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Thread: Martin A style mandolins - General info-Body change, size changes

  1. #1
    Formerly F5JOURNL Darryl Wolfe's Avatar
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    Default Martin A style mandolins - General info-Body change, size changes

    I read this old thread with considerable interest. I am wondering if there are new opinions or data available. I ask because my 1941 Shadetop A Martin mandolin seems like a different animal than a 1919 A, B or even E style mando. It seems much more sturdy, louder and bigger in some manner. Similar to the difference in a '37 00-18 and a 1919 00-18.

    https://www.mandolincafe.com/forum/t...back-mandolins

    I appreciate your comments.
    Click image for larger version. 

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    Darryl G. Wolfe, The F5 Journal
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  2. #2
    Teacher, repair person
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    Default Re: Martin A style mandolins - General info-Body change, size cha

    From my post in the old thread, #5:

    "The very earliest Martin flat back mandolins were slightly smaller in width than the later ones. The change occurred sometime between 1920 and 1922. It is possible that the transition occurred gradually over a period of a year or two. It is not very well documented in the history books.

    At one time I owned 2 otherwise identical upper line rosewood mandolins that were built right before and right after the change. One was made in early 1920, the other in 1925. In this particular case, the earlier small mandolin was a better instrument. But that is just one example. I haven't compared any others. I eventually sold the larger mandolin."


    I can add that according to Longworth, the earlier mandolins were 9" wide and 2 7/8" deep, while the later ones were 9 1/2" wide and 2 5/8" deep. So when they changed them, they increased the width, but decreased the depth. But from measurements of actual instruments that myself and others have taken, it appears that the above dimensions can vary quite a bit.

    Anyway, in my case, my small-bodied 1920 mandolin is a noticeably stronger sounding instrument than the larger 1925 that I owned. I still have the small one, and I still like it very much. I don't miss the other, even though it was in prettier shape.
    Last edited by rcc56; Apr-02-2024 at 8:31pm.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Martin A style mandolins - General info-Body change, size cha

    I bought a 1974 A pretty much impulsively. It was a birth year instrument, priced right at a time when I was looking to buy something, and I wanted to see what the Martin (low key) mandolin buzz was about. It resides with my daughter in Boston, who picked it over an Eastman 315 and Flatiron 1N to take to law school because she liked the shorter scale and set up. Unfortunately, she has an 0400 flight out of town tomorrow morning, so I canít get you measurements presently. But, it lacks the presence of some much earlier Martin As Iíve played through the years. It has the black pick guard typical of the era. Nice workmanship (the neck and fretwork are particularly nicely done), and the woods are nice, but it only sounds OK. Sweet, but a bit thin and low on volume. The 1N won hands down, IMO. But, she was also cool with low volume given her apartment living situation. Iíd consider buying another one, but would look 1920s-1930s, possibly koa B/S, and would play it first.

    Sorry Darryl, I know thatís not much help. Yours is a beauty!

  4. #4
    Moderator MikeEdgerton's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin A style mandolins - General info-Body change, size cha

    I do know that at some point someone determined the width on the flat back Martins changed. That muddied up the attempt to find or build a suitable replacement case for them. I'll see if I can find that information again.

    Check this thread.
    "It's comparable to playing a cheese slicer."
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    "Bargain instruments are no bargains if you can't play them"
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  5. #5

    Default Re: Martin A style mandolins - General info-Body change, size cha

    I can add that according to Longworth, the earlier mandolins were 9" wide and 2 7/8" deep, while the later ones were 9 1/2" wide and 2 5/8" deep. So when they changed them, they increased the width, but decreased the depth. But from measurements of actual instruments that myself and others have taken, it appears that the above dimensions can vary quite a bit.
    My 1920 Martin Style A is 3" deep at its widest and 8 3/4" wide at the top bend.Click image for larger version. 

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    Roger

    1920 Martin Style A
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    Don MacRostie designed Stuart MacDonald A-style kit I built myself.
    2022 Kentucky KM-1000B
    Plus guitars - lots of guitars
    Two banjos, a fiddle, and a tiple

  6. #6
    Full Grown and Cussin' brunello97's Avatar
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    Default Re: Martin A style mandolins - General info-Body change, size cha

    An interesting discssion...

    I realize it's out of date range for the primary comparisons, but fwiw, my 1951 Martin A is 9.5 W and 3.0 D.

    Mick
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