Martin O-18T 1930 14 Fret Tenor Guitar

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This Martin 0-18T is one of 333 made in 1930, the second year of production of the model.  It is a historically important piece that led to a major change across the Martin line, ushering in their Golden Era.

Tenor guitars were becoming very popular amongst banjo players at the time, and they were requesting changes to dealers that would allow better access to the upper frets, as players were accustomed to on their tenor banjos.  These requests were quickly communicated to Martin as the tenor guitar trend was driving sales. 

Greig Hutton's book, "Hutton's Guide to Martin Guitars (1833-1969)", provides a great amount of detail on this subject, with excerpt from letters to and from Martin by several dealers.  One dealer's letter calls out a Gibson tenor guitar that was the first to offer the upper fret access the players wanted.  It read, "It has been brought to our attention that quite a number of banjoists to whom we have sold Martin Tenor Guitars are trading them in on the new Gibson Tenor Guitar which has the neck made the same as on modern long scale tenor banjos and also has a larger body which tends to give the instrument a bigger tone. 

We know that you would not want to see the Gibson people get the business on the tenor guitar and we are sure that you can make these instruments with the new long scale fingerboard and with a longer neck without the extension over the top.  We have seen the Gibson and upon comparison with the Martin there is no question that the Martin is superior in every way except the neck and fingerboard."  (Either I use way too many commas, or these guys too few!)

This and the other dealer inquiries described by Hutton prompted Martin to very rapidly accelerate experimentation with a 23" scale neck with 14 frets clear of the body.  As Hutton states, Martin was generally conservative when it came to change.  I know that this largely held true even into the 90s and early 2000s when I was a Martin dealer - my product rep once referred to change at Martin as "Glacial"!

The first attempt was not well received.  The body shape, location of the soundhole, and the neck shape weren't quite right.  You'll have to get Greig's book if you want to get the dirty details of the back and forth with dealers.  It actually is quite interesting if you're into this kind of thing.   

The second prototype, 14-fret tenor guitar was shipped on May 28, 1929.  This design, requested by the Carl Fisher Stores, was the first successful Martin guitar with 14 frets clear of the body rather than the standard 12 fret neck of the time. The first run of the 0-18T was dubbed the Carl Fisher model by Martin.  The shape of this model was distinct.  The upper bout was narrower than later 0-18T models.  The Carl Fisher Model ceased its appearance in Martin sales records in March 1930.

The 0-18T body changed to the shape you see on this example from late in 1930, and it remained as such indefinitely.  Earlier 1930 models bore the straight bridge, and in 1931 the "belly bridge" was introduced.  This late-1930 serial numbered piece is likely one of the first with the belly bridge.

As alluded to above, the advent of this very model led to the design of the OM, or Orchestra Model just a few months later and the subsequent Martin guitar designs changed to those legendary "Pre-War" holy grails that changed the guitar world and are still driving guitar design to the present day.

Now to the guitar itself! 

This piece is in amazing condition, especially considering that it is nearing its 100th birthday.  

Everything about it is original.  There are no changes or repairs whatsoever.  The original case is included as well.

The instrument does need a neck reset, but the original frets are totally useable.  

While a tenor guitar isn't for everyone, this is one special instrument!

  • Color: Natural
  • Weight: 2lbs 5.4oz
  • Top: Sitka Spruce
  • Body: Mahogany
  • Neck: Mahogany
  • Fretboard: Ebony
  • Inlays: Mother of Pearl Dot
  • Frets: Original
  • Fret count: 20
  • Nut: Ebony
  • Nut width: 1-1/4
  • Scale: 23"
  • Radius: Flat
  • Neck thickness at 1st Fret: .82"
  • Neck thickness at 10th Fret: .98"
  • Action 1st String at 12th Fret: 3/32" / 2.5mm
  • Action 4th String at 12th Fret: 4/32" / 3.25mm
  • Total length: 35-1/2"
  • Body length: 17"
  • Lower bout: 13-1/2"
  • Waist: 8-5/8"
  • Upper bout: 9-3/4"
  • Body depth/thickness: 4"
  • Pickguard: Original Tortoise Shell
  • Bridge: Ebony
  • Tuners: Original Banjo Style
  • Case: OHSC
  • Notes: 

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