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Thread: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

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    Default Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Chris from Tucson
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    To me, the scalloped guitar may sound a bit more open for chording.
    But the un-scalloped guitar has better clarity, definition, and over-all “punchiness”.

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    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Any reputable luthier can perform this task; it is not complicated nor mysterious. People have been doing it for decades.

    It will void any warranty and don't come back crying in two years if the whole thing falls apart.

    The issues with a 1970s Martin are more than just the braces. If you don't like it, I'd say you should look for another guitar rather than messing with this one.

    There is one local fellow around here who sells a ton of snakeoil & removes so much material that Martin has issued a tech service warning to not work on any instruments he has touched. They sound great for 18 months until your entire guitar implodes. Unfortunately he has done this to dozens, if not hundreds of otherwise vintage instruments that will never be the same...

    Think of it as a wonderful excuse to buy another guitar at a time when prices are fantastic for buyers.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    I've seen guitars that people spent a lot of money to have ruined.
    I've removed reasonable amounts of wood from the braces of 70s Martins (when they needed considerable work otherwise) and heard precious little difference in the sound before and after.
    Last edited by sunburst; Jun-26-2020 at 5:02pm. Reason: spell check didn't catch this one

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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Starting sometime in the early '60's, most Martin guitars gradually became heavier in build. By the mid '70's, they had become quite heavy indeed. The changes to the instruments encompassed more than just the braces. One factor is that the finishes were applied significantly more thickly. The backs and sides may also have become a bit thicker; but somebody with a Hacklinger gauge will have to confirm that. And then there was what I call the famous "Martin tone inhibitor," which was the very large rosewood bridge plate that came in about 1968.

    Shaving braces on these instruments might help a little bit in some cases, but the problems go deeper. Changing the bridge plate might [or might not] help more, but it is a difficult and risky job.

    Mr. Kimsey does have a good reputation, and if you choose to do the work, it will be done competently. The question is whether the results will be significant enough to justify the expense.

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  10. #6

    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Thanks all, but I don't think you understand the question. The natural top (1st guitar) in the video IS my guitar. He's already modded it. Just trying to decide if he should "lightly" scallop the braces. I personally think it sounds really good as is and I'm ready for him to send it back!
    Chris from Tucson
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    If you like the instrument as-is, you might be better off leaving it alone. There is a risk that you might not like it as much if you have additional work done.

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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Gray View Post
    Thanks all, but I don't think you understand the question. The natural top (1st guitar) in the video IS my guitar. He's already modded it. Just trying to decide if he should "lightly" scallop the braces. I personally think it sounds really good as is and I'm ready for him to send it back!
    I'm impressed with Kimsey's thoughtful open-minded treatment of the questions. It sounds like you've mostly made up your mind, and there's a lot to be said for taking the most 'conservative' approach to modification that you're still happy with.
    BradKlein
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Or, find someone crazy enough to do this... I swore to never do another. I repaired one of my own builds about a year later the same way. Someone sat on it and cracked the X braces. Twice is enough for one lifetime.

    https://www.fretboardjournal.com/pho...0-martin-d-18/

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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Bryan is conservative in thought and execution of these modifications. I do know some who take it too far, but I have not known of his modifications resulting in later failure.

    He's done some work on a couple of my guitars, including a '72 D-18. I acquired this guitar in a trade in 2013. My intent was to have Bryan hotrod it a bit, and then I'd sell it. Still have the guitar, so there's that. Among other things, it's a great guitar for international travel, as it has no BRW or ivory on it.

    Todd's 1972 D-18 story


    This video is from 2014. I later had Bryan remove the popsicle brace and replace the IRW bridge with Honduran rosewood. IMO it's even better now.

    Todd Yates

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  20. #11

    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    That was a good read Scott. Thanks for sharing! The D18 I sent to Bryan is a family heirloom. My uncle barely played it. I received it when he passed in '91 & it's since been my main player. I met Bryan @ the Southwest Mandolin summit and have been begging him to look at it since. I knew it needed frets and a neck reset. Mine wasn't messed up enough to need all the work you put into yours!
    Chris from Tucson
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Buck View Post
    Bryan is conservative in thought and execution of these modifications. I do know some who take it too far, but I have not known of his modifications resulting in later failure.

