Golden Arches

C.F. Martin Archtop Guitars

15" Martin 1931 C-1 with 14 3/8" 1933 R-18 Roundhole Archtop Guitars

The "C" Style Martin Archtop Guitar

In June, 1931, Martin produced their first archtop guitar, the C-1.

 This C-1 example is from the very first batch of Martin archtop guitars. 

1931 Martin C-1 Prototype:

Serial Number 47368

The pearl Martin headstock logo first appeared on this first Martin archtop prototype:

The earliest Style "C" archtops were built with the same long scale neck as the OM of the period.  The neck was shortened from 25 1/4" to 24 3/4" in 1934 when the 000 neck was altered. 

In addition to the mahogany C-1, Martin produced a rosewood Model C-2 with pearl "diamond and square" neck inlays and a backstrip similar to a Style 28, and two months later added a C-3, with gold plated metal parts, a bound pickguard, and Style 45 inlays and backstrip.

The alternating black and white Celluloid lines on the top border of the Martin C-2 archtops are said to be the inspiration for the top border consisting of plain straight lines that would later appear on the post war Style 28 to replace the long lived herringbone top border in 1947.  In fact, the flattop Style 44 Martins produced for Vahdah Olcott-Bickford preceded the Martin archtops with the same design, with the C-2 merely making the same natural progression from ivory to Celluloid that occurred on herringbone trimmed guitars.

The "R" Style Martin Archtop Guitar

The 15" carved top roundhole C-1 was essentially replaced by the slightly smaller 14 3/8" pressed top roundhole R-18 at about the same time as the C-1 became an "F" hole guitar in late 1932. 

By the end of 1933, the R-18 had also become an "F" hole guitar. 

By mid-1936, the R-18 was also built with a carved top.

The pressed top "F" hole R-18 had three piece "F" holes, while the carved top R-18 had one piece "F" holes.

The "R" Style guitar never had a the longer scale neck of the Style "C".

1933 Martin R-18 Guitar

Serial Number 53100

1942 Martin R-18 F hole Guitar

Serial Number

The "F" hole R-18, first built in September, 1933, was Martin's first "F" hole guitar.

The "F' hole R-18 with solid "F" holes and a carved top replaced the earlier version with segmented "F" holes and a pressed top in mid 1936.

In November, 1942, Martin produced their last batch of archtop guitars, a batch of R-18's.

 This R-18 example is from the final batch of Martin archtop guitars. 

In December, 1934, Martin added a Model R-17, with a mahogany top.

The "F" Style Martin Archtop Guitar

The Martin archtops found great popularity, accounting for nearly 28% of Martin's guitar output in 1933, almost 20% of which were the R-18 alone
, in a critical period after Martin's production had lost 25% in a single year in 1931.  Within a short time, the round hole archtops gave way to "f-hole" models, the most sophisticated of which was the "F" series, with a large 16" body, introduced as the F-7 and F-9 in 1935, with the F-1 and F-2 added in 1940. 

The Model F-2 archtop was built with similar appointments to the C-2. 

The F-7 was produce with rosewood back and sides, bound pickguard and pearloid inlaid headstock, 45 Style backstrip, and the large hexagonal fingerboard inlays that were later added to the Style 45.  The F-5 was essentially a maple version of the F-7.   The F-9 was built with gold plated metal parts, two additional frets of hexagon inlays, white lines about 1/4" from the edges of the fingerboard, extra lines on the pickguard and top border, and a headstock inlay in real pearl.

The popularity of the Martin archop, however, was short lived, as production ceased in 1942. 

Only 401 "F" Style guitars were built, 91 of which were the F-1 model, with mahogany back and sides.

The last Style "C" guitar was produced in August, 1942.

This example is from the very last batch of "F" Style guitars to leave Martin's workshop, built in September, 1942.

1942 Martin F-1 Guitar

Serial Number 82431

The larger 16" body size of the "F" Style was later revived for the Martin M-36 and M-38 models in 1977. 

The size designation was changed from "M" to " 0000" between 1997 and 2002.

C.F. Martin Archtop 12 String Guitars

Martin built a total of only six 12 string guitars in it's entire prewar history, three of which were built as archtop guitars, all in the 1930's. 

This is the first of the three archtop 12 string guitars to be produced by Martin.

1932 C-2S 12 String Guitar

Serial Number 50223

By 1932, the initials "CF" had been added to the pearl Martin headstock logo.




From "Martin Guitars, a Technical Reference", by Longworth, Johnston & Boak:

This guitar was owned by Mark O'Connor and used to record his CD "False Dawn".

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