1920s Martin-made SS Stewart Style B Flatback Mandolin

Update 2021: I've updated the photos, added a video, and updated the description where necessary.

I seem to be pretty good at finding Stewart-branded Martins and the like. Here's a 1923 guitar that was probably built around the same time as this mandolin and here's a bowlback Martin/Stewart mandolin that shares the same pickguard. This mandolin is almost bit-for-bit the same as a Martin style B (rosewood/spruce) mandolin of the same general time (late teens, early 20s) but there are a few features off -- including a stained-maple fretboard with dot markers (dots are featured on that bowlback, too), slightly thinner "volute" at the headstock rear, and a different pickguard shape.

I've worked on one other Martin-made mandolin that had a maple/stained board (and was, seemingly, from the same period) and so perhaps there was a run made that way for a short time. The board on this one looks like what that other one looked like before I refretted it. It's clearly a take on a style B and was clearly made by Martin -- I had a consignor's Ditson-branded style B from around the same time also in-shop at the time of this blog post that makes direct comparison pretty easy.

As for the sound -- it's got that high-class Vega-style bowlback clarity with the added depth of flatback warmth and good overall punch/volume. This, to my thinking, is the epitome of the classic flatback sound that you seem to only achieve with (Brazilian, in this case) rosewood back/sides. It works equally well for folk, old-time, and Celtic stylings. The handling is quick and easy but the ever-so-slightly-bigger neck profile compared to slightly-later Martin mandolins means that it's a lot more comfortable for me, personally. My hands cramp up like crazy on thinner front-to-back necks.

Like other period Martins, I suggest the lightest-gauge strings even if it will handle 10s. The bracing's pretty light and these were intended for "period" bowlback-style gauges. It plays perfectly and is good to go.

The coolest thing about this instrument is that it's been scratch-signed all over with peoples' names and "tags." This was really common for college kids in the '20s and I'm expecting that's how this one got that way.

Repairs included: previously a fret level/dress, cleaning, and setup -- currently a restring, mild level/dress, and setup.

Top wood: solid spruce

Back & sides wood: solid Brazilian rosewood

Bracing type: ladder

Bridge: ebony

Fretboard: ebonized maple

Neck wood: mahogany

Action height at 12th fret: 1/16" overall (fast, spot-on)
String gauges: 32w-9 GHS extra lights (extra pack in case)

Neck shape: medium C/U

Board radius: flat

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: small

Scale length: 13 1/8"

Nut width: 1 1/8"

Body width: 9"

Body depth: 2 7/8"

Weight: 1 lb 7 0z

Condition notes: it's all-original save the scratching in the top and back. There's one tiny repaired hairline crack near the fretboard extension on top but it's otherwise crack-free. The neck is straight and it plays bang-on quick and easy.

It comes with: a newer hard case.


Unknown said…
Cool Mando! Is there a marking anywhere on the Mando that it was made by Martin like their stamp, or can you just tell by the construction and design elements?