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View Full Version : Vintage Martin Tenor bracing question....



Johnny GDS
12-18-2013, 05:59 PM
Hello, not sure if this is the right place to post so let me know if there is a better choice!

I recently came upon this Martin Tenor uke that seems to be from between 1928-32. I noticed that it has X bracing, which I have not seen before.

Has anyone else seen this or does anyone have any info on the typical Martin Tenor bracing for that time period?

Thanks, I thought it was kinda cool, but I'm not by any means a Martin expert. 62090
62091
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Johnny GDS
12-20-2013, 06:29 PM
Can anyone suggest a better category for this thread? I'm sure there are some Martin experts floating around here somewhere, thanks for any help!

BlackBearUkes
12-20-2013, 08:24 PM
I personally have not had much contact with many Martin tenor ukes over the years, just a few. I don't recall seeing any with an X braced systems, only the fan bracing. You might want to post a question in another section, maybe Uke Talk, and ask folks who have Martin tenors to take look inside their uke to see what bracing pattern is used, could be kind of interesting.

peewee
12-21-2013, 04:42 AM
I could look, but while I have a pre 31 Martin tenor, I'm fresh out of dental mirrors..

coolkayaker1
12-21-2013, 04:49 AM
I could look, but while I have a pre 31 Martin tenor, I'm fresh out of dental mirrors..

Hi, pee wee. Stick a clean butter knife in there; you'll see enough.

I have a 1940s Martin tenor, and best I can tell, it does not have X-bracing, but rather a fan bracing system. That said, I will take another look once I wash the cream cheese off my knife.

Dan Uke
12-21-2013, 04:52 AM
I could look, but while I have a pre 31 Martin tenor, I'm fresh out of dental mirrors..

I think I try to feel it before and I thought it had fan bracing but not sure.

Johnny GDS
12-21-2013, 09:09 AM
The X bracing is easily visible just looking into the sound hole from the side, I guess if you don't see anything it's prolly fan braced. Every one I have talked to says they have never seen an X braced Martin tenor. I am wondering if this might be an early prototype that was a trial build, either that or possibly was re-braced at some point, although I don't see any signs of that. I know that the instrument dates somewhere between 1927 and 1932, very early in the Martin tenor evolution.

BlackBearUkes
12-21-2013, 10:25 AM
The X bracing is easily visible just looking into the sound hole from the side, I guess if you don't see anything it's prolly fan braced. Every one I have talked to says they have never seen an X braced Martin tenor. I am wondering if this might be an early prototype that was a trial build, either that or possibly was re-braced at some point, although I don't see any signs of that. I know that the instrument dates somewhere between 1927 and 1932, very early in the Martin tenor evolution.

Could be an early proto type and they may have dicovered the X bracing is too stiff and doesn't allow the top to move properly with nylon strings, hence the fan bracing.

Tim Mullins
12-21-2013, 10:32 AM
Mine are both fan braced. That X-bracing looks kind of tall and beefy to me to be on a uke. Also, do I see glue slop to the sides of the braces? Not the usual clean work one expects in a Martin. Tom Walsh in his book on Martin Ukuleles says that the tenor uke was developed using the same molds for the body as for the tiple. My next question would be, what bracing did Martin use for tiples? If they were X-braced, that could lead credence to this possibly being a prototype. More pictures of the whole instrument might help. Also posting on the Four String Farmhouse at the UMGF might get some informed opinions.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
12-21-2013, 10:42 AM
... the X bracing is too stiff and doesn't allow the top to move properly with nylon strings, hence the fan bracing.

I'm not sure that is correct. An X brace pattern isn't necessarily stronger then a fan brace pattern.

If the same factory stock guitar braces were used then yes, but i assume they took size into consideration.

