In the decades leading up to the late-'20s, larger body sizes had begun to replace smaller Martin designs. Although the 12-fret 00 may be considered a small guitar by modern standards, this 00-18 was a proper-size guitar in 1929. That year, Martin made 227 00-18s, and in 1934 the model permanently changed from a 12-fret neck to 14-fret.
When you consider Martin's history, the steel-string 12-fret 00-18 was only made for a short time. Sure, the 00 goes back to 1877, but Martin only started bracing tops for steel strings in 1922. At 14-1/8" across, the 12-fret 00-18 feels small and manageable guitar in your hands, but it produces a robust sound that belies its size. The model is lauded for its well-rounded voice with impressive balance, bass content, and output for a small-body guitar. A lot of that has to do with the old-world craftsmanship that was C.F. Martin at the time, but credit is also due to the Adirondack Spruce top and the hand-scalloped X-bracing under the hood.
This 1929 Martin 00-18 finds us in excellent playing condition, and it produces a haunting, resonant tone rich in woody mahogany character. Like many guitars from this era, this 00-18 has needed substantial repair over the years, but it finds us 100% stable with a fantastic setup. At some point along the way, the original bridge was replaced with an Ebony belly bridge, and from the look of it, the current bridge is probably not the only belly bridge that has been on it. Under the hood, this 00-18 also has a new Maple bridge plate that is a careful match to the original design.
Over the years, the neck has been reset at least once, and the current neck angle provides excellent playability with a ton of saddle remaining at the bridge. At some point along the way, the original bar frets were replaced in favor of modern T-shape frets. This is a huge plus for playability, and combined with the neck angle, the frets make this 00-18 more approachable for modern players.
This '29 00-18 has clearly been played over the years, and that's probably because it produces such a nuanced sound. Over the decades, all of the wear has given this guitar the authentic character of a treasured prewar instrument. It currently sports a modern pickguard and a strap button on the heel. The top, back of the neck, and sides around the neck heel all show signs of lacquer overspray. The Ebony nut is probably not original, but the original tuners still do the trick nicely.
Playing this 1929 00-18 is quite the experience. Its tone is amazing—it pulls songs and new ideas right out thin air. In your hands, it's such a lightweight, comfortable guitar, too. The overall playability is everything you could ask for, and the wear and mojo make it feel like a proper prewar relic. This guitar may be 93 years old, but it sure has miles left in the tank! Fantastic 12-fret. It includes a modern hardshell case.