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Thread: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

  1. #26
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    My "no" response has nothing to do with Bryan Kimsey, I would simply not scallop the instrument.

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  3. #27
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    rcc56, no argument with any of that. My main point was to clarify that Bryan's approach is not reckless - and there are repairmen out there who make reckless modifications. Other than the removal of the popsicle brace, which he replaces with the trapezoidal brace, his modified guitars are not as lightly built as the 70's HD-28's just as they left Nazareth. If those HD's are holding up fine, Bryan's work should too.

    It's been 6 years since the work on mine and no issues so far. I don't expect any. A friend was over a couple weeks ago and we played guitars, swapping back and forth for the afternoon. After playing the '72 next to the 30's, 40's, and 50's D-18's, he said he wondered why we spend so much money chasing tone. Of course the answer is because there is a difference, but side by side the modified '72 does really well. And if I couldn't afford the others, I'd live a happy musical life with just the '72.
    Todd Yates

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  5. #28
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Just some musings about the cracks that develop along side the fingerboard extender.
    When Martin began to make guitars with 14 frets clear of the body they didn't bother to sit down and re-draw the body shapes. They left the lower bout and waist shapes and positions more-or-less as they were in the 12-fret guitars and simply flattened the upper bout to allow for 14 frets clear. Not only does that make the guitars rather awkward looking (we're used to seeing those shapes, but if you look at them critically the proportions are less than ideal) but it also compromises what was a sort of vaulted arch in the original shapes. A vaulted arch is better at distributing the force that the strings pressing the neck heel against the body.
    Now, Gibsons (many of which were drawn for 14 frets and became known as "slope shoulder") and earlier Martins also develop extender cracks, but I don't think it happens as often as in the squashed-down-upper-bout shape of 14 fret Martins.

    As for the popsicle brace, I seldom put one in guitars that I build, but to me there is no reason worth removing one from an existing guitar. The top moves in it's normal modes of motion regardless.

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  7. #29
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    A thumbnail history of Martin popsicle braces:

    Originally, all Martins made at least as far back as the 1860's had a popsicle brace.
    When Martin introduced their 14 fret models starting in 1929, they shortened the shoulders of their guitars, reducing the amount of space between the sound hole and the neck joint.

    For the first few years of production of the 14 fret models, they left the popsicle brace out, because they thought it was unneeded to support this reduced space.
    The 12 fret models continued to be built with a popsicle brace.

    Within a few years, many of the guitars built without popsicle braces developed problems and were returned to the factory for repairs.
    As a result, a popsicle brace was once more installed in all Martins beginning sometime in the late 1930's.

    A "hybrid X" or "A-frame" bracing pattern was introduced on model D-1 in 1991, and continues to be used on lower level models. While these instruments do not have a popsicle brace, the area beneath the fingerboard is reinforced by two short braces set at an angle. And starting sometime around the introduction of adjustable truss rods as standard equipment, most standard model Martins now have a block beneath the fingerboard.

    About 20 or 30 years ago, some buyers became obsessed with the idea that the lack of a popsicle brace was essential to the "pre-war golden era sound." As a result, some owners starting having the brace removed from their old guitars, or had new guitars built without the brace. Some of the instruments without the brace hold up, some do not.

    I was not aware that Martin is once again building some instruments with the old bracing pattern that do not include that brace. We'll see how it works out.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jun-28-2020 at 12:04pm.

  8. #30
    Registered User Buck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    I was not aware that Martin is once again building some instruments with the old bracing pattern that do not include that brace. We'll see how it works out.
    The first modern Martin built without it was the limited edition D-18 Golden Era from 1995. Despite the similar name, that's not the same guitar as the 1999 and later D-18GE. From 2005 forward they've been building Authentics without the popsicle brace - for models based on 1930-1937 14 fret guitars. Other Authentic Series models use the brace, just as the originals did. I haven't seen or heard of one with a fretboard crack. That failure may exist, but it's certainly not prevalent. My 2005 is the 26th one made and it has no structural issues to this point, and I've drug it around to festivals, camping, the beach etc. I don't abuse it, but I don't baby it.

