a bead on my Kiwaya KTS-4
and my 1930's Martin style 1 just to be sure that thin A string doesnt pop out. Works great for me .

Tight now, w/o beads the C, E, & A are holding, but even w/a bead I've so far been unable to get the "g" string to stay in - I haven't tied much yet, could certainly tinker w/different sized beads & knots, but am leaning toward a replacement.

SweetWaterBlue
05-09-2011, 05:16 AM
Glenn. How close are the bridge dimensions to the measured drawing of a Martin that Grellier made?

http://www.grellier.fr/plans/Soprano_ukulele/Soprano_ukulele_en.pdf

Gmoney
05-09-2011, 05:48 AM
Glenn. How close are the bridge dimensions to the measured drawing of a Martin that Grellier made?

http://www.grellier.fr/plans/Soprano_ukulele/Soprano_ukulele_en.pdf

Will have to measure it... heading out for some errands at the moment. Thanks for the link though.

peewee
05-09-2011, 06:02 AM
Gmoney,

I brought my 20's style 0 to a reputable luthier a few years ago, with a similar condition, asking for a bridge replacement. He insisted on leaving the original bridge and taking off the top 1/8 inch to recut the slots in a new piece of mahogany. The repair is visible in a side view, but not from the front of the instrument, and is the most minimal modification. Preserving the original geometry and structure is going to guarantee the sound remains the same. I am very happy with the repair.
Incidentally I think most of the damage was from my teenage attempts to string the instrument, and the inadequate knots I used. I've switched to a knot whose name I don't know: a slipknot, with the tail of the knot tucked into the loop of the slipknot. Fatter and more symetrical than a figure eight.

here's a pic:
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/album.php?albumid=1220&attachmentid=19050

Susie A
05-09-2011, 06:48 AM
I've always wondered about Maple Street, but I have a local (to me in Alabama) luthier who works out of a home shop & I will probably take it to. I may take one of my other ukes to Maple Street to get a pickup installed though. I've not known anyone who has used them for uke work until now.

When I got my banjolele I took it to them and they did a great job with replacing the thingie near the head that the strings go through (the bridge?) :) they also cleaned it and get it all set up for me. Plus, Maple Street is family owned and everyone is super friendly,

Steven Williams
05-09-2011, 01:51 PM
Hi GMoney. I like Natsok's solution of drilling string holes through the top where the bridge slots are. It solves two problems. One, it's a minimal alteration to your instrument...and you did mention a concern about not wanting to de-value the instrument. The holes could also be filled and covered with a new bridge if it all goes wrong. Two, many builders are using this method for new instruments these days. It's especially useful with 6 and 8 string ukuleles that exert a lot of extra tension on the bridge. Spreads out the extra tension to the top. I would FIRST, however, get a small mirror and have a look inside under the bridge area and make sure it's in good shape.
Although your bridge doesn't appear to be pulling up, it might help your bridge stay that way.
If you intend to keep the ukulele and aren't concerned about de-valuing it, you could go ahead with a replacement and I'd have that top crack looked at too.

Best wishes and Aloha,
Steve

Vic D
05-09-2011, 05:36 PM
Lol, please don't drill holes in that old Martin.

Ken W
05-09-2011, 06:09 PM
I'm with Vic on this one...no holes, please. A proper refit of a replica bridge (even to the point of matching the grain of the original) or "resurfacing" as PeeWee describes above are the only alternatives that maintain the integrity of the remainder of the instrument. Without getting too wierd or metaphysical about this, I believe that when we are building, playing, and maintaining these instruments, we should think about those who will own them after us. If one of the previous owners (there must have been a few in this uke's 90+/- year lifetime) had pulled a stunt like drilling four holes in the top, it is unlikely you'd be enjoying it now. It is not even so much about the monetary value...it's about keeping a treasured vitage instrument in its original condition for all to enjoy. And by "original" I mean "played." It should show signs of being loved and played, but not attacked with a drill.

Steven Williams
05-09-2011, 06:42 PM
OK, you guys got me to reconsider! You're right, best not to change a special, vintage instrument. Was just thinking about a solution to a problem while NOT giving enough consideration to the historical aspect. I'll vote for a new bridge as the best solution also.

Gmoney
05-10-2011, 04:20 AM
I like the additional suggestion of sort of keeping the old bridge w/a carefully crafted section of new mahogany underpining it - at least that's what it sounds like to me. I just have to get it to my luthier who will be able to help me think it through as I do want to hang on to this one. As to the mention of cracks visible in that shot of the bridge. It & a couple of other small cracks are already stabilized by a luthier & seem to be well done repairs.

peewee
05-10-2011, 05:53 AM
Here are some more pics:
the bridge is thicker and boxier than before, and more massive overall, but not by much, and there's no intonation or action change with this solution:
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=23644&d=1305042417
here you can see the remains of the decay..
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=23645&d=1305042420
looks clean from the front
http://www.ukuleleunderground.com/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=23646&d=1305042422
here's what you see from the player's POV

Gmoney
05-10-2011, 06:00 AM
That was actually a pretty creative solution! I love how a luthier can see a job like this & come up just the approach to fix it - great work indeed.

Just heard from Timbuck & I'm going to send him detailed dimensions of mine & he's gonna do me a replacement bridge! Then once I get it from teh UK, I'll have my luthier swap it out for me. SWEET!

Vic D
05-10-2011, 08:41 AM
Peewee, I had that same solution in mind but was reluctant to say it. I'd still rather see a duplicate installed though.

Gmoney
05-10-2011, 08:47 AM
Peewee, I had that same solution in mind but was reluctant to say it. I'd still rather see a duplicate installed though.

That sort of "jack it up & we'll put a new bridge under there" approach, but accomplished the purpose. MY idea (remembering that IANAL) was to use a block of EBONY cut out to jack under there having pre-cut it & the bridge to fit - ALL while not removing it from the uke! (like _I_ had any idea how hard THAT would be!) :) I think Timbuck's bridge & my luthier (who I'm just heard is moving house, so won't be able to get to it for a month or more!) - will be the fix I'm looking for...