8/20/2010

c.1930 Martin O-17 Guitar


I've been slowly but steadily getting this guitar back into shape for a customer of mine. Serial number places this guitar at 1930 and it's a great example of Martin's "entry" level instruments... lightyears ahead of the competition's models in the same vein, and yet plain, unornamented, and seriously cool.


Body is the familiar 0-size in the 12-fret-join variety, with body and neck made entirely from solid mahogany of a decent grade. Fretboard on this guitar is a replacement and is rosewood. The bridge is a new replacement and is ebony. While the original nut was probably ebony, the one that's on it is quite old and bone. Per the customer's request I took out and filled in some poorly-inlaid MOP dots and in their place installed regulation Martin-style pattern pearl dots.


The only decorative touches to this instrument are the inlaid, very simple rosette, and a rosewood headstock veneer.


Also per the customer's request, I "spruced up" the top and in general, the finish. When I received the guitar, it had electrical-tape "pickguards" on either side of the soundhole and the whole instrument had some sort of bizarre lacquer that was moisture-sensitive and getting gummy around the edges and neck. In addition it had a reverse-belly Gibson-style bridge installed which looked really bad.

I very lightly sanded and then polished up through a few layers of yucky old finish, and then sprayed a couple coats of lacquer on the top, back, sides, and headstock, followed with polishing, of course. The result is a much nicer looking instrument with approximately the correct thickness of finish on it. It's not perfect because the cruddy old job still shows here and there, but it is a zillion times better and the grain pops out in the sunlight now.



Original brass-plate, bakelite-buttoned tuners.


Nice, simply rosette.


I reused the old synthetic saddle, but after installation of the new ebony pyramid bridge and some ebony bridge pins, this guitar is much louder, sweeter-toned, responsive, and in general... better.


This guitar features typical Martin x-bracing, but the braces are super lightweight and nicely made -- a far cry from the 1970s-style bracing the company used later on.






Oh, per the customer's request, I also sanded down the back of the neck to a very, very thinly finished point, and then polished it up a lot. This gives you protection for the wood but the feel of a "speed neck" -- not to mention, you'll never need to worry about your hand getting "stuck" on a hot summer day.



The guitar is fitted with a K&K Pure Western pickup which sounds awesome. This had a poor old DiMarzio soundhole pickup in it when I received it. For amplified tone -- this is a huge improvement.


2 comments:

Josh said...

Hmmm...When did Martin change from slotted to solid headstocks on the O-17? I've got a 1938 O-17 -- it's my #1 acoustic instrument -- and it has the solid head.

Antebellum Instruments said...

...and I bet it's a 14-fretter, too. They changed to 14 frets standard sometime in the 1930s and did away with the 12-fret join models. I love both, but they definitely have a different feel. I'd love to own a 14-fretter O-17 someday, myself.