In the prewar "Golden Era" of guitar building, C.F. Martin & Co. was in a state of change. In response to the rapidly-evolving needs of contemporary guitarists, Martin transitioned from 12-fret, small-body guitars with gut strings to loud, big-body axes with steel strings and 14 frets clear of the body. In the '30s, the acoustic guitar became what it is today.
Only made from 1929 to 1933, the Orchestra Model was the first Martin to combine a 14-fret neck with a longer 25.4" scale. From the ground up, the OM was designed for steel strings. Its 15"-wide body was massive by '20s standards, and it even had a pickguard and a belly bridge! In many ways, the OM is the stepping stone between the small-body parlor guitars made before 1930 and the revolutionary Dreadnoughts released in 1934.
This 1933 OM-18 is one of 200 made that year and 765 made in total. It features an Adirondack Spruce top and Mahogany back and sides. Under the hood, it has scalloped X-braces with scalloped tone bars. Sound-wise, it produces a dry, balanced sound with open dynamics and expressive response. True to the OM reputation, this is a versatile guitar that responds equally as well with a pick as it does with a light fingerstyle touch.
Over the years, this 1933 OM-18 has had a neck reset, and the bridge is a nice-looking replacement. The original OMs were not built with tongue brace (aka popsicle brace) reinforcing the fingerboard extension, so like other examples, this one has two repaired cracks underneath the fingerboard. It also has two repaired cracks along the center seam, and all the cracks are cleated and neatly repaired. The bridge plate is either original or an extremely convincing replacement. This guitar has been played and it shows (especially around the soundhole), but it has been properly cared for over the last 90 years.
From a functional perspective, it's amazing how usable this guitar is by today's standards. The tone is amazing, and the vibe is just right—the result is an inspiring guitar that pulls songs out of thin air. This '33 OM-18 still has its original "Mustache" Grover open-back tuners, and they're a little cumbersome at times, but once you find the sweet spot they hold tune as they should. It also still has bar frets, and thanks to proper crowning and setup work, the guitar plays nicely.
This 1933 OM-18 is an impressive piece of Martin history. '33 is a particularly cool year because it has both the "C.F. Martin & Co." logo on the front of the peghead as well as the old-style stamp on the back of the peghead. It includes a Martin 500 Series TKL case.