7/19/2017

1914 Martin Style B Flatback Mandolin





This classy old Martin mandolin was actually given to a customer of mine by a friend of his who found it -- for free -- at the dump! The bass side had some severe cracks and the upper-bout top brace was broken in half, but otherwise it came into the shop in "average" shape for an old Martin -- by which I mean to say, "not bad." It's clearly been played a ton and lived a raucous life in its past -- all the more reason to save it! It even has an interesting inlaid pickguard of the style I'm not used to seeing on Martin-branded builds, but more akin to the unusually-shaped pickguards they put on off-brand Martin products.

My repairs to this one included some regluing of old crack repairs (and some outright fixing of ones not fixed in the side), a brace repair, much fussing with the bar frets to get them seated, leveled, and dressed, and then some compensation to the bridge and a setup. The tuners got a lube (they were starting to get a bit rusty under their covers) and the whole thing cleaned-up a lot with some polish. It's missing its tailpiece cover but is otherwise all-original.

I strung it up with a very conservative set of strings due to the fragile nature of some of the repairs -- 30w, 18w, 13, 9 in gauges -- and it sounds superb. I really do think the rosewood Martin flatbacks have a big edge on their mahogany-back/side cousins. It brings their tone more in line with nice Larson flatbacks in terms of fullness/roundness -- and I think the average Larsons are some of the best American-made vintage flatbacks available.


There are no cracks in the top and only one small, not-through hairline on the back. Woods used are Brazilian rosewood for the back, sides, and headstock veneer, spruce for the top, mahogany for the neck, and ebony for the bridge and fretboard. The saddle and nut are ivory, probably.


I love how the rosewood has gotten so coffee-brown with exposure to ultraviolet light. The rosewood under the tailpiece is still crisp and dark, dark chocolate.

The nut is 1 1/8" in width and the neck shape is a slimmer C/V hybrid. It has a 13 1/8" scale.


The bar frets leveled and dressed nicely and still have many years of service in them.


I can't get enough of the cool pickguard shape!


My minor amount of compensation helps but it's not 100% on the dot. Still -- it's a lot better than the plain, straight saddle top this was sporting before.


I can't hide my string-afterlength muting foam under the tailpiece cover -- as it's missing.


The binding is rosewood, too, per normal Martin specs for the time.



Hubba, hubba!



The heel cap is missing, unfortunately, but not particularly necessary.








The cracks in the side are ugly (they were even uglier before), but they seem to be stable now. Unfortunately they can't have cleats put on them from the rear as Martin canvassed the entire inside sides of this instrument for reinforcement. Ugh...




Remember that mandolin serials are different from guitar serials for Martins. This one dates it to 1914.

2 comments:

Lausanne said...

What a lucky find this one is! It is enough to turn me into a dump rat if instruments like this come along now and then. It sounds wonderful. You've done another remarkable repair job turning someone's trash into someone else's treasure!

David Richard said...

I did find a Harmony nylon string at our dump, once...sigh...nice mandolin!