1/03/2015

1943 Martin 5-17T Tenor Guitar




This is a customer's tenor and has been on the slate for a quite a long time. It got a laundry-list of work including a neck reset, fret level/dress, K&K pickup installation, new bone saddle, new ebony pins, and a full setup. It now plays beautifully and has a great tone acoustic and plugged-in.

Being a 5-17T, this is a size 5 (3/4 body) guitar with a tenor (4 string) neck and 23" scale. It's entirely made from solid mahogany save the bridge and fretboard which are Brazilian rosewood. The body has been refinished (note: white soundhole rosette rather than yellowed), though the neck is its original thin and glossy Martin factory coat. Martin's 17 designation meant mahogany with a glossy finish while the 15 designation was mahogany with a satin finish.


These tenors are x-braced and this one has a robust, wartime sound to it. It's quite punchy and loud though, like the later 5-15Ts I'm more familiar with, it lacks the bass one might want for Celtic-style (GDAE) tuning. The owner of this one requested DGBE which is what I've strung and intonated the saddle for.


Ebony nut and funky old original Kluson wartime tuners (no set-screws on the shafts). This neck has an ebony rod for reinforcement rather than a steel bar. Interestingly, the rout for the rod wasn't right up the center of the neck and actually runs at a slight angle. I'm sure this was a factory goof but perhaps it contributed to the light warp that was in the neck when this arrived (which has been dialed-out for setup's sake in the fret level).



I like that original red-tortoise pickguard. If you look closely you can see my "wedge" under the fretboard extension which I needed to install when adding back-angle to the neck joint.

The only reason the joint on this guitar failed is because the dovetail was cut at too shallow an angle and so it traveled a bit over time.


I wanted to re-use the original saddle but it wasn't going to happen. I managed to find a yellowed-looking bit of bone in my pile that fit the vintage aesthetics of the instrument a bit better, though. The new pins are ebony.




After a little lube the tuners started working quite well.





Because of the small triangle of space in front of the bridge plate (and directly under the saddle) available for a K&K pickup, this tenor got a single "big sensor" K&K unit with a good jack from my parts bin.

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