Fresh back from restoration this 12-fretter has got "IT" in spades. "IT" meaning that distinctive big-bodied, pyramid bridged, no-pickguard look that says: "I'm an old timer and you ain't gonna believe what I can do." And "IT" is also the dry, crisp mahogany tone with deep piano-like bass" the kind of sound that can only come out of a big-bodied, Adirondack-topped, scalloped braced, light-as-a-feather early steel-string Martin. 12-fret 000's were Martin?s largest body size until the advent of the Dreadnaught circa 1930. The 000 was the "D" of its day.
Constructed during the first year that Martin officially "regulated" their guitars for steel strings, this guitar handles normal light steel strings with aplomb. And while it sounds excellent, it will likely sound even better after a couple weeks of playing, since it hadn?t been played in who knows how long before it came to us. How do we know it wasn?t played? It didn?t have a bridge!
We got a new bridge from TJ Thompson, custom-ordered in a ?maccassar-like" ebony that has brown streaks in it, to match the look of the ebony fingerboard (and the look of other early ?20s 000s.) We also had the bridge made to slightly smaller dimensions than later bridges (It helped that we had a 1924 with an original pyramid bridge to measure from.) On the guitar?s top, remarkably, there are no other top cracks than some short compression cracks at the far edges of the lower bouts (from either dryness or a too-tight case sometime in its past.) There was a side crack or two and back cracks as well, but all these flaws are repaired and mostly invisible, blended into the time-worn patina thanks to our cosmetics Svengalis. We reset the neck and set up the guitar to play nicely. The bar frets and wide fingerboard are particularly excellent for finger style. Everything is original other than the bridge and Antique Acoustics vintage-correct bridge pins.
Curiously, the back of the headstock is stamped with both the Martin and Wurlitzer stamps. It turns out that this is quite unusual. Here?s the story, from Martin historian Gregg Hutton:
"Wurlitzer participated in what Martin called the "Customer line" or "C-line", in which larger customers could orders instruments with their own name stamp rather than the usual Martin markings. Many of the initial "C-line" instruments did not receive Martin serial numbers and had slightly different specifications (a single sound hole ring being the most obvious).
Wurlitzer started ordering "C-line" instruments in January 1922, using their own model designations (a 000-18 was model #2087 in Wurlitzer parlance). But by early December 1922 Wurlitzer had reverted to using Martin designations and from that point all instruments (excluding the uke family) had regular serial numbers although most still received a Wurlitzer stamp. (Wurlitzer did continue to use their model designation on occasion).
Wurlitzer ordered five 000-18 guitars on December 8, 1922 and this guitar is one of them, and its production started in January of 1923. Four of the five were shipped to Rudolph Wurlitzer Co. in Chicago on February 28, 1923 and one was shipped to S. E. Philpitts (a Martin dealer in Washington DC) on the same date.?