Martin Guitar (1933 0-17) Restoration

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Project by DonH posted 11-17-2014 04:54 PM 2255 views 0 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This guitar was a gift to my father in 1933. He played it in a 1940s radio band called the Beachcombers. I learned to play guitar on this around 1960 and a couple of years later so did my brother (I had moved on to an electric).

This fine instrument had been in storage for several decades and had developed some serious problems becoming unplayable. Recently I had made a study of luthery and have built a few cigar box guitars and felt I was ready to take on the project of rebuilding this valued family piece.

The work included:

Removing the neck and bridge
Building a new bridge and saddle
repairing the nut
replacing the tuners (exactly the same as originals)
repairing some cracks in the body
removing a belly bulge in the top
sanding the finish off and refinishing – it had been incorrectly refinished at one time
replaced two frets
dressed and cleaned up frets and fret board
reassembled and set up guitar

The guitar looks great and plays great, sound is good and will improve as finish ages and it is “played in”

Thanks for looking

-- DonH Orleans Ontario

6 comments so far

View Roger's profile


21055 posts in 4135 days

#1 posted 11-17-2014 09:41 PM

I’m not a musician, but, I’ll bet you can rock n roll on that. Nice job.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View DonH's profile


495 posts in 4148 days

#2 posted 11-17-2014 09:46 PM

Hi Roger

This is more of a blues/soft country guitar. I have played a lot of rock on it though and it survived.

It was a nerve wracking job restoring it as it was the first acoustic guitar I had ever worked on and certainly the most ambitious. All is well however and I think that both I and the guitar are happy as clams!!


-- DonH Orleans Ontario

View Rick  Dennington's profile

Rick Dennington

7191 posts in 4525 days

#3 posted 11-17-2014 11:41 PM

Hello….Stellar job on the restore of that old Martin….I hate to see old vintage Martins get restored, but sometimes it’s just necessary….I collect vintage Martins, and all of mine range from 1942—1959….All but 2 are D-28’s, and the others are D- 21’s….That 0-17 is a small guitar (I’m not real familiar with the smaller guitars). My oldest guitar is a 1942 D-28 herringbone, and I have located a 1940 D-18, if I can get the guy to turn it loose…I study vintage Martins, so I appreciate your restore….I know you would probably never sell it, since it was your dads, and don’t blame you one bit, but remember, when you restore, refinish, or take away from the original , the instrument looses great value…I’ve played bluegrass all my life, collected Martin guitars and Gibson mandolins, and people want the “original thing”.....even the cases they came in…..Originality means more $$$$.....

-- " There's a better way.....find it"...... Thomas Edison.

View DonH's profile


495 posts in 4148 days

#4 posted 11-18-2014 12:21 AM

Hi Rick

I hear you with respect to the impact of a restore on the value of the guitar. Had to do it as it wasn’t even a good wall ornament the way it was. It looks very original and I was able to get really low action in the setup after the neck reset and belly bulge were fixed. I have 5/64 on the low E and 4/64 on the treble E without any fret buzz up to the 14th fret. I do get a few buzzes after that but looks like an easy fix – 14 inch radius fall off from the 12th to last fret. The guitar has a 12 inch radius to the 12th fret and it flattens from there over the fret board extension to the last fret. Funny guitar for the era.

It will never be for sale so my primary interest was to get the instrument playable and that has been achieved with bells on!!


-- DonH Orleans Ontario

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 5293 days

#5 posted 11-18-2014 03:37 AM

Great work on a great old piece. I sometimes wish I hadn’t traded my Martin off on a couple Gibsons.

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View DonH's profile


495 posts in 4148 days

#6 posted 11-21-2014 01:33 AM


You traded a Martin for Gibsons????

Thanks for the kind comments.

-- DonH Orleans Ontario

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