We’re extremely fortunate here, to have worked on a few instruments of select prestige. This one is doubly so, not only being one of the “last of the Brazilians”, as good friend Joel Tepp put it, but being a touring instrument of Robin of Fleet Foxes!
During transit, this gorgeous Martin 12 suffered a crack in its neck heel, resulting in raised action and uncomfortable looks from its tech. Mike Ball (coworker, friend, confidant and Fox tech) shipped the guitar to us post-haste, and it arrived the day after for some quick-fixin’.
This being a bit of a rush job, I set to work right away, cleaning the split and making sure to tape it off accordingly so as to save the surrounding finish from more damage. Having prepped the guitar, I heated up some hide glue and had Chris apply some pressure to the neck in order to pull the crack apart just slightly. Glue flowed in nicely, and I clamped it down for a night and a day.
When I finally removed the clamp, the joint seemed perfectly stable. Sadly, the glue had not entirely filled the perimeter of the crack, so I applied some to the out side again and clamped it back down. Once the guitar felt stable enough for string tension, I strung it up and found a happier, more sonically buoyant guitar than when I had begun.
Mike asked me to give ‘er a quick once-over and a minor set up while I was at it, and I agreed that it needed the attention. Robin prefers higher action usually, but even so I felt the action was far too high to be comfortable. In speaking with Mike, we settled on a 30% decrease in string height, allowing for heavy strumming and easy chording without excessive buzzing. I was able to take the action from .0125″ above the 12th fret to just under .090″, a considerable difference and still high enough to keep its owner happy. Action lowered, the guitar was still clear as day and buzz-free! SCORE!
Because this guitar spends its life on the road and is somewhat a necessity in the Foxes’ set, there was little time to hide the marred part of the finish. I was able to polish out any remnants of glue residue, as well as make the glue joint flush with the finish, but alas, this guitar will likely see more heavy use and definitely more shipping crates, so this is one of those cases where “road fixes” are preferable. As a friend once told me: “When you’re a road tech, you’re like a triage specialist on the battlefield. Your job is to determine the severity of your patients’ injuries, get ‘em patched up, and make sure they make it to a real hospital before it’s too late.”
In this case, I felt like a mix of both.