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  #1  
Old 02-07-2019, 09:57 AM
Tmorg3d Tmorg3d is offline
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Default Thoughts on the quality of 70's Martin Guitars

Is there a reason some 70's Martin d-28's and d-18's sell in the low $1000's even if they are in good condition?
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Old 02-07-2019, 10:06 AM
Steve DeRosa Steve DeRosa is offline
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Less-than-stellar craftsmanship as a whole - there are definitely some good ones out there, but IME they're far fewer than in the previous two or three decades...
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Old 02-07-2019, 10:36 AM
merlin666 merlin666 is offline
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My friend has his original D28 from the 70s, and it has a lot of finish checking and I think had some maintenance, but it sure sounds great (almost better than his new OM-42).
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Old 02-07-2019, 10:36 AM
DaBoz DaBoz is offline
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I owned a 1970 D18 for about 12 years.... quality was lacking compared to the 1997 Martin I traded it for.
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Old 02-07-2019, 10:39 AM
L20A L20A is offline
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For several years during the 70's, about 1/3 of the Dred guitars were made with misplaced bridges.
This and the new beefier bracing system somewhat changes the sound that the guitars made.

These days, people try to use these problems to get lower purchase prices for 70's Martin guitars.
Remember that not all Martin guitars from the 70's had the issue with the placement of the bridge.

If I were to purchase a Martin Dred from the 70's, I would have it checked out first, to be sure there are none of the issues associated with the era.
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Old 02-07-2019, 10:39 AM
mcduffnw mcduffnw is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tmorg3d View Post
Is there a reason some 70's Martin d-28's and d-18's sell in the low $1000's even if they are in good condition?
Because gripey, snooty, cork sniffey guitar nerds have spent the last 25 years griping, and snooting, and cork sniffing and complaining that the 70's Martins are not anywhere near as good as the 30's to the 60's Martins.

Not as nice of wood, not as well made, way overbuilt, gripe, snoot, sniff.

Truth is, the 70's Martins are not nearly as bad as they have been made out to be. Yes...they were overbuilt, thicker woods, heavier bracing, which was done to try and cut down on the warranty repair issues of the much lighter built Martins of the 30's through the 50's. Ask any luthier/repairman from the 60's on, and they made a healthy living on repairing the vintage Martins structural issues/failures. Yes, they did have a brief period of time where the bridges where applied on the slightly wrong position causing intonation issues, but, that wasn't the whole decade, they did catch the problem pretty quickly and corrected it, but over the decades it has been griped, and complained and sniffed into an issue way bigger than it was.

All in all, the 70's Martins were still the best overall made, and best overall quality woods, and best overall sounding guitars around, except for a very few luthier made instruments, which were very spotty in their overall quality as well. Gibson was far far worse, and Guild was mostly...but not always...as good as Martin, but certainly not better. Guild's big claim to fame was their stellar 12 strings, and being a fair bit less expensive for a comparable guitar model/style as Martin.

There are some great bargains on Martins from the 70's, and some really terrific guitars to be had.

Oh...and most of those folks griping...the 70's Martins are still easily 5 times the caliber of instrument, compared to the caliber of playing ability of the gripers.

As Dora the Explora might say...Griper Stop Griping...

Don't listen to the noise...listen to the guitar.

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Last edited by mcduffnw; 02-07-2019 at 10:49 AM. Reason: add content
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  #7  
Old 02-07-2019, 10:41 AM
Jim in TC Jim in TC is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve DeRosa View Post
Less-than-stellar craftsmanship as a whole - there are definitely some good ones out there, but IME they're far fewer than in the previous two or three decades...
I had a 1970 model that was very nice and seemed fine in every way (and sold it some years ago for around $1200). I think the issue with this time-frame for Martin was consistency. Some very nice instruments and some that were...not so much. I am pretty sure (maybe someone who is in the know can comment) that the guarantees were less, um, comprehensive for a while in there, too. I was once told by a repair guy who did some (routine) service on mine that if there were problems they tended to show up in the less than stellar instruments within the first decade or so.
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Old 02-07-2019, 10:53 AM
stevedenver stevedenver is offline
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ooh lots of anger........dont get this.
im proud of being a cork sniffer, but still enjoy box wine....

I have 2 70s martins
1974 and 1976 D28s.

There is nothing substandard at all about craftsmanship or materials.

in fact, imho, the wood is a better overall quality.

but this was the era when Martin substantially increased ouput. there was huge post folk era demand.

Most 40 year old guitars will demonstrate some change, be it due to care, temperatures or humidity issues. Glues will sometimes loosen. Bridges, especially ebony, may crack, bridge pin slots will wear. I don't have any of these issues on my guitars.

Finish checking, typically that's about rapid temperature changes, not about the finish or craftsmanship.

