5/08/2015

1944 Martin 00-17 Flattop Guitar




Update 2016: This came back in and I took new photos and updated the description where necessary.

This old Martin has been around the block, but it sure sings proudly. The serial places it at 1944 -- wartime -- and the ebony reinforcement rod in the neck reiterates that. After work it's got plenty of volume and a robust, mellow tone, excellent playability, and "rugged good looks." The neck is fast and almost identical to the profile on a modern Martin hog-top 00. It's also straight. It's built very light and snugs into the lap just right. It feels quite alive when you're picking it and has that nice mahogany tonality that "creams up" the top end and "tightens" the bottom end. That makes it ideal for recording and mixed-use playing (fingerpicking or strumming).


It's crack-free except for a very tight (not even through the top and hard to find in pictures) hairline running from the bridge to the soundhole and then a couple inches behind it. The worst bit is that the top and back have been refinished from their original glossy coat to a look more like a semi-satin 50s Harmony mahogany-top instrument. In addition, the bridge had been replaced with a German-looking 60s-era one (and an oversized bridge plate and reinforcement block installed to help patch up a damaged top under the bridge), the tuners were DOA, and in shipping to me the endblock received a crack from bad handling (and, for that matter, a horrid packing job).

My work was to right these wrongs and I've done the following: leveled/dressed the frets, replaced the tuners (and added vintage ferrules from my bins), replaced the bridge with a new StewMac repro rosewood belly-bridge (to hide the old replacement bridge footprint and help stabilize the top), added a new bone saddle, repaired that endblock/side crack, added replacement pins (rosewood bridge, ebony endpin), and cleaned-up/polished-up the refinished bits of the guitar. It's in good health, now, and sounds as good or better than other 40s mahogany Martins I've handled. It's really a fuller, heady sort of sound compared to a brand new version of the same.


I replaced the missing tuners with same-footprint Kluson-style (50s-ish) repros that I use as a standard replacement machine. I like them: they work well, stay in tune, and look oldy-but-goodie.


The rosewood board has a few "sideways" scritchy-scratches from previous repair work but I've cleaned it up a bunch to remove most of it. Isn't that Brazilian nice looking stuff? The profile is a flatter radius than later Martins and this has the cream dots.



The pickguard is original and looks great







The replacement bridge is good-quality and looks nice with the fretboard. I chose it from my stock of these to match the board as well as I could. I know it's not "right" in that it's not rectangular, but the original bridge footprint had been altered with a repro bridge, anyhow.


There are a few spots of discoloration/use wear here and there on the top. See these "fingerprint" looking marks? I'm wondering if moisture got to the finish one summer day long, long ago. It's not very obvious but I mention for completeness' sake.





No cracks on the back -- and you can see some of that slightly ribbon-y figure here and there.


Yes, the high E tuner is just slightly crooked. I was just following the original 40s-era Kluson (openback) footprints and drill holes!



I'm pretty sure the neck was reset in the past as the angle was really good "out of the box."


The sides and neck have original, glossier, Martin finish on them. Here you can see some scratching and wear at the waist, mostly (lighter patches).





I reglued this very slight endblock/side crack. The endblock received a not-too-harsh hairline crack from a bad packing/handling job and I managed to get it all clamped-up flush and stable when I reglued it. It's perfectly good to go.


Here's the serial number.


The guitar also comes with a brand new Martin 00, flat-top hard case with green plush lining.

4 comments:

William Swiggard said...

Great work righting wrongs. Sounds wonderful. Is she for sale?

Jake Wildwood said...

It was for sale, but the owner decided to take it back after seeing how it turned out... :)

William Swiggard said...

The ultimate compliment, and well deserved. This is a bit like beach combing. If she shows up again, do give a shout.

Unknown said...

Hi! You mentioned a rosewood fretboard. I've been reading about the 00's and I believe I read the 00-17 was pure mohagany from top to bottom... Not true in this case?