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The Vintage Martin Ukulele Triplets

Now that the '1940' Martin is cleaned up and ready to play, I scooped up the other two and dashed outside to get some shots of all three.  It was cold so I didn't want to have them outside for too long.

Here's the Martin Triplets together.  (The Three Martin Tenors?)

On the left is the circa 1950, and on the right is the circa 1940 - freshly cleaned up and ready to party.

The circa 1929 Martin is in the middle.

Now that I've worked on three of them, and am playing them, here are some observations:

The body shape of the oldest one appears to be a bit narrower in the upper bout.  I'll have to measure to confirm.  The lower bout appears to be a bit more squat on the ca. 1950 model than the other two.

The top color on the 1940 is lighter, but I suspect it's simply because it's been played so much more, and the top  has been exposed to light and has worn off.  The top color is much closer to that of unfinished mahogany.  The back and sides are a darker color like the other two.

All three have 12 frets to the body.  Later models have 14 frets.  It's not documented when that change happened - but it may have been in the late 1950s or even in the 1960s.  We do know that Martin changed the interior stamp in 1962, adding "Made in USA."  Naturally, none of these instruments have that stamp since they are all older.  (A 14 fret model is on my short list).  The fret marker dots are very small on the oldest ukulele.  They're larger on the other two.

The headstock shapes are all slightly different.  The oldest one has a noticeably smaller headstock, and the top curves and point aren't as dramatic as the later models.

There is about a 1/2 inch height difference in the point between the 1940 and 1950 models.

And the older ukulele also doesn't have the Martin decal - it's stamped on the back of the headstock.

The bridge pins appear to be ebony on the older one, and appear to be plastic on the two later models.  The bridges are all identical, and all of the saddles are ivory.

How do they sound?  They all sound great, but each has its own voice.  I should record them all to try and demonstrate.  It's a little hard to judge because they all have different types of strings, but overall, this is how I'd describe them:

The ca. 1929 is the most resonant hands down.  It's the most 'alive' when you play it - the top and back really vibrate.  I'm glad I fixed the back crack, because the back is a big part of the sound on this one.  It has that crisp clear Martin tone on the treble strings.  It sounds pretty fat on the bass too, but that's mainly because I have it tuned to low G with a wound G and C string.  I haven't touched the action at all, and it plays well as is.

The ca. 1940 actually sounds a tad 'drier' than the other two - this could be due to the Worth clear strings I have on it now.  But it is very resonant also and sounds very balanced.  The action is on the high side at the saddle and the nut - I am going to shave some height off the saddle and deepen the nut slots a bit.

The ca. 1950 is the one I'm most comfortable playing in terms of its action - I did set it up and it plays very well.  It's got a full, barky tone, and the treble is crystal clear.  It doesn't quite have the 'live' feel of the other two - it's in super clean shape and I suspect it hasn't been played as much.  (Although I did have it on the shaker for about 80 hours to open it up some).

I'm fortunate to have three of them to compare, and am looking forward to playing them more.  Now back to practice!


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