The following was culled from the UMGF from mid 2004 to mid 2005 for my
personal use.  Some or all of this material may have been lost in the 
big ezboard hack of May 31 2005 so I'm making it available here.  I've 
tried to attribute the source of all information and apologize if I 
missed anything or made any mistakes.

This information is presented in the hope it will be useful.  I make no
guarantees of accuracy.

I also have an "improved" Martin serial number list.

Please PM me on the UMGF if you have any comments/additions/corrections/requests.

-Mike (AKA elephantfan85)

General notes
The following was posted by "Cosmic Drifter" on the UMGF April 26 2005

Initially as 1983 approached, upper management at Martin hadnt given any intense 
long term thought about producing an official 150th anniversary guitar in 1983. 
It was suggested at a sales meeting (in the fall of 1982) that 1983 was an 
extremely notable year in Martins history and this topic in turn opened a 
dialog among the sales force concerning notating either a model or many models 
as 150th anniversary Martins. From this discussion it was decided (in 1982) to 
make the first 150 Custom Shop Martins the official 150th Anniversary model. 
Being custom shop guitars they are all unique one of a kind models. Quite a 
few employees (around 10 -15) purchased one of these official 150th 
anniversary custom shop models

These Anniversary models can easily be identified by a oval shaped off white 
paper label visible through the soundhole. They are marked as 150th 
anniversary models and have the actual (not printed) signatures of both C.F. 
Martin III and C.F. Martin IV and finally they are sequentially numbered 
1 of 150, 2 of 150, 3 of 150, etc These are the official 150th anniversary 

Early in 1983 a couple employees realized that the woodburn stamp that was 
made for the official 150th anniversary models could be used to stamp all 
models built in 1983. So in late winter, early spring of 1983 Martin began 
stamping the back strip on all production model Martins.

There were 150 "Anniversary Models"

Hope this answers the question

From Martins wood buyer, Feb 10 2005 post to UMGF Forum

Honduran Mahogany is also Swietenia macrophylla. But, soil, elevation, and 
other growth conditions vary in this species' growth range causing variations 
in color, weight, density, etc. The current wood from Honduras is lighter in 
color, weight, and density than the Peruvian wood.

I am sure that many different types of Mahogany have been used during Martin's 
history.  Over the years, the species du jour may have depended on what species
was commercially available at the time, as well as pricing, etc.. In the mid 
to late '70's, my early years in the Sawmill, we were cutting African mahogany 
(Khaya ivorensis) from logs for the backs and sides and using Swietenia 
macrophylla for the necks. In the 80's we changed to Swietenia macrophylla 
in total, which we have used since (although the country of origin has changed 
over the years - Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, etc.)

It appears, from the old handwritten wood buying records that were kept by 
C.F. Martin III and gifted to me by Chris after his grandfather passed, that 
we used Philippine, Mexican, and African Mahogany throughout the early 1900's.
From Martins wood buyer, another Feb 10 2005 post to the UMGF Forum

We currently, and have since the 80's, only use Swietenia macrophylla on 
instruments that specify Mahogany.

Regarding quartersawn, it is not always so. Due to current limitations on 
availability, quality, etc. in the volumes necessary to support our production,
we have the following 


  18's and above - must be quartersawn
  16's and below - can utilize rift and flatsawn wood as necessary, with the 
  exception of mahogany 15 tops that must be quartered


From Martins wood buyer, another Feb 10 2005 post to the UMGF Forum, in part in
reference to somebody complaining that Martin used a "non Mahogany" wood in 
some 70's 18 series guitars.

My name is known to many members - Linda Davis-Wallen. I am a thirty year 
Martin veteran and have built a career in the wood end of the business.

The rosewood/padauk analogy when referring to Mahoganies is off base. Although 
the species from the genus Swietenia are referred to as the true mahoganies, 
the Khaya spp. like African are also recognized as mahoganies. Philippine 
Mahogany has also been referred to as mahogany, but is of the genus Shorea. 
But, we could on about this for days.


From Martins wood buyer, another Feb 11 2005 post to the UMGF Forum

"we used Philippine, Mexican, and African Mahogany throughout the early 1900's"

All three were mentioned in the old records during the 20's and 30's.

The Quilted Mahogany we have been using on special and limited editions, 
including the UMGF, is from either Guatemala or Honduras. I would have to call 
my supplier for a refresher on that one, but it definitely from one or the 

John is correct that the only true rosewood in Africa is African blackwood 
(Dalbergia melanoxylon).  It is used for high quality clarinets, oboes, fifes, 
etc. in the music world.


