Museum: Martin Guitars

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1932 Martin C2 Converted to OM-28 by Mark Stutman

Serial # 51035. Original Martin OMs are about as rare as a popular model of guitar can get. There were only some 485 OM-28s built from its introduction in 1929, until being discontinued in 1933. For many of us, an original OM is the ultimate dream guitar, but finding one (and being able to afford it) is a different story.

Soon after the OM-28 was introduced, Martin unveiled its C series archtops. These featured 15" wide OM-shaped bodies with flat backs and carved tops, and the first two years of instruments produced featured long-scale (25.4") necks, just like what's found on an OM. Even though rarer than the OMs, there isn't a strong demand for these archtop models, but if re-topped with a flat top they can be the next best thing to an original OM.

This 1932 C2 arrived at Folkway some time ago as a round-hole archtop, but in a state of disrepair that made it a perfect candidate for an OM conversion. The top was badly damaged, the instrument very well played, and the headstock had had a crack repair. Fortunately, the Brazilian rosewood back and sides were in excellent condition, crack-free, and altogether gorgeous. The guitar was left with Folkway's Mark Stutman for the conversion.

The Adirondack red spruce top features a bracing layout copied directly from a 1929 OM, accurately dimensioned braces, and a small maple bridgeplate sized after the one you'd find in a pyramid bridge '29 OM. The top is thicknessed to early 1930's spec, and features a period correct rosette of wood and celluloid rings. Herringbone purflings are bordered by grained ivoroid to match the back's binding, and the small tear-shaped beveled edge pickguard is accurately proportioned and patterned. The guitar's bridge is a 1932-profile belly with through-cut glued in saddle, and features red-eye Antique Acoustic unslotted pins at a spacing of 2-5/16". Hide glue was exclusively used throughout the build.

The guitar's back and sides feature original finish without any overspray. The top's lacquer was lightly tinted, and the new top binding's color is a perfect match to the back's. The holes left by the original tailpiece were carefully filled with matching wood and celluloid.

To correct the headstock's previous repair, Mark replaced the overlay with an exact replica, and carefully re-profiled the volute on the headstock's back-side. A replica nut was next installed, and the headstock was then refinished to match the neck. The crack-line is just slightly visible through the middle of the volute and is completely solid. The guitar's original Grover tuners were reinstalled which helps make the repair even less visible. At the other end of the neck, some minor repair was required to the guitar's side immediately under and adjacent to the heel, bass side; and there remains a small scar visible along the base of the heel. The neck features new bar frets, and hand-cut accurate replacement inlays.

The guitar's playability is heavenly, with a low fingerstyle action, perfectly crowned bar frets and a finely adjusted nut. The neck has a wonderful profile, with a subtle and very rounded-off V carve and nut that measures a 64th wider than 1-11/16". It's truly one of the most comfortable necks you'll encounter. The guitar's scale is 25.4".

Tone is always the hardest part of a guitar to describe, but chances are good that anyone who plays this instrument would agree that it's a phenomenal sounding OM. It's both powerful and subtle, and has a strong fundamental while still maintaining a rich and colorful pallet of harmonic overtones. Its treble strings are robust, thick, round, and meaty right up past the body joint; its basses have that piano-like articulation and subsequent resonant decay, beguilingly coupled with a healthy amount of sub-bass harmonic undertone; and the mid-range is decadently expressive, forward, and rich. Sure, that's a flowery description, but the guitar is absolutely deserving of it.

The instrument has seen gentle use since the conversion was completed, but is in excellent condition with very little fretwear. There are a few very minor dings to the top and headstock, and the back and sides show finish wear typical of an eighty year old guitar. The neck finish is worn off in the first position, and well worn up to the 10th fret.

The instrument is accompanied by its original 1932 hardshell case, which is in excellent working order.

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