1/22/2015

1946 Martin 0-17 Mahogany Flattop Guitar




This is a consignor's 0-17 and while it's had some rough times in its life it's now buttoned-up, ship-shape, and humming. This one has a very rich and big sound despite the 14-fret 0 body size and easily outpaces my own Gibson B-25 (an inch wider and slightly deeper) both in volume, bass response, and projection. Part of that is the longer Martin scale, part of it is the era of build (the 40s were a good time for Martin), and part of it is the simple fact that this was played-in.

My work on it included a fret level/dress (the original brass frets were pretty worn), replacement bridge (you can see the hack-job first replacement here), cleating and repair of a 5" back crack, a new saddle and new pins all around, rehab of the remaining original tuners (new buttons, lube) and a replacement tuner of the same vintage type from my parts bin, much cleaning, and setup.



This guitar sports its original finish, though a few small "touchup jobs" over time have mucked it up here and there with a few varnish/lacquer drips in some spots, some strange discoloration around the bridge and under the strings on the top, and general age-wear and use-wear adding plenty of scuffs, nicks, small dings, and weather-checking all over.

A casual eye, though, can't help but like all that living.


The original ebony nut is intact but it was shimmed-up a long time back. I had to do a little building-up on some edges to keep it functional. It has a 1 11/16" width.


The Brazilian rosewood board is radiused and has original brass frets. The neck is stable under tension with 12s on it and has only the tiniest deflection (1/64") overall when tuned-up. Action is 3/32" bass and 1/16" treble at the 12th fret (spot on).

This neck has a slightly bigger profile than other 40s Martins with something like a soft-v version of a 50s Gibson-shape neck. This feels really good to me as the thinner soft-v Martin necks usually cramp my own hands if I play them longer than 45 minutes (that's just a matter of preference, though).


The original pickguard is looking good and there are zero top cracks. Being a 17 model, this has solid mahogany throughout.


While this would've had a rectangular rosewood bridge to begin with, it was long ago replaced with a funky belly bridge. I've used this old 70s parts-bin rosewood bridge to fill the role as I was saving it for just this type of use: where I needed a pretty, older, slightly-worn bridge that looked more the part. I needed to retain a "belly" type because of cosmetic damage from the old replacement.

When I replaced the bridge I filled the original bridge pin holes and then redrilled them after install. This means that I didn't need to do any work on the bridge plate to get a good "underside fit."


Here's an example of the general wear and scuffing throughout. I cleaned up as much as I could but I didn't want to distress the finish further to get it all off.




You can see some of the finish "blush" from years of wear and tear. It's not glossy like it would've been originally.

Unlike the top, the back and sides do have some cracks. The back has the longest (5" at the upper bout), but I've fixed it up and also cleated it. The sides just have a few small hairlines that have either been fixed in the past or are good to go as they're over the cloth reinforcement strips inside the guitar.


These original Kluson units are now working just fine. I replaced the buttons (which were destroyed) with some black plastic ones and have also replaced a whole unit from my parts bin stock as well as one of the screws.


I'm thinking that the neck was reset in the past as the angle was good to go and gave me ample height over the bridge.




The back of the neck is quite distressed and appears to have had a lot of capo abuse, to my eyes. Still, it feels good.





This small impact crack at the bass side is stable and good to go.


I replaced the endpin with a plastic one on hand to match the tuner buttons.


The new saddle is bone and compensated with extra height available. The new pins are all rosewood.


Here's the backstrip stamp and, yes, the serial dates it right to 1946.

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