Incoming: Martin 2-17 - the first true steel Spanish; the guitar that saved Martin

WordMan

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During the Depression, Martin survived by selling ukuleles and this guitar. This model accounted for ~28% of Martin’s guitar sales in 1926. It was also, in 1922, the first guitar available from Martin *only* braced for steel strings. Until 1928, flattops were braced for gut strings, with steel as an option, except for the 2-17. Jimmie Rogers, the Singing Brakeman and first Country star, played a 2-17 before getting his fancier Martins.

This one from 1930 will be here in a week - Yay!:
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zombywoof

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Very Cool! Technically though this was the first X braced steel string Martin designed for playing Spanish style. Martin, of course, had been building fan braced raised bar fret steel string Hawaiian guitars since the mid-1910s. I came within a hair of buying a 1920 steel string SoCal Music 0-18K about two years ago but the deal fell through at the last minute when the owner decided he could not part with it.
 

WordMan

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Very Cool! Technically though this was the first X braced steel string Martin designed for playing Spanish style. Martin, of course, had been building fan braced raised bar fret steel string Hawaiian guitars since the mid-1910s. I came within a hair of buying a 1920 steel string SoCal Music 0-18K about two years ago but the deal fell through at the last minute when the owner decided he could not part with it.
That was the point! They had such success with their Hawaiians, with their steel strings and mahogany tops, that they flipped one on its side for Spanish ;) I am not sure, but now that I think about it, I wonder if it was the first Mahogany-topped Spanish guitar?? But yes, all roads lead to Hawaii for this stage in guitar evolution.

By the way, I haven’t played a SoCal 0-18K, but would *love* to. I have played pre-1928 guitars set up with silk n’ steel or very light steel. Very cool. To me, honestly, the biggest tone-definer (??) is NOT the move to steel from gut - I know that gets me more Highs and more volume. In my experience to date, the biggest thing about these earlier Martins is that they *have no metal rod in the neck* - they have an ebony strip and use the width of the bar frets as the way to adjust neck relief.

I’ve had a few of these guitars now. I have to say, not having metal involved in the neck coupling with the body does...well, it does something. The tone is so sweet and easy on these Smalls.
 
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WordMan

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5,659
Very Cool! Technically though this was the first X braced steel string Martin designed for playing Spanish style. Martin, of course, had been building fan braced raised bar fret steel string Hawaiian guitars since the mid-1910s. I came within a hair of buying a 1920 steel string SoCal Music 0-18K about two years ago but the deal fell through at the last minute when the owner decided he could not part with it.
Title adjusted, sir!!
 

Tony Done

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Nice bit of history, thanks. :) I had 1925 0-21, which was in the "transitional" period. I played safe, and only ever used 10-46 strings on it, which sounded great, but I'm sure now that I could have gone heavier. - It sounded distinctly overbraced and clunky with nylon strings.
 

WordMan

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5,659
Nice bit of history, thanks. :) I had 1925 0-21, which was in the "transitional" period. I played safe, and only ever used 10-46 strings on it, which sounded great, but I'm sure now that I could have gone heavier. - It sounded distinctly overbraced and clunky with nylon strings.
I feel you! I circled a 1924 0-21 for a while and couldn’t pull the trigger because I kinda knew I’d want to go heavier. I had a 1930 0-21 for a decade. Best guitar I’ve owned; I just came to realize I was never going to truly abide with a 1 7/8” nut.
 

zombywoof

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What kept Martin afloat during the Great Depression was the same thing that kept Gibson's head above water. As the Depression dug in its heels both companies came out first with the 14 fret guitar and then the dreadnought/jumbo. They also turned to producing other things such as violin parts and wooden toys.

Over the years though, I have become a bit antsy about flattop guitars built before the mid-1920s. I cannot shake the feeling that they are just so fragile. The earliest Martin I ever owned was a Ditson. Never did know what year it was built because back then such things were impossible to figure out. The oldest flattop I currently own was birthed in 1932. And even with this one I string it with nothing heavier than .011s or low tension strings.
 

WordMan

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5,659
What kept Martin afloat during the Great Depression was the same thing that kept Gibson's head above water. As the Depression dug in its heels both companies came out first with the 14 fret guitar and then the dreadnought/jumbo. They also turned to producing other things such as violin parts and wooden toys.

Over the years though, I have become a bit antsy about flattop guitars built before the mid-1920s. I cannot shake the feeling that they are just so fragile. The earliest Martin I ever owned was a Ditson. Never did know what year it was built because back then such things were impossible to figure out. The oldest flattop I currently own was birthed in 1932. And even with this one I string it with nothing heavier than .011s or low tension strings.
Yep. The 1930 0-21 I had felt quite comfortable with standard Lights, but the ‘31 Gibson L-1 I had was *so* light and lightly braced that I was afraid to play it.

I look forward to checking out this 2-17 - it has Lights on it, and unlike most 2-17’s made before 1929, it has very little top bellying behind the bridge. If it is anything like my ‘42 0-15, it should be great with heavy strumming, although it will sound smaller. But I suspect it will be more fun for fingerpick-y stuff.
 
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zombywoof

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Yeah, my '32 is an L1 and one of the last of the 12 fretters. It is a scary light build. If you want a beefier Gibson L series guitar you have to go past 1934. But those early Advanced L Body guitars were the prefect combination of Gibson bark and Martin preciseness. And I do agree on the sound of truss rod less guitars. If you are talking about X braced Martins built before they went to the t bar, that does not leave you a big window though. You sure as heck nailed that one with the 1930.
 

WordMan

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Exactly!
Yes, the first-gen, ‘31-‘32 Gibson L-1’s are a *completely* different guitar vs. a classic 30’s Gibson L-00 Bluesbox. The bracing and overall build is *so* much lighter it is transformative to the tone.

Your description of Gibson bark and Martin precision is spot on!! What is fascinating is what I am getting out of this 0-15 I got. It has the Martin precision, but the mahogany top brings the drive-ability into the Gibson range. I can drive a bit of warmth into my strum in a more Gibson way. And this 0-15 can take my heavy strum vs. my old ‘31 L-1. So I am coming at it from the Martin end this time!!

And yeah, 1930 for this 2-17 should be interesting. I trust this shop and they said it was my kinda guitar.
 
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WordMan

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5,659
And I do agree on the sound of truss rod less guitars. If you are talking about X braced Martins built before they went to the t bar, that does not leave you a big window though. You sure as heck nailed that one with the 1930.
Not quite!! The 0-15 I have is from ‘42 and only has an ebony strip, no metal rod, due to WW2. I was so happy to get this 0-15 in that window, too!
 

Parlorman

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That promises to be a wonderful guitar. I’m looking forward to hearing your impressions.

I have a 1920 Martin 1-28 strung with light gauge (.045 - .010) John Pearse Nuages that is amazing. I love parlor size guitars.
 
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