1945 Martin 00-21 Flattop Guitar

Update 11/10: this post had completely inaccurate specs listed by a copy and paste accident! I've updated them to the correct ones.

Hoo-baby, would you check this one out, eh? It's a wartime (1945) 00-21 with the 12-fret neck, big old nut, gorgeous Brazilian rosewood all over, and everything you could want out of one of these. It even has the wartime (brass) frets and is original throughout save the bridge, saddle, an extra clear pickguard, and pins. Inside is very clean and I've taken photos of the nice tapered bracing in there. Said bracing is my favorite Martin pattern because you can wail on it a little more and have it keep giving you love instead of foomf if you hit it too hard -- if you know what I mean!

It sounds and handles like a million bucks, as you'd expect, post-repairs, and is perfectly-suited to old-time and folksy players and will flatpick or fingerpick like a champ, both. It's ready to go and in good order. I've listed all of its condition complaints below in my "condition notes" section of the writeup. Suffice to say, the neck reset went very smoothly on it and I fit a new (practical-minded but fairly faithful) bridge with a "faux-through-saddle" look so you get drop-in ease of use and through-saddle charm.

I'm sure someone will call on me with a strong word about it, though, of course, as it's not a true repro. That's ok! I forgive you...!

There were compromises to be made here because (1) the old bridge had been reglued at least once in the wrong place so I had to place the new one "good enough" to cover-up any ills due to that -- I prefer a closer-sized bridge/shape to an original vs. covering-up old repairs/mucked finish with a larger bridge (2) the original bridge designs are flawed from my point of view and tend to fail on the front edge because the saddle slot is cut too close to the front wall and the treble side of the bridge is too thin to support the sideways load (3) even if the original bridge were magicked back together and put back to its original location, it was located in the wrong place for decent intonation (too far forward). I'm assuming that's why it was glued farther back at some point. Despite what it looks like in the photos, the bridge does have a shallow arc to its top edge to give it a little bit of a retro look at a glance. The saddle is definitely wider than the originals and that's intentional -- the thin saddles tend to curl-over from sideways tension and that's undesirable to my point of view so I tend to not stick to spec on that when I have the choice. I just want folks to know that there is thought put behind these choices -- I know some will disagree about not putting on a spec-for-spec repro bridge. Fortunately, it's not a tremendous amount of work to swap-out bridges if you prefer to... downgrade... to an original-style... that you will call me up on the phone about come seasonal-shift time and wonder why it's so hard to adjust the guitar's action...

My new bridge pin holes (luckily) lined-up perfectly with the old ones and so the original bridge plate looks nice and clean in there. I was quite happy with that.

Repairs included: a neck reset, new bridge (yes, made here), fret level/dress, new saddle, replacement bridge pins, minor cleaning, and setup.

Weight: 3 lbs 10 oz

Scale length: 24 7/8"

Nut width: 1 7/8"

Neck shape: medium-bigger soft V/C

Board radius: 16"

Body width: 14 1/8"

Body depth: 4 1/16"

Bridge string spacing: 2 5/16"

Top wood: solid spruce

Back & sides wood: solid Brazilian rosewood

Bracing type: x, tapered

Bridge: ebony

Fretboard: ebony

Neck wood: mahogany

Action height at 12th fret:
3/32” bass 1/16” treble (fast, spot-on)
String gauges: 52w, 40w, 30w, 22w, 16, 12

Truss rod: non-adjustable

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: medium-lower

Condition notes: this guitar is very clean except for a small crack next to the pickguard under the high E string. That one's cleated and stable. Oh! It also has one dryness hairline crack in the fretboard running into the fretboard extension. It's good to go as well. It has a fair amount of very light surface scuffing and scratching here and there in the body but overall it looks grand. The top has some pickwear and finish wear on the upper bout with a few longer scratches on the lower bout but, again, it looks great. There's a non-original (1960s) clear plastic pickguard to the bass side of the soundhole that I didn't remove as it would have yanked the finish underneath. I can remove it but there will be a "shadow." The bridge is brand new and so are the saddle and pins. The tuners and nut appear original.

My new ebony bridge copies the original bridge shape more or less but I've fit the saddle as a "drop-in" with a through-saddle look to it. This is more practical for players and a little easier to adjust on the fly. The original bridge was totaled -- sorry -- and reglued sloppily several times over the years. Note the "bridge shadow" from reglue attempts of yesteryear behind the bridge.

The original medium-width brass frets are lower but almost full height as they were from the factory. Our level/dress job was rather minor.

When I reset the neck I didn't even have to change the factory angle -- I just reset it in the joint to where it was originally and shimmed it up a little for a tighter fit and it gave me perfect height for the new bridge. The fretboard extension drops slightly away from the rest of the board over the body. 

Update: a kind reader noted that the bridge plate might be replaced considering the squeeze-out of glue along its edge. I've seen this kind of squeeze-out on Martins from the '40s and '50s (and a quick glance at the "vintagemartin.com" bridge plates photos page corroborates that my mind isn't slipping that much), but I suppose anything is possible. I think it's original, though, as everything on the guitar was unmodified save the extra pickguard when it came in.

It comes with: currently a chip case but I will include a hard case when it actually leaves the building.

Consignor tag: LOC

Ready for inside shots?

And now how about the neck joint removal?


Bob said…
Fascinating to compare this with my 1967 00-21, which I bought from Fretted Instrument Wkshp, Amherst, Mass., in the late 1980s.
Thanks for the wonderful photos and analysis!

Interesting quirk in mine:

The outer holes of the tuning machines appear to have been drilled to accommodate larger-diameter spindles for nylon strings, but the only machines installed at the time I bought it look like Martin originals, whose mounting plates cover the larger spindle holes.

Bob in sw Virginia

P.S. Had hoped to bring my 00-21 and '20s Koa 0-18 up to you for possible consignment sale by now, but health and travel issues haven't favored the trip.