    I'm not personally convinced that the popsicle brace prevented cracking at the fretboard edges. Those early 14 fret guitars already had a larger neck block and the upper transverse brace as support. As far as failures go, it does not seem to be more prevalent on the pre-1939 guitars compared to post-1939 guitars. Plus we have many modern builders making Martin-type guitars without that brace. It's likely that most of those don't live the same hard lives as some of the early Martins did, but they don't show up with cracks there. Given the difference in care and treatment, that may prove nothing at all.
    Todd Yates

  9. #31
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    When they do crack, it's job security for me.

    The last one I repaired was a recent guitar made by a very competent builder. It did not have the brace. There was a crack on both sides of the fingerboard. I laminated two pieces of spruce together with opposing grain, ~0.200" thick, cut it into two strips about 1/2" wide, rounded off the edges, and installed a vertical strip under each crack rather than making a popsicle brace.

    It sounds like overkill, but the stability of this part of a guitar is essential and I did not want the cracks to go active again. The guitar was back in for a set up earlier this year, and the repair is holding up well. The owner, who is a very proficient player, did not notice any adverse effect on the sound.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jun-28-2020 at 3:22pm.

  10. #32

    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    I’ve seen some very poorly modified Martins over the last 25 years, done by a variety of well known individuals. Some with bubbled tops, swollen bellies, caved in tops, oversized bridges, etc. I suppose there is a learning curve to these types of mods, but I steer clear of them, and so do a lot of dealers. I can understand repairs, but if you are looking for a different sound and or response from a particular instrument, why not buy something that better suits your tastes?
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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  12. #33

    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Bryan Kimsey is a good person. I have emailed him questions and he is willing to share his knowledge.

    His knowledge and experience is in one specific area, 70's D-size Martins. You can read his website, but basically he specializes in neck resets, resetting the bridge to the correct position (most were off by 1/4 inch at the factory causing intonation issues), refrets, and optional brace scalloping. I would guess in this particular era of Martin guitars, he probably has as much experience as anybody around. Probably hundreds of guitars, at this point. He doesn't do a lot a crack repair or any refinishing to speak off.

    One the plus side, he is taking a popular, affordable era of Martin guitars and improving them for a reasonable cost. Keep in mind, the "70's" were the era of Martin when players began to say, "hey, this new Martin I got doesn't sound as good as my old one! What's up with that?" This was a huge factor is starting the whole "vintage guitar thing." I say reasonable cost, because 99 percent of those guitars will need a neck reset anyway, if they haven't had one, so figure that into the cost. He mentions if you buy a mint guitar and pay top money and add in his services, you will have more in the guitar that you will ever be able to get back. He also mentions if you can get into a beater guitar, you will come out better, cost-wise. I should add that I have owned several 70's D-size Martins and always thought they sounded pretty good to start with, so IMHO he is working with good raw materials, at least....

    The way I look at it is I don't see how much scalloping the braces is going to effect the value of the guitar at all, probably no more than a fret job or a neckset. In fact, in this era of boutique builders, etc., being able to say Bryan Kimsey did the mods might actually be a good selling point, if you were trying to sell. OTOH, will it turn a 70's Martin into a prewar Martin? No, obviously, but you might enjoy playing it more with his improvements. Also, can you find a newer boutique guitar that already sounds better than a modified 70's Martin? Absolutely, but that's not the point here....and they don't have the Martin name.....

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  14. #34
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandobar View Post
    I’ve seen some very poorly modified Martins over the last 25 years, done by a variety of well known individuals. Some with bubbled tops, swollen bellies, caved in tops, oversized bridges, etc. I suppose there is a learning curve to these types of mods, but I steer clear of them, and so do a lot of dealers. I can understand repairs, but if you are looking for a different sound and or response from a particular instrument, why not buy something that better suits your tastes?
    With the clear that statement that I'm not trying to talk anyone into anything, here are my reasons....

