6/23/2016

1961 Martin 0-18 Flattop Guitar





Now there are three 0-size Martins in the shop! This one came in the other day and when I first took it out of its case, I almost assumed it was refinished because it's so very, very clean. Fortunately, it's not. This instrument is original throughout, save for new ebony bridgepins and a new ebony endpin. The original saddle had been lowered at some point, but overall the guitar was close to ready-to-go when it arrived.

My work on it included a fret level/dress, pin-hole fill/redrill, cleats installed to address a "pickguard" hairline crack, the new pins, and compensation/adjustment of the saddle's top edge for better intonation/match to the board radius. It's now playing beautifully (3/32" EA, 1/16" DGBE at the 12th fret) and looks the business, too. If you've ever had the pleasure of playing multiple old 0-18s, you will find that some prefer mellower fingerpicking or a tubbier-sounding flatpick and some can bark and bite like an old '50s Gibson LG-2. This one's needle points directly to center and it has a decisively loud, full, voice. The mids and high end are gutsy and the low end is crisp and clean.


The finish isn't flawless (there are tiny scratches here and there and a bit of weather-check) but it's about as good as you can get for a guitar from this age. I've only handled a few other small-body Martins from the pre-70s that are in the same state.

It also has interesting wood -- the top has some bearclaw figure around the center-seam area and darker "streaking" to the grain. It's a handsome look, despite the fact that it meant that Martin was beginning to use less-than-fancy top materials during the time of construction (the grain is still tight, however). These days, that stuff would be considered "visual pluses," and I agree. The back/sides are made from the typically clean, straight mahogany that Martins are known for.


The headstock veneer, fretboard, and bridge are all rosewood. This has the usual 1 11/16" nut width and the neck profile is very similar to a modern Martin's soft-V shape. It's fast and easy on the hands when coupled with the short 24.9" scale. Both the nut and saddle are original.


The frets are nearly full-height after a level/dress and feel great. The board has a 14" radius (or close to it) ad the pearl dots jump right out.


The strings are more-or-less 12s at gauges 54w, 40w, 30w, 22w, 16, 12.



Please look closely and you'll see the only crack on the guitar -- a hairline that runs just under the "left" edge of the pickguard. I've cleated it and sealed it, so it's good to go.

As for the bridge -- it's original and in good shape. The pin-holes were quite worn so I filled/redrilled their lower half and then adjusted the worn-in string slots into proper "string ramps" leading up to the saddle. I compensated and adjusted the saddle itself for proper action height and intonation, too, and then added new ebony pins to replace the shoddy (replacement) plastic pins that were on this when it came in.


The saddle is on the low side, but there's good break-angle on the strings and good-enough height off the top for easy, scritchy-scratchy-free playing.


The usual, classy, style 18 appointments apply -- including the nice tortoise binding used at the time.




The original Grovers are working just fine. Like most old tuners, they like to be tuned "up" to a note, rather than tuned "down." If you follow that general rule of thumb, they lock in quite nicely. That applies to most old machines, too.






The reflections of the rocks in the finish should give you an idea of just how fresh and clean this thing looks in person.




The 176xxx serial places this at 1961.



As a bonus, the guitar comes with an as-new, Superior, hard, arched case. It has all that nice "vintage green plush" on the inside, too, so even looks the part of an old Martin-style case. It's also well-fitted, to boot.