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Thread: Martin 1920 Style C questions

  1. #1
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    Default Martin 1920 Style C questions

    Just got a Martin Style C. Itís one of the years it has the pearl trim and German silver tuners. Iím not at all familiar with these older Martinís so Iím hoping someone has some insight into a few questions I have.

    The biggest question I have is about the tuners. Theyíre beautiful on the back, but on the front I donít see any tuner bushings, just the holes in the wood. Is this normal? I have a slightly older Gibson and it has bushings so itís not that this was before itís time.

    The other thing I see is the tailpiece cover looks new. Itís similar in shape but the engraving is a little different. Also the tailpiece system does not have an end pin. Again, do you think this was normal?

    Thanks for any help you guys might come up with!

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    Yes, all of those characteristics are normal for the upper line Martin mandolins from that period.

    I've seen at least three engraving patterns on the tailpiece covers for the pearl trimmed Martins. They appear to have been hand-engraved, and do not match the patterns on the tuner plates.

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    Registered User Brian560's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    My Martin Style B from the same time period does not have bushings either. I also do not have an end pin. Mine did not come with the tailpiece cover and since they are detachable I suspect they were commonly lost. Since I replaced my cover with one that was recently made, I suspect one of the previous owners of yours might have done the same. They were lucky to get one with engravings.

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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    Thanks! I just got the mandolin today and I have 48 hours to return. Now I know these features are normal and can relax! What a great community of like minded mandolin lovers!

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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    If you have any lingering doubts about the tailpiece cover and can post a picture, I'll give you my 2 cents worth.

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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    Thanks. I’ve been trying to find out how to post pictures. It seems simple when you know how to do it, but not so simple the first time. I’d love you opinion so I’ll keep looking into it and post a picture. Thanks!

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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    To post a picture hover over the icons until you find one that says insert image. Its the third from last one. Click it to open the dialogue box. If you are uploading an image from your computer use that tab and browse until you find your image. Select your image, click open. Then click where it says Upload File(s)

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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Brian560 View Post
    ...I suspect they were commonly lost...
    Quite true. Many of the mandolins in the Martin museum didn't have tailpiece covers.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    Attachment 189540

    OK, my first attempt at posting a picture. We'll see if it works out. This is a closeup of the tailpiece I mentioned. The guy I bought it from said in an email that it is not original, but it is a "newer" one, for what that means. I was just wondering if its at least a Martin tailpiece from a later period or if its a reproduction. Any insight would be appreciated.

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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    I'm afraid your picture didn't come through. You should be able to see the picture as soon as you submit your post.

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    Registered User Steve 2E's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    While we wait for the OP to give it another shot I figured Iíd post some pics of my 1920 style B for potential comparison and conversation. I think the tailpiece cover is original and there seems to be some cohesiveness with the engraving on the tuners. Not saying they always matched. I honestly never paid too much attention to the engravings until reading this thread.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Ill try this again. After I attach the picture, my preview shows the photo but then it doesn't seem to show up in my post. Lets see if this works.

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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    Click image for larger version. 

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    Looks like it worked. I'll try to repeat it and send a pic of the back of the headstock.

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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    Thanks guys for talking me through this. Everything is so much easier if you can see a picture of what you're talking about.

    Thanks Steve 2E for the pics of your Style B. I think we may have cracked the code. Your tailpiece looks exactly like the one I have that I now know is not original to my Style C, but it's probably an original taken from a Style B. I did a Google search on "Martin Style C" and in the images section they have a close up of a Style C that was sold by The Music Emporium. You can see clearly that it is a little different than the ones on our mandolins. It's probably what was originally on mine. That would make sense as the engraving pattern on my tuners is a little different also. Thanks!
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails Click image for larger version. 

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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    Ranchita, although the tailpiece you have pictured may have come from a different mandolin, it is indeed correct for for a pearl trimmed style C.

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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    Thanks for the feedback. I’m glad that at least it’s original to the period. Do you know anything about how they did the engraving? After looking at many images on the net, it looks like there were all sorts of designs without a lot of consistency. Looking at Steve 2E’s engraving pics, our tailpieces are similar but the tuner engravings are very different. It’s interesting to see detailed closeups of the parts for comparison. Fun stuff!

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  18. #17
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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    It's a difficult question to answer-- the pearl trimmed C's are now 100 years old, and that world was very different from the one we live in now.
    The radio was a new invention, much of the US lived without electricity, people traveled and shipped goods by railway, and local business was much more prevalent. At least some of rural America was still having their mail delivered by a horse drawn wagon.

    I don't believe that the Martin company manufactured any of their metal parts. Since the details of their engraved parts varied quite a bit, I would guess that the engraving was done by hand. They may have purchased the tailpieces in finished form, or they might have purchased them in raw brass and had them engraved and plated locally. Even with Martin's meticulous record keeping, we know very little about how the factory went about their day to day business.

    Of all the people who engraved musical instrument parts in the early 20th century, we only know the name of one, and we only learned his name recently. Icilio Consalvi was one of a handful of engravers who created the wonderful art we see on instruments made in the Boston area by A.C. Fairbanks, W.A. Cole, the Vega company, and the Bay State company. But I tend to believe it more likely that the Martin engraving was done by artisans living in New York, Philadelphia, or perhaps even in Allentown or Nazareth itself.

    Unless CF Martin III spoke about the subject to his grandson Chris, all we can do is to try to put ourselves back into a younger America and guess.

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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    Thanks for the background, it gives me a different insight into the timeframe the instrument was built. Such beautiful instruments being handcrafted is really something to think about.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    While we are enjoying the bling on this Martin (the C's were still very restrained) it's worth noting what I think is most wonderful about these (and the Bs) is the combination of a spruce top and rosewood back.

    I've owned As (with mahogany back) and a B and played Cs as well as other flatbacks from this era with the spruce / rosewood combination and love the projection and crispness of tone from them. I enjoy the Martin A I still have but for me, there's no comparison with the rosewood back.

    You're going to enjoy the sound of it, too. Likely, already are.

    Mick
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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    I've owned As (with mahogany back) and a B and played Cs as well as other flatbacks from this era with the spruce / rosewood combination and love the projection and crispness of tone from them. I enjoy the Martin A I still have but for me, there's no comparison with the rosewood back.
    I agree Mick. I have an A, an AK, and a B. I love them all, but the B definitely exhibits something special. I also think the earlier smaller body size(not sure when the change was made, maybe 1923/24)might help to contribute to the projection. I think my temporary holy grail might be an A with rosewood back and sides from the first couple of years of production. I don’t see too many of those around though. Someday maybe.

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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    Steve, I did not know that there were rosewood back As out there. That is very interesting news, thanks.

    I have a few Vega/Ditson/Leland flatbacks with the spruce / rosewood combo in my posse now and I love them.

    There's a certain sweetness to the Martin sound, though, that is very special. I regret letting the B go.

    Mick
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    Default Re: Martin 1920 Style C questions

    According to Mike Longworthís book in the first three years of the Aís production(1914-1916) they were made with rosewood back and sides before switching to mahogany in 1917. There were only a couple hundred or so made, but thereís bound to be some survivors out there. Iím hopeful anyway. Iím definitely a believer in the spruce/rosewood combo.

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