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Popsicle/Tongue Brace Removal on Martin Guitar

Got a fair amount done on the Martin 12-string restoration.

I had decided early on to remove the tongue, or 'popsicle,' brace.  This brace goes across the guitar between the topmost soundboard brace and the neck block.  Pre-war Martins didn't have this brace, and it's the subject of much debate as to its effect on tone.  I figured since I was taking the huge bridge plate off, I may as well take this brace off too.

As with the bridge plate, Martin must have used a form of concrete on the popsicle brace.  I got it damp and heated, and it wouldn't budge.  All I succeeded in doing was tearing strips off of it.

After the success on the bridge plate using steam, I took the same approach on the tongue brace.  I have a right-angle attachment for the trusty Dremel, and I put a small bit on that in order to drill some holes in the brace.

If you were able to shrink yourself and lie on the inside of the guitar looking upward, this is what you'd see.

You can see the smaller, transverse popsicle brace.  The green arrow points to on of the five holes I drilled in the brace.  (Note the shape of the brace - that's how it gets its name).

The red arrow points to my boo-boo - accidentally drilling a hole into the top brace!  Yikes.  Easy to do when you're going mostly by feel.  I plan to fill that hole.

Ah, steam.

My new best friend.

I don't use this high of a setting inside the guitar, but it's fun to open up the valve and spray it in the Dungeon.

Whoo hoo.

Crazy mirror picture of the steam needle going into one of the brace holes.

I put a big towel inside the guitar to try and absorb as much moisture as possible.

After the usual pry, pry, twist, twist with the removal tools, I get the brace out.

It's not pretty, I know.

And after tapping the top of the guitar before and after removal, I'm not sure it made any tonal difference.  Oh well.  I did it and there it is.

You may not be surprised to see that the top seam opened up with the steam.  I wasn't surprised either.

I'm holding it open here from underneath in preparation for putting glue into the seam.

Spread some Titebond into the seam.

I am planning to use hide glue as much as possible on this guitar, but I needed the extended setting time of Titebond here.  I wanted to get the seam lined up exactly.

After glue is in the seam, wipe off excess with a damp towel.

Then I clamped the repair down with a cocobolo caul.

The Complete Martin Guitar Restoration Saga
Restoration begins
Repairing heel break
DIY chisel for bridge plate removal
DIY bridge plate removal iron, Pt.1
DIY bridge plate removal iron, Pt.2
Steam removal of bridge plate
Bridge plate removed
Tongue brace removal (This page)
Crack repair and brace scallop
New bridge plate Pt. 1
New bridge plate Pt. 2
Patching hole in top
Final fitting of top patch
Installing carbon fiber rod
Fret removal
Fingerboard crack repair, Pt. 1
Fingerboard crack repair, Pt. 2
DIY fret bender tool
Refretting Pt. 1
Refretting Pt. 2
Tuner shaft repair
Neck reset - dovetail fitting
Measuring neck set with DIY jig
Gluing the neck with hide glue
Tortoloid Pickguard
Fitting bridge pins
Brace reglue
Making bone saddle
Making a buffalo horn nut
Restoration completed


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