2006 Tracksler "Gerrish Island 12" Dreadnought 12-String Guitar

Despite being somewhat common, 12-string dreadnoughts are not something I see in the shop very often. This one was built by a Mr. Tracksler and it seems to have been part-original-concept and part kit-guitar. The neck and neck block (a bolted/glued tenon joint) seem to be Martin parts while the body seems to be mostly (or more) an original effort. The work the builder did -- including the fancy maple binding and a nice finish -- is quite good. I can tell that this left the workshop as a pretty slick instrument when it was built.

At any rate, the son of this guitar's builder sent this in for a neck reset some time back. It's sometimes fun to work on small-builder projects and sometimes a nightmare. This one was a bit of both, because the "neck reset" actually meant repairing a heavily-damaged neck block area and top below the fretboard extension as well as a neck reset and some pretty hefty overhaul to the bridge plus the usual fret level/dress and setup. It was a lot.

Coming out of work, it's now stable and plays spot-on, though I've left some extra saddle height post-reset because just in the first couple days after stringing, the action has crept-up an extra 1/32" and I expect it to move a little more over the next week before I do another adjustment at the saddle and box it up to go home.

The neck joint trauma on this guitar made a repair quite difficult, too. In the end, I separated the entire block, forced its caved-in-ness back into position, and then made some buttress-style extensions that are glued both to the underside of the top and to the sides of the neck block to support against the tension as the block itself is a little too narrow and the entire area was compromised. Basically, I extended the working surface of the top of the neck block out a couple inches on either side so it's grabbing fresh (not-cracked-up-and-damaged) wood for extra support. Figuring that out was a little frustrating.

Before that, though, I unbolted the neck, heated-up the tenon joint, and had fun for an hour as I slowly wiggled the neck loose. For some reason it did not want to budge and whatever glue was used needed a lot of time to heat up before turning into string cheese and separating. When I put the neck back on, the angle was good as-is after the block surgery, so I just glued and bolted it back as it probably was when it was first made. I also added a second bolt because the way Martin-style tenon joints are made (with a bolt going into a metal threaded insert in the heel) drives me nuts as they always strip-out against the wood and become ineffectual.

Round three included totally reworking the bridge layout to put the saddle in the right place. I also dropped the number of pinholes down from 12 to 6 and used double-slotting in each pinhole to let me run two strings from a single pin. I've done this in the past on antique 12-strings and it's a very good way to make sure a compromised bridge stays a little healthier. It also makes for even back-tension against the saddle, as well, and thus improved tone.

The end result of all this fuss is a perfectly-playing guitar with a wide nut, lightweight build, and a warm, sweet, even tone. I've used pretty light gauges on it as it's long scale and I didn't want to roll the dice on the damaged neck joint, so it's currently tuned to E-to-E standard with gauges: 22w/46w, 14/36w, 11/26w, 8/18w, 13/13, 10/10.

The top is solid, x-braced spruce. The back, sides, and neck are mahogany, and the bridge and fretboard are ebony. All the materials are quality stuff. There's extensive light pickwear/handling wear to the top and some of the sides, though the back and neck are both fairly clean.

The new bone saddle is fully-compensated, too, and I've used new, unslotted ebony pins.