X bracing is stiff at and around the X (where it always needs to be on any instrument, ie in front of the bridge) but behind the bridge an X brace is just another couple of 2-fan-like braces, although widely spaced. This wide spacing can make it actually a somewhat weaker pattern then fan bracing IF the "back legs" of the X are widely spaced. An X brace does grant you more cross grain stiffness/strength though (an x brace is usually around 100-105 degrees from memory)

Note- (i think im right on this- is there an engineer in the house????) the point/centre of an X is actually 3 times (?) weaker then its immediate surrounds - and that is not taking into consideration possible poor joinery in an X brace fit.

Johnny GDS
12-21-2013, 11:33 AM
Mine are both fan braced. That X-bracing looks kind of tall and beefy to me to be on a uke. Also, do I see glue slop to the sides of the braces? Not the usual clean work one expects in a Martin. Tom Walsh in his book on Martin Ukuleles says that the tenor uke was developed using the same molds for the body as for the tiple. My next question would be, what bracing did Martin use for tiples? If they were X-braced, that could lead credence to this possibly being a prototype. More pictures of the whole instrument might help. Also posting on the Four String Farmhouse at the UMGF might get some informed opinions.

The bracing glue joints are pretty clean actually, at the center of the X joint there is some kind of cloth-ish reinforcement material glued over the intersection for stability I suppose. I've seen this on a lot of guitars, but I'm not sure what it is called officially. Someone that looked at it thought it could have been re-braced at some point and changed from fan bracing to X, but I don't see any signs internally that support that, and the X braces very closely match the other bracing in the uke. I think I will give the UMGF a shot and see if anyone has any insights. Thanks all! I very much appreciate all the responses.

BlackBearUkes
12-21-2013, 12:31 PM
I'm not sure that is correct. An X brace pattern isn't necessarily stronger then a fan brace pattern.

If the same factory stock guitar braces were used then yes, but i assume they took size into consideration.

X bracing is stiff at and around the X (where it always needs to be on any instrument, ie in front of the bridge) but behind the bridge an X brace is just another couple of 2-fan-like braces, although widely spaced. This wide spacing can make it actually a somewhat weaker pattern then fan bracing IF the "back legs" of the X are widely spaced. An X brace does grant you more cross grain stiffness/strength though (an x brace is usually around 100-105 degrees from memory)

Note- (i think im right on this- is there an engineer in the house????) the point/centre of an X is actually 3 times (?) weaker then its immediate surrounds - and that is not taking into consideration possible poor joinery in an X brace fit.

All things being equal, its not so much about strength, but stiffness and freedom for the top to move more or less in a given area. Strength and stiffness are not the same things. You normally don't see classical guitars (nylon strung) have any sort of X bracing patterns, mostly variation on the fan brace system because the top works better and is more efficient with their bridge position and nylon string having half the pull of steel strings. I'll stick with my original statement that the X brace is too stiff for it's intended purpose on a tenor size uke.

jcalkin
12-22-2013, 02:58 AM
All things being equal, its not so much about strength, but stiffness and freedom for the top to move more or less in a given area. Strength and stiffness are not the same things. You normally don't see classical guitars (nylon strung) have any sort of X bracing patterns, mostly variation on the fan brace system because the top works better and is more efficient with their bridge position and nylon string having half the pull of steel strings. I'll stick with my original statement that the X brace is too stiff for it's intended purpose on a tenor size uke.

Fan bracing and the Martin X were both solutions to the same problem---how to get the best tone out of gut-strung guitars. Martin's response to steel strings was simply to beef up their gut string X, which didn't happen until about 1917. It makes sense that they might try to scale down a trusted system for smaller instruments, and it makes sense to me that it should work. But not well enough, apparently, once the small size of the tenor uke was reached (keeping in mind that Martin guitar models started small and grew into the popular models of today, so they well knew about building small). None of which is meant to answer the OP's question, I'm just thinking out loud. But I bet that a properly sized X brace would work fine in a tenor uke and might offer an interesting tonal variation. However, in this case I'm not curious enough to try it.

