3/25/2017

1956 Martin 00-18 Flattop Guitar





I do believe I've made my tendency to prefer 00-size Martins pretty clear over the past few years. There are exceptions (12-fret 0s are joyous), but it's hard to beat the lower-mids chunk, overall balance, and expressiveness of this body type on average -- and the '50s models tend to have an extra something that helps the ear along. This one, at '56, nails "the sound" and has an excess of punch and a thick, saucy upper-mids/treble to boot.

It came here in relatively great shape structurally -- crack-free and it looked like it'd had a neck reset and refret and the action was actually a hair low while sporting a tall saddle -- but there were two holes in the headstock (for banjo tuners) and a fair bit of the top's finish around the soundhole bore witness to some large "country-picking" custom pickguards from "back in the day." The tuners were also swapped-out to new Waverly units (a great choice) and it came with a dingy, replacement pickguard (not such a great choice).

My work was simple -- I seated and then gave the frets a level/dress, plugged the holes, set it up, and replaced the pickguard. It's now rumbling healthily and plays on-the-dot with 1/16" DGBE and 3/32" EA action at the 12th fret. I left the newer strings that were on it -- which feel like regular 12s.


The original finish is all extant and looks great everywhere except for the briar patch around the soundhole. Thankfully, it doesn't knock the respectable look too much. Red tortoise binding and the classic yellowing of the finish give it a touch of class.


The original nut is extant -- complete with two extra slots for octaves (I'm guessing) on the G&B strings -- which were used in conjunction with a couple banjo pegs which are long-removed. The Waverly tuners are a nice choice to sub-in for the Grover Rotomatics this once wore as a refit, but whoever installed them didn't fit the ferrules quite right -- and so I've done that, too.


The board is Brazilian rosewood with a 14" radius and has hefty medium frets. My level/dress job did not take them down much so there's plenty of years left in these. The neck is nice and straight tuned to pitch.



My replacement pickguard (stick-on) isn't perfect but it sure looks a heck of a lot better than the strange brown-grey, pixelatedly-printed guard that came with it.


I'm assuming the bridge is original as it looks quite "right." A previous owner added some nice replica pins and a previous workman made a good, compensated, bone saddle for it.


Said saddle has plenty of height. I actually have one very, very thin shim under it to knock the action up just a hair. I have a feeling that the top will deflect just a tiny bit after being strung-up for a while, so the jury's out on whether I need to make an additional new saddle with this micro-height added or not.



The back looks great and shows the usual minor signs of handling-wear.


The holes in the headstock were actually less than a 1/4" in diameter but there was an impression on either side of the headstock from the banjo tuners themselves -- which is why they appear larger on the surface.






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