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View Full Version : What's up with the Martin C1K?



Ukecaster
03-05-2019, 05:05 PM
I saw a few Martin C1K ukes on ebay, and was surprised at the look of these. To me, they look cheap and ugly, not a rich dark color, like most were before. What's the deal, low grade koa, cheesy finish, or both?

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raffrox
03-05-2019, 06:39 PM
I had one. Low grade koa plus a natural finish means that it's looks aren't for everyone. As far as playability and sound goes mine sounded better to me than my pro series mahogany Pono.

I think the C1K is a great value for money uke if you can get one second hand. I wish I didn't sell mine.

Ziret
03-05-2019, 07:03 PM
I think that's how they've always looked, but the walnut fretboard doesn't provide the contrast and distraction that the rosewood (?) did. They've always had that soft finish and inexpensive koa, as Raffrox said. But maybe the wood on that batch is lighter than usual, too.

raffrox
03-05-2019, 07:11 PM
That's a good point about the walnut fretboard Ziret. Mine had a rosewood fretboard that I think does look a bit nicer.

JJFN
03-06-2019, 02:06 AM
I am very happy with my Martin Concert. The white background could be causing an underexposure in the photo. The camera is fooled into thinking there is more ambient light than is actually there.

Swamp Yankee
03-06-2019, 02:11 AM
I've had a few chances to play them. As far as I've seen, they've all suffered in the looks and fit and finish departments. Tonally, they sounded nice, but IMO, not nice enough to overcome the price, especially considering their appearance.

Ragtop232
03-06-2019, 03:40 AM
I've had a few chances to play them. As far as I've seen, they've all suffered in the looks and fit and finish departments. Tonally, they sounded nice, but IMO, not nice enough to overcome the price, especially considering their appearance.

Suffered in Fit and Finish? I've had quite a few Martin Ukulele's built at their Mexican facility and I'll have to say, while the Koa and Mahogany used is not master grade and pretty plain looking, I've never ever had one that wasn't perfect in fit and workmanship. Granted these are not high-gloss instruments, but they have all far exceeded my expectations for price to quality ratio and all have had that classic Martin tone.

I just wanted to offer my experiences with the Martin's I've had and still have that were built in Mexico. I've had 3 T1's , 2 C1K's and 3 S1's. I still have an S1 that I just couldn't part with.

YMMV

Ukecaster
03-06-2019, 04:27 AM
Here's a couple, a newer one on the left, and on the right how I've seen many in the past, a nice golden koa color.

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Ziret
03-06-2019, 04:29 AM
That's a huge contrast.

ScooterD35
03-06-2019, 04:30 AM
I think that's how they've always looked, but the walnut fretboard doesn't provide the contrast and distraction that the rosewood (?) did. They've always had that soft finish and inexpensive koa, as Raffrox said. But maybe the wood on that batch is lighter than usual, too.

The C1K and T1K fretboards and bridges are made from Sipo (an African Mahogany), not Walnut.


Scooter

Ziret
03-06-2019, 04:32 AM
Good to know, thanks. I did just jump in with a guess instead of the facts.


The C1K and T1K fretboards and bridges are made from Sipo (an African Mahogany), not Walnut.


Scooter

CommonCurt
03-06-2019, 04:36 AM
That's a good point about the walnut fretboard Ziret. Mine had a rosewood fretboard that I think does look a bit nicer.

I've seen a few people saying that Martin uses Walnut on their Mexico made Ukes. According to their website they use "Sipo".

I really do not care for the look of it (for fretboards). Almost wish they would've used a dark Walnut instead if they really had to stop using Rosewood.

jelow1966
03-06-2019, 04:53 AM
Here's a couple, a newer one on the left, and on the right how I've seen many in the past, a nice golden koa color.

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The uke on the left is in a more natural state as opposed to the other which has been enhanced during the finishing. It could be the latest Koa they are using doesn't enhance as well so they leave it natural or they think a darker Koa would make the lighter fretboard stick out.