BlackBearUkes
12-22-2013, 06:23 AM
Fan bracing and the Martin X were both solutions to the same problem---how to get the best tone out of gut-strung guitars. Martin's response to steel strings was simply to beef up their gut string X, which didn't happen until about 1917. It makes sense that they might try to scale down a trusted system for smaller instruments, and it makes sense to me that it should work. But not well enough, apparently, once the small size of the tenor uke was reached (keeping in mind that Martin guitar models started small and grew into the popular models of today, so they well knew about building small). None of which is meant to answer the OP's question, I'm just thinking out loud. But I bet that a properly sized X brace would work fine in a tenor uke and might offer an interesting tonal variation. However, in this case I'm not curious enough to try it.

John, I tried it on a couple of my earlier uke way back when, and they just seemed restricted and tight for a small instrument. After I switched to the fan bracing, the sound opened up and was much more uke like. The X braced worked, but not well enough for me.

jcalkin
12-22-2013, 08:53 AM
John, I tried it on a couple of my earlier uke way back when, and they just seemed restricted and tight for a small instrument. After I switched to the fan bracing, the sound opened up and was much more uke like. The X braced worked, but not well enough for me.

That's good enough for me, Duane. I had the same experience with the first baritones I built. They sounded fine, but not fine enough. Going lighter might have been OK, but since their owners have been happy I haven't pursued it.

Kent Chasson
12-22-2013, 08:57 AM
Is a pinned bridge common on Martin Ukes of this era? Maybe it was designed for steel strings either originally or later. That would explain the pinned bridge and the X-brace.

My understanding of the effect of X-bracing vs fan is that it is all about voicing. X bracing tends to inhibit end to end bridge rocking and that tends to inhibit some of the projection and treble response. This has evolved into standard bracing in steel strings because, compared to nylon, steel strings naturally have plenty of treble and volume.

Nylon strings have less power and less treble response so an integral part of fan bracing is the lower transverse brace (the brace that goes across the top below the soundhole). This limits larger top movement to the lower bout and helps focus the limited energy of nylon strings instead of dissipating it through the entire top. The fans then inhibit some of the front/back bridge rocking in favor of end to end rocking which increases treble response and projection.

Kekani
12-22-2013, 12:34 PM
I was contemplating whether to add or not to this thread. First off, my comments are based on memory, and may be completely wrong, so please check my statements for accuracy, which I received 2nd hand (from a very knowledgeable source, and who's book I've been waiting for 10 years to come out, as he's getting older, not sure if its ever going to happen), who probably received it 2nd or 3rd hand (you can do the math) from either his father or grandfather.

Martin's initial foray in to the `ukulele was based on their success with their guitars, hence the X-brace.
Side note: very rare, keep it.
Realizing that the X-brace was too stiff (as Duane stated), Martin then got the Nunes connection. I'm not clear on the details, but I think they were friends.

Either way, Martin started the fan brace, and this I remember clearly, "the early Martin's were basically Nunes `ukulele" which basically continued on.

You guys can take this for what its worth. Its what I believe is correct, and will share with my kids.

Johnny GDS
12-22-2013, 04:37 PM
I was contemplating whether to add or not to this thread. First off, my comments are based on memory, and may be completely wrong, so please check my statements for accuracy, which I received 2nd hand (from a very knowledgeable source, and who's book I've been waiting for 10 years to come out, as he's getting older, not sure if its ever going to happen), who probably received it 2nd or 3rd hand (you can do the math) from either his father or grandfather.

Martin's initial foray in to the `ukulele was based on their success with their guitars, hence the X-brace.
Side note: very rare, keep it.
Realizing that the X-brace was too stiff (as Duane stated), Martin then got the Nunes connection. I'm not clear on the details, but I think they were friends.

Either way, Martin started the fan brace, and this I remember clearly, "the early Martin's were basically Nunes `ukulele" which basically continued on.

You guys can take this for what its worth. Its what I believe is correct, and will share with my kids.

That was kind of my thoughts, that this one could be an early attempt at a tenor build that quickly evolved into the fan braced ukes. If so I wonder how many of these x braced tenors were made and how rare it really is. Thanks to everyone for all the thoughts and insights, very much appreciated!

