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Mystery Martin - ????

 
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Silverface



Joined: 23 Aug 2006
Posts: 324
Location: Hermosa Beach CA

PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 3:20 pm    Post subject: Mystery Martin - ???? Reply with quote

I picked up this dread to keep me occupied while my D-41 is being Kimseyized; traded a little-played, messed up archtop for it.

It had a satin finish - yesterday. 45 minutes with good pl' Turtle Wax polishing compound and a light workup with Goddard's Fine Furniture Paste Wax and it's full gloss, looking far better and matching the refin neck. It's not perfect but that was the intent; it looks 40-50 years old.

It's been played-in; there's some fingerboard wear and the frets are dimpled but no problem. Relief is .006 and the action is really low - .090 - .068 with first fret action under .020 (I set it this low). The truss rod wrench socket is stripped - looks like some moron tried to adjust it with a screwdriver! I was able to get a 3/16 Allen wrench in wrapped with a layer of aluminum tape and get it backed off 1/3 turn (neck was flat as a pancake when I got it). Doesn't bother me.

Plays great (despite the skinny modern neck) and the sound is really strong; very round with a huge low end and projection of mids, and a glassy top. Sounds "loose" like a 40's or 50's D-18 - nothing like a new 'hog. Also has a Baggs RT active pickup - usually I don't like undersaddle pickups but the Baggs is hard, and I needed one A/E.

OK, now the mystery - what the @*#&$ model is it? Before the neck refin (when my buddy bought it) the cap had been removed that covers the neck bolt (it's an M&T obviously) and lost...and with it went the model and serial numbers!

At first I thought it was a 90's D-1 - thin, very tapered braces and one tone bar. But every record I can find and every D-1 I've seen has slanted bridge pins.

The front and back tortoise binding was used both on the D-1 (90's) and D-16 (89's and early 90's). The rosette is no clue as 3/73 was used on a bunch of models as were the position dots.

From the outside it appears to be a D-16. I don't know is when Martin went to the M&T neck on the D-16; the D-1 always had it. But that still wouldn't pin it down. Outside a D-16, inside a D-1.

Weird.

If anyone has a clue post it. Meanwhile I'm going to play the *@&% out of it.



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Brian



Joined: 22 Aug 2006
Posts: 1360
Location: Southern California

PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2011 5:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Is it a Martin DM ? I have one of those. Laminated back and sides but otherwise solid spruce top. It all satin finish too

Here's pics of my DM

http://www.bbenderguitars.com/etc/archive/Martin/
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Silverface



Joined: 23 Aug 2006
Posts: 324
Location: Hermosa Beach CA

PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 5:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nope, not a DM. Definitely a solid back, as mentioned no slanted bridge pins, tortoise binding (DM is black), DM has wrong rosette (one model that never had 3/7/3), no paper label and rosewood bridge and fingerboard.

It also has far too much bottom end tonewise. DM's have decent projection but it's a cutting sound and tighter. They never seem to open up like a D-18 or D-28, probably due to the stiffness of the back and sides.

The only matching models are the D-16 and the D-1, but they both appear to have one item different than the guitar I have.
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Brian



Joined: 22 Aug 2006
Posts: 1360
Location: Southern California

PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 1:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Does it have a Martin headstock logo? Maybe it's a Martin kit guitar. Can you tell what the bracing style is?
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Silverface



Joined: 23 Aug 2006
Posts: 324
Location: Hermosa Beach CA

PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 7:03 pm    Post subject: It gets weirder Reply with quote

It has the burned in Martin logo and the "medium strings or lighter" note only seen on production guitars. It is definitely not a kit - it has a replacement decal as previously mentioned due to the neck refin, so that's a moot point. The construction is flawless - braces flattened at the top of the "X" and then rounded-pyramid shape, then severely tapered to the sides.

But - as shown in the picture below (I tried to rework an actual top-brace photo as accurately as possible):

1. The bridge pins are straight across like a D-16; D-1's have slanted pins.
2. The bridgeplate itself is asymmetrical and matches the D-1 style plate, but does not have the small brace at the end near where the tone bar tapers off/ends with an appx 1/8" high tip.
3. There are two braces extending from the *upper* part of the main "X" brace, from about the lower 1/3 of the soundhole to the lining below the waist. They are not very tall, flat-topped and taper to almost nothing at the ends. They're also symmetrical.

I've never seen anything remotely similar, but the more I research the D-16 the more exceptions I find. My best guess is that it is either a very early D-16 M&T guitar made before the production of the D-1 (and was a test of unique bracing - there seem to be at least a couple of slight variations, although this isn't slight) or a Martin employee-built and owned guitar (and built as an experiment) and later sold.

I thought of posting it on the UMGF but some of the Martin-Mensa "experts" over there sometimes go out of their way to slam exceptions rather than accept them as "real" and try to figure out what the goal was and why it exists.

It's simply not consistent with the D-1 and the D-1 was a "knock 'em out so we can prove guitars don't have to be built in Asia" instrument; the D-16 was (and still is) the experimental platform, where they try out different construction and tonewoods. They can't do that with the D-18 and D-28 or the vintage crowd would go into shock; that's one of the reasons behind the advent of the D-16.

I'll say one thing, though.

It works. I need to throw a set of my nickel strings on it tomorrow and get a better feel for the tone (I used up a set of phosphor bronze I had laying around while dinking with fret heights and the nut slots.

If Bryan sees this thread, there's one thing he'd like - the bridgepin holes are slotted!

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Brian



Joined: 22 Aug 2006
Posts: 1360
Location: Southern California

PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2011 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would post it in the UMGF....they might come up with a correct answer.
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Silverface



Joined: 23 Aug 2006
Posts: 324
Location: Hermosa Beach CA

PostPosted: Wed Jun 22, 2011 4:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'll probably try some other sources first; I'm hunting for info, not lectures.

It does make for an interesting example of alternative bracing systems. The wide open spaces of the lower bout give it strong bass, but it seems like the two "upside-down" tone bars give the top end both clarity and complexity.

However this thing escaped from Martin whoever built it made a good call.

6-23-11 Edit: I confirmed this much:

1) It's not a Martin kit. They've never had a Mahogany dread with rosewood fingerboard available, and the kits do not have any decals, labels or burn-stamps.

2) D-16's were all over the map in the late '80's/early 90's just before and when they transitioned to the M&T neck joint.

3. The bracing overall is *really* light - those upper-bout-to-waist "tone bars" (for lack of a better term) are about 1/4 wide at the base with the center severely tapered to a round point and both ends significantly shaved.

4. The tone bar below the bridgeplate, tail/neck blocks, bridgeplate, upper cross-brace and the two upper "A" braces look normal - the bridgeplate/tone bar D-1 style and the upper-braces like every model that uses the M&T joint.

5. The "X" brace, though, looks like a non-scalloped but thinned assembly; the tapering and "flat-top" at the "X" look normal but the rounded pyramids look very thin.

I guess I will post pics on the UMGF and see what happens. I've run out of sources! However, if I ever got a wild hair up my a....errr, nose...and decided to build a kit I'd get a rosewood one and make a few changes:

1. Smaller bridgeplate and additional tonebar, but otherwise the same kind of lower braces this has. It'd be a hair tighter than this one but the extra tonebar would focus the rosewood's bass response.
2. I'd try these "upside down" upper braces. Because they work. And that'd be on a dovetail-joint guitar.

I'll let you guys know what I find out!
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