Up for sale, a 1953 Martin D-18 in excellent condition, with the nuance, incredible projection, and commanding tone that you expect from a vintage square shoulder Martin dreadnought. Few guitars have achieved the status that the D-18 holds in the guitar world, and as the little brother of the D-28, it has a tonal range and presence all its own, delivering the best that a square shouldered dreadnought with mahogany back and sides has to offer. The combination of a solid spruce top, solid mahogany back and sides, and a Brazilian rosewood fretboard and bridge is oft copied, but rarely perfected. This '53 Martin truly brings out the best in these hallowed tone woods, and there's a crispness and piano-like clarity to this D-18 that's to be expected, but that dry, crisp quality is tempered by a growl and softness that helps this guitar sit in a mix perfectly in ensemble situations. Of course the low end has a fullness and authority as well, with near boundless projection and a frequency range that is present without being too "boomy." The balance between the strings is ideal. The guitar is very dynamic, responding to your lightest picking and more authoritative strums without losing definition.
The instrument has received all of the maintenance due a dreadnought of this vintage and the work was expertly done, including a neck reset, complete refret, hand-carved bone nut, reseated rosewood bridge base, and compensated bone saddle. Two cracks on the bass side lower bout have also been cleanly repaired and lightly oversprayed along with some pick wear south of the pickguard, and the nitro lacquer on the guitar is otherwise original. All of this work was done by Mike Lull Guitarworks in Bellevue, WA, and Mike and his staff have done a very faithful and top-tier restoration on this instrument. At the 12th fret, the string height on the bass side is a low and comfortable 1/8", while the treble side measures just under 3/32" at the same fret. The saddle has its full, optimal height since the reset, designed to get the most articulation and resonance out of the top. The new fretwire is a close match with 6230 measurements, with the correct vintage width and height. Currently strung with bronze 12-53 strings, this D-18 exemplifies '50s Martin dreadnought tone.
The neck profile is a prominent V with a certain roundness to the shape and a depth that increases noticeably as you move into the higher registers of the fretboard. The gloss nitro finish on the mahogany shows some honest palm wear down to the bare wood on the profile particularly behind frets 1-4, and further up the board the clear gloss left on the neck is extremely smooth and comfortable to play. The rosewood fretboard has original pearl dot inlays and shows only light wear into the wood on frets 1-5, mostly relegated to the area beneath the plain strings, with no wear into the board further up the neck. The fretwire retains its full height since the refret, with moderate wear beneath the E and B strings only down at the nut, with no fretwear beyond fret 5, and no buzzing or dead spots anywhere on the board. On the headstock face, the Brazilian rosewood veneer is in great shape, with a few lacquer chips along the edges and prominent horizontal lacquer checking. The Martin logo is clean and intact, and the gold flake in the font shows almost no wear. The nickel Kluson Deluxe "single line" tuning machines have clean plating, turn smoothly, and hold pitch as they should. The guitar was at one time outfitted with Grovers, and the original Klusons cover all but the southernmost edge of the Grover footprint, with StewMac conversion bushings installed so that the Kluson tuner shafts have a snug fit.
On the body, the original faux tortoise pickguard is present, and the edges are clean and flat with the top. A set of carved rosewood bridge pins with abalone dots are installed as well. Internally, all of the braces are in fantastic shape, and notably more scalloped and light than later models, giving the guitar the lively and dynamic quality that makes this era of Martin so desirable. The model/serial info is cleanly displayed on the neck heel, and the "C.F. Martin & Co" text is stamped along the center seam of the back and visible through the soundhole.
Cosmetically, this Martin shows some moderate, honest playwear, but has been well cared for over the decades, with a tone that only comes from a guitar that's been consistently played for generations. There is tight horizontal lacquer checking across the entire spruce top, with finer checking on the sides, and more erratic hairline spiderweb checking on the back. The most prominent checking, however, is on the treble side of the instrument on the lower bout, where the finish shows heavy checking parallel to the grain and some flaking and light lifting of the nitro. There is a spot of targeted buckle rash low on the back near the rear strap button and a few scattered nicks and dings on the body as a whole. Beyond the edge of the pickguard and south of the bridge, there is wear through the finish from vigorous strumming that has been lightly oversprayed. The typical "B string crack" is also present parallel with the strings along the edge of the pickguard between the soundhole and bridge, which has also been professionally repaired. There is also one ding on the neck profile on the bass side behind the 5th fret which does not affect playability or structural integrity in the slightest. Overall, this Martin is beautifully and honestly aged, professionally restored, and ready for decades of future sessions and gigs.
The original hardshell case is included.