C. F. Martin 0-18 Shade Top Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1943)

C. F. Martin  0-18 Shade Top Flat Top Acoustic Guitar  (1943)
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Item # 11941
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C. F. Martin 0-18 Shade Top Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1943), made in Nazareth, PA, serial # 83444, sunburst top, natural back and sides finish, mahogany back and sides, spruce top; mahogany neck with rosewood fingerboard, black tolex hard shell case.

This lovely wartime 0-18 sports the rare "Shade Top" sunburst finish, a catalog option but not too often seen in this period, especially on this smallest/least expensive model it was offered on. The 0-18 in general may not be one of Martin's rarer creations, but this original 1940s "Shade Top" is an unusual and delightful find as well as a superb playing and sounding guitar.

A "Shaded" or "Dark" top was a catalog option for certain Martin models first listed in the early 1930's. Originally this was a fairly subtle amber tone around the edges of the top. By the time this guitar was made the edge shading was somewhat less subtle and the whole top had a darker look. This option was not too often ordered, likely inspired by some Martin customers and/or dealers and looking at Gibsons and wanting a similar look. 1930s catalog listings for the Style 18 noted "This style will be furnished with a shaded dark top instead of natural finish on request at no extra charge".

Compared to Gibson, Martin managed their materials very well during the war years and maintained a surprisingly full production schedule. This 0-18 dates to fairly early 1943, one of exactly 475 shipped that pivotal year of the Second World War. The great bulk of these would have had the standard natural top. Aside from the finish this mid-war 0-18 has a mahogany body and delicately scallop-braced Adirondack spruce top making for very light and superbly responsive instrument. Martin stopped scalloping the main X brace on guitars a year or so after this instrument was built.

Typical wartime features include the ebony neck re-inforcement that replaced the metal rod due to restrictions on critical metals. The original riveted-gear Kluson tuners were designed to use the minimum of metal but still work well. Standard 0-18 features include the 13 5/8" wide mahogany body with dark celluloid binding, dot inlaid rosewood fingerboard and gold C.F. Martin decal on the rosewood-faced headstock. The trim is discreet with tortoise celluloid on the body edges and a simple multiply soundhole ring. In classic Martin style, the elegant understatement speaks for itself. Despite its smaller body and lack of flash this is a fully professional-quality instrument fully suitable "for broadcasting or stage work".

While not particularly expensive by 1940's standards (listing through the war years at $45.00 plus case) this 0-18 still represented a fairly substantial investment to many players at the time. Over the years since, Martins of this era have become the benchmark for all subsequent acoustic guitar designs. By modern standards the 0-18 is on the small side but even so is an extremely versatile instrument. The scalloped bracing makes a really major sound difference on smaller bodied guitars, and this instrument has a powerful sound not evident on most 0-sized guitars even from later in the same decade. Both as a creative tool and as an object of beauty and grace, this is a well-played but wonderful instrument.
Overall length is 38 1/2 in. (97.8 cm.), 13 5/8 in. (34.6 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 3/16 in. (10.6 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.).
While showing some finish wear and maintenance repair this rare Martin is in all original and very fine playing shape for being over 80 years old. The original thin lacquer finish has some honest wear: scratches, nicks, checking, and strum wear on the top, but has not been noticeably altered. The top shows a decent amount of strum wear through the finish on both sides of the fingerboard, down to the waist and around the rosette. The back has scratching and scuffing over much of the surface but no large areas of loss, there is one deep scrape on the lower sides over the endpin.

There are no noticeable crack repairs to the top, back, sides or neck. The bottom edge and lower side have some small impact dinks into the wood. The original pickguard has some scuffing but has not shrunken noticeably nor caused any crack under the 'B' string as is fairly common for Martins. The original scalloped braces and maple bridgeplate remain in perfect shape.

The 0-18 has had the neck neatly reset, as well as a very nice refret and truing of the fingerboard. A rosewood shim was neatly installed underneath the fingerboard extension. The original rosewood bridge had been slightly lowered on the bass and treble side, with a few small old repaired cracks between the pin holes and a newer unbleached bone saddle installed. The original open-back thin gear Kluson tuners are still fully functional. This is a dramatic looking guitar with its dark sunburst top but most of all a featherweight, tremendous sounding instrument with a very powerful tone for its size. Overall Very Good + Condition.