3/13/2016

1919 Martin-made Ditson "Style B" Flatback Mandolin




Martin certainly made a lot of gear for the Ditson catalog/outfit and this one is otherwise identical to a regular period Martin "style B" mandolin save that it bears a Ditson stamp at the headstock and backstrip rather than a Martin one. Its (Martin) serial dates it to 1919, too. For another Martin-made off-brand "style B," check out this SS Stewart I worked on recently.

This mandolin came in for repair/potential consignment in quite good health: my only work was to level/dress the frets, clean it up, compensate the bridge, and set it up. Strings are 32w, 20w, 14, 10 -- sort of a hybrid between "extra light" and "light" mando strings -- and the action is spot-on at 1/16" GD and a hair-under 1/16" AE at the 12th fret. The tone is warm, round, and relatively punchy for a flatback. It's a great "old time" sound and has a nice bottom-end fullness.


The mandolin is all-original save a replacement (but period) tailpiece -- though the cover is missing... as usual.

Also, per standard "style B" specs, this instrument has a solid spruce (canted) top, solid Brazilian rosewood back and sides, a mahogany neck, and ebony fretboard and bridge. The frets are bar stock and the binding and headstock veneer are both made from rosewood, too.


The nut looks like original ivory and the recessed, original tuners, feature ivoroid buttons. Note the "bowlback" style cutout at the headstock's top.


Diamond-shaped pearl inlay decorates the board.


It's hard not to like these old Martin mando rosettes... I wish they were seen more on the guitars! It's a simple, classic look.


I didn't have to adjust bridge height at all during setup -- a testament to the good build of these instruments. I did, however, compensate it so it'd play in tune better up the neck.


There's a tiny bit of muting foam under the strings at the tailpiece to cut down on overtones.



Pretty, huh? I love the multicolored "backstrip" on this one.


Nice diamond-shaped "volute" and engraved tuner plates, here.




The sides have yellowed a bit differently in terms of finish (or just the wood itself)



There's one (small) repaired hairline crack on this "side" at the waist, but it's very hard to see in pictures. It's the only crack.





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