    I come from a background of tinkerers and hotrodders. We modified everything - trap guns, motorcycles, tractors, boats. You name it, we think we can make it better. Even among that group there are things we don't tinker with beyond normal maintenance, things like vintage instruments, prewar shotguns, and the like. When it comes to "utility items", anything is in play.

    With respect to these 70's Martins, they have a lot going for them. Many of them have nice looking wood, solid mahogany necks, and basically good structure and design. The real downsides are (or may be) excessive relief with the square tube neck, large IRW bridge plate, and intonation problems related to bridge placement. Correct those things and you're in business. Of course, you can go a couple steps further like I did with removing the popsicle brace, and scalloping the X-braces. I left the tone bars alone. In every instances where I've been able to try before and after, after has always been a significant improvement. A good guitar to a very good guitar.

    The other thing is the neck. Martin does not reproduce those vintage neck shapes on any modern guitar. I prefer that shape to anything they are currently making. I'm very happy to take on the project to get that neck.

    Old wood sounds different than new woods. These guitars are 40+ years old. You can't exactly reproduce that, and Martin didn't make many scalloped guitars during that period, and none in mahogany. In Dreadnaughts, it was the HD-28 only, and not until 1976. You can order a Custom Shop guitar from Martin, but you won't get exactly the same neck or the age.

    Cost is a reasonable consideration too. If you shop carefully for examples that already need a neck reset and frets, then buy then at a reasonable price, all of the necessary work and the modifications can be completed for $2k or less. The performance of the guitar you get for that price is considerably above anything comparable. My opinion of course.

    Again, no intention to persuade anyone to undertake this sort of thing, but I hope you might view it as something other than a crackpot idea at least. "first-hand experience" :-)

    One other thing, I've never had ANY trouble reselling a guitar modified by Bryan.
    Todd Yates

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  16. #35
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Todd, have you ever pulled and re-set a neck? Repaired a split X brace? Made and installed a bridge of any kind? Opened up an A-4 that had a large shard pulled away from the inside of the top and grafted in new wood? Replaced the bar frets on a valuable pre-war Martin? That's first hand experience in lutherie.

    I am out of here. I've got to finish glueing the back on the guitar I just re-braced, cut a new saddle slot in the bridge and re-glue it, and get the shop cleaned up for the fret job that's due in on Wednesday.

  17. #36
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Buck, have you ever pulled and re-set a neck?
    No.

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Repaired a split X brace?
    No.

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Made and installed a bridge of any kind?
    Yes.

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    Opened up an A-4 that had a large shard pulled away from the inside of the top and grafted in new wood?
    No.

    I do most minor setup work, up to and including fretwork on some instruments. I have a short list of repairmen I pay to do the rest, and I know my limitations when it comes to repairs.


    I'm not sure what any of that has to do with firsthand experience with the results of modifications by Bryan Kimsey. That was the original question. I have experience with Bryan's work. Many guitars, mine and others, over many years. I don't have to have done the work to understand the risks and rewards. I'm an engineer. I review and assess all kinds of things that I don't personally create. That doesn't diminish my admiration of those who do the work, but neither should not crafting the product with my own hands disqualify me from understanding it.
    Todd Yates

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  19. #37
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    It is just coincidence that I have a 1975 D-35 on the bench right now with a top that was just short of ruined. All of this and more came out from under the top.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  21. #38
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    It is just coincidence that I have a 1975 D-35 on the bench right now with a top that was just short of ruined. All of this and more came out from under the top.
    Just short of ruined how?

    Bryan won't scallop the lighter bracing of a D-35, and I'm certain he didn't ADD a bridge plate on top of a bridge plate and then install a Bridge Doctor. :-)
    Todd Yates

  22. #39
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by Buck View Post
    Just short of ruined how?
    Looked like a relatively "straight forward" remove bridge dr., remove 2 bridge plates, replace bridge and bridge plate.
    Here's a look under the bridge, and after removing all the extra wood and remains of the original bridge plate.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  23. #40

    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Doc Watson mentioned in interviews his old Martin had the bridge reglued so many times they had to "inlay" spruce!

    Back in the days when heavy gauge strings were all that people played....

