c.1947 Martin Style A Mandolin

Update 2013: New photos coming up, but this mando now sports a set of Stewart MacDonald "Golden Age" repro tuners (a nice upgrade) with black buttons in place of the replacement white-buttoned pegs as seen in these pics.

Here's a lovely 1947 Martin "A" mandolin, in typical spruce over mahogany and guitar-like style 18 appointments. When this was made, this same model had been in production for about 30 years, and while this one bears a pickguard, there's not much difference compared to the model when it was introduced.

The market value on these guys is far below what they're worth intrinsically: they play great, have wonderful rich and full tone, and good volume... and they have that Martin build quality which adds so much to peace of mind when an instrument is pressed into regular gigging service.

At any rate, my repairs included a small hairline crack cleating and drop-fill to the treble side of the pickguard, fret level/dress, cleaning, and setup. Martins retain the early 13" scale length but have a wider-than-average nut which means they're super comfortable and fast to play.

This one has honest playwear but is otherwise in great shape. The finish shows definite use but not abuse and there's some nice pickwear along the upper bit of the teardrop shape, lending it a worn-in aesthetic.

Rosewood headstock veneer, decal label, ebony nut.

Ebony fretboard with micro dots. These later frets are a bit wider than the old 1920s and 1930s style ones and feel more natural to modern fingers.

Ebony, compensated bridge. I only had to adjust the setup slightly at the nut and just a hair at the bridge to get it to an ideal height. If I hadn't done anything, it would have played well, just not "on the dot."

Fun rosette. The celluloid used for the faux-tortoise guard and binding is a milkier, greener-brown color compared to the darker red-brown seen on later Martins.

Mahogany back, sides, and neck. There's tortoise binding on both the top and back edges.

At some point, someone removed the original Waverly tuner sets in favor of these later 18-1 mando tuners. I like these just fine, but the buttons are slightly more elongated than the original ones would have been.

Perfect neck set.

Good original Waverly "cloud" tailpiece.


Jon Briggs said...

Hi Jake,

I've been following your blog for quite a while now, you and the Grisman/Rice album Tone Poems actually sparked my interest in these old instruments.

I agree about these martin mandolins, I have a model B mandolin and love the thing. I didn't pay all that much for it either, considering it's a 1921 in great condition.

It has a repair though where somedbody set the original pickguard into the wood somehow, so the pickguard is level with the top. I assume this was due to top shrinkage. Are you familiar with that repair? Do you think it's a good solution?

Thanks for all the great posts,

Antebellum Instruments said...

Hi Jon -- The pickguards on these guys were originally set into the wood. That was the style of the time and it's a carry-over from earlier bowlback instruments. Martin started putting them on top in the 30s, so... your Martin is all original. :)