From the UMGF Feb 11 2005

 Registered User
 Posts: 71
 (2/10/05 7:42 pm)

Subject: Question For Woodbuyer 

Dear CFM woodbuyer...Great info, wood is such a deep subject..and very 
intersting! It is very cool that you hang out here once in awhile. I have a 
question if you would be so kind. I purchased a custom D-15 (spruce & rosewood)
which buy the way is an awesome guitar for the money...well actually at any 
price. Anyway several fairly knowlegeable wood folks who have seen and played 
it (two of which are local luthiers of some fame) stated it the top looks to 
be a fairly low quality red spruce top.. The tone is however not low quality! 
:D Anyway the top seems to be marked towards the tailblock on the inside with 
what looks like a 2/5 or 2/3 ? with what we are pretty sure an A or an R along 
the side of the penciled writing??

Is is possible this is a low grade red spruce top that just got put on this 
custom guitar randomly? I talked with a tech and he said its happened before 
on commissioned customs...

Thank you in advance for any reply!

Edited by: sixfingers at: 2/10/05 7:46 pm

 Registered User
 Posts: 730
 (2/11/05 12:12 am)

Subject: Re: Question For Woodbuyer 

Sorry Six, I am not the woodbuyer, but I may be able to help you.

As I recall, the grade on the underside of my OM16GT was 4/S GT followed by an 
initial I think. 4 meaning the grade (scale of 1-8, 8 being highest) and S 
meaning Sitka. I first thought it said 5, but was told otherwise by another 

I may be completely wrong though. Sorry to interrupt the thread. At least my 
post will bring it back to the top.

 Registered User
 Posts: 77
 (2/11/05 8:41 am)

Subject Re: Question For Woodbuyer 

It is highly unlikely that your D15 would have a red spruce top on it. Unlike 
the Sika spruce, that species is kept locked in a cage and only pulled out 
specifically for orders.

As to the marks you referred to on the inside of the top, I cannot decipher 
those for you. Some of the internal grading marks are "Greek to me", since I 
tend to deal more with the external vendor grades.

By the way, our internal grading is not limited to the numbers 1-8. That 
grading system is used on our standard line and higher, for the most part. 
There are a few grades below that for the series below standard.

 Todd Stuart Phillips 
 Registered User
 Posts: 5597
 (2/11/05 12:14 pm)
 Subject Re: Question For Woodbuyer 
It is likely that what you are seeing is the grade 2/S. With the S being for 
Sitka. If it was Red spruce it would have an A, for Adirondack.

A level 2 grade top does not mean it is a bad top. Remember, it is a top good 
enough to go on a Martin. Actually the fact it has a number grade at all is a 
good sign.

The 1-8 grading scale seems to be based on two major criteria: how pretty it 
is and how much runout it has.

How pretty it is can also depend on various things, as you could have a Grade 
6 top with tons of bearclaw and another one that is clean as a whistle. So it 
is an aesthetic judgment call on the people doing the grading. This can include
how wide the grain is, how straight it is, how many mineral streaks or lack 
there of, and if there are any anomalies where the grain gets squiggly for a 
few cms, etc. Obviously they are going to save their prettiest, most pristine 
or most aesthetically interesting tops for their higher priced models. But 
many of us have seen boring or even unattractive tops that sounded magical, 
and pretty tops that were simply unremarkable.

Runout, on the other hand, has to do with how straight the grain is THROUGH the
wood. One might best understand it this way: Imagine you are standing on the 
wooden deck at a friends house with a floor made out of long, straight 2 x 4s, 
with the skinny side used for the floors surface and with some space between 
each slat. Now imagine that you walk down a flight of stairs so that your eye 
is at the level of the floor and you can see the 2 x 4s stretching out away 
from you in straight lines, but you can also see under the surface of the 
deck and see the full 4 depth of each slat.

If those slats are set perfectly up and down you would say there is no runout. 
But you could actually have them set with a tilted angle and still plane the 
top of the desk flat and not notice they are tilted. That is, until the 
sunlight hits them and they cast shadows determined by the angle of tilt. 
The more tilt there is to the slats of the deck, or the individual grain 
lines of a guitar top, the more runout the grain has, and the more extreme 
the shadow they cast.

On an actual guitar top, runout is noticeable because of the how the light 
reflects off the top.  This is what gives the effect where one side of the top 
appears darker than the other and as you tilt it into the light, suddenly the 
side that was light is dark and vice versa. The tiny slant to the edge of each 
grain line produced a shadow, with each half of the top having different 
degrees of runout. When a top has zero runout both sides of the top look as 
light or dark as the rest, regardless of what angle you hold it to the light.

How important is runout? Do sound waves travel through a Grade 8 top 
differently than a Grade 2 top? You will find people who say yes and people 
who say no. There are many tops with serious runout that sound great, 
including many a 1930s Martin for that matter.

