10/26/2013

c.1930 Martin Style 15 Carved-top Mandolin



I worked on this mandolin last year and then sold it (reluctantly!) to my buddy Tom who was smitten with it. Well, it turns out he does better with longer scale instruments (13 7/8" vs. 13 1/8" on this one), so this guy's now available again. If I hadn't just fallen for a dashing blonde I would've snapped it right back up for myself: the tone and feel is delicious on this instrument.

The story on this instrument is that the serial places it right at 1930 which is pretty much the beginning of production for Martin carved models of this sort. It has the uber-rare sunburst ("shaded" as Martin would put it) finish which looks glorious. In fact, everything about this instrument's craftsmanship is glorious, as you might expect from a Martin product of the "golden years."

Tonally this has that A-style Gibson thing going on but with less "husk" to the voice, slightly less volume and more "sweet cream" in the way those Martin flatbacks sustain and sustain and have a subdued, sweet midrange focus. This has a lot of warmth, too. It's a bit of an ideal recording instrument for something like Celtic/folky/classical (or even jazz, in some respects) music. It has a very refined sound.




Since it's come back into my care, I've reglued a slightly delaminating ebony pickguard, installed an adjustable ebony bridge (the original bridge had failed a few months ago, as I expected since it was too lightweight), and I've also given it a fresh fret level/dress, setup, and cleaning.

It plays perfectly with a good straight neck, original (low, but good to go) bar frets, and action that rides at a perfect 1/16" bass and under 1/16" treble at the 12th fret. Oh, and the (original) ebony nut finally started wearing out so it now wears a pretty GraphTech nut which also self-lubricates and looks like the original ebony, too.

As an aside: tain't that finish pretty? It's a perfect ruddy-brown to warm pumpkin color in the middle. The pear-shaped "A" figure is also wider and deeper than many Gibson As I've handlded and the carve to the top and back is pretty steep which certainly shows off the skills of the carvers who worked on it.


Rosewood-veneered headstock. 1 1/8" nut.


The flat-profile ebony board has those nice Martin "micro dots" that look so classy. This is sporting 34w-10 strings which is probably the max I'd use on this instrument to keep the neck stable.


The top, back, and soundhole edges are all bound in that black "fiberloid" stuff which was popular at the time. Look who cool the soundhole looks with all of that carving on the top...!

The pickguard is 3 layers of ebony and looks smashing.


I re-cut and fit this newer ebony adjustable bridge to match essentially the same size/spacing/weight of the original two-foot ebony bridge which failed after a year of play (it was sagging so I knew it was going to fail at some point). This new bridge both sounds a little punchier and also gives you action adjustment on the fly and the "full contact" of the bridge foot seems to extend some of the bass of the instrument.


 The cloud tailpiece cover is still there.

Note that there are a few short hairline cracks on the top -- two that seem to be just finish cracks or surface cracks near the tailpiece, and one to the bass side of the bridge that I have a cleat on (though it was stable in service and tight to begin with: I'm just paranoid about them). The other repair that I remember from first working on this was regluing the main brace below the soundhole.


To me, this is just as classy (or classier) than those Lyon & Healy carved tops. And, yes... the top is carved spruce.


Martin stamp on the back interior -- and the serial is at the neck block for dating, though that's pretty easy -- these lost the nice ebony pickguard pretty quickly.


Here you can see that steep carving a bit... and also get a taste of that lovely flamed maple on the back and sides! Yum.



It's pretty intense just how pretty this instrument is. It's a looker!

The finish is in nice shape but shows weather-checking lines throughout.


Original tuners with ivoroid buttons.


I love the tiny little heel.



Kinda lusty, isn't it?






This comes with its original (very beaten-up) chip case which is falling apart...


...or it can ship with a somewhat looser modern hard case.

No comments: