10/14/2015

1971 Martin 00-18 Flattop Guitar




1970s Martins still appear to be a great value in the vintage market, though the prices sure are going up. This '71 00-18 is crack-free, has gleaming finish, an original molded hard case, and all its original equipment save replaced tuners and pins. After work it plays spot-on and has a durable, confident feel under the hand. The sound is typical of a 00-18 with a balanced midrange and a mellow, scooped high that still commands presence simply due to the volume and punch pouring out of it. This sort of tone suits flatpicking and fingerpicking equally well and the slightly-wider soundboard gives it a fuller tone (strummed) compared to the slightly-smaller 0-18s.



Specs are standard for a 00-18 with a spruce top and mahogany back, sides, and neck. The bridge looks like that late-60s creamy/streaked Brazilian rosewood to me (Regal used a lot of the stuff in the 40s and early 50s), though I can't vouch for the board or headstock veneer. Martin switched to black binding for its 18 models in '66 and the black pickguard in '67. My taste prefers tortoise but black is definitely elegant and spare.


The nut is 1 11/16" and has a roundish, medium C shape that's fairly close to modern Martins if a tad thicker front to back.


The necks on these have a non-adjustable steel rod in them. 1970s models take flack for this particular type of rod, but as long as the guitars haven't been abused with over-heavy gauges, the necks seem to hold up just fine. This one needed a tiny bit of relief dialed-out via leveling the frets and in service it's "straight."



The black pickguard shows some wear, though the rest of the guitar is quite clean.


Work included a fret level/dress, setup, pin-hole fill/redrill, and a very slight shave of the bridge top. It came down less than 1/16" overall and polished back up to the original appearance. The saddle-slot is a drop-in and there's +/- 1/16" or so adjustment left on it. I compensated the original bone saddle so it'd play in tune a bit better. The reason I filled and re-drilled the pinholes is so that I could clean up the worn front edges and string-ramp them more cleanly.


As usual for older Martins, the binding and cut is crisp and exact.





The mahogany certainly is some pretty stuff -- and you can easily see how glossy the finish has remained over time.


These Grover Rotos are replacements -- but of the same age. The original screw holes look to have been filled and cleaned-up very well.







Our poor, tired-looking porch...!

That aside, the original Martin-badged blue molded hard case still serves nicely.


Here's a bit of that spruce grain on the top...

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