C. F. Martin 0-17 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1935)

C. F. Martin  0-17 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar  (1935)
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Item # 11014
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C. F. Martin 0-17 Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1935), made in Nazareth, PA, serial # 58867, natural lacquer finish, mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard and bridge, original black chipboard case.

This is a nice example of an early 14-fret Martin 0-17 showing some wear but overall in fine condition for its age, an excellent player with a very powerful voice for a small all-mahogany guitar. This 0-17 was built very early in 1935, when the 14-fret version was still a new design. The 0-17 had been changed from a 1920s style 12-fret neck joint to this "modern" layout just in time for the 1934 catalog. 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 1930s.

The 0-17 is a direct descendant of Martin's first 12 fret, steel string 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 manage, the Style 17 instruments are 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 had been supplanted by modern tang fretwire before this one was built, otherwise it is unchanged from 1934 examples.

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. 954 of these little mahogany wonders were shipped in 1935, a huge quantity 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 1935 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 more lightly built than subsequent iterations. This initial 14-fret 0-17 is a great playing example, a treat for both the Martin connoisseur and 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 nicer pre-war mahogany Martins we have seen recently, showing some wear and tear but relatively clean and undisturbed for being 87 years old. The finish is completely original showing dings, dents, scrapes, and some play wear to the top but no overspray. There is pickwear somewhat into the wood below the back edge of the pickguard and a smaller spot on the upper bout below the fingerboard. There are a couple of noticeable dings, most likely case bites at the edge of the lower bout on the bass side. The finish on the back of the neck is partially worn through, with some random feelable dinks but no heavy wear.

The only visible crack on this 0-17 is a three inch back split running vertically along the treble side of the lower bout, which has been sealed long ago solidly but not as neatly as we might prefer. At least no overspray was added. The back top/edge seam appears resealed north of the endpin, solidly but again perceptibly. The fingerboard has some noticeable divoting in the low positions.

The neck has been refretted and very neatly reset; the bridge and saddle are very nicely done repros. Save for these repairs, the guitar remains original and in excellent working condition. The original small maple bridgeplate is very neat and undisturbed, as is all the delicate bracing. The original riveted individual Grover tuners, with what appear to be older but possibly replaced white buttons still function well. This 0-17 is just a lovely find, worn in enough to play without fear one of the nicer early examples of this ever-popular instruments we have had. It is still housed in the original surprisingly sturdy chipboard case. Overall Excellent - Condition.