D-28 Martins

Around the beginning of 2020 I discovered a dangerous near-by vintage guitar store, The Acoustic Cellar, packed with vintage Martins and Gibsons and plenty of other well known high-end guitars that I'd never heard of. They're real nice there and let me play any or all of them if I wanted. I discovered that guitars like 1944 Martin D-28s and 1937 Martin D-18s are pretty special.

Bringing home a $40,000 pre-war Martin was not in my future though. Still, I never forgot the herringbone on that D-28 and the way its neck felt.

I'd played some new D-28s there at the shop on the same days that I'd been playing the 1944 one... the new ones seemed "tight" and just didn't feel so good in my hands. And they didn't have herringbone! Patton, the manager, and I talked about it some... they'd dropped herringbone from the standard D-28 a long time ago. We clicked on some Martin website pictures and I saw a couple of ten or twenty thousand dollar new Brazilian rosewood D-28s with herringbone and I kind of quit wondering about new D-28s.

It wasn't long before I'd gotten a couple of 1950s Gibsons, great guitars that didn't cost and arm and a leg, and I was happy. I still liked to ride my motorcycle through the countryside over to The Acoustic Cellar though, it is a fun place to be and a good ride too. There's always interesting new inventory to see. There was a Henderson dreadnought in there on one visit. A cool 70s era Guild. The shop expanded to take over more floor space in the old building where it is situated, and it became easier to glance over at the "used" guitars instead of hanging out in the back by the pickin' couch and the vintage guitars like I usually did. One day I noticed a relatively inexpensive easy playing Indian rosewood herringboned 2013 D-28 hanging on the wall there. I was doomed!

I hardly got the thing home before I changed out the Rotomatic tuners with some drop-in-replacement Gotoh SXN510V-06M open-back tuners. People like or dislike Rotomatics for all kinds of reasons, my only reason for the change is that I like open-back tuners. And there sure wasn't a big old glompy set of Rotomatics on that 1944 D-28 that still haunts my dreams. The Rotomatics and the Gotohs both have screw-in tuner post bushings, so, to me, not having the top screw in the Gotohs was functionally equivalent to the way the Rotomatics are installed. They both are "held down" in two places... with the single screw and by the screw-in tuner bushings. And I didn't want to jump right in to drilling holes in my new guitar.

Some months passed. That D-28 (HD-28 really, H stands for herringbone) sure sounded good every time I got it out of its case. But I began to realize that I almost never did get it out of its case. I generally pulled out the 57 Gibson Country Western. The D-28 was a pretty guitar. It looked like new to me. Sounded great. But I didn't play it nearly as often as I did the Gibson. And I kept looking at other rosewood guitars on the Internet. Those new (2020) Gibson "1936 Advanced Jumbo" guitars look pretty cool. And people on the AGF kept talking about all kinds of stuff I'd never thought about, 12 fretters, slot-heads, and about a bazillion different models of D-28s. There's a kind with a titanium truss rod and "liquid metal" bridge pins.

One day I was scanning the used guitars on the Acoustic Cellar's web page and almost zipped right past a D-28... that was slope shouldered! That's weird! I clicked on it - a "Martin D-28 Authentic 1931". I read about it some on the Internet. Martin bought an original 1931 D-28 from the collection of movie star Richard Gere and copied it down to the Nth degree, they even used a CAT scanner at the Smithsonian in the process. Off to the Acoustic Cellar I went to have a look at this thing. I was doomed again, and I traded my HD-28 for it.

The back isn't straight grained, but it is Madagascar rosewood. The guitar smells great, I don't know if it is a rosewood smell or something else.

The sloped shoulders and herringbone are what first caught my eye.

The feller who had it before me put this K&K pickup in it. He kinda spaced the transducers out funny, maybe he wanted to emphasize that part of the sound, ida know. He put a 1/8 inch jack in it, so the hole where the endpin goes isn't drilled out, I like that. The entire pickup could be removed and the guitar would be back to "normal". Check out how there's a divot in the bridge plate right in the middle. I doubt Martin sent it out that way. I wonder if the original owner caught a string ball end on one of the bridge pins when changing strings and it slipped off with a bunch of force when he was bringing the string up to tension?

Lots of cool stuff inside, but it is hard to take good pictures with the strings on.

I guess I should mention that this 12 fret guitar plays great and sounds great, too.