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Thread: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

  1. #1

    Default 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    My dad has a 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin he wants to gift me. It has a rather large side crack due to years of humidity and temp changes in a closet. Also needs new frets. He says the neck looks straight. He has the original hard case. I'm wondering if it's worth fixing?

    It's also missing the tail stock cover that I'd want to find.

    I'm not a mandolin player (yet) but have played guitar for over 25 years.










  2. #2
    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    The crack is not a bad fix. I'd say it is easily worth doing.
    In that time period Martin was using bar frets. You may not know what those are, but all you really need to know is that they take much longer to fix or replace than modern "T" frets and therefore cost much more to have replaced. They may not need to be replaced, but they may need some attention from someone experienced with them.

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    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    Yes, it's worth repairing.
    It is not difficult for a skilled worker to execute a crack repair that is structurally sound. The cosmetics of the finished repair may vary depending on the skill of the repair person and how much you want to spend to execute a touch up. To make the repair hard to see would take a lot of extra work.

    John, does that look like a spirit varnish finish to you?? If so, a worker who is proficient at "French polishing" might be able to make the repair nearly invisible.

    The original tailpiece cover would have had some pretty engraving. Finding an engraved one would be a long shot. I believe that I have one without the engraving.

    If the bar frets indeed do need to be replaced, I have a technique for converting a bar fret mandolin to T frets that is quite a bit less expensive than going back with new bar frets. Sorry guys, I won't describe the process-- it's my only trade secret. Maybe after I retire . . .

    That's a fairly rare model-- they made less than 400 of them and was one model below the top of the line.
    You should loosen the strings if you have not already done so.
    Last edited by rcc56; Mar-14-2022 at 5:44pm.

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    Registered User sunburst's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    Quote Originally Posted by rcc56 View Post
    ...John, does that look like a spirit varnish finish to you??...
    By '29 they should have been using nitro, but I wouldn't be sure without having it in hand. Either way, with skill and experience the repaired crack can be made cosmetically acceptable.

  5. #5

    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    Looks nice, little playing wear, probably can sound good, and just for rarity, worth something. Those frets in the side view seem to have come up in places, and as John said, may be fixable (by reseating). Sort of like the rocks here in NE that emerge with the seasons. The guys here always recommend a visit to a luthier to inspect inside for loose woodwork which should always be fixed. Guessing that it’s worth enough to justify expert repair.

  6. #6

    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    Thanks for the helpful feedback. Sounds like I want to move forward with getting it back into playing condition. The tailpiece cover has to be in their house. They've lived there for decades and I don't think this mandolin ever made it out of the house. We both remember it being attached at some point. I do have a few follow-up questions.

    The mandolin is in New Hampshire. I am in California. Have it shipped here and fix locally? Have it fixed in New Hampshire and then shipped to me? How would I find a luthier knowledgable in this type of fix? I'm also willing to have it shipped somewhere else to have fixed if it's an uncommon job.

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    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    Well, it's not a job for everyone. It is best done by someone who has a lot of experience working on antique instruments.

    In California, I can recommend Gryphon Stringed Instruments in Palo Alto.
    I'm not sure who to recommend in New England.
    A good classical violin repair person can take care of the crack[s], but might not be able to work on the frets.
    Alternatively, John or I can handle it.

    However you decide to take care of it, it sounds like it will have to be shipped at some point. It should be packed by someone who knows how to ship a string instrument. There are certain techniques that need to be followed to avoid shipping damage. They are not very complicated, but they need to be done right.

  8. #8

    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    In an ideal world, the tailpiece cover would be in the case pocket!

  9. #9
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    Could your folks take it Jake Wildwood in Rochester VT? He does a lot of restorations, and has a good Cafe rep.
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    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    Another member suggested Jake since he's pretty close to my parents house. He's going to take a look at it. Thanks for all the help. I'm more excited to get this playable than when I started looking into it.