John

Ragtop232
03-06-2019, 05:35 AM
I was able to find a couple photos of one of the C1K's I had.
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kerneltime
03-06-2019, 06:56 AM
Their Koa has changed quite a bit over time.. but based on other discussions the look of Koa and is not easy to map to the sound of it.. C1K is not a uke to buy for the looks but as an entry level uke of good quality and sound. The C1K I had, had excellent intonation, sound and overall feel.. the koa did not look like "koa" we see on high end ukes but when I was buying it was all greek and latin to me, I bought it cause it sounded good.

Ukecaster
03-06-2019, 07:23 AM
...C1K is not a uke to buy for the looks but as an entry level uke of good quality and sound.

Yeah, everyone is different. I've gotta love the looks to even consider buying a uke. YMMV.

hendulele
03-06-2019, 07:26 AM
Mine has a few places where the grain isn't at all straight and the fretboard tone is light. Then again, mine set me back $400 and you'd be hard-pressed to find an all-koa instrument of similar quality for less than a few hundred more. I love it.

FinnP
03-06-2019, 08:01 AM
Here’s the one I had, very pretty, but the sound did not impress me.
Mine looks like it had rosewood fretboard and bridge?
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WestyShane
03-06-2019, 08:48 AM
The uke on the left is in a more natural state as opposed to the other which has been enhanced during the finishing. It could be the latest Koa they are using doesn't enhance as well so they leave it natural or they think a darker Koa would make the lighter fretboard stick out.

John

I have a block of unfinished Koa that I pulled out of the scrap bin at the Kamaka factory. It's as dark or even darker than the Koa used on the uke shown the right. I don't think Martin's finishing process enhances the color of their instruments all that much. The inside of my older "dark" C1K is also pretty much the same color as the outside, just not shiny.

Similarly, I once saw a Kanile'a at HMS that was so light in color that I asked if it was mango. Nope, just Koa sapwood instead of heartwood.

It looks to me that the lighter C1Ks are cut from the Koa sapwood instead of the heartwood. And I think they look just fine.

rainbow21
03-06-2019, 09:05 AM
I am used to seeing the darker koa ukes. But if you go to the Ukulele Site and click on Kanile'a, there are now a number of much lighter toned koa ukes.

Photodan
03-06-2019, 10:11 AM
I have the T1K and feel like it looks pretty nice (photos attached). I have seen C1K's with similar wood and I've seen plenty of both that were really plain. The sound is great on them though.

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Demick
03-06-2019, 10:49 AM
The wood varies A LOT on the import Martin ukes. They even do a very poor job of matching similar wood between top and sides. Some are very beautiful, some are downright awful. So i would never buy one of these sight unseen. All are plain (which some people like, and others don't). I have played the C1K, and I own a T1K. My experience is that they are wonderful instruments.

Swamp Yankee
03-06-2019, 12:24 PM
Yeah, everyone is different. I've gotta love the looks to even consider buying a uke. YMMV.

Me too... but that has a lot to do with the fact that many of my ukes were bought online.
For me to fall in love with a uke it has to please all the appropriate senses: sight, sound, feel and even smell to some extent.

Swamp Yankee
03-06-2019, 12:38 PM
Suffered in Fit and Finish? I've had quite a few Martin Ukulele's built at their Mexican facility and I'll have to say, while the Koa and Mahogany used is not master grade and pretty plain looking, I've never ever had one that wasn't perfect in fit and workmanship. Granted these are not high-gloss instruments, but they have all far exceeded my expectations for price to quality ratio and all have had that classic Martin tone.

I just wanted to offer my experiences with the Martin's I've had and still have that were built in Mexico. I've had 3 T1's , 2 C1K's and 3 S1's. I still have an S1 that I just couldn't part with.

YMMV

I'm glad you had good experiences with yours. I was unimpressed with the two examples I've held and played. One was a concert, the other a tenor, both in separate shops. One showed sloppy workmanship in finishing around the neck joint. Both were ugly, IMO ... and neither had a voice that redeemed them, again, in my opinion.

