Vintage Martin D-28 - USA 1943
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This is a guitar of supreme significance. This 1943 Martin D-28 represents the pinnacle of dreadnought acoustic guitar design - Adirondack spruce top, mahogany neck, ebony fretboard, Brazilian rosewood back and sides and scalloped bracing that lets these materials come alive. Martin dreadnought guitars form the late 30s and early 40s set the standard for acoustic guitars as we know them today.
Established in 1833, the C.F. Martin company designed the first dreadnought in 1916, some 83 years after the company's inception. Their shape and internal construction emitted a pure, loud and rich sound which many manufacturers around the world have since sought to replicate. The sound we hear when we think of acoustic guitar is the sound of Martin.
C.F. Martin, whose name was always synonymous with unmatched quality, maintained their reputation during the war effort as the maker of the best acoustic guitars money could buy. Their stocks of Adirondack spruce lasted till the late 1940s and Brazilian rosewood was still plentiful. Scalloped bracing – a delicate process that involves carefully removing wood from the tops bracing to gain maximum sonic projection without hurting the structural integrity of the instrument was still a feature in 1943. Due to labor shortages, Martin began to phase out this design feature in late 1944. They cited warranty concerns from the structurally more delicate scalloped bracing, however, the need to speed up production times was a big factor in this decision.
Martins from 1943 typically have an ebony reinforcement rod running up the centre of the neck. This is completely sealed and not visible without X ray or removing the neck from the body. The exceptionally light weight of this guitar helps to suggest the reinforcement is likely to be ebony.
The guitars from 1943 are in every way as iconic as their ‘pre war’ brethren. From Gerry Garcia’s “Gerry’s Herringbone” 1943 D-28 to Hank Williams’s Martin D-28 on display at the Country Music Hall of Fame – these early War Era Martins are as special as it gets.
Many comments have been made about the excellent condition of this instrument. Despite a few small, repaired cracks in the top there is little sign of work done to the instrument. A replacement bridge was crafted by internationally-renowned Martin expert - Jeff Mallia. It’s a standard situation for these old guitars to require replacement tuners as the gears wear out over time. The original tuners (pictured) are in the case. These have been replaced with Grover silver button tuners which match the footprint of the originals. There is a small lift of the pickguard near the treble bout. Some light marks on the original nitrocellulose around the heal indicate a neck reset has occurred. Inspection under a black light show age to the repair of approximately 40-50 years. Some minor belly bulge is present and is standard for these loud, scalloped brace Martins. Action on the bass ‘E’ string is 2.75mm, which is high, however the nice straight neck delivers ease of use up and down the fretboard. The neck is a reasonably slim, soft V profile by Martin standards with a 42.9mm nut width. The original nut is in the case. The non-original case appears to be a 1950s Gibson archtop HSC. This guitar has been very well looked after over the years.
The first strums of this guitar reveal a sound that is almost unexpected. The big, boomy dreadnought sound that so many acoustics have, this doesn’t. The sound is different. Decidedly powerful mid-range focus and detail spring forth from every note. It is not that it is lacking bass, the bass is all there, there’s just a lot more mid power in addition to it. This power encourages the guitarist to relax into the instrument, having ample sonic reward from relatively light touch. The light construction, scalloped bracing, and 80 years of drying out have made this guitar sing.
This is a super fine example of an incredibly important instrument that looks as good as it sounds. There is magic in this guitar and is an absolute delight to the ears, eyes and imagination of any who are lucky enough to experience such an instrument.
Scale length: 25.5”
Fretboard Radius: 14”
Action at 1st fret: 0.25mm
Action at 12th fret: 2mm (treble) 2.75 (bass)
Neck depth at 1st fret: 20.73mm
Neck depth at 12th fret: 25.22mm
Nut Width: 42.92mm
12 fret width: 54.4mm
Neck material: Brazilian rosewood with ebony fretboard
Fretboard inlays: Mother of pearl diamonds and squares
Body: Brazilian rosewood back and sides with Adirondak spruce top and herringbone binding
Body size at lower bout: 400mm
Tuners: replacement nickel plated grover tuners (originals in case)
Pickguard: Tortoise shell
Bridge: Ebony with bone saddle
Case: Non-original HSC