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
12-23-2013, 05:00 AM
I think it is wrong that a uke doesn't have enough energy to drive a top WITHOUT a lower transverse bar. Take for instance ukes with offset sound holes- notably Eric Devine's ukes (Kasha bracing) and Chuck Moore's ukes with an upper offset soundhole (im not sure which bracing Chuck uses on these but im guessing a slanted lower transverse bar). Both builds undoubtedly sound fantastic and both have enlarged vibrational tops compared to a traditional uke with its lower transverse bar.

I see an X braced uke similarly to a Kasha braced uke in regard to opening up the vibrating area (with the addition of blessed stiffness between bridge and soundhole- this X does further inhibit the long diapole though). In short- there seems to be enough string energy (and empirical evidence) to not need a lower transverse brace in a uke. A classical guitar however probably does need it due to a lower bout close to double the width of a uke.

I've only made one X braced uke....actually, it was a DOUBLE X brace (!), very light (about 4mm x 4mm). It sounds great and was thought so by all who played and heard it.

ps- BlackBearUkes I think (i'm not an engineer) the very centre of an X brace is weaker both in strength and stiffness. (and yes, they are different :)- give me stiff over strong any day.

Johnny GDS
12-23-2013, 02:25 PM
Also, for what its worth, the Martin I have that is X braced is unimpressive sounding. A lot of people have come in and liked how it sounds, but I think its just a classic case of being blinded by expectations of it sounding good because of the brand name, because even played back to back with a Kala SMHT it gets obviously smoked! It has a really honkey (sort of nasal) sounding mid-range voicing and is fairly quiet as far as tenors go. It does however have a fairly pleasing clarity if you really wail on it playing fast rhythmic strummy stuff.

Just thought I would throw this in since there has been a lot of discussion regarding the value or feasibility of X bracing on a uke. If anyone is really curious I can easily shoot a quick video and post a link to it.

Thanks again all!

BlackBearUkes
12-23-2013, 02:31 PM
I think it is wrong that a uke doesn't have enough energy to drive a top WITHOUT a lower transverse bar. Take for instance ukes with offset sound holes- notably Eric Devine's ukes (Kasha bracing) and Chuck Moore's ukes with an upper offset soundhole (im not sure which bracing Chuck uses on these but im guessing a slanted lower transverse bar). Both builds undoubtedly sound fantastic and both have enlarged vibrational tops compared to a traditional uke with its lower transverse bar.

I see an X braced uke similarly to a Kasha braced uke in regard to opening up the vibrating area (with the addition of blessed stiffness between bridge and soundhole- this X does further inhibit the long diapole though). In short- there seems to be enough string energy (and empirical evidence) to not need a lower transverse brace in a uke. A classical guitar however probably does need it due to a lower bout close to double the width of a uke.

I've only made one X braced uke....actually, it was a DOUBLE X brace (!), very light (about 4mm x 4mm). It sounds great and was thought so by all who played and heard it.

ps- BlackBearUkes I think (i'm not an engineer) the very centre of an X brace is weaker both in strength and stiffness. (and yes, they are different :)- give me stiff over strong any day.

I never said X bracing wouldn't work on a uke, it will, as will Kasha bracing if that's your thing (although we have beat that dead horse long enough). I said I don't use it because I could not get the uke sound I wanted. I came to the conclusion that there is no advantage to it for my ukes.

Beau Hannam Ukuleles
12-23-2013, 04:30 PM
I never said X bracing wouldn't work on a uke, it will, as will Kasha bracing if that's your thing (although we have beat that dead horse long enough). I said I don't use it because I could not get the uke sound I wanted. I came to the conclusion that there is no advantage to it for my ukes.

HI BlackBearUkes- yer-sorry, i was mostly referencing the other poster.
Bracing- what a topic! hahah Merry Xmas :)

BlackBearUkes
12-23-2013, 06:44 PM
HI BlackBearUkes- yer-sorry, i was mostly referencing the other poster.
Bracing- what a topic! hahah Merry Xmas :)

A Merry Christmas to you also Beau, and to all other hard working luthiers in this holiday season.