C. F. Martin C-2 Arch Top Acoustic Guitar (1937)

C. F. Martin  C-2 Arch Top Acoustic Guitar  (1937)
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Item # 11991
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C. F. Martin C-2 Model Arch Top Acoustic Guitar (1937), made in Nazareth, PA, serial # 66518, sunburst top, natural back and sides finish, Brazillian rosewood sides and back, spruce top, mahogany neck with ebony fingerboard, original black hard shell case.

One of C. F. Martin & Co.'s more unusual but often overlooked guitars, the f-hole C-2 represents the company's noble but ultimately doomed attempts to challenge Gibson and Epiphone for the swing-era archtop market. The C-series were Martin's earliest production archtop guitars, introduced in 1931 sporting a mix of flat top and arch top style features. While Martin arch-tops have never been well-appreciated compared to the same period's flat tops, viewed simply as a guitar (not as an OM-28 that wasn't!) this C-2 is a good-playing and interesting-sounding instrument.

In 1930-31 when this guitar was designed, arch tops in general were still a relatively unformed concept. Gibson led the way, and by the late 20's their $275.00 16" wide L-5 was the emerging standard of the professional guitar with f-holes, a 14-fret neck, and a raised fingerboard. Lesser Gibson archtops, along with other maker's early attempts, still stuck to the familiar round soundhole. Unlike Epiphone and eventually many others, Martin chose not to copy the L-5 (which at the time was much more expensive than even a pearl-bordered OM-45) but essentially took their 15" wide OM-body, pitched the 14-fret neck way back and gave the top a gentle carved arch while retaining the round soundhole. Similar guitars emerged around this time from Washburn, Vega, and Weymann, among others. The C-2 was the most successful of these hybrids, selling over 250 units before being redesigned with F-holes in 1933.

This version of the C-2 was produced from 1934 up through the end of the decade. This model stood at the middle of the Martin arch top line listing at $125 in 1936, about the cost of a Gibson L-7. Only 60 C-2s were shipped in 1937, making this a fairly rare find.

The features are distinctly Martin with a Brazilian rosewood body and relatively fancy trim similar to an OM-28, but lacking the herringbone top border which may have been considered too old-fashioned for such a modern guitar! Like all prewar Martins the workmanship is impeccable and all woods on this instrument are top-notch, with the Brazilian rosewood back and sides being particularly fine with a tight but well-defined figure.

The single-bound ebony fingerboard has a delicate slotted diamond inlay and the top is multibound in 5-ply celluloid. The inlaid pearl headstock logo reads "C. F. MARTIN". The tuners are Grover Sta-tites with "butterbean" buttons and the tailpiece is a heavy Grover piece with an engraved Martin logo on the base. The adjustable bridge is a lovely carved two-piece unit that is a work of art in itself.

The sound of this C-2 is bright and punchy but not as big as the typical mid-1930's higher-grade Gibson. The feel is halfway between the typical arch top and flat top, with the smaller body making the feel comfortable to a typical Martin player. While perhaps still a minority taste, we find these Martin arch tops can be a fun guitar to play and are quite suited to some string band or similar playing applications.

There is a practice of pulling the tops off these 1930's Brazilian rosewood arch top Martins and converting them to flat tops. While the motivation is understandable, we hope this one can be appreciated as it is; a good player and nice example of Martin's noble but doomed carved top experiments.
Overall length is 39 3/4 in. (101 cm.), 15 in. (38.1 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 4 1/8 in. (10.5 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 24 3/4 in. (629 mm.).

This is a good playing example of this rare pre-war Martin guitar which has seen some wear and tear but only a few notable repairs, and overall remained in good structural shape over the last 75+ years. The all original lacquer finish has not been oversprayed or altered; there is considerable wear through the lacquer on the back of the neck in the lower positions. There is some noticeable scuffing and scratching to the back and sides of the body, with smaller pick scratches, dings and nicks to the top.

The only visible crack is a spruce grain split along the bottom outer curve of the bass side f-hole, sealed and very lightly touched up. Internally, the original braces have remained virtually untouched and the guitar is structurally very sound. The neck was neatly reset some time ago, and the fingerboard trued and refretted.

The guitar appears all original except the pickguard which is a nicely done repro in the correct material, and one of the original Grover tuners. This is in the case badly broken, replaced on the guitar with a modern Waverly repro. This is in a similar style to the rest; the substitution is noticeable from the back but fairly subtle from the front.

This C-2 is a fine player; while it does not offer the warmth and depth of a pre-war rosewood Martin flattop is sounds great for early jazz, ragtime, and hokum and does a pretty fair job with more modern styles as well. It includes an original HSC with some edgewear but completely solid. Excellent - Condition.