    He's done some work on a couple of my guitars, including a '72 D-18. I acquired this guitar in a trade in 2013. My intent was to have Bryan hotrod it a bit, and then I'd sell it. Still have the guitar, so there's that. Among other things, it's a great guitar for international travel, as it has no BRW or ivory on it.

    Todd's 1972 D-18 story


    This video is from 2014. I later had Bryan remove the popsicle brace and replace the IRW bridge with Honduran rosewood. IMO it's even better now.

    Mine is a '72 as well Buck. I had Waverly's on it. Bryan did a neck reset, refret, moved the bridge back, replaced the bridgeplate, nut replacement & replaced the pick guard. Should I have him scallop it?
    Chris from Tucson
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    1919 Whiteface A3 (found on eBay for $15!!)
    2016 Mann Octave OSEM
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    Registered User Buck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Gray View Post
    ...Should I have him scallop it?
    I would. Bryan can do a lighter or heavier scallop, plus he does not normally scallop the tone bars. To my ear you end up with a guitar that's a bit more responsive, stronger bass, but without losing the punchy tone in the trebles. Too much scalloping and guitar gets "woofy". Bryan gets no where near that point.
    Todd Yates

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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Gray View Post
    That was a good read Scott. Thanks for sharing! The D18 I sent to Bryan is a family heirloom. My uncle barely played it. I received it when he passed in '91 & it's since been my main player. I met Bryan @ the Southwest Mandolin summit and have been begging him to look at it since. I knew it needed frets and a neck reset. Mine wasn't messed up enough to need all the work you put into yours!
    Thanks Chris. This was a special case, where the guitar was essentially destroyed. Not anything I'd recommend for anything in good playable shape to start with.

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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Fun and games.

    My latest project: a 12 string with good wood and a 4" x 14" bridge plate made of 1/4" plywood.
    The original configuration:

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    I removed the bridge plate, the 2 lower ladder braces, and the 2 oddly placed sound hole braces. I installed a V, the point of which intersects the center of the ladder brace below the sound hole, 4 wing braces, 2 vertical sound hole braces, and 2 tone bars. The configuration is similar to a pattern Gibson used on a few Nick Lucas and L-1 guitars built circa 1929. I also reduced the thickness of the back braces, the upper ladder brace, and the ladder brace below the sound hole. I will re-install the back today.

    The final configuration before re-voicing:

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    I thinned the tone bars slightly and extended the taper of the ends of all the new braces after these pictures were taken.
    I erred on the side of caution-- it's a 12-string, and will have to stand ~250 lbs. of constant string tension over the long term.
    I also made an extra horizontal brace that would butt up against the bridge plate, which I can install later if it is needed.
    I may make some final adjustments after it has been strung up for a while.
    I re-used the braces that were removed to make the tone bars and wing braces. The 50 year old European spruce is as hard as a rock.

    A note-- this instrument was originally assembled with white glue, which is difficult to remove. I used a small amount of vinegar to aid in the disassembly process. It helped, but caused some discoloration of the plates. I will not use it again. I was able to get rid of some of the discoloration, but not all of it.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jun-27-2020 at 11:49am.

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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    I just finished one that I got from ebay. It was restored, ugghhh. The bracing, which was supposed to be X, was a small X behind the bridge and all were 2X4's. The bridge was jacked up with extra wood in front of the saddle and totally unplayable. He wouldn't take it back, so I cut the back off, which was too small and the restorer simply pulled the body to fit, causing the top to bow up significantly. I cut the bracing off, made new X braces, new bridge plate, transverse braces, you get the idea. Then I cut the back off a junker in the shop that was rosewood, but laminated, so it matched the sides. He had a mahogany back and rosewood sides. I installed the back, used the binding that came with it since I was able to get it off in one piece and wasn't sure how this was going to turn out. Then had to remove the fingerboard as it was so thin and still unplayable. I planed the neck flat, made a shim for the fingerboard, and put it all on. Took all the extra crap off the bridge, filled the saddle slot and rerouted a new one. I may still refret it and possibly make a new fingerboard since his is mahogany, but right now I am having a fun time playing it. It sounds great with a very clean balanced sound. It is a lovely parlor with a 12 1/2" lower bout and multi colored purfling and rosette.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

