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A tragic guitar modification story

Posted by Jim Yates on Friday, September 12, 2008

Thirty some years ago I saw an ad in the Buy& Sell paper for a "192? Martin guitar, worth $1000; asking price $200.  Modernly decorated."  A bit worried about what "Modernly decorated" meant, I hopped in my car and headed to Toronto to buy the guitar. 

When I got there, I saw a guitar with beautiful slab-cut Brazilian back and sides and the ugliest paint job I'd ever seen on the front.  It had once had a huge pick guard screwed to the front, but the holes were now filled with what looked like drywall mud.  The bridge was not original and had been pulled off by the heavy guage strings that were on it.  The photo below shows what someone who didn't know the value of this old O-21 did to it.

I offered the guy $50 for it and he said,"Yes," without taking a breath.  I traded it and a bunch of other stuff and some cash for my 1962 D-21 about two weeks later.

004_4-16.jpg Modernly decorated O-21 picture by james14076

I stripped the finish off the front before I traded it in to Ed Dick of Ed's Music Workshop in Peterborough.  Here's what I found:

003_3-17.jpg O-21 after I stripped it picture by james14076

2 comments on “A tragic guitar modification story”

musekatcher Says:
Friday, September 12, 2008 @8:46:40 AM

I've got one that's close. 12-13 years ago, I found a 1934 000-18 LONG SCALE, which some folks call an OM-18. Painted back and sides to look like Mahogany. Polyurethane on the top. Peghead driled to accept rhinestones spelling "DUDE". Razor thin frets, but playable. I bought it cheap, and figured I'd do some home surgery on it. I removed the paint and polyurethane meticulously. I felt like I was restoring a priceless piece of antiquity. Under the paint, I found two quarter sized jagged holes, and two cracks all the way around the lower bout, filled with...Bondo. Under the polyerethane on the peghead, I found a hair crack in the neck. The cracks were holding under full tension when I bought it, so I strung it back up and I discovered it was a really nice strong sounding guitar. Louder than my dread actually in some ranges. I put it in the closet for several years, and the values kept going up, up, up, and I became spooked about finishing it myself, so three years ago I had Chris Bozung restore it. It turned out ten times better than I could have imagined. I feel like I saved an artifact. Because of the side holes I could verify how thin the sides were back then. About .030". That's about seven sheets of regular paper. That's probably why so many pre-war's have side cracks. Anyway, no doubt, someone has probably restored your 0-21 by now. Even heavily restored one's can bring 5k.

Jim Yates Says:
Friday, September 12, 2008 @12:09:29 PM

I'd sure like to see that guitar now. Do you have any pictures of it?

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