Repair Spotlight – Vintage Washburn Acoustic Guitar

Mass Street Music luthier Mike Horan recently restored this circa 1900s Washburn acoustic guitar, a ‘Style 1897’ model. It was brought in by Mike Nye, whose grandfather gave it to him in 1967, when Nye was just 12 years old. 

Nye and sister with the Washburn guitar

When he received it, it had been well-loved and was no longer playable, so Nye, at 12, set about fixing it himself, even refinishing it. “He did a pretty good job at the time, especially for a youngster,” luthier Horan said.

Almost 50 years later, it was again in need of some major restoration and repair. This time Nye wanted it done right and researched many places before choosing Mass Street Music’s Repair Shop – and he couldn’t be happier with the results.

When it arrived at Mass Street, the bridge was bolted to the top and the guitar (likely braced for gut strings originally) was showing the strain of being strung with steel strings for many years. It had a multitude of cracks, some of the bracing was not intact, and the tail block was broken, among other things. Several of the back cracks had been glued unevenly as well.

serial number and label for Washburn 1900s guitar

“It was a mess,” Mass Street Music luthier Mike Horan said. Mike actually removed the back of the guitar so he could get to everything that needed to be repaired. He spliced Rosewood into some of the cracks, repaired them all, fixed the ladder bracing, and added a bridge plate to the top while the back was still off. He put new back binding on as well, after he put the guitar back together. The neck also got some TLC with a reset and refret. A new bridge was also added.

Mass Street Music repair luthier explaining guitar care

Mike talked to Nye about caring for the restored instrument in the coming years, went over humidification, recommending our favorite Kyser humidifier and telling Nye to watch the action. Nye asked if Mike would miss the guitar after having done so much work to it. “Well, some guitars you get done with and you just want to play it. It’s ladder braced, not as powerful as scalloped, but has a really nice resonance with a sweet high end. It sounds great, particularly for this size and being ladder braced,” Mike said.

Mike horan, luthier checking out his handiwork

“This is awesome!” Nye said of the restored Washburn guitar. He was anxious to share it with his dad, who has been sick for some time. “I can’t tell you how excited I am to be able to show this to him tomorrow.” Nye is ready to play some tunes for his dad on the guitar, which is now ready for the next several generations.

Nye with his restored 1900s Washburn acoustic guitar

Mike Nye and his sister did indeed play the guitar for their dad – check it out here or click the image below. 

Nye and sister playing restored Washburn guitar for father

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