Museum: Martin Guitars

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1953 Martin D-28

Serial # 133517. An exceptional D-28 by any measure, this 1953-built guitar is made even more special thanks to its 'mystery' spruce top and ebony neck support -- features specific to that year. Martin switched away from Red spruce in favour of Sitka top wood towards the end of WWII, but we find examples made with Red, Englemann, and German spruce every now and again in the years since. 1953 has become famous for the non-Sitka topped guitars built in that year -- this D-28 being among those -- and the guitars we've encountered from '53 are generally among the best sounding instruments Martin built in the post-war era. It is estimated that only one hundred D-28s were built with ebony (rather than steel) T-bar neck support.

This guitar's provenance is traceable to WWOV Wheeling Jamboree artist Ray "Abner Doolitle' Couture. Abner was an inductee of the Maine Country Music Hall of Fame, and a long-time radio musician and band leader. He clearly loved his Martin, and took great care to keep the guitar in the best possible shape. The instrument shows light one-owner style finish wear in the area under the player's arm and some playwear by the pickguard, but is otherwise very clean and shiny. It's crack-free, and still spends most of its time in its original case -- one that's carefully labeled with Mr. Couture's moniker. Given the age of the guitar, its finish and condition are quite remarkable.

The guitar has no body cracks or repairs to its braces, and its original finish is unaltered. Original waffleback tuners and nut are still in place. The guitar was through the shop of Dennis Berck a couple of years ago for a neck reset, refret, and bridge replacement. The work is all very cleanly done, and the bridge is a very finely made reproduction. There is a 1/32" binding splice at the back's bass-side waist, and a tiny repaired chip in front of the bridge. Apart from these two very small flaws the guitar is pretty much perfect. Playability is superb, with a very comfortable neck, easy action, and medium strings.

A wonderful sounding guitar with excellent dynamic range, dryness of tone, and appealing blend of overtones and that classic D-28 power. The ebony neck support makes for a D-28 that has more character than most other straight-braced versions we've played. The guitar isn't the loudest D-28, but sure is appealing to sit and play on your own thanks to the extra warmth and expressiveness created by the ebony in the neck. Melodic flatpickers will love this one.

Full-feeling neck with rounded-off soft V carve, 1-11/16" nut, 25.4" scale. Action of 5-6 64ths with the correct relief and full height saddle.

With original hardshell case

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