C. F. Martin D-28 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1937)

C. F. Martin  D-28 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar  (1937)

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Item # 7459
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C. F. Martin D-28 Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1937), made in Nazareth, PA, serial # 65710, natural lacquer finish, Brazilian rosewood back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard, molded blue plastic hard shell case.

There are certain guitars that are simply the standard by which all others are judged-the 1937 Martin D-28 "herringbone" is certainly one of them. Yes this example shows a lot of playwear, and yes there have been many repairs over 80 years. BUT, it you want the sound…THE sound…this guitar has it in spades. The 1937 D-28 is, to many, as close to a perfect flat top guitar as has ever been made. If you are seeking the power and depth of a Dreadnought with the sweetness, sparkle and singing character of the best pre-WWII Martins the D-28's of this early period are still unmatched, even 80 years on.

The wear on this guitar is typical in many ways of how much these instruments got actually used and played. Cosmetically it shows the scars of long use and heavy playing, likely into the open mikes of radio studios and barn dance stages. In this environment a guitar had to have the maximum of both depth and projection, and many of the Country and Western performers of the period (accent on the "Western") found the Martin D-28 was the best instrument available for this highly competitive musical environment. Costing an even $100 in 1937 (without case!) the D-28 represented a sizable investment for a working performer, and once obtained was often played constantly as a tool to literally put food on the table

This example would have shipped in the early part of 1937, one of a total 148 sold that year. Compared to modern production that is a paltry number, but the depression economics made even a $100 guitar unobtainable to many. The mahogany-bodied D-18 cost just over half as much at $65 and was sold in much larger numbers, but for many players the D-28 represented the ultimate stage guitar. In this period when they were built these instruments were judged by the way the rhythm they produced powered the whole group-the kind of solo hot pickin' that characterizes much of the modern audience for these guitars was still several generations away. Although the D-28 is considered the ultimate Bluegrass guitar, "Bluegrass" as a musical style did not exist yet. Bill Monroe was active as a performer, but only in a duet context with his brother Charlie. It would not be until the later 1940's that the "classic" Monroe band with Lester Flatt on a D-28 would establish that paradigm.

This D-28 shows all the original classic features of the model, all of which have been widely imitated ever since. The back and sides are Brazilian rosewood, with the lovely if conservatively even straight-grain figure Martin prized. The top is very tight-grained Appalachian spruce, bordered with the famous "herringbone" wood trim that has come to define the model and bound on the outside with ivory celluloid. The ebony bridge is the then recently-designed "belly" shape with a canted bone saddle, the company's adaptation to the increased tension and intonation requirements of steel strings. The pickguard just below the soundhole is made of tortoise celluloid in a small "teardrop" shape-this design often proved too small to fully protect the top from the ravages of enthusiastic picking!

The neck is mahogany with an unbound ebony fingerboard decorated with discreet slotted diamond pearl inlay. The peghead is faced in dramatically grained Brazilian rosewood with the "C.F. Martin & C." decal at the top. The neck profile is round backed but with the slightest hint of a "V" profile in the way the sides bear away from the center as it moves towards the nut. The tuners are early-pattern Grover G-98 Sta-tites, amazingly still intact and functional even after many years of use.

In the minds of most acoustic guitar players, collectors and historians very few instruments even approach the pantheon of the pre-war rosewood Martin Dreadnought in terms of both sound and historical importance. This 1937 model has all the most desired features-a couple like the "forward" scalloped X-brace pattern and slightly wider nut even began to change well before WWII. Worn in as it is, this is still a beautiful guitar to behold, a true joy to play and a significant piece of fretted history.
Overall length is 41 in. (104.1 cm.), 15 3/4 in. (40 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 15/16 in. (12.5 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 25 1/4 in. (641 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.). This guitar has been heavily played and had some careful restoration, but all efforts have gone to preserving the instrument's original integrity and character and this well-worn guitar still sings with its unimpeded original voice. There have never been any neck or heel cracks, or intrusive internal repair. The most important features remain unaltered, despite the cosmetic wear this remains a very original instrument. The neck was cleanly reset some time ago and this appears to be probably the third fret installation, still to the original smaller wire spec.

The body has a number of fairly minor crack repairs, but the all-important bridge, bridgeplate and all bracing remain original with no major damage or repair. The bridge itself has a few small crack repairs but is perfectly solid, and appears to have not been off the guitar as much as many. There is no tell-tale patching or old glue around the bridge base at all, and it appears to have been at most very cleanly re-glued long ago with minimal fuss. The bridgeplate shows some wear (as would be expected in such a veteran guitar) but is not overly worn through at the string holes and has never been replaced, patched or altered. The bracing likewise is unmolested, there are some spots where the original pieces have been reglued but again no replacement or alteration.

The top center seam has been resealed, solidly but visibly but there are no added cleats beneath. There are sealed cracks just on either side of the fingerboard again with no added cleats or the extra "popsicle" brace often added later during restoration. These are inconspicuous as there is a lot of pickwear in the area. As with many of these early Dreadnoughts there is some repair around the fingerboard/soundhole junction, where the soundhole purfling has been carefully re-aligned. There is a small repaired spruce grain crack on either side of the top just near the edges of the lower bouts; these appear to have been sealed up long ago and in each case some finish was scraped away at the time. On the bass side this was a small area; it is somewhat larger on the treble side and there has been some thin touch-up added in this spot.

At some point there was a larger treble-side pickguard added, which was later removed. The top in this area shows a hodge-podge of original finish with pickwear through the lacquer and later touch-up. The pickguard currently mounted is an original old Martin tortoise celluloid piece that in itself shows quite a bit of wear. There are a couple of spots of old celluloid tape marks which must at one point have helped hold the added oversize 'guard in place. Overall this area of the top below the strings and around the fingerboard extension is the only large area of finish loss, and basically reads as one large worn spot.

Over the rest of the guitar the finish is original, and shows ding, dents, scrapes and all manner of small disturbances. The finish on the back of the neck is worn down to the wood below the 6th fret by the action of the players thumb, mostly, and remains largely clear of dents and other impediments. The face of the headstock has seen some clean-up, as it appears to have had some sort of additional decoration added and removed over the years with some commensurate touchup to the finish. Several generations of owners have likely had this guitar pass through their hands, adding and subtracting these extra decorative elements along with the fashions of the time. A thorough inspection under black light reveals the bulk of the lacquer to remain original-all touch-up and added finish is only localized in specific areas- the guitar has never had a wholesale overspray.

While this guitar has seen what likely amounts to several careers worth of use it remains a spectacular musical instrument, well worthy of its esteemed reputation. When played hard it sings with the authoritative tone these are renowned for, yet even when played softly it is a responsive and lovely sounding instrument with a wide range of tones depending on the players touch. Although often typecast as a Bluegrass instrument, this herringbone D-28 is a wonderful sounding guitar for any style of play. A true survivor, a great piece of history and just as good an ol'guitar as anyone is likely to find, now or then. Includes a '70's Martin HSC. Overall Very Good + Condition.