 Registered User
 Posts: 79
 (2/11/05 1:21 pm)
 Subject Re: Question For Woodbuyer 
Unfortunately I must correct Todd's presentation, since it is quite 

Runout is not what Todd has illustrated with his photos! Those are photos of 
the end grain, that shows the vertical grain (how quartersawn the wood is) - 
not runout!

A top is 100% quartersawn if the end grain is perpedicular to the face - 90 
degrees vertical. These photos are showing that the vertical grain in these 
tops varies from 70-90 degrees vertical, which is our specification. 
Otherwise, the textbook definition of quartersawn wood is 45-90 degrees 

Todd is correct that runout can be easily detected by seeing the evidence 
of the 2 tone color effect difference between the bookmatched pieces of 
the top, due to the way the light refracts off the 2 halves.

According to the Guitarmaking book by William Cumpiano, he correctly 
explains what runout is as follows: "if lumber is not cut parallel to 
the tree axis, or if the tree grows with a twist, the longitudinal fibers 
will run off the face of the board. He says that a guitar plate with 
parallel fibers running its length will be longitudinally stronger than 
ones with short, angled fibers/grain coming up out of its surface. He 
also says that the only way to minimize it is to obtain soundboards sawn 
from split billets, since a split will run along the tree's growth axis."


 Registered User
 Posts: 658
 (2/11/05 12:48 pm)
 Subject: Re: 1967 D-35..Specs? 
I have two. Both have no volute, but one has a black pickguard and one does 

The one with the tortoise pickguard is 223XXX and the one with the black 
pickguard is 225XXX.  Maybe in transition. 


In regards to the previous entry, It was also reported that D35 220XXX also had
the tortoise pickguard.


All Pre war 12 fret to the body Martins have a one inch "popsicle" or number
one brace under the fingerboard near the neck.  Brace is rounded.


 Registered User
 Posts: 85
 (2/13/05 5:29 pm)
 Subject Re: Question For Woodbuyer 
We purchase all of our tops as precut bookmatched pairs in 2 or 3 vendor grades,
which are then graded internally after acclimating, sanding, glue-up, and 
sanding into about 12 different grades.

The business of buying the right logs and cutting and properly processing good 
quality tops is a science best left to the experts that make it their business.
Ours is to take the wonderful tops they have yielded with their magic and build
great guitars with our magic.


"it's from the New York years"

That's a very broad range of years if you are suggesting that the guitar has a 
"CF Martin New York" or CF Martin & Co. New York" stamp. Though the stamp reads 
"New York" up through the 1890s, Martin manufacturing moved from New York to 
Nazareth in 1838. So a New York stamp does not immediately suggest that the guitar 
is from the 1830s. To accurately date pre-serial number Martins you must be familiar 
design and ornamentation appointments and the changes that took place in each 
throughout the 19th century. Most useful though is the stamp, but you can only 
use the stamp on the INSIDE of the body on it's center graft (visible through the 
soundhole) to date a guitar, and even then you can only date to a period. Use the 
following info, applying it ONLY to the center graft stamp...if it says:

 "CF Martin New York" then the guitar is pre-1867.

 If it says:

 "CF Martin & Co. New York" it is between 1867 and 1898.

Pinning the date down more specifically will depend on your knowledge of style 
appointments and design features as previously noted. Neck material, tuner 
manufacturer, the number of back braces, all of these details can help date the 
guitar. Some 3rd and 4th quarter 19th century Martins have a date (year of manufacture) 
penciled on the underside of the top. Check with a mirror, looking just below the 
soundhole and between the finger braces. Having an accurate date is important to 
determining value, as earlier guitars are generally perceived to be of more value.

Just as important having the period or date of manufacture identified is the 
condition of the instrument. Old repairs, originality, necessary repairs, and 
wear all impact value. It sounds like this guitar has some cracks that need work, 
but you may also be looking at other work that is necessary and you'll have to 
figure that cost in to your price. If you can't accurately determine what repairs 
are necessary or the cost of such repairs, pay a luthier to examine the guitar for 
you before you buy. That way you go in to the purchase informed.

19th c. 2 or 2 1/2-17 and 18 guitars are quite common as antique Martins go. In 
good condition (all original, clean) they usually RETAIL for anywhere from $1800-$2500, 
with the best examples (museum condition, original case and label, with provenance) 
prices slightly higher. However, outside of the retail store market, the usually go 
for $1500 or thereabout, occasionally higher on ebay. I'd say if you want to buy it 
with an eye toward later resale, start at that figure ($1500)and work backward to a 
figure that gives you whatever margin you think you need. If you want to buy it to 
keep and play, then subtract the cost of repairs from that figure and come up with a 
number that works for you.

 Steve Kovacik
 Kovacik Guitars and Fretted Instrument Repair