C. F. Martin 5-17 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1940)

C. F. Martin  5-17 Flat Top Acoustic Guitar  (1940)
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Item # 12012
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C. F. Martin 5-17 Model Flat Top Acoustic Guitar (1940), made in Nazareth, PA, serial # 74676, natural mahogany finish, mahogany body and neck, rosewood fingerboard, original black chipboard case.

The model 5-17 is one of Martin's prime entries into the all-time cutest guitar sweepstakes, a very playable and good-sounding professional quality instrument despite its diminutive size. The "modern" all-mahogany 5-17 was introduced in 1927, built from the company's 19th century terz guitar patterns with an 11" body and short scale of just over 21". Along with the more upscale spruce-topped 5-18 this was the smallest guitar Martin made; the 5-17 remained the cheapest.

The all-mahogany body features an X-braced top with three ply white-black-white soundhole rosette and a tortoise pattern celluloid pickguard as the only adornment. The fingerboard is rosewood with a simple pattern of white celluloid dots, one at the fifth fret, two at the seventh and one at the ninth. The bridge is rosewood with a bone saddle and the nut is ebony. The slotted headstock still has plain pre-war brass Waverly 3-on-a-strip tuners with ivoroid buttons and a "C.F. Martin" decal on the face. The neck still features bar frets and an ebony truss rod; by 1940 Martins generally have T-frets and a steel truss rod. These earlier features suggest a stock of parts for this slow-selling model may still have been on hand for some time.

In any cease this is a fairly rare guitar; the total number built only amounts to 218 over more than 15 years. Between 1 and 3 were sold per year from 1927 up to 1937 when a "huge" batch of 68 were shipped out. After 1938 production numbers fell again and the model was finally discontinued in 1943. This is one of 24 shipped in 1940, then listed at a whopping price of $25 plus case.

With a sparkling sound, easy playability and unmatched portability, this littlest Martin is a mostly forgotten gem, a fine instrument today for travel, recording, and even live use. Dolly Parton has been seen many times with the 5-18, the spruce-topped cousin of the 5-17, over the years. It's awfully cute, for sure, but this little mahogany Martin can really sing too!
Overall length is 32 5/8 in. (82.9 cm.), 11 1/4 in. (28.6 cm.) wide at lower bout, and 3 15/16 in. (10 cm.) in depth at side, taken at the end block. Scale length is 21 1/4 in. (540 mm.). Width of nut is 1 5/8 in. (41 mm.).

This is a relatively clean guitar for its age, well past its 80th birthday showing mostly superficial wear and an excellent player. The mahogany top has some small random dings and dents, but no real pick wear. The rims show small scuffs and scratches with one noticeably deeper ding on the lower waist, the back shows scratching, dings, and scuffs over the surface and small dents along on the edges, common on these unbound mahogany Martins.

Everything on this guitar is original; there are no cracks or other repairs evident. The neck was neatly reset at some point with a shim under the fingerboard and the angle is excellent. Internally all the scalloped bracing and small maple bridgeplate are original; there are two small spots where some sort of tape was stuck to the bridge decades ago, purpose unknown. The original bar frets look to have been polished with virtually no wear, so playability is excellent. This is a nice example of this rare mini-Martin, complete in its original chipboard case which has somehow survived eight decades in functional condition. Overall Excellent - Condition.