12/18/2016

1953 Martin 000-18 Flattop Guitar





Update: I miss-IDed this as a '52. It's actually a '53. So many guitars to check on! The post has been updated.

A buddy of mine was in the shop shortly after I finished work on this nice old 000-18 and he couldn't have said it better -- and I'm paraphrasing -- "...that is one mellow, sweet, and balanced guitar!" He then sat and fingerpicked it for the next 45 minutes. It's indeed an excellent instrument and it exudes confidence.

This one's in via a consignor and it received a neck reset, replacement bridge and saddle, fret level/dress, and a setup. The pins are older but replacements as well, though aside from the bridge and the pins, the guitar is all-original. The neck is straight and it plays perfectly with 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret. I strung it with 52w-12 strings with slightly less tension in the middle (ADG bumped down a gauge) because I was curious about its response as a fingerpicker (it's superb), but it'd be perfectly happy with regular 12s to get your flatpicking on and rumbling.

I don't prefer most 000-18s to their smaller 00-18 cousins because I tend to like the tonal bounce of the smaller body, but I do like this one a lot. It's got a bit more of a "voice of its own," so to speak. Many modern 000-18s tend to be input in > input out. They're clear-toned and balanced. This one has a bit more nuance to it, with that classic Martin slightly-scooped sound and a velvety air about the overtones and sustain. It's not quiet, though -- I'm simply talking about the way the notes decay, I suppose.


Amazingly, the guitar is entirely crack-free. I know... not even a pickguard crack!

Per style 18, the top is solid spruce (nice, tight grain) and the back, sides, and neck are solid mahogany. The board and headstock veneer are Brazilian rosewood, the nut is original, and the replacement bridge is rosewood but of the East Indian variety.

It's overall in great shape, but the endpin area is a bit ugly with finish muck-up and an endpin hole repair (more on that later), there's a bit of buckle rash on the back and minor usewear throughout, and in front of the bridge there's a hard-to-see across-the-grain swirl mark (probably from really fine sandpaper some time back -- I'm guessing when the original bridge was hacked-up and shaved in an ugly manner). Still -- it's a beaut.


The nut is 1 11/16" and the board is a flatter, ~14" radius. This has Martin's 24.9" short scale, per the usual specs.


The original frets leveled and dressed nicely and have plenty of height left.



The original pickguard looks grand.


After the neck set, I installed this new rosewood bridge to replace the damaged original. A period bridge would have a through-saddle but I prefer to retrofit with drop-in saddles as they're far easier to maintain setup-wise for the player. They can always be modified into a through-saddle bridge if desired, too (but why, why, why?).

It's a nice bridge, full height, looks good, and the new bone saddle (compensated) definitely has some adjustment room for future considerations.





I love the look of mahogany on Martins matched to their tortoise binding.


The original, large-size Kluson tuners work well.



Here's that buckle-rash on the back.








Here's the worst bit! When I took this out of its case, the sides had fuzz all over them here. Apparently someone had some sort of adhesive (icky stickers, maybe?) that eventually merged with lining in the case. I scrubbed it off and cleaned it up as best as I could, but it's still pretty obvious that something went awry with the finish, here.

Fortunately, it's confined to directly around the endpin area.


Speaking of the endpin area... sheesh! Someone had installed an electric guitar jack (the narrow, panel, electric guitar-style 1/4" jack like you might use pickguard-mounted and not a modern "barrel" style long endpin jack) and to do it they'd cut a bit of the endblock out on the inside and then punched through the sides (rather than drilled) to get their jack through. An oversized washer finished-off that job.

Needless to say, I patched the interior of the endblock up and then filled-in the damaged area on the outside. In these shots the job looks worse (lighter) than it does now because I'd forgotten to stain and seal the fill before stepping outside to take the shots. It was getting dark, however, so I just took the pics anyway.

All is good to go down here, so fear not. I just like to disclose as much as I can remember to.




One more bonus? It comes with, as far as I can tell, the original brown-lined, hard case. It's in great shape, too. The original bridge and saddle will be included as well.

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