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  12. #11
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    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    Quote Originally Posted by letterk View Post
    ... I'm more excited to get this playable than when I started looking into it.
    As it should be! When it comes to family heirlooms, many don't worry whether the repair cost "is worth it". To them (us!), the sentimental or family value is worth more than the raw instrument would ever be to an outside party.
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  13. #12

    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    Just a thank you to everyone here. The Martin was repaired by Jake in Vermont. He did a nice write up, too!

    https://jakewildwood.blogspot.com/20...dolin.html?m=1

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    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    Crack's still visible, but to me that's "instrument history," not a defect, once repaired. Absolutely beautiful instrument! If you can dig up one of those "cloud" tailpiece covers (or if Jake'll sell you the one he put on it for the photos), you'll have a really top-notch family heirloom and player's instrument, IMHO.
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  16. #14

    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    I wasnít expecting the crack to be invisible. It was a pretty big crack. So Iím happy. But I do need to find a tailpiece.

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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    Fair play to you and Jake.

    To my ear, rosewood back and spruce top on these flatbacks is the Holy Grail....as Jake nicely describes, as he does the difference between the mahogany backed Martins and the rosewood ones.

    Some would lump both types of Martins together and send them off to the hills, but I find that short-sighted, or short-eared if there is such a thing.

    If you're new to the mandolin, this is a pretty sweet place to start.

    Even moreso as a gift from your Pop.


    Mick
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    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    The mandolin looks great- and is now ready for a new era. Jake may have inadvertently suggested a new line of business- "Renta-Talipiece Cover." As Mick mentions, this mandolin is a great starting point for a new player and I can remember starting out on one of my great-grandfather's bowlbacks- which was like starting out rock-climbing on the North Face of the Eiger.

  20. #17
    Mando accumulator allenhopkins's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    From the catalog pic of the Style C in Longworth's Martin book, they came with "cloud" tailpiece covers, engraved. Can't make out the engraving pattern from the small pic. Reproduction "cloud" covers have been advertised in the Cafe classifieds, at relatively affordable prices -- un-engraved, though, so you'd have to make arrangements for your own engraving.
    Allen Hopkins
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    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    Quote Originally Posted by allenhopkins View Post
    From the catalog pic of the Style C in Longworth's Martin book, they came with "cloud" tailpiece covers, engraved. Can't make out the engraving pattern from the small pic. Reproduction "cloud" covers have been advertised in the Cafe classifieds, at relatively affordable prices -- un-engraved, though, so you'd have to make arrangements for your own engraving.
    These are muy coolioso, Allen, but the caveat I'll remind folks of is that the width of the Waverly Cloud tailpiece cover varied.

    Ask me how I know.

    I've got a small box of them and they definitely mix and match with the associated tailpieces.

    The seller of the repro ones makes note of that, too.

    Based on the photo, they do look pretty nice.

    Best to get them as a set if possible or get some precise dimensions when buying one or the other.


    Mick
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  24. #19

    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    Thanks for the continued comments. I've had a chance to play a bit and it brings back old memories of messing around with this, and one other of my dad's vintage mandolins, as a kid. I don't have a lot to compare to, but it sure sounds pretty, and surprisingly easy to play as well.

    I have a few leads on tailpiece covers now, but I may be back at my parents house in a few weeks. Might just wait to see if I can find it in the closet they used to keep the instruments.

    Already making plans to play in church. If you have any advice on mic'ing it, I'm all ears.

    Also, I have the original case, and it's in fair shape, but one of the latches is finicky. I'm wondering about buying a new case for hauling to church once in a while. Would any style A case work, or do I need something special?

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    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    A case for a Martin mandolin is not available at this point. There may be some that will work, but I would take the mandolin with you to check the fit. A case could be altered to fit. I have a nice hard shell case for mine, and have thought about having cases made for Martins. It would be an investment and there is a minimum amount to purchase to have it done. A big investment that I have shied away from for now. I was talking to the company at the beginning of Covid and have backed off since. Maybe I should start a post to see if there is interest.
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    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: 1929 Martin Style C Mandolin with side crack - Worth fixing?

    The original hard cases (assuming it is a hard case) are difficult to find. Even in poor shape they can generally be repaired to make them serviceable. Cafe member LoudLoar (his name is Steve Kirtley) has a web site and a Facebook group dedicated to vintage cases. The web site is at:

    http://www.stevekirtley.org/vintagecases.htm

    The Facebook group is at:

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/vint...nstrumentcases

    You can find information on repairing cases on both.
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