But as you say, YMMV

Ukecaster
03-06-2019, 01:03 PM
Check out the comments about new Martin uke models over the years before UU on FMM. Its been a perennial list of things wrong that Martin should be doing. Yet, can you name the Martin models over the years? I think many can, but they have forgotten all the "economical" and "better value" ukes that were competing with them.
I think the Martin designers know exactly what they are doing, they know which wood is good for a top and which wood is good for sides. There are constraints with supply of koa at a reasonable price and use of rosewood, so they are not standing still using the same old stuff anymore. Also there are many posts which say that pretty wood does not necessarily make the best sounding tops.
Who would like to own a Collings uke now? Go back and read the comments about the Collings ukes while you still buy them new. I am going to make a bold prediction that the C1K will be a collectible cult model after 2025, maybe sooner. Not much use to anyone now of course, but most of us will hopefully still be alive in 2025. The C1K is a uke that you can rely on to be still a player and useful and collectible, all in one package, well into the future, unlike its competition, which will be forgotten as soon as the next model comes out. Its not a uke to be buying to own for a few weeks and then sell on to someone else. Its a uke to buy and play and play and play for years and years of enjoyment from a number of angles of owning a ukulele.

Ok, ok...now I want to try one! Ha ha

natchez
03-06-2019, 01:04 PM
Who would like to own a Collings uke now? Go back and read the comments about the Collings ukes while you still buy them new.

Tut, tut, my UC2K is as fine a ukulele as I have played. A Martin C1K went to one of my daughters not long after receipt. It was quite serviceable, reasonably well made, sounded fine, but nowhere near the sound or play-ability of my Collings. I only wish I had bought a UC3 when they were available :)

kerneltime
03-06-2019, 02:08 PM
Tut, tut, my UC2K is as fine a ukulele as I have played. A Martin C1K went to one of my daughters not long after receipt. It was quite serviceable, reasonably well made, sounded fine, but nowhere near the sound or play-ability of my Collings. I only wish I had bought a UC3 when they were available :)

I think you are missing his point.. in hindsight many ukes age well and he is betting C1K will age well, similar to Collings, does that mean you can compare a Collings to a C1K.. I do not think that is implied. Similar to that MyaMoe when in full production in original hands were not as much in demand as they are now?

natchez
03-06-2019, 02:13 PM
I think you are missing his point.. in hindsight many ukes age well and he is betting C1K will age well, similar to Collings, does that mean you can compare a Collings to a C1K.. I do not think that is implied. Similar to that MyaMoe when in full production in original hands were not as much in demand as they are now?

Thanks. I see what you're saying. Perhaps, I missed the intent- sorry.

raffrox
03-06-2019, 02:39 PM
Check out the comments about new Martin uke models over the years before UU on FMM. Its been a perennial list of things wrong that Martin should be doing. Yet, can you name the Martin models over the years? I think many can, but they have forgotten all the "economical" and "better value" ukes that were competing with them.
I think the Martin designers know exactly what they are doing, they know which wood is good for a top and which wood is good for sides. There are constraints with supply of koa at a reasonable price and use of rosewood, so they are not standing still using the same old stuff anymore. Also there are many posts which say that pretty wood does not necessarily make the best sounding tops.
Who would like to own a Collings uke now? Go back and read the comments about the Collings ukes while you still buy them new. I am going to make a bold prediction that the C1K will be a collectible cult model after 2025, maybe sooner. Not much use to anyone now of course, but most of us will hopefully still be alive in 2025. The C1K is a uke that you can rely on to be still a player and useful and collectible, all in one package, well into the future, unlike its competition, which will be forgotten as soon as the next model comes out. Its not a uke to be buying to own for a few weeks and then sell on to someone else. Its a uke to buy and play and play and play for years and years of enjoyment from a number of angles of owning a ukulele.

Interesting take and I tend to agree. I have to admit that when I received my C1K second and after only seeing pics online I was disappointed with the koa but once I started playing it, I was a big fan. I got mine for about US$300 and at that price I thought it was a complete bargain. After a while the 'character' of wood just became part of the whole package. I've owned about 30 uke's and as far as just a good uke to pick up and play this was one of my favourites.

