Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

1970 D18 - Should I buy it - Looks Sweet

Well boys, I am on the fence here, this a my birth year and a nice looking instrument. Kind of has me “giddy” that I found one and it’s within 10 miles of my house at “Music City Pickers”.

This is the Ebay ad and if you would review it and give me some feedback in what you think I’d appreciate it. Any history you guys know about the 1970 would be appreciated that would help me either “go for it” or stay away from it.

Is pretty close to what I have always wanted and I’d love for you guys to either talk me into it or out of it.

I’ve always been reluctant to buy something like an instrument off Ebay or CraigsList, but since you can go there and play it, I think that will be the over-riding factor here. I would give that a shot anyway. I can see what might happen; playing it might make it even more desirable, but that’s a good thing! Sit down and play for an hour and if it practically tries to follow you home, then I would go for it. I did that a while ago. I have a Martin HD-28 that I love more than anything, but on a recent trip to a shop in Mesa, AZ I fell in love with a Santa Cruz pre-war model. It has a totally different sound than the Martin and I regularly swap them out from day to day, practicing with one or the other. It’s nice having a backup guitar, and for those moments when a picking buddy might drop by, I’ve got a spare instrument so the two of us can jam along together.

I’m just throwing these extra “excuses” out there in case you need more ammunition for the inevitable “presentation at the spousal award ceremony!” You know of course that means that she usually demands a similarly valued indulgence. If there is no “Mrs.” then you can safely ignore the above advice. :mrgreen:

Thanks Canyon - “Momma” is getting an Ar-15 A4 and a new handgun this weekend :smiley: so that ads to the problem!..Who knows, could be a $5000 weekend - $4500 for toys and $500 for divorce papers!


Whoa! Maybe you oughta see if that guitar comes with a bulletproof vest…uh, just in case! :laughing:

It’s funny you mention the divorce papers. After all these years, my wife and I would never get divorced, because all we’d end up doing is eventually making 2 other people miserable. :unamused:

It looks like a very nice guitar. My buyers (critical) take on it. They call it excellent condition, but it’s not “Excellent” by my estimation due to the number of dings and play wear through the finish. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, for a 1970 to be excellent, it would almost have not been used. The fact it is well used often means it’s a good guitar. Based on the pics, I would put it at VG+. There is a lower bout, back fill repair that I would want to take a closer look at. It looks a bit odd. On the repair invoice, I like that the saddle has been moved. Many of the 70’s martins I have seen have the saddle in a position where it is impossible to get the intonation set even close. I am not sure what the bridge plate extension was done for… may have been for a crack repair? It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but I would want to look at it to see what they did. Some of the 70’s bridge plates are pretty big to begin with. It’s hard to tell from the pics, but the saddle looks lowish, but ok. The bridge has been shaved and slotted, so if the action is not low enough for your liking, you likely will be looking at a neck reset. I don’t like where the strap button is located. Structurally it is fine, but they feel like they are flopping over on me when positioned there.

With all that said, the big deal is play it and look it over. You aren’t going to find an instrument that has been played regularly for 42 years that doesn’t have play wear, dings and most likely some repair. If it plays and sounds awesome then it will be a no-brainer for you. If you don’t see any major problems and like Max said, it really wants to follow you home, then go for it.

I want to second Mike assessment. The saddle looks quite low and has been moved. In addition, the bridge has had wood shaved from the top and the action looks like it may be a bit high anyway. What this all means is that you are looking at a new bridge, saddle and complete neck reset before even sitting down with the thing. Also, they were pretty careful not to show the condition of the frets near the nut. And the frets they do show look to be flattened on top like it had a poor fret level done at some point. So you may be looking at some worn out frets (another $300 of work). At a starting bid of $1600, you could do much better.

If the guitar had a really stellar tone, I might consider it for $1000 considering at least $300 (and possibly $300 more for frets) work that needs to be done.

I just had a thought on the bridge plate extension. It would make sense that if they moved the bridge for intonation, they might have needed to extend the bridge plate in the direction of movement.

I forgot to mention a couple of tips… When I am serious about a local guitar, I like to take something of mine to compare it. Also if the strings aren’t fresh, I ask to buy a set of strings to put on the guitar. I have yet to have anyone charge me for the strings, but if they wanted to that’s fine.

Well boys here is what I got - First I am the proud new owner.

