1950 Martin 5-18 Terz/Mini Flattop Guitar

Marty Robbins, anyone?! I just have to point that out every time I see a 5-18 -- sorry!

Western ballads aside, these little short-scale instruments are fantastic. These little Martins are some of the only "mini" guitars I can truly enjoy and are certainly the best of the ones I can. I definitely had a big crush on the last '50s 5-18 that was in the shop.

They sound like a good old Martin with its velvety middle and silky highs -- only smaller and perhaps a bit more direct and clunky if you've got them tuned E-to-E standard with medium-gauge strings. If you string them with 11s or 12s and tune up G-to-G or even A-to-A with 10s, you've found the absolute sweet spot for these instruments. It should be no surprise, though, as this body shape and size was meant to be used for high-tuning back when Martin developed it in the latter half of the 1800s.

This one came in via a customer and work included a neck reset, fret level/dress, bridge removal and reglue (Martin had glued it ~1/8" too far to the rear), new bone compensated saddle, a replacement endpin, cleaning, and setup. The neck is straight, its only cracks are a set of nasty, old, repaired ones on the treble side, and it's also all-original save the endpin (as the original saddle is safely tucked into the case pocket). It plays on-the-dot.

Specs are: 21 3/8" scale length, 1 5/8" nut width, 1 13/32" string spacing at the nut, 2 1/8" spacing at the bridge, 11 1/4" lower bout, 8 1/8" upper bout, and 3 7/8" side depth at the endblock. The neck has a medium, C-shaped profile and a ~12-14" radius to the board. Woods are: solid mahogany back and sides, solid spruce (x-braced) top, Brazilian rosewood fretboard and bridge. These are standard style 18 specs and it even has the cool tortoise binding at its edges.

The only sign of the bridge being moved is a slight discoloration behind the bridge. It's pretty hard to see.

The nice, tall saddle and spot-on intonation more than make up for the moving, though!

The large-plate Kluson tuners are still going strong.

Here's an example of some of the old repair work done to the long series of side-cracks just below the kerfing on the treble side. It's all pat and stable, though.

The side that you actually see from the playing position, however, is nice and clean.


Lovely Guitar Jake. It's held up a bit better than that other 1950 Vintage that I know so well.... Me that is. It's a little Ripper and sounds so good. Certainly better than my Schmidt Sovereign all Koa.
Jake Wildwood said…
Apples and oranges, Alex. :D

I like your little one, though. It's bright and chipper!
Yes Mate, for sure. The Sovereign is just a less sophisticated sound. I guess it depends on the application. That Martin sounds, and looks for that matter really good. Mind you it's probably got a street value of considerably more, maybe treble, so I guess it should.