1954 / 1937 Martin D-28 Conversion by Mark Stutman

Here’s an exciting one to post on our site. It’s a 1954 Martin D-28 that I converted to 1937 Martin D-28 specs right here at Folkway in 2015. The real story is in the details, and I made every effort to accurately reproduce a c.1937 Martin top and neck for this project. Brace dimensions, carving, and layout were faithfully copied from an original ’37 D-28, along with top thickness, bridgeplate size and thickness, and pickguard shape. Designing the rosette and building the jigs to make it took me the better part of weeks. The entire guitar was rebound with grained ivoroid in vintage proportions, and the back’s centerseam was replaced with zig-zag marquetry. The top is red spruce, the braces are Sitka, and 120 year old maple was used for the bridge plate. Hide glue was used throughout assembly.