1927 Martin T-18 Tiple

Martin tiples really are the best ones available on the market. They sound lush and full and have a fast, relaxed neck feel. I don't bend the strings out of tune as much when I'm fretting them because of the neck's comfort level. I've blogged on two older ones (click here and click here for those), but I've worked on a couple more. All have been great little boxes after a little work.

This one was sent in for customer repair and boy has it been used! The finish is worn like nuts on the upper bout and it's getting close to wearing through in some spots. The finish also has odd varnish touch-ups all over the top but is otherwise unmolested (save for wear and tear) throughout the rest of the instrument.

Quick lesson: US-made (North American) tiples are 10-string, steel-strung, 4-course, uke-tuning, tenor-ukulele-sized instruments. Standard tuning is ADF#B but we all tune them GCEA like other "normal" ukes these days. They're like a pocket 12-string and so the stringing is 2-3-3-2 with octaves on the first three courses -- gG, cCc, eEe, aa.

Another quick lesson: across manufacturers these normally play terribly out of tune as you go up the neck because most were sold with straight fret saddles. I always replace them with properly-compensated bone ones while doing the work and that makes a huge difference in enjoyment.

Repairs included: a neck reset, partial fretboard reglue, fret level/dress, minor crack re-repairs to the back, one small patch-up to a hole in the side, the new saddle and widened saddle-slot, a replacement tuner screw for a round-gear/shaft, and setup.

Setup notes: it plays perfectly with 1/16" action at the 12th fret. The neck is straight and it's slick and fast and springy. Strings are gauged: 10/22w, 16/36w/16, 13/28w/13, 9/9 low to high.

Scale length: 17"
Nut width: 1 1/2"
String spacing at nut: 1 5/16"
String spacing at bridge: 1 7/8"
Body length: 12"
Lower bout width: 8 7/8"
Waist width: 5 1/2"
Upper bout width: 6 5/8"
Side depth at endpin: 3 1/2"
Top wood: solid spruce
Back/sides wood: solid mahogany
Bracing type: x
Fretboard: ebony
Bridge: rosewood
Neck feel: medium C, flat board

Condition notes: I've mentioned the mucked-up top finish, minor hole (patched) in the side, and repaired (hairline) cracks on the back. Also the playwear. The frets are (as typical for the time) bar stock and quite low, but still serve. The bridge also has a shallow hairline crack at its back edge. It's still glued-pat and good to go for the time being, so I left it alone. At some point it will probably split worse and will then need replacement -- but that might be in another 90 years or so...! Not bad mileage for that sucker.

Here in the glare you can see the weird finish muck-up over the original top finish. You can also see the cuts for my compensation at the saddle. In addition to the compensation, I also lightly-slot the saddle to make the string paths more accurate.