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Thread: No love for old Martins

  1. #1
    Every day is a gift. Sheila Lagrand's Avatar
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    Default No love for old Martins

    I've noticed a dearth of discussion of old Martin mandolins. Were they the poor step-cousins to their famous guitar kinfolk?
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    The Martin mandolins with the cant top were sweet little instruments, very flowery and nice. Unfortunately the mandolin buying public preferred the growl and bark of the Gibson carved top mandolins. The Martin carved top mandolins are a bit of a side note to history. There's nothing wrong with Martin mandolins, they just aren't what the mandolin buying public flocked to.
    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them". These are the words of J. Garber.

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    coprolite mandroid's Avatar
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    Used to own a Martin Bowl Back .. top looked like their flat backs .. cant top, same pick guard shape, just a bit smaller ..

    (speculating) perhaps both types were made at the same time, the flat back sold better..


    so the bowl back was phased out of production ..
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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    The CF Martin company has done two things well: flat top guitars and ukuleles.
    They have also tried archtop guitars, electric guitars, banjos, mandolins and perhaps other instruments. They never seemed to put the required effort into market research before venturing into these 'alternate' markets to produce instruments that were well received.
    Martin's flat top mandolins are made as well as their guitars of similar age, but they just weren't what the market wanted. Their archtop mandolins were not too well built; overbuilt in some places yet underbuilt in other critical places. Top collapses are relatively common in Martin archtop mandolins despite the enormous braces and thick centers of the tops. They have a limited following, but are generally not particularly well regarded.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    I think the premise behind your questions is inherently flawed.

    I love my Martin canted-top mandolin. Unequivocally.
    I think you'll find numerous discussions here among folks who enjoy playing them regularly and often.
    What the public might flock to is irrelevant to what those of us who love them think.

    Full disclosure: I have an '10s archtop Gibson, a solid body 5-string electric and more bowlbacks than I care to admit.
    I play and enjoy them all for what each offers the particulars of any given tune.

    I had a spruce top / rosewood back Martin B from the '20s that was one of the nicest sound mandolins I've played.
    Not a poor step cousin to any mandolin.
    (Why I no longer own it is a sad story unto itself....)

    While not in huge numbers, Martin made them for nearly 50 years, a testimony to their commitment to the instrument.....and at least some sales.

    Mick
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  10. #6
    Every day is a gift. Sheila Lagrand's Avatar
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    "Cant" is a new term for me. Is it the same as what this seller refers to as "bent-top?" https://reverb.com/item/40928283-mar...s_ehgOMyVsaH6c
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

    Phoebe, my 2021 Collings MT mandolin
    Dolly, my 2021 Ibanez M522 mandolin
    Louise, my 193x SS Maxwell mandolin
    Fiona, My 2021 GSM guitar-bodied octave resonator mandolin
    Charlotte, my 2016 Eastman MDO 305 octave mandolin
    Giuliana, my 2002 Hans Schuster 505 violin
    Sally, my 2021 Jasmine S35 guitar

  11. #7
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    Yes.

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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sheila Lagrand View Post
    "Cant" is a new term for me. Is it the same as what this seller refers to as "bent-top?" https://reverb.com/item/40928283-mar...s_ehgOMyVsaH6c
    A friend of mine used to say "Can't means Won't". doesn't apply, just couldn't resist.
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    I had a spruce top / rosewood back Martin B from the '20s that was one of the nicest sound mandolins I've played.
    Not a poor step cousin to any mandolin.
    I had a chance to try out one of these a couple weeks ago in Vermont. It was really nice, pleasant in the hand and really easy to play. Sounded real good, too. If I'd been in the market at the moment, I'd have surely given it serious consideration.

    I guess in the vintage mandolin world, similar to many other places, a lot of people may want what is popular and well known; it seems to be kind of a self perpetuating cycle. There's other possibilities out there, but unless you see them, someone tells you, or you read about it here in the Cafe, you might not ever know.

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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    Quote Originally Posted by sunburst View Post
    Their archtop mandolins were not too well built; overbuilt in some places yet underbuilt in other critical places. Top collapses are relatively common in Martin archtop mandolins despite the enormous braces and thick centers of the tops. They have a limited following, but are generally not particularly well regarded.
    Is this true for the style 20 two-points? They seem to be "marketed" by vintage dealers as being "the best sounding martins". Bernunzio has one, and there is at least one other on reverb. And they seem to be in the 2K range.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    Quote Originally Posted by mjbee View Post
    Is this true for the style 20 two-points?...
    Yes. I have a collapsed top from a 2-20 in the shop. I was lucky enough to get a now old stock top from Martin to replace it, and I never got fully paid for the repair, so if the new top hasn't held up I'm not sure I really care.

