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Flatpick problem

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GUEST,Les B. 06 Oct 04 - 12:39 PM
Nina 06 Oct 04 - 02:59 AM
leeneia 05 Oct 04 - 09:26 PM
GUEST,Les B. 05 Oct 04 - 12:25 PM
Nina 05 Oct 04 - 04:58 AM
leeneia 04 Oct 04 - 09:10 PM
GUEST,Les B. 04 Oct 04 - 07:18 PM
PoppaGator 04 Oct 04 - 04:04 PM
GUEST,Les B. 04 Oct 04 - 03:36 PM
Once Famous 04 Oct 04 - 02:52 PM
PoppaGator 04 Oct 04 - 02:36 PM
GUEST 04 Oct 04 - 02:01 PM
PoppaGator 04 Oct 04 - 01:20 PM
GUEST,Les B. 04 Oct 04 - 12:44 PM
Willie-O 04 Oct 04 - 07:32 AM
Nina 04 Oct 04 - 03:17 AM
Leadfingers 03 Oct 04 - 01:02 PM
michaelr 03 Oct 04 - 01:00 PM
the fence 03 Oct 04 - 12:44 PM
GUEST,Les B. 03 Oct 04 - 12:43 PM
GUEST,Les B. 03 Oct 04 - 12:42 PM
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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 06 Oct 04 - 12:39 PM

Well, necessity being a mother, I tried several places for "cartographic" paper - with no luck - and then found a packet of 5X7 photo protectors at a craft shop for about $5 US.

After a frustrating time of trying to apply the very limp sticky side - and either not being able to position it accurately or having unsightly bubbles and wrinkles - I experimented with the clearer, stiffer, slightly thicker, not-sticky side.

Miracle of miracles, because of the residue left from the first three attempts, this piece stuck and seems almost invisible. Now the question is, will it stay on for awhile !?!

Nina, I will call Collings shortly. $2.50 is a very good price.

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: Nina
Date: 06 Oct 04 - 02:59 AM

I talked to Steve this evening and he told me let you know they cost $2.50 a piece and to call again and if you get the answering machine just leave your information ie: shipping address ect. a credit card number and that you want the temporary pickguard. He'll get one sent right out to you.

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: leeneia
Date: 05 Oct 04 - 09:26 PM

Scrapbook place. I'll try it. Thanks.

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 05 Oct 04 - 12:25 PM

Leeneia - so far I haven't actually put my hot little hands on any of the cartographic paper or similar, but hope to score this morning when a shop that deals in Scrapbook making opens for the week. I have called an office supply place and they can order it, but I'm the impatient type - don't want to wait a week.

Nina, thanks if you call them. I'm going to pursue the mylar film for now. The more I think about it, the less concerned I am with the vintage/value aspect.

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: Nina
Date: 05 Oct 04 - 04:58 AM

Keep trying and ask for Steve McCrary or if it's the answering machine leave a message for him. Let me know if not I'll call, actually I'll call in the morning. It's a cheap safe way to see if the concept works and if not Oh Well ! just peel it off and use it for a coaster. In so far as devaluing the guitar I wouldn't take my word alone but most of the vintage dealers are very specific about what's original and what's been replaced, changed, or updated and the more original of two similar instruments is always more expensive.

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: leeneia
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 09:10 PM

Les B., you intrigue me greatly. Where would I go to buy some of this Mylar self-adhesive "cartographic" paper?

(Google couldn't find it.)

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 07:18 PM

Well I just finished talking to an authorized Martin repairman who works with the store where I bought my guitar.

He gave two options, buy some pickguard material and have him cut and install it - probably around $35 US dollars, a hundred mile trip to his city, and several days in the shop.

Or, buy some clear plastic mylar self-adhesive "cartographic" paper and do it myself. About 80 cents for an 8 X 11" sheet. When I asked if this would devalue the Martin down the road, he replied "It'll devalue it a lot more with a hole dug out by the pick!" He also indicated that the thin plastic sheet would affect the tone less than an oversized pickguard. And he also indicated that the mylar could be replaced every so often as needed.

Nina - I tried calling the Collings number, but no response ?

So I'm going to pursue the 2nd option. First I'll get a really sharp exacto knife and etch some lines on the guitar where I want the plastic and then.... nope only kidding !!!!

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: PoppaGator
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 04:04 PM


I thought "Guest" was criticizing my technnique, not yours -- but I was wrong, since he had used your name. Perhaps I was defending both you and me when I responded. (?) ;^)

I had not heard that spruce tops had actually cracked due to the way those pickguards used to be installed. Learning that explains why Frank Ford instructs us to refinish that "bald spot" after removing an old pickguard, and then to patch the finish and smooth everything out before sticking a new guard on.