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    Registered User j. condino's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    I'd like to believe that the guitar market as a whole has matured enough to understand that these are vintage instruments of a finite quantity and that we've all learned from our past mistakes modifying, experimenting, and destroying them enough in the past. The common belief that if a small modification produces a small result often turns into, "Lets hog out more", in the process wrecking it. It is not a linear progression.

    I say that in hindsight. In 40 years as a luthier, I'm guilt of destroying plenty in the past. Perhaps my most famous lack of judgement was helping a friend install a Floyd Rose tremolo in a 1959 Les Paul around 1983 because, "Nobody gives a $#!& about those old guitars and you couldn't get a gig without one back then...". I could have paid for my house if I still had that guitar unaltered today...

    If you want to get experimental, build your own instruments and celebrate the innovation characteristics; don't wreck any more old ones.

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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    While I heartily agree with James, I don't worry too much about folks who re-work old Kay and Harmony instruments.

    And I'm not too worried about re-working an old Goya 12-string with a 4" x 14" piece of plywood in it. For the record, the list price on the guitar when it was built in 1968 was $260. An all original example in pristine condition might bring $400 or $500 today. I paid $150 + shipping. With any luck, it will become a good utility instrument rather than a toneless piece of junk; and hopefully better than an old D12-20 [which have bridge plates which are much too large].

    For the record, I do not scallop braces on old Martins, or re-top and re-neck old Gibson mandolins just because they are F-4's or F-7's and weren't built with long necks. I will very occasionally replace a failed bridge plate, but I won't do this on Martins with the oversized rosewood plate because the risk of un-intended damage is too great. I'll leave that job to others.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jun-27-2020 at 7:39pm.

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    Registered User Buck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    I could be wrong...it's happened...but I don't see there ever being a great demand for unaltered 1970's D-18's. They made many thousands of them, and while the basics are there, several things can be made better for both sound and playability. Just looking at the numbers, in 1971 Martin made 5,254 D-18's, and in 1961 they made only 675. The 1970's Martin Dreadnaughts are not rare, and I don't think they'll ever be sought after as collectibles. With a few modifications they're much better instruments, but with age and charm that hard to get in a new instrument. Especially true if you start with one a bit worn or in need of repair anyway.
    Todd Yates

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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Well, 70's Martins have gone up, though only modestly, believe it or not. Ironically, the prices on mid to late 60's models have gone down. You can't predict the market.

    As far as modifying them, it's a judgement call. If the work is done correctly and the instrument holds together, it currently does not have a favorable effect on its value.

    A friend of mine had the braces scalloped on his 1971 D-28S. The verdict on that particular instrument was that the work improved the bass response, but only slightly. Otherwise, he didn't perceive any other noticeable changes. He might have gotten more noticeable results by replacing the famous Martin tone inhibitor, otherwise known as the oversized rosewood bridge plate, with a maple plate of more reasonable dimensions. But pulling one of those large bridge plates without damaging the finish or the inside of the top is a difficult and risky job. I've done it once, and would rather not do another one. That's a job that Bryan Kimsey has done many times, and he's probably better at it than most other repair people.

    If I recall correctly, Bryan had a prominent disclaimer on his website about not being able to guarantee the long term structural integrity of guitars that had certain modifications. In other words, scallop at your own risk.

    His website is down today. I hope he is doing all right.

    Removing the "popsicle" brace [under the fingerboard] is not a good idea. Martin had very good reasons for installing that brace.
    They did it because many guitars made during the short period that they were built without it developed serious top cracks adjacent to the fingerboard shortly after they were built. I have seen this problem on several modern guitars by individual builders that were only a few years old. Any cracks of this nature should be repaired immediately, and that area of the top reinforced to prevent the problem from re-occurring.

