1961 Martin 0-16NY Flattop Guitar

A friend of mine lucked-out and got this guitar at a good price. I mean -- it is quite beat-up, but it's a '61, it's light as a feather, and it has so many miles on it that you know it sounds great just looking at it. And does it sound great? Yes... yes it does! Sorry I didn't have time to shoot a video...

For those not in the know, the 0-16NY ("New Yorker") is a '60s attempt at a repro of their late '20s and early '30s 12-fret 0-18 models -- more or less. They're built pretty-much just as light and share the same structural stability issues, but boy do they sound nice and warm and sweet. There are a few concessions to modernity -- it has no dots on the board's face (classical-style), the neck is slightly chunkier and more C-shape than the originals (plus there's a T-bar reinforcement rod in there), and the binding is tortoise rather than rosewood and the fretboard and bridge are rosewood, too.

I had to give this one a neck reset, some frustrating fret seating/level+dressing working, fit new tuners (StewMag Golden Age repros -- they're nice!), and install a new bridge. Luckily, all the bracing was tight and in good order. Unfortunately, due to previous damage under the footprint of the original rectangular bridge (see pics way down in this post), I decided to fit a "belly" bridge rather than the original. This gives more purchase on the top and it also allowed me to get a wider, easily-adjustable, drop-in saddle slot on there. This is going to be a gigging instrument (I already fit a K&K pickup inside), so practicality is the first concern. It's also beat-up enough that practicality can be its first concern.

Post-work, it plays beautifully and has the sound. It's a little woody and airy but very warm and sweet and, of course, it has a ton of charm.

Here's how the bridge was when it came in -- it had pulled-up almost its entire length and the top had a crazy amount of belly (you can't see it in this, but it was domed-up a bunch).

Here was the nasty "trick" found under it -- a slightly-loose replacement section of top material. It's very common on this model (because it's built so light) to find that when tension is left-on too long with a failing bridge glue job, the ball-ends of the strings will actually rip the top out when the bridge finally falls off. That must have been what happened here.

Unfortunately, this repair is definitely not stable for gigging use with this size of bridge and with a compromised (domed) top and bridge plate. I find that when you have that much material replaced it is good to go for a "next-size-up" bridge profile that hugs more of the original surface and some sort of extra reinforcement for the back of the bridge plate to shore-up any remaining structural wonkiness.

I chose this cinnamon-colored replacement bridge from my parts-bins because it's roughly the same color palette as the original (after all that UV exposure) and it has the right bridge pin spacing to match the wider neck profile.

When I glued this up I "capped" the bridge plate with a same-size section of soundboard spruce to "multi-laminate" the whole area. The result is a nicely-flattened top in the finished repair with a lot more stability than the "original issue" design. Collectors will scoff but I've worked on enough of these to know it helps a lot to shore-up compromised soundboards. Besides -- with the amount of wear and tear on this guy, it's wonderful to know it's going to be a gigging machine again rather than a collection-stuffer.


Unknown said…
That looks lovely!!! I am so glad this guitar had a second chance at life.