I recently gave up my effort to locate the proper lacquer to do that particular job, and applied a replacement pickguard to the raw wood "bald spot." (Mr. Ford himself said it was OK, at least as a temporary solution.) I'm turning the instrument over to a luthier sometime soon for refretting; I'll talk to him about the pickguard replacement, and if he thinks it necessary to do it over again, the right way, I'll have him do so.

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 03:36 PM

Well this guitar is V - "vintage" - in designation only. Its birthdate, by the Martin serial numbers posted several places on the I-net, was only 2003.

It's called vintage because Martin shifted the X-bracing forward, put snowflakes instead of dots on the neck, went back to the old V shaped neck, used open back "butterbean" tuners, and did the finish in a yellowed, antique look - all for that elusive pre-war(WWII) look and sound. I'd tryed a couple of these at various shops before I found this one that actually had the sound that spoke to me - real clean and full - bass to treble - and maintained good volume all the way up the neck!

Guest - No offense taken. I have been analyzing my picking style and that may still change, but at the moment I seem to get the best tone, speed, and volume with my third and little finger lightly braced on the pickguard, and the pick operating just about 1/2" behind the sound hole. Some pickers advocate a free hand, but I lose all sorts of accuracy and probably would still dig in as deeply.

Likewise, I'm going to re-examine the pick thickness and size again, but I've been using the same pick to my likeing for about 15 years.
On some of my other guitars, on which I fingerpick, I get the sweetest sound directly over the sound hole. It's one of those continuing personal problems that drive you crazy, like halitosis, BO, or dandruff.

Poppagator - I was somewhat aware that the older Martins had no finish under the pickguard, but have no idea of when that changed. In fact that apparently used to be the source of face cracks - when the wood tried to shrink under one of the glued-on plastic guards and the guard wouldn't give - the wood then broke. O

On this guitar I'll leave the fake tortoise shell pick guard where it is and add a panel above it. I don't believe even Martin's over sized pick guard will get to where I'm digging in - under the G and B strings mostly with lighter evidence under the rest.

Thanks, all.

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: Once Famous
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 02:52 PM

One of the pleasures of buying vintage or used instruments is avoiding the hearbreak of getting a ding or two, not to mention an already broken in and aged instrument.

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: PoppaGator
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 02:36 PM

Well, it may be that I have to take the attitude that I've developed because the "damage" (such as it is) is already done. Indeed, most of the impact occurred 25-30 years ago, when I was busking and needed to generate as much volume as possible. My technique, as developed during those years and only slightly moderated since then, involves freely switching between strumming and picking while wearing the fingerpicks.

I don't believe I touch the surface of the guitar very much these days, if at all, but I undoubtedly played much faster and looser back in the old days, especially when half-delirious after playing nonstop for 6 or 8 hours and continuing unabated.

Actually, I don't much give a s**t that my guitar is not in pristine condition. Nobody's selling it anytime soon. (Maybe after I'm dead.) I am absolutely sure that the sound of the instrument was never hurt -- in fact, it probably sounds better now than when new. All the *important* aspects of its structural integrity are OK (neck is straight, etc.).

Cosmetic considerations be damned! Or, as I noted earlier, one can cultivate the attitude that signs of wear and of age are a cosmetic *plus*.

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 02:01 PM

You could look upon such scratches and pitting as adding character to your instrument, an expression of your musical personality, they are your personalizing of your instrument. When you pass on folks'll say "Them marks was made by Ol' Les, he was a Great Picker." You could learn to pick more accurately - I mean no disrespect here - but the problem seems to be with your technique. Maybe a bit of work here will re-pay you AND don't be afraid to discard or change those picks for something new. Peace.

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: PoppaGator
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 01:20 PM

You're right about the "sweet spot" being located well above where Martin places their pickguard. I use fingerpicks (plastic thumbpick + two metal fingerpicks), and I have plenty of scratches on both sides of the fingerboard, above the soundhole, on my 1969 D-18.

The way I look at it, one scratch on a pristine new guitar may be a disfigurement, but a few hundred scratches plus a couple of pits on a beautiful old instrument constitutes a patina.

Martin only makes one size pickguard, good for all models. They've recently added an "oversize" pickguard, but it is the same shape as the standard/original part and only slightly larger, making it a bit easier to overlap the "tan line" left by an old pickguard being replaced.

Slight thread drift: If your Martin is older than about 25 years, the pickguard was applied to the top *before* the finish was painted on during manufacture. This means that removing an old pickguard reveals an area of totally "raw" wood, recessed slightly below the surface of the top's lacquer finish. The regular-size replacement pickguard should fit precisely (and fairly easily) into this area.