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  21. #12
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    " . . . never got fully paid for the repair . . ." -- I hate it when that happens.

    The few oval hole style 15 and 20 carved top Martins I have seen all seemed to be structurally sound.
    I re-fretted an early oval hole style 20 last autumn, and it was quite a good mandolin.

    But one of my bandmates just bought an f-hole 2-15, and I will have to look that one over to make sure it is solid. I probably would have steered him away from that one, but he has been known to buy first and ask questions later.

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  23. #13
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    If I'd been in the market at the moment, I'd have surely given it serious consideration.
    Wait. What? I'm only supposed to consider buying a mandolin when I'm "in the market"? Sue, could you please tell me how to get to this mythical "out of the market" place? I can't seem to find it.
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

    Phoebe, my 2021 Collings MT mandolin
    Dolly, my 2021 Ibanez M522 mandolin
    Louise, my 193x SS Maxwell mandolin
    Fiona, My 2021 GSM guitar-bodied octave resonator mandolin
    Charlotte, my 2016 Eastman MDO 305 octave mandolin
    Giuliana, my 2002 Hans Schuster 505 violin
    Sally, my 2021 Jasmine S35 guitar

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  25. #14
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sheila Lagrand View Post
    Wait. What? I'm only supposed to consider buying a mandolin when I'm "in the market"? Sue, could you please tell me how to get to this mythical "out of the market" place? I can't seem to find it.
    Well, I just bought an instrument a couple weeks ago that needed some substantial work. So I'm suffering a bit from the disease of "Lackamoola". In addition, there are what I call "political considerations". I was playing with that Martin on the day I dropped off my Octofone for repair. I'll add, in case you didn't already know, my DH (not a musician) thinks I'm off the deep end. (and he might be right )

    So I guess what I'm saying is, I need to (try to) lay low for awhile and get better at playing the ones I have.

    That said, IMHO, "out of the market" is somewhat relative.
    You will notice that I said "If I'd been in the market at the moment .... "
    Last edited by Sue Rieter; Jul-01-2021 at 1:53pm. Reason: grammar

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  27. #15
    Every day is a gift. Sheila Lagrand's Avatar
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    Well, I just bought an instrument a couple weeks ago that needed some substantial work. So I'm suffering a bit from the disease of "Lackamoola". In addition, there are what I call "political considerations". I was playing with that Martin on the day I dropped off my Octofone for repair. I'll add, in case you didn't already know, my DH (not a musician) thinks I'm off the deep end. (and he might be right )

    So I guess what I'm saying is, I need to (try to) lay low for awhile and get better at playing the ones I have.

    That said, IMHO, "out of the market" is somewhat relative.
    I'm familiar with that Lackamoola condition. My DH just made the significant tactical error of mentioning the replacement cost of all the tools in his woodshop. What was that you were saying about political considerations?
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

    Phoebe, my 2021 Collings MT mandolin
    Dolly, my 2021 Ibanez M522 mandolin
    Louise, my 193x SS Maxwell mandolin
    Fiona, My 2021 GSM guitar-bodied octave resonator mandolin
    Charlotte, my 2016 Eastman MDO 305 octave mandolin
    Giuliana, my 2002 Hans Schuster 505 violin
    Sally, my 2021 Jasmine S35 guitar

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    Registered User lowtone2's Avatar
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    I've wanted one ever since hearing Norman Blake play his on the Homespun video.

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  31. #17
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    Well Sheila, you can always "take the pledge."
    You may experience nightmares and cold sweats.
    But it can be done.

    As far as political considerations, the ladies have the final word on veto power, whether they realize it or not.

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  33. #18
    Registered User Sue Rieter's Avatar
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    As far as political considerations, the ladies have the final word on veto power, whether they realize it or not.
    My son always says, "Mom is the neck that turns the head."

    Maybe. I don't think I'll push my luck




    Of course, when the one I'm watching for comes along ......

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  35. #19
    Every day is a gift. Sheila Lagrand's Avatar
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    Quote Originally Posted by Sue Rieter View Post
    My son always says, "Mom is the neck that turns the head."

    Maybe. I don't think I'll push my luck




    Of course, when the one I'm watching for comes along ......
    You're only watching for ONE? Dear me, I am in deeper trouble than I thought.
    Now, what was I after when I wandered in here?