There was a time when martin applied the pcik guard directly to the tops, then finished over the guard. If the guard adhered well, sometimes there would be a b string top crack. This was due to design, not due to poor craftsmanship. The black guards shrunk. bad plastic. gretsch, fender, Gibson and others have all suffered bad plastics. all defects, however were only revealed with the passage of time, and were not likely due to substandard materials being intentionally selected by the makers.

What is the case with this era, is simply, they are slightly overbuilt, straight braced for the most part, heavier bridge plates. For me, the neck shapes are classic. The head stocks are completely one piece , part of the neck blank.

Being overbuilt, these guitars fare well over the years, often without any humidification, and, much care, other than being cased when not in use.

There is also a period, I believe 72ish, that some bridges were misplaced by about 1/8 to 1/4 inch, negatively affecting intonation up the neck.

Overall, these guitars are a superb value. They can easily be tweaked to have scalloped bracing, small bridge plates , etc by good luthiers. Frankly, I cant think of a better option for adding a pick up.

If you like the sound of many rock icons from the late 60s and 70s, this is the guitar that provides that sound.

I have , as well, a 1968 D28, straight braced. Its a great sounding guitar, but , it does not sound like a shifted or scalloped dred. The latter are by far my favorites.

As always, one should play and decide if you like it.

Last edited by stevedenver; 02-09-2019 at 10:46 AM.
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Old 02-07-2019, 10:54 AM
Mycroft Mycroft is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mcduffnw View Post
Yes...they were overbuilt, thicker woods, heavier bracing, which was done to try and cut down on the warranty repair issues of the much lighter built Martins of the 30's through the 50's. Yes, they did have a brief period of time where the bridges where applied on the slightly wrong position causing intonation issues, but, that wasn't the whole decade, they did catch the problem pretty quickly and corrected it, but over the decades it has been griped, and complained and sniffed into an issue way bigger than it was.
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Old 02-07-2019, 11:02 AM
00 HOG 00 HOG is offline
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One common issue is that many 70s Martins have large rosewood bridge plates, which does not help with the tone or let the top resonate as well as the smaller, original bridge plates.

Some models, especially in the late 70s, have smaller maple bridge plates (M-38, HD-28, M-36). I have a '77 M-38 and I think it is a wonderful guitar.

I also think the 12 fret dreads (D18S, D28S, D35S) from the 70s are great guitars.
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Old 02-07-2019, 11:39 AM
Tony Burns Tony Burns is offline
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many have oversized bridge plates that kill the tone -they can be changed out
by someone who is knowledgeable - many are wonderful and need no help -
i know of a D-18 of that era and its a great guitar even thou.
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Old 02-07-2019, 11:47 AM
AndrewG AndrewG is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by L20A View Post
For several years during the 70's, about 1/3 of the Dred guitars were made with misplaced bridges.
This and the new beefier bracing system somewhat changes the sound that the guitars made.

These days, people try to use these problems to get lower purchase prices for 70's Martin guitars.
Remember that not all Martin guitars from the 70's had the issue with the placement of the bridge.

If I were to purchase a Martin Dred from the 70's, I would have it checked out first, to be sure there are none of the issues associated with the era.
Yes, a young lady in my college (1971?) owned a blue case-era D-18 she had problems with and asked if I could help. After wrestling with the insanely high action I managed to get it more or less playable, but intonate the thing? Forget it, the bridge was glued on quite imaginatively. 'It looks nice just there, so that's where I'll glue it'. Awful.
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Old 02-07-2019, 11:49 AM
gerardo1000 gerardo1000 is offline
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When I was living in Rome in the Seventies, I bought a (very expensive, considering the import taxes) Martin dreadnought cutaway, which was an interesting model because it had a cutaway but it did not have a pick up. All solid wood. Well, it was an exceptional guitar that followed me for many years, through several moves in different cities, and take into account that at that time I was not aware of guitar maintenance as humidity or the lack of it. I never humidified it, and it survived many years without a crack in the finish. I finally sold it to an Italian friend from Milan.
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Old 02-07-2019, 12:04 PM
actaylor actaylor is offline
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I had a 1971 D-28 that I bought new. Unbeknownst to me, the bridge was positioned incorrectly. Eventually, the guitar needed a neck reset and the luthier then replaced the bridge. He also improved the break angle. When I got the guitar back, I couldn't believe it. It was louder, sounded great and played easily. I eventually sold that guitar only because I no longer liked the 1 11/16" nut width and playing a full sized dread bothered my shoulder. Even so, I miss that guitar.
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Old 02-07-2019, 01:19 PM
Tmorg3d Tmorg3d is offline
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Wow! that is some great information Thank you all!

I will be looking at a 1976 D-18 that has not been played at all. I know what that means as far as humidity and the fact that the owner didn't know how to care for it but at just over $1000 I am going to at least take a look at it!
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