A customer brought this beaten up Martin mahogany ukulele into the workshop and asked if I could salvage it. The back had a long split (patched by a bit of sellotape), the back had come away from the side, possibly due to water damage, and the sides had several large cracks that gave the impression that someone had stepped on the instrument at some point! The top itself was sound, as was the neck and headstock, albeit the instrument needed a good clean, and internally it appeared sound.
I said I'd need to give it some thought... one of the main problems was that access through the small sound hole to facilitate repairs was tricky as getting one's adult hands inside was nigh on impossible... the only other way was to remove the top/back completely, which I wanted to avoid.
First task was to remove the dirt and grime from the back and sides in order to see more clearly the extent of the damage.
First stage was to glue up the back where it had come away from the side. Secondly, and the trickiest part, was to correctly align the couple of splits in the side, which ran most of the length of the instrument. In order to get the split aligned I had to make a correctly sized spreader that could be inserted inside the instrument through the sound hole and wedged and positioned in such a way that there was a smooth join across the crack when clamped...this took a certain amount of cursing to get right! A couple of strong magnets placed in the correct position also helped. When I was satisfied I had the correct positioning during the dry run, it was then ready to glue up properly.
The final part of the repair operation was to repair the split in the back. Then onto cleaning the top and neck, and stringing up.
There was a slight ridge of broken lacquer around the repaired splits that were lacquer filled several times, levelled, sanded and polished to hide as best possible where there had been a repair...
The final result...I think it came out very well in the end:). Worth restoring as a vintage 1950's Martin uke has a reasonable value.
As a luthier, and also a vintage guitar enthusiast, I'll be posting articles about guitar repair, guitar construction, and also vintage instruments