    Phoebe, my 2021 Collings MT mandolin
    Dolly, my 2021 Ibanez M522 mandolin
    Louise, my 193x SS Maxwell mandolin
    Fiona, My 2021 GSM guitar-bodied octave resonator mandolin
    Charlotte, my 2016 Eastman MDO 305 octave mandolin
    Giuliana, my 2002 Hans Schuster 505 violin
    Sally, my 2021 Jasmine S35 guitar

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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    Well, fwiw, Giovanni Vicari can be seen playing a Martin (2-30, I believe) in the wedding band in the opening scene in "The Godfather".
    There's an Oscar winning rebuttal to all the whining scuttle about Martin archtops.

    Mick
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    I’m a fan of some Martin Mandolins. I have a ‘50s A & a ‘29 A Mandola. They are both wonderful axes, very conservative, nothing flashy. The Mandola I’m especially fond of. I brought it to a Martin guitar event a couple of years ago. Chris Martin was a guest speaker. During a break, folks were were showing him their Guitars. I walked up with my Mandola. He smiled big & said, “ That’s something you don’t see too many of.” I have a photo of us with him holding the Mandola. Great pic.
    Yes, Mick, Mr. Vicari did have a Martin 2 pointer & played it in the Godfather Band. A previous post mentioned top sinkage. As I remember, as this was some 40+ years ago, when I first started my lessons with him it did have some top issues. I believe he took it to Jimmy D’ Aquisto to have it retopped. He knew Jimmy from back in the D’Angelico days. He did a remarkable job.
    Don’t be ashamed, love your Martins.
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  40. #22
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    Quote Originally Posted by mandopops View Post
    ...
    Don’t be ashamed, love your Martins.
    Joe B
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    It's almost Independence Day. Time for some more mandolin shibboleths to get bbq-ed.

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  42. #23
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    Quote Originally Posted by brunello97 View Post
    Well, fwiw, Giovanni Vicari can be seen playing a Martin (2-30, I believe) in the wedding band in the opening scene in "The Godfather".
    Hard to tell... but it looks like it would be a style 30 (without the "2-") meaning oval hole. However it is a blond one with a fancy fretboard and could easily have been a style 20 with a replaced or re-inlaid fretboard.

    Click image for larger version. 

Name:	Vicari-Godfather.png 
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ID:	194971

    I had a 1940s 2-15 for awhile and it left a lot to be desired. Low volume and tone was not so endearing. It was ok. In the end it developed a crack near the tail block. From what I understand, that was the weak point in that design. I believe the oval holes that came before did not have that problem.

    I do believe that the there were a few years in the teens of the last century that Martin made both bowlbacks and flatback mandolins but bowlbacks were out of production for the most part at the end of the teens. The A models were introduced around 1914.
    Jim

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  44. #24
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    As others have said, if you're used to an arch top sound, they sound different. I like them. My main mandolin is a cant topped style made by Jack Spira. It has a sweet voice with Engleman over Western Australian Sheoak (similar density to rosewood). I think a Martin, Mid Mo / Big Muddy, Flatiron Pancake style mandolins can be liefe long keepers. To each their own.

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  46. #25
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    Default Re: No love for old Martins?

    Actually, I've got The Godfather on dvd and have frozen and enlarged frames of Mr. Vicari and his mandolin. It's hard to say for sure, but the mandolin he's using in the movie looks more to me like a D'Angelico. It has an oval sound hole, and appears to have natural finish maple sides, large fingerboard inlays, a fancy peghead inlay, a maple bridge, and a pickguard secured with a screw near the edge of the top.

    It is definitely not the same mandolin as the one that comes up in the old black and white photo on the findagrave website if you google his name. At first I thought that one is a Martin style 20, but it appears to have more frets than a Martin and may also be a handmade instrument.

    And I don't believe it's an oval style 30. One of the two that were made went through Gruhn's shop many years ago, and it had a sunburst top. I played it while it was there, liked it a lot, and came close to taking it home with me, but decided to keep my wallet in my pocket. I believe they were asking $2500. It didn't stay there long. And I don't remember for sure, but I think the other one turned up also, and also had a sunburst top.

    According to the short bio that comes up on findagrave, he was born in Sicily in 1905, came to the US in 1925, a worked very actively in New York City from at least 1949 until 1980. He also played archtop guitar, and would undoubtedly have been acquainted with the D'Angelico shop. He also was a competent violinist and banjo player.
    Last edited by rcc56; Jul-03-2021 at 1:36am.

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