I didn't find the fit or finish of my uke C1K anything other than great. The koa wasn't of a great standard and you either like that kind of look or it doesn't work for you.

jelow1966
03-06-2019, 06:49 PM
I have a block of unfinished Koa that I pulled out of the scrap bin at the Kamaka factory. It's as dark or even darker than the Koa used on the uke shown the right. I don't think Martin's finishing process enhances the color of their instruments all that much. The inside of my older "dark" C1K is also pretty much the same color as the outside, just not shiny.

Similarly, I once saw a Kanile'a at HMS that was so light in color that I asked if it was mango. Nope, just Koa sapwood instead of heartwood.

It looks to me that the lighter C1Ks are cut from the Koa sapwood instead of the heartwood. And I think they look just fine.

Thanks for the info. I'm not a luthier so my experience is with other forms of woodworking where what finish you choose can make a huge difference in how the wood looks when done. I would not have expected that great a difference in the wood.

John

SteveZ
03-07-2019, 09:01 AM
I have the T1K and feel like it looks pretty nice (photos attached). I have seen C1K's with similar wood and I've seen plenty of both that were really plain. The sound is great on them though.

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My T1K is more sedate appearance-wise, but the sound is spectacular (to me, anyway). It's now my only 4-string tenor uke because of its sound.

Have had no form-fit-function issues with the made-in-Mexico uke. It sits well side-by-side with my Nazareth-made tenor guitar. Cannot find any quality differences between the two.
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Ukecaster
04-12-2019, 03:28 AM
Here's a nice one, haven't seen flame in these before

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F25 3916543881

CPG
04-12-2019, 03:34 AM
Here's a nice one, haven't seen flame in these before

https://rover.ebay.com/rover/0/0/0?mpre=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.ebay.com%2Fulk%2Fitm%2F25 3916543881

That's a sample photo. I doubt the one you'd get looks like that. I've never played a C1k or T1k so this isn't a criticism of the uke, but it annoys me that a seller would have up what seems like a less than honest portrayal (based on every other pic I've ever seen). I could be wrong though. Again, I've never played one.

Does seem like cool sounding uke. I like this person's demos.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42wagyf3efs

natchez
04-12-2019, 05:20 AM
That's a sample photo. I doubt the one you'd get looks like that. I've never played a C1k or T1k so this isn't a criticism of the uke, but it annoys me that a seller would have up what seems like a less than honest portrayal (based on every other pic I've ever seen). I could be wrong though. Again, I've never played one.

Does seem like cool sounding uke. I like this person's demos.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42wagyf3efs

That C1K looks like a really nice example- fine, straight grain on that top. I would guess it will probably age quite well, and may darken over time.

CPG
04-12-2019, 08:44 AM
Mim has 3 up right now that look pretty nice.

This one in particular has some pretty nice figure on the top, another one of the three has some nice striping, the 3rd is a little more plain, but definitely nicer looking than the initial photo you found.

https://www.mimsukes.com/listing/mims-ukes-martin-concert-c1k-all-solid-hawaiian-koa-ukulele-setup-w-bag-881/20053171

Photodan
04-12-2019, 09:49 AM
message withdrawn

Oldtoolie
04-14-2019, 08:31 PM
A T1k is my favourite in my collection but not the best looking. There is a patch on the side when I look down playing that shows the koa shimmer but the rest is rather plain. The logo dropped off so it is now incognito until some one peers into the sound hole and says, oh a Martin. The finish is very soft, easily dented with a fingernail and after a few years of regular play, is wearing away above and below the strumming area. I don't mind really.

AustinHing
04-15-2019, 02:04 AM
I got lucky with my C1K. I was trying out on the display piece and it’s the plainest uke in the whole shop. But it sounded so good. While I was two minded, the staff read my mind and said there is a 2nd piece back in the store.

He took it out and i knew I have to buy it. It has flames full body, not the in your face kind but that subtle kind when you need to let the light reflect back and fro on it to see the flames.

