Museum: Martin Guitars

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1967 Martin Employee 00-28 Lefty

Yes, it is factory left handed; yes it has Brazilian rosewood back and sides; and yes, it was built in the Martin factory. But, like all "Employee-built" Martin guitars, this instrument does not have a Martin serial number or bear the familiar C.F. Martin & Co. logo on its headstock. Back in the days of the 6-digit serial number, Martin employees were permitted to "build" instruments of their own design when off-shift. They would use Martin parts in the construction of these instruments, and the finished products would essentially be Martin guitars, but they would generally differ from those instruments found in the Martin catalogue.

Such is the case with the particular lefty 00-sized guitar pictured here. It was built with three-piece back and sides of richly hued Brazilian rosewood; lefty-braced Sitka spruce top complete with small rosewood bridge-plate (Typical of Martin’s 1968 construction) a twelve-fret neck with 24.9" scale, chucky 1-7/8" width and slotted headstock, and Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and rectangular bridge. As far as appointments, this instrument is a hybrid of styles ranging from 16 to 45. The top's edge is bound with Style 21 5-ply purflings and black outer binding, and the abalone pearl rosette is Style 41 and higher. The three-piece back suggests Style 35, but its lack of binding is reminiscent of the Style 16 New Yorkers that were being built at the same time as this guitar. The fingerboard and dot pattern are Style 21, and the bridge was built for a Style 16 or 21 New Yorker. Finally, the bridge and end-pins are Style 21 (Black with white dots), and the end-graft is Style 28.

So by now, I'm hoping that you're wondering why we've called the guitar a 00-28, if only the endgraft (that little wedge inlaid into the bottom of the guitar that the strap button sits in the center of) suggests Style 28. Well, it's because the fellow who built it wanted us to - he stamped the neck block 00-28! Inside, the guitar is initialled A.F.S. 6.2.71 and although this date might suggest a 1971 completion, we're calling the guitar '68 as the materials used and the size/shape of the bridge plate are suggestive of that year. The headstock is inlaid with LMS in pearl, and we have been told these are the initials of the wife of the Martin Employee who built the instrument.

The instrument is in excellent condition, with no scratches in the finish, and very little playwear to speak of. There is a repaired crack in the back, but no other concerns. About 10 years ago we made and installed a replacement tortoise-shell celluloid pickguard and re-fretted and set up the instrument. The action is fingerstyle-low, with a full-height bridge and enough saddle to lower the strings well into the buzz-zone. The original Grover tuners are in the case pocket. On the guitar now is a set of nickel Waverly tuning machines.

It's a very loud guitar, with big full trebles and piano-like resonance. It is, after all, a Martin. The string balance is excellent, and the guitar takes to fingerstyle as well as it does to an assertive flatpick. Every guitar is great in drop D, but this one might be even better that most, thanks likely to the 12 fret 00 Brazilian rosewood body. A most enjoyable guitar to play.

With modern TKL Double Arch hardshell case.

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