  24. #41
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    Looked like a relatively "straight forward" remove bridge dr., remove 2 bridge plates, replace bridge and bridge plate.
    Here's a look under the bridge, and after removing all the extra wood and remains of the original bridge plate.
    So many projects are like that. Seems easy until you start....
    Todd Yates

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  26. #42
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Good luck, John. I did one something like that some years back. Like yours, they didn't leave me as much old spruce to graft to as one would wish for. May the spirit of creative carpentry guide you in the direction of an artistic repair that will hold.

  27. #43
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Back to the OP, I would say no. No disrespect to Mr. Kimsey, but I prefer the tone of the natural top. I wouldn’t do any further modifications. I honestly like the difference in tone between both guitars and wouldn’t want to change either one.

  28. #44
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    ...May the spirit of creative carpentry guide you in the direction of an artistic repair that will hold.
    This isn't the first time I've run into this sort of thing, and I've fixed them in several different ways depending on the value of the guitar, customers desires (and budget), and how the rest of the structure is holding up. I think this one will be solid if somewhat homely (I had to make an oversize saddle-back bridge).

  29. #45
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    John, I like the embedded title of your photo: "platejunk"...

    Another $100 quoted repair job that will cost you $500 of bench time; I feel your pain.....

  30. #46
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by j. condino View Post
    John, I like the embedded title of your photo: "platejunk"...

    Another $100 quoted repair job that will cost you $500 of bench time; I feel your pain.....
    I wonder if you HAVE to continue the work after you discover mess like that. Here in EU you can in such case send new quote to customer and he can either agree or disagree and take it back paying for the part of work that has been done so far.
    I personally would just refuse the work on such "surprise" instrument. It may be full of other landmines and if it fails later even from damage you didn't work on you may be the one blamed...
    Adrian

  31. #47
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    I had to do one of these several years ago, it is still playing as far as I know. There was much more going on with the one I did, I don't know who did the previous work, but if it wasn't for a friend of mine I wouldn't have done it.
    THE WORLD IS A BETTER PLACE JUST FOR YOUR SMILE!

  32. #48
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    I wonder if you HAVE to continue the work after you discover mess like that...
    I would not HAVE to, I suppose, but rest assured that the estimate on this one will cover the work. I was expecting the price to come in well under the estimate.
    The guitar was given to the owner by a family member and he is spending enough on this repair to buy a pretty good guitar.

  33. #49
    Registered User Buck's Avatar
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    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Quote Originally Posted by HoGo View Post
    I wonder if you HAVE to continue the work after you discover mess like that. Here in EU you can in such case send new quote to customer and he can either agree or disagree and take it back paying for the part of work that has been done so far.
    I personally would just refuse the work on such "surprise" instrument. It may be full of other landmines and if it fails later even from damage you didn't work on you may be the one blamed...
    I don't believe we have any specific laws obligating the repairman to do anything, but of course prices could change once it is known that additional work is required. I've had a few unexpected things pop up, but I've never had a repairman refuse to complete the project. If that happened, it would disappoint me to learn that I'd picked the wrong repairmen. I really want someone who can handle anything, and I'm very happy to pay more when unforeseen conditions require additional work.

    This is a perfect example of things that can't be known until you start taking things apart. I bought a 1943 000-18 a while back. When it arrived, I found a replaced and oversized bridge plate, along with plugged holes from bolts (right through the X-braces) and plugged bolt holes in the bridge. The work was pretty clean, but undisclosed by the seller. I was concerned about what was between that plate and the bridge. Since the seller did not want to negotiate a lower price, I returned it for a full refund. Risk is OK if the price is right.

    That said, the concealed conditions John pictured is not something you'd have to worry about with Bryan's work. Interesting for sure, but a different issue.
    Todd Yates

  34. #50

    Default Re: Should Bryan Kimsey scallop my guitar?

    Consumer laws vary state to state. You’d be surprised at what some states have embedded in their commercial code to protect their citizens. I’ve learned one thing in life, never say never.
    There's nothing better than first-hand experience.

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