7/03/2014

c.1929 Martin Style A Flatback Mandolin




Yum... nothing better than a tasty old Martin A mandolin with wear that says "I've been played in so of course I sound great!" The serial dates this to 1929 and it sure looks like a 20s Martin to me: nice flush pickguard, quality spruce over quality mahogany, ebony fretboard with bar frets and micro dots... and that perfect velvety mwah to its folky tone.

It came in needing fret seating and a good fret level/dress, much cleaning, a replacement tuner shaft (vintage parts), and a number of side hairline cracks needing reinforcement or repair. It plays perfectly with a dead straight neck and hair-under 1/16" action at the 12th on the treble and the same on the bass. I've got it strung with extra-lights (32w-9) and it sounds gorgeous with these but the 13 1/8" scale should warm up to regular lights, too, though this doesn't need them to project sweetly.


The top and back are both crack-free which is a mild miracle considering the playwear!


The original ebony nut was still ship-shape and just needed slight adjustment. Rosewood headstock veneer.


The ebony board feels great and I love the micro cream dots. The frets are low and slick just like Martin intended in the first place and when it comes time to work on the frets, if needed, they're bar stock so they can be jacked up with a shim underneath and re-leveled and shaped to suit.


The understated Martin look is always classy and the rosewood top-edge binding makes these 20s Martins even a step above the later celluloid-bound ones in my book.


I barely had to touch the compensated ebony bridge... it was pretty much setup at the perfect height right out of the box even after all these years... though of course the frets and nut needed some work.

Note the pickwear behind the bridge: the owner of this was after my own heart! I love doing percussive and bell effects behind the bridge on mando.


Since the "cloud" tailpiece cover is long missing I've muted the extra string length with some spare rubber grommets from my parts bin.




The original Waverly tuners work just fine... though one shaft/gear is a replacement (2nd D tuner) and the same unit has a bent knob-shaft.




Here you can see some of those old-repair hairline cracks. A few are ones I've reglued while most are old repairs that were OK but not great. I reinforced internally with some cleats in the trouble spots and it should be good to go for the future.


...more hairline cracks on this side, too... but all repaired and good to go.




No case... but it does come with plenty of love. This is a sweet little instrument for the serious folk/Celtic/old-time mando player who wants something practical and tonally excellent for taking around and not worrying too much about getting scratches on...!

No comments: