1929 Martin Style A Flatback Mandolin

The Martin Style A flatback is the most common Martin mandolin and I've worked on a lot of them. My favorites have always been from the 1910s and 1920s and this one from '29 doesn't deviate from that perception -- it has a sweet, velvety sound with just enough punch to make it useful for playing with bandmates. Even with the damping at the tailpiece to remove extra-string-length overtones, you can hear in the clip that this has nice sustain and a certain fullness that's a bit lacking on latter-day Style As which tend to be a bit dry and husky.

A friend of mine brought this in years ago and at the time he just let me do a quick setup on it. This time around I gave it a fret level/dress, mild bridge shave, and a full setup. This removed some unevenness of the bar frets and now it's playing spot-on with 1/16" action at the 12th fret and strung with 32w-9 (period-tension) strings.

It's all-original, crack-free, and looks grand. There's weather-check here and there to the finish, but otherwise it survives beautifully for such an old one of these. It's far more common for these to be beat to heck. I blame the original chip case's protection for this state of affairs.

Like a Martin guitar in Style 18, the Style A mandolin (for the time) has a spruce top, mahogany back, sides, and neck, an ebony fretboard and bridge, and rosewood binding.

The nut is 1 1/8" wide and the neck profile is a medium C/D shape.

The ebony board is flat and the bar frets are low and small but have some good life left in them.

The bridge was factory-compensated.

That mahogany is some nice-quality stuff -- straight-grained and even.

The original chip case comes with it -- along with some old Black Diamond string packets. I had to duct-tape the top edge of the case (as it was 3/4 of the way off from its seam), but it's otherwise unmolested.