C. F. Martin 0-17 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1934)

C. F. Martin  0-17 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar  (1934)
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Item # 10417
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C. F. Martin 0-17 Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1934), made in Nazareth, PA, serial # 55118, natural lacquer finish, mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, black tolex hard shell case.

This is a truly superb example of a VERY early 14-fret Martin 0-17 in extremely fine condition for its age. Not only does this guitar show only light wear and minor repair but it is also a fine player with a very powerful voice for a small all-mahogany guitar. This 0-17 was built right at the beginning 1934, when this 14-fret version of the model was a brand new design. The 0-17 was changed from a 1920s style 12-fret neck joint to this modernized version just in time for the 1934 catalog; this would be one of the very first built. At the time the Depression was very much still in evidence and this small, unassuming but affordable guitar was Martin's best seller. This one model may well have had a major role in keeping the company in business during the first half of the decade.

The 0-17 is a direct descendant of Martin's 12 fret, steel string budget guitars of the 1920's, which were a novel idea for the company at the time. Designed to offer a reliable, great sounding instrument at the lowest price Martin could possibly manage, the Style 17 instruments were a study in elegant minimalism. The body is all mahogany, with no ornament except for the soundhole ring. The unbound, dot-inlaid rosewood fingerboard has an ebony nut. The traditional Martin bar frets were only retained on the 14-fret model for the first part of 1934, supplanted by modern tang fretwire not long after this one was built. This guitar also has original better quality Waverly tuners with metal buttons, the same as used by Epiphone in New York on their higher end arch tops.

While plain in appearance and at the bottom of the Martin guitar line, The 0-17 is still built of high-grade materials to the company's lofty standards. Decent guitars could be had much cheaper from the likes of Harmony, Regal or the Sears catalog, but none came close to the sonic value of this instrument. 1100 of these little mahogany wonders were shipped in 1934, a huge number for Martin at the time and an indication of how their dealers must have been clamoring for an affordable 14-fret guitar. While the original price of $30.00 may seem laughable today, in 1934 this was still a fairly expensive proposition for many Americans struggling to make ends meet.

Then as now 0-17 is a fully professional-quality guitar, extremely responsive with a rich, singing tone that belies its humble appearance. The scalloped X-bracing is very delicate the entire instrument is rather more lightly built than subsequent iterations. This initial 14-fret bar fret version is a relatively rare variation of the 0-17 available for a matter of months only and this little gem is a true treat for the Martin connoisseur as well as the casual strummer.
Overall length is 38 1/2 in. (97.8 cm.), 13 5/8 in. (34.6 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 1/4 in. (10.8 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.). Width of nut is 1 11/16 in. (43 mm.).

This is one of the loveliest and best preserved early 14-fret mahogany Martins we have seen, showing minor signs of use but really amazingly clean for being 86+ years old. The finish is completely original showing only small dings, dents and scrapes, with very little actual playing wear anywhere. The heaviest wear is a few deeper scrapes on the lower side just below the endpin. No cracks are evident, which is kind of amazing for one of these lightly built mahogany guitars.

The original bar frets show hardly any wear, the fingerboard likewise is nearly perfect. The neck has been neatly reset with one small reglued chip on the bass side of the heel visible, the only real flaw on the instrument. The original full-height bridge was cleanly reglued and the saddle appears newer. The original non-slotted black plastic bridgepins and endpin are intact. The interior is beautifully original with the original tiny maple bridgeplate untouched. This guitar is a truly lovely find in a pre-war Martin, an exceptional player with a huge shimmering sound for a small mahogany guitar. It is simply the nicest example of this perennially popular instrument we have ever had. Overall Excellent + Condition.