Guitar was listed for around $1799. After playing it for 30 minutes then inspecting it thoroughly the action was not bad but a bit too high but comfortable enough and she sounds great…exactly like it is supposed to. To get lower action the there is not much room for shaving but instead a neck reset will need to be done ( I may be wrong on this, but it could be shaved and be OK…is really close)…which it is gonna be close but that’s at least going to be $500.00 so we agreed on that (although they can get it for cheaper and I would pay more). I also split a bit off of the “profit” and basically agreed that this is a $1100 guitar and an $1800 guitar with a neck reset. So we agreed but I wanted not to spend maybe $600 on a neck reset but instead I wanted a neck reset at their cost verses what i would pay for it from a well known Luthier in town (we have 3 well known ones around town Nashville). With this I get a neck reset for no more than $350.00 and I get their receipt for the work and it will be done by one of the “top” guys in town. So with that I will be into her for $1450 once I get the neck reset.

Birth year Martin for me, is worth a few extra bucks, but damn she is in good shape. IN all honestly the guitar after neck reset would max out at $2000 price tag and realistically be a $1600-$1800 guitar, so I am fairly happy with her. I guess teh “birth year” for me is worth a few hundred bucks to me also, which you can’t put a price on that.

So I am the new owner.

Now while I was in there I got to play the 1949 D28 (they want $13K), if you did not see it, go to their sight and look at it. Talk about a guitar. John Prine was in yesterday to look at it and they think he is coming back. I told them in me buying the D18 and if John Prine would call to come back in and get it then they had to let me know so I could magically stumble into the shop while he was there and they agreed - I am really a big John Prine fan and have been for years, seen him in concert 2 years ago.

So that’s the story. She plays perfectly fine the way she is and sounds great but to be “perfect” she will need a neck reset.


Congrats on a birth year guitar Oldhat! Glad you guys could work out a deal. Enjoy it!

good deal! congrats.

Oh and it’s official, this D-18 was used to write “Can’t take the Honky Tonk Out of the Girl” that Brooks and Dunn done. I was told that by the guys at the shop…then low and behold I had this happen today:

We had our “neighborly get together”/cook-out for the community - you know where the females get this grand idea about doing a cookout and the men show up cause the have to meet all the neighbors. Well The one dude seen my boat and asked that we go fishing some, he’s a big time publisher around town…well I told him I play a bit and told him I actually had just got back from buying a birth year D18 and he wanted to play it…well he knew the guitar and who it belonged to as he writes with the dude/worked with him a lot - all the time and they are friends and had actually played my recently acquired Martin before - Small world Hunh?

He and I are fishing this week sometime, so if you boys have a song you want me to push to him then let me know! I also told him about our Kompoz collabs and he had never heard of the site as it amazed him when I talked about doing our collabs online and how I am sure stuff like this are killing studio professionals so he is checking us out on there and our Rider song ----told him to ready for a good laugh.

Happy Birth Year Guitar!!!

Congrats! That is pretty cool. I look forward to hearing it.

Nice! Congrats…I think you got a sweet deal. Would be nice to hear it!

Here you go CanyonHiker…now bare in mind that this is the first time I ever tried recording it and not quiet sure all of my settings…and don’t mind my pretty singing. Just a sample and I am still tripping over myself getting used to the string spacing on this verses my other guitars so it’s rough!

Oh, Ben has a pretty good version of the lead break for “I am a Pilgrim” this one is not his, but the one I learned from somewhere else.

That guitar sounds great Jesse. Thanks for posting.

Very nice. You’re getting quite a nice arsenal of guitars, there.

It sure does sound great, thanks for posting the mp3 files!!

Now that there is a D-18 right there! Nice…

Thanks for the replies guys.

I tell you what, that 1949 D28 I played was nice when I went to try out this one but when it came to that “bluegrass” sound, tone, and volume, to me the sound I wanted was coming from this guitar here. Don’t get me wrong that D28 was nice… but she sure wasn’t barking the way this one does!

This guitar sustains for days, be it a note or an entire chord…I have guitars “vibrate on me” but you even talk and this one just sets there in your lap vibrating from your voice…whole thing just oscillates! What happens to an instrument to make it do that. I have noticed it on almost all instruments but not to this level (both the oscillating and the sustain)…I mean what sends them over the top…perfect manufacturing specs/everything is right, or is it just the dense wood aging?