(If you're thinking of removing the original pickguard on one of these babies and applying something larger, to protect a wider area, you'll have to build up layers of lacquer on the bare spot to bring it up to level with the rest of the finish. The area formerly occupied by the original pickguard will *not* visually match the rest of the top; this might affect whether you want to use clear plastic for your new larger pickguard.)

Martins made after 1980-something (sorry, I don't have the exact date) have their pickguards applied *over* the lacquer finish -- like most other guitars always have been made. Removing an old pickguard from one of these guitars will reveal a paler-colored patch under a smooth overall finish. The standard-size replacement pickguard would be relatively difficult to position correctly in these cases; use the "oversize" guard to slightly overlap the site of the old pickguard.

For more details, see Frank Ford's excellent guitar-repair website,

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 12:44 PM

Thanks for all the above tips - I've found that Elderly sells some kind of clear adhesive pick guards which I'm investigating. And I'll also look into the Collings guards, thanks Nina!

I probably won't sell this guitar, but who knows, (I'm too old a dog to say Never) and I certainly don't want to diminish its potential value for my great-grandkids in 50 or so years when it truly becomes "vintage". Maybe I should just go ahead and wear a hole in the top like Willie Nelson's old classic... Naah, I think not.

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: Willie-O
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 07:32 AM

  1. replace the original pickguard with a larger one that covers the area you're concerned about.
  2. spend a few --um, bucks, pounds, baht, whatever? --and have a professional do it. The guitar I got from a late beloved Mudcatter has some unfortunate pits in the top from when he removed the oversize double pickguards it once sported--he told me he used the wrong kind of glue to put them on.   
  3. the difference in sound will be negligible compared to your peace of mind unless you happen to be an oscilloscope.
  4. As for resale value, keep the original guard in a drawer somewhere. In case someone cares. Better to avoid the damage. Anyway you're not going to sell this guitar are you?

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: Nina
Date: 04 Oct 04 - 03:17 AM

Here's another thought. Many luthiers have a similar problem when displaying thier guitars at various trade shows like NAMM, where thousands of people will "try out" a guitar. There are clear plastic pickguards that simply stick on without any adhesive and can be removed instantly without a worry as to damage to your guitar. The only draw back is that they cannont be left on for days or they may damage your finish. The only guys i know that have them are the folks at Colling's Guitar in Austin. You can call them at 512-288-7776.
If you chose to put a permanent pickguard on your Martin, have Martin do it, the value of guitars will generally be dimished if not 100% original.

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: Leadfingers
Date: 03 Oct 04 - 01:02 PM

I had the same problem with my D35 when I first got it , only my problem was caused by a metal thumb pick . I made a small scratchplate by cutting two Gibson three sided flatpicks to fit to make a sort of diamond shaped plate . It didnt affect the tone and is still there now after thirtyfour years . When I bought my 'spare' guitar (Top of the range Tanglewood) my technique had improved a bit
so i havent marked that one at all !!

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: michaelr
Date: 03 Oct 04 - 01:00 PM

Clear plastic is the most unobtrusive solution and won't affect the sound. Luthierie suppliers sell "pickguard blanks", complete with suitable adhesive, which you can cut to suit your needs.

Be very careful with adhesives; some are so strong they can rip the wood apart when you try to remove them. I would not use tape under any circumstances.


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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: the fence
Date: 03 Oct 04 - 12:44 PM

You could try and use the clear tape that is wrapped around Hockey sticks for protection, it's good and thick should be available from your local sports shop.

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Subject: RE: Flatpick problem
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 03 Oct 04 - 12:43 PM

That should be THROUGH the use of the flatpick! :(

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Subject: Flatpick problem
From: GUEST,Les B.
Date: 03 Oct 04 - 12:42 PM

Recently I got the guitar I've been dreaming about for years - a Martin HD-28 Vintage model. It's got great tone and plays easily.

Last night I noticed I'm starting to "pit out" the wood under the strings just to the rear of the sound hole - though the use of the flatpick.

I play in this area, not over the hole, because that's where the "sweet spot" is - the best tone and volume. There's quite a bit of space between the strings and the wood there, but I apparently really dig in when I play and it's starting to show.

The picks I'm using are what I've settled on after a long period of trial and error, so I don't want to change them.

The one solution I envision is sticking down some sort of clear protective contact sheet in that area. But I don't know what's available, and I worry about the look and the possiblity of diminishing tone. I guess this would be like extending the pick guard up to the area of the low E string.

Anyone else have this problem, or any ideas of a solution ??

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