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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    No.

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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    I have known Bryan for many years. We used to pick a lot together and camp together at Winfield when he comes. Through our network of mutual friends/pickers I have played untold number of guitars he has worked on including several of my own. I have not played one yet that he did not improve the sound and playability of. He does a nice mandolin set up too btw.
    It doesn't matter . . . I'm going to WINFIELD!!!!!

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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    His website is down today. I hope he is doing all right.
    He knows about the site issue and is fixing it.


    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Removing the "popsicle" brace [under the fingerboard] is not a good idea. Martin had very good reasons for installing that brace.
    They did it because many guitars made during the short period that they were built without it developed serious top cracks adjacent to the fingerboard shortly after they were built. I have seen this problem on several modern guitars by individual builders that were only a few years old. Any cracks of this nature should be repaired immediately, and that area of the top reinforced to prevent the problem from re-occurring.
    If that was the intended purpose of the popsicle brace, or "top plate" as Martin calls it, it didn't work out very well as many guitars with the brace crack along the fretboard especially when overheated.

    Removing it can't be such a horrible thing because you can order a Custom Shop Martin without it. They do nothing else to reinforce that area. When Bryan removes the popsicle brace, in inserts a trapezoidal brace that extends just outside the fretboard footprint to reinforce that area without restricting the top movement in the upper bout.

    Martin builds many Authentic Series guitars without, but they have larger neck blocks like the originals. That adds to stability as well.

    All that to say that Bryan's work is not undertaken without considering ramifications for the future.
    Todd Yates

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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    No brace is meant to prevent damage from overheating. Unless you want overbuilt instruments like 70's Gibsons. And they are still susceptible to heat damage.

    There are many causes for fingerboard edge cracks. One common cause of fingerboard edge cracks that is sometimes overlooked is a loose neck block. Repair people should always inspect the block's glue joint when an instrument comes in with edge cracks. There are quite a few other causes as well: shock, compression, over-stringing, rapid humidity changes, lack of reinforcement, and plain old fashioned wood failure. That area of the top, along with the area around the bridge, are the highest stress points on all string instruments.

    If Bryan is reinforcing the area under the fingerboard joint, that's good. That area should always be reinforced. And reinforcement is essential when edge cracks are repaired.

    Martin has been known to do many things over the years that were not very smart. Those of us who have worked on many of them have been known to talk about it for hours, but I'll not start listing them here. That having been said, in most cases they have fixed their errors, though sometimes it has taken them a while to address them. At any rate, their professional level instruments appear to be built pretty well these days. I have seen some of their recent issue budget instruments that were not engineered very well.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jun-28-2020 at 12:45am.

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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    At the ASIA symposium last summer, I got in a lot of Martin nerdiness conversations with the guys who run the place. Above everything else, I'm amazed that a relatively small local company has the ability to build 120,000 guitars in a single year. 120,000. 120 %$#@!^& thousand. That fact alone is amazing.

    The next is how can I get a $20,000 upgrade charge just for using hot hide glue building the same old guitar I've been building for decades....

    I always suspect that the soundboard cracks on the edge of the fretboard were from a simple reason- pounding in the frets with a hammer. While there may not be immediate damage, they cause small micro cracks right along the confluence of two different density materials. When the humidity changes, that is the first place for stress relief; crack open.

    All other things being the same, I prefer the 1930s sound with no upper transverse brace. On my personal guitars, I never add one and I never glue that part of the fingerboard down to the soundboard. It makes a small difference in the voice and with a bolt on neck, it all dissassembles in about two minutes so I can show the design to students when needed. It was an old habit I picked up from Kim Breedlove about 20 years ago at the custom shop when we'd build up 1/2 dozen guitars a day and then at night when everyone left, I'd take them all apart and swap out necks to learn the different voices. When you swap out a mahogany, maple, rosewood, walnut and a myrtlewood neck all on the same body several hundred times a year or more, you learn a lot and develop some strong opinions about voice and sound and subtleties on a production line...

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