Ukecaster
04-15-2019, 02:30 AM
I got lucky with my C1K. I was trying out on the display piece and it’s the plainest uke in the whole shop. But it sounded so good. While I was two minded, the staff read my mind and said there is a 2nd piece back in the store.

He took it out and i knew I have to buy it. It has flames full body, not the in your face kind but that subtle kind when you need to let the light reflect back and fro on it to see the flames.

Got a pic?

UkerDanno
04-15-2019, 04:11 AM
I had one, bought in 2013 I think. It sounded great, I just wanted a Hawaiian made uke. It was one of the best looking ones I've seen.
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AustinHing
04-15-2019, 04:21 AM
Got a pic?

my pic did no justice but you should see subtle horizontal flame lines.
http://i.imgur.com/IiIterZ.jpg

The back is less obvious but the flames are speckle here and there
http://i.imgur.com/4rhgncW.jpg

Of course this can not compare to a high grade koa ukulele, but this is like 100x better than most of the C1K!

Ukecaster
04-15-2019, 04:28 AM
Agreed, very nice! Thanks for the pic!

AustinHing
04-15-2019, 04:48 AM
Agreed, very nice! Thanks for the pic!
Thanks, ukecaster! I glad I got lucky with this one but I would have bought the plainer C1K if it’s the last piece.

YogiTom
04-15-2019, 05:37 AM
A bit of a backtrack, but I’ll just add on to what some others have said re: the lighter color and appearance of sapwood koa.

I personally think the dramatic two-tone color found between sap and heartwoods in species like koa to be part of their intrinsic beauty. And from a woodworking perspective, I know koa sapwood is great to work with. Perhaps someone with more knowledge can chime in on actual strength and density differences between the sap and heartwood (if any). Personally, I love seeing both in book matched form, which is probably why I jumped on my Kanile‘a Platinum.

And, diverging from the OP on Martin C1K, but I know Kanile‘a is re-planting koa trees to ensure they have a steady supply going into the future, and (I imagine) to help reforestation in general. Not sure when they started that project, but perhaps the lighter colored models popping up are from some of the trees they planted? Or maybe—as others rightly pointed out—it is due to premium heartwood koa becoming harder and more expensive to come by these days.

AustinHing
04-15-2019, 07:16 PM
An interesting read on the color variations:
“Out of all of the Hawaiian Islands, koa grows predominantly on the Big Island,” says Chris Allen of Koa Wood Hawaii in Kurtistown, Hawaii. “By state law, you can not cut down live koa trees and there are just not enough of them on Oahu for harvest. At the low elevation, the koa tends to be real blond and not have a lot of color or character to it. That’s why the Big Island has the best koa. And Maui has nice koa, too, but again, not as much.”

https://www.woodshopnews.com/news/koa-is-highly-sought-and-high-priced

Swamp Yankee
04-16-2019, 04:44 AM
I recall being stunned by the price of a Taylor GS Mini in a Guitar Center in Warwick, RI a few years back. "They want $700 for a mahogany top GSM that retails new for $499?!?!"
Then I saw the electronics, peeked inside the soundhole, and found it was actually a koa GSM that was topped with the most boring looking piece of koa I've ever seen.

YogiTom
04-16-2019, 04:50 AM
An interesting read on the color variations:
“Out of all of the Hawaiian Islands, koa grows predominantly on the Big Island,” says Chris Allen of Koa Wood Hawaii in Kurtistown, Hawaii. “By state law, you can not cut down live koa trees and there are just not enough of them on Oahu for harvest. At the low elevation, the koa tends to be real blond and not have a lot of color or character to it. That’s why the Big Island has the best koa. And Maui has nice koa, too, but again, not as much.”

https://www.woodshopnews.com/news/koa-is-highly-sought-and-high-priced

Interesting, thanks for the share!

Ukecaster
04-17-2019, 06:08 AM
Here's another for sale now, guy says he hand selected it from among 7 at a dealer, saying that this one had the most beautiful koa grain in the group.

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Personally, I prefer plainer ones, like this older model. Of course, I don't have one at all, but would like to try one eventually.

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