1953 Martin 00-18 Flattop Guitar

Update 2020: I've updated the blog post entirely with new photos, a video, and description.

Back in 2015 I sold this guitar to a friend of mine while he was on a tone quest for the "perfect vintage Martin." He had old dreads and newer Martins, but he wanted a smaller-body main squeeze and this was it. At the time, I was hemming and hawing over buying it myself as it was (and still is) my favorite Martin that's passed through these doors.

Not only is it a '53 (my favorite year for them), it also has a more medium-thickness neck profile and the sound is everything you could want in something under-D-sized. It's full-sounding and has a good, warm, woody bottom-end but yet the mids and highs are clear and fundamental in nature with crazy-fast response. It's loud, too, and will cut through a mix just fine. I guess it's a bit of a Gibson-lover's Martin as it has that Martin refined sound to it with all the velvet and sculpted-voice tone you might want, yet it's very direct and plainspoken and has a ton of sustain. It's easy to love.

On top of that, the top of this guitar is most likely red spruce that was milled by the Eaton Lumber Co just 5 minutes up the road in Hancock, Vermont. This is per the research of The Guitarphile, with whom I've had contact with and dug-into the story a bit locally. Eaton was producing wood for Baldwin pianos, among others, and any spruce it would've been milling from up here at the time as a supplier would've been red.

Anyhow, back in 2015 I hadn't done much work on the guitar save a glorified setup, but this time around I gave it a fresh neck reset and associated work. It's now playing just as spot-on as it was before, but has a hair more power and snap to its voice, too -- and plenty of saddle for action adjustment later-on.

Life has changed around my friend, so that's why it's back up here for consignment and so I get to enjoy it again for a few days until someone snags it yet again. I'm in no position at the moment, myself.

Repairs included: a neck reset, fret level/dress, new bone saddle (the bridge had been lightly-shaved in the past, so I converted this to a drop-in slot that looks like the through-cut original, but is more stable), replacement ebony bridge pins and endpin, cleaning, and setup.

Setup notes: the saddle is tall, the neck is straight, the frets have some meat left on them (though they're lower and flatter than original), and it plays spot-on with 3/32" EA and 1/16" DGBE action at the 12th fret, strung with 54w-12 gauges in phosphor bronze.

Scale length: 24 7/8"
Nut width: 1 11/16"
String spacing at nut: 1 1/2"
String spacing at bridge: 2 3/16"
Body length: 18 7/8"
Lower bout width: 14 1/4"
Waist width: 9"
Upper bout width: 10 7/8"
Side depth at endpin: 4 1/8"
Top wood: solid spruce
Back wood: solid mahogany
Sides wood: solid mahogany
Bracing type: straight x-bracing
Fretboard: rosewood
Bridge: rosewood, bone saddle
Neck feel: medium C/soft-V shape, ~12" board radius
Neck wood: mahogany

Condition notes: the guitar is entirely crack-free save one tiny ding that looks like it was patched some time back (not even dime-sized) on the lower-bout-side. I've shot a photo of that. It's all-original save pins and saddle, though the top deck of the bridge looks like it was lowered less than 1/32" of original height. It was like that when it came in back in 2015 as I recall, and had a low original saddle in it. The bridge also has filled worn-in string ramps that're not obvious at a glance. There's use-wear throughout the instrument including pickwear on the upper bout, discoloration of the pickguard from pickwear, and light scratches, nicks, and dings all over. Still -- it looks glorious rather than abused. It's well-traveled but not beat. There are divots in the fretboard in first position from tons of play but unless you're a neck-squeezer, they won't cause issue. If you do press hard when you fret, I could fill them so you're not playing "scalloped" -- but I like the evidence of life too much to do that to it without cause.

It comes with: a Recording King 00-size case with some tour stickers on it.


Warren said…
Love it! Had heard Martin briefly got access to red spruce again around this time and some mystery tops might be red! Probably explains its magic?