View Full Version : Is this really a 1920s Martin Style 1 ?

06-29-2012, 04:32 AM
Saw this uke on ebay. Seller says it is a 1920s Martin Style 1 uke.


But this doesn't look like any Martin soprano I have ever seen. Now, I'm not an expert, so if you know anything about this 'style' of Martins, please enlighten us.

06-29-2012, 05:17 AM
I am not an expert, but am the owner of a 20's style 1 koa uke. So I can compare this to mine.
the rosewood binding is correct, hardwood nut & saddle are from earlier models (mine are ebony), the four dots are correct for style 1. The shape and sound hole rosette are right, but the headstock shape and the pointy bit at the body-end of the fretboard are a very little bit off. But they were handmade, so that may just be variation. Both of my 20's Martins have black wood tuning pegs, which are died maple I believe, not ebony. The originals have a drilled hole for the string, while these have a slot.
Given the grain and color of the body wood it MIGHT be a koa one, it can be hard to tell under 90 years of grime. I'm not sure when the earliest K's were produced, and whether they ever had the hardwood nut & saddle.
THis one has a light fretboard, mine has a dark one.
The other difference is that seen from the side, the binding on the back is light and the binding on the top is dark; probably just a variation.

The one I have is a prized possession, I say thumbs up!
here is what it sounds like with an oafish buffoon playing it: http://youtu.be/m8FTxBdOqAU

06-29-2012, 05:39 AM
I just looked it up in Martin Guitars: A Technical Reference and I would bet real money that that is a 1920(ish) Style 1K in what looks to be very nice condition. If you can get it for less than a grand I'd say it's money well spent.


Ken Middleton
06-29-2012, 06:19 AM
A very tidy instrument. I would love to own it.

06-29-2012, 06:30 AM
I've got one of these and I must say it's my favourite Martin soprano. light as a feather and louder than anything else I own. (although I wouldn't say no to a 3k ;))
I'd wager it's possibly a little earlier, maybe 1918 as, like mine it has a dot on the 9th fret rather than 10th, boxwood saddle & nut and marginally longer blank piece of fretboard beyond the 12th fret. The headstock is also a little more rounded and hand cut looking.

These were the first production ukulele Martin ever produced, predating the style 0.
This one looks in amazing condition. Would anticipate a flurry of late bids. If only I had the funds!

Go for it ;)

06-29-2012, 06:32 AM
I'm hardly a Martin expert but the headstock looks more like the old Regal style. Is this a variation that they did on their early ukes? Or maybe a later modification?

06-29-2012, 06:42 AM
A lot of very early Martins I've seen have that same shape of headstock, with a more pronounced centre point and more rounded out edges. They often are slightly off-centre too and less regular looking than later models.
Mine also has slotted rather than drilled pegs.

PS, the early style 1 just has rosewood binding to the front. The light edge at the back in the ebay photos is most likely just the edge of the back plate.

Ok, need to stop looking at those photos before I fall in love again...

06-29-2012, 06:46 AM
I also have a beautiful 1k and would say with 90% certainty it's koa. And very early, indeed. The tuning pegs looked replaced for sure. Real interesting uke, go for it!
BTW: Has anyone put Pegheds on their 1k's, and if so, which model did you use? Did you have to route the hole?

06-29-2012, 06:49 AM
Good to know. I haven't seen many that are that old. Thanks!

06-29-2012, 06:54 AM
Interesting about the slotted pegs, Minipixel. I did not know this!

06-29-2012, 08:03 AM
I'd wager it's possibly a little earlier, maybe 1918 as, like mine it has a dot on the 9th fret rather than 10th, boxwood saddle & nut and marginally longer blank piece of fretboard beyond the 12th fret.

1920 was the first year for Koa and the pegs changed from wood to the more modern style in1927. Definitely early 20's.


07-13-2012, 03:40 PM
Did anyone here win this ukulele?

07-18-2012, 02:15 AM
Wow, such a deal on that uke, even if it was mahogany it was a good price for a very early Martin. I'm surprised Chris Tarman and Howard haven't commented on this, they're both vintage Martin experts. The light wood nut and saddle place this uke at early 20"s and without cracks if it has any tone at all it was a great buy. Guess the market for vintage Martin's still hasn't bottomed out. I have two 1M's from the 20's and a 1K from the same period. The K is a mellower sounding uke than the mahogany models and doesn't have as much of the "ring" that vintage Martin's are known for. OTOH the K sound is rounder and slightly richer (don't know if these descriptors mean anything to anyone but me <g>). One thing that I was warned about was the fact that the K and M series don't sound so different, despite what I've said above. The differences are subtle, at least in the ukes that I've played. My K series also has a cleated crack which may have affected projection and resonance but I've heard the same comment from other K owners and it's consonant with my other vintage koa ukes. I also didn't know that Martin wooden tuners had a hole rather than a slot, thanks for that tidbit.

07-18-2012, 03:57 PM
Gary, that's a pretty good description ... though I think my 1K is louder and more brash than my style OM, which to me sounds warmer. Definitely "plonky" for the K and "harp-like" for the M.

07-18-2012, 04:21 PM
Looks just like this one to me:


But, the one you're asking about is in AMAZING condition. Look at the bridge and the inside. It's almost too good to be true. But, pretty sure it's real.

07-18-2012, 04:43 PM
I hadn't commented earlier because by the time I read the thread, much of the information I would have offered had been covered. It is an early 1K. The fret marker on the 9th, the boxwood nut and saddle and the hand-shaped, shorter headstock are all indicators. A very early Style 2M, with no position markers at all, just sold on Ebay. The first few hundred ukuleles made by Martin after 1915 also had serial numbers.

It's often difficult to distinguish between koa and mahogany, especially on the Style 1s (not too much curl on the 1s). At times, Martin ran the grain horizontally on the koa ukes and you can spot that quite easily. At other times they did not. At times they used a dark grain filler or stain on the mahogany ukes, almost a chestnut color. At other times they did not. The consensus about this uke among my Martin-addicted friends is that this one is koa. It sold at a great price for a koa Martin, but at a bit higher price than what I would expect to see a 1M sell for in this economy.

You will often read luthiers' posts on this forum stating that the construction of an ukulele, i.e., the maker, his/her design and technique, is the most significant factor regarding how an ukulele sounds and plays, more so than the wood particularly. While I do find that top woods, like cedar or spruce for instance, do sound appreciably different when compared to mahogany and koa, I think mahogany and koa have similar tonal qualities overall. To my ears, there is not as much difference between a Martin koa ukulele and a mahogany one of the same period as there is between a Martin koa soprano and a Kamaka koa soprano for instance. Martins tend to sound like Martins; Kamakas sound like Kamakas. They are designed differently: the current Kamaka's body is a bit larger, deeper, and the sound hole is wider in diameter. If Kamaka made a mahogany soprano to the same specifications, I believe it would sound a lot like the koa one.

The reason for my qualification, "of the same period," is that I find the earlier Martins, pre-1932 anyway, are a bit louder and punchier than the later ones. The later ones are rounder in tone and have a little more sustain. But even this is a very general assessment, as individual instruments vary a somewhat one from another, although I find Martins to be consistently good, if not great. In fact, the Martins in my collection that sound most alike are a mahogany and a koa of the same style and period.

Chris Tarman
07-18-2012, 05:21 PM
I meant to reply to this when it was first posted... someone got a smokin' deal on that one! I wish it could have been me. I don't know if it was koa or mahogany (I have really limited experience with koa Martins... limited to just looking at photos of them!). The color on it looked like koa, but the graining looked more like mahogany. Either way, it was a great price. It looked like it was in fantastic condition. The same seller has several other interesting ukes listed, notably this one:http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=110914969099&fromMakeTrack=true&ssPageName=VIP:watchlink:top:en#ht_6115wt_1292