The Twelfth Fret ~ Since 1977 ~

Martin Style A Mandolin Natural, 1936

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The Martin Style A Mandolin had a long production run – from 1914 to 1995, and bridged the European and American approaches to mandolins at a time when mandolins were extraordinarily popular.

Most European mandolin designs used a traditional bowl back with a folded or ‘bent’ top. In America, however, Orville Gibson merged arched top and back violin design principles with the mandolin layout for a dramatically different instrument. The new Gibson models delivered significantly higher volume and, not having round backs, were easier to hold and play.

Martin – like all other builders at the time – saw the interest in and demand for mandolins as an opportunity, and went into production. However, the approach for the Martin Style A was to merge Martin guitar construction with the best Italian mandolin designs. The result was a flat back instrument with ‘bent’ top. These models do not have the raw volume or projection that carved tops do, but that’s sometimes a good thing.

At its introduction in 1914, the Martin Style A sides and back were Brazilian Rosewood and the top Spruce, but by 1917 Mahogany replaced Rosewood except for the head plate. The fingerboard and bridge are Ebony, as is the head plate.

The Martin Style A top is the traditional European ‘bent’ style, which has a couple of benefits. First, the bend or fold adds strength, and second, the lowest point of the bend, relative to the plane of the top, is at the tailpiece. That allows the strings to take a significant downward angle from the bridge to the tailpiece, without the bridge or neck angle being high.

This Martin Style A mandolin dates to approximately mid 1936 and was built at the Martin plant in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. In 1936, Martin built 269 Style A mandolins, and this is number 115 in that sequence; it was likely built in May or June of that year. On the back of the head, there is a ‘Made in USA’ stamp, which indicates that this was built for sale outside the USA – specifically, in Canada.

It is in overall good condition considering its age. The finish has expected wear and tear, but is complete and original. Fretwear is moderate to heavy on the first three frets and light past that. The top has a long-ago repaired and reinforced crack running under a brace from the tailblock to the bend, at the high strings. The tailpiece is fatiguing a bit at the bass side of its fold, but is solid.

A period fibre case, likely originally supplied by the retailer, is included.


 

Price: $1150 CAD
  • Model: Style A Mandolin
  • Year: 1936
  • Finish Natural
  • Class: Vintage
  • Serial Number: A 16002, about mid 1936
  • Country of Origin: USA
  • Condition: Good
  • Date Posted: 09/10/2019

  • Consignment Item

  • Required CITES documentation
  • Including original Soft case
  • Instrument Weight: 1.32lbs .6kg
  • Scale Length: 330.2mm 13in
  • Nut Width: 30mm 1.18in
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