Vintage Instruments: Martin Guitars

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1932 Martin 0-18 Shadetop

An incredible sounding small-body Martin, from one of the best moments in the company’s production.

1932 was a seminal year at C.F. Martin & Co. with the redesign of so many of their models. Some guitar historians consider 1932 as the starting point of the modernized Martin guitar. It was in this year that the 14 fret neck began to replace the 12 fret versions that had been standard for so many years (only the OMs featured 14 fret neck joints before 1932). 1932 also saw the start of the C.F. Martin gold silkscreen headstock logo, as well as the first ‘shaded top’ finishes.

This sunburst (or shaded) 0-18 features all the new 1932 features. Paddle headstock, 1-3/4” nut width, 14 fret neck, gold logo, and 1-3/8” bridge plate. It’s built with bar frets, belly bridge and large pickguard, as were the norm by ’32; and it features the C.F. Martin & Co stamp on the headstock’s backside along with the Made in USA export stamp. Being a 1932 model, it’s still a very lightly built guitar with tiny scalloped braces and an ebony neck reinforcement rod, and it sounds the part. It has a very robust small-body voice with clear fundamental and detail, bold treble and midrange response and full, defined, and strong lows. A small guitar that’s equally adept under a flatpick or fingers, this 0-18 is surprising to pretty much everyone who picks it up. It’s a lot of guitar in a small package.

This guitar, we’re told, was found in a barn somewhere near London, Ontario. It was stored at full string tension for years, and arrived here a long time ago in need of a lot of help. Folkway’s Grant McBride did the restoration to this one over the course of the last year with the guitar’s back removed. Various top cracks were repaired and reinforced, back centerseam glues, and one small back crack repaired. The bridge plate was replaced with a dimensionally similar part, braces reglued, neck reset, original bridge reglued, and original bar frets dressed. The guitar is completely original but for the bridgeplate, and no finish repair was done. The original back binding was carefully reused as well, and the evidence that the guitar was ever partially apart is minimal. What matters most is that the guitar sounds as good as it does, plays wonderfully, and looks amazing. We have not cleaned the years of dirt off of the finish or parts more than minimally, and worked hard to not disturb the patina through the restoration process. Original tuners, nut, frets, pins, and full height bridge.

1-3/4” nut, soft V neck carve, 24.9” scale. Mahogany and spruce body, scalloped braces, ebony fingerboard and bridge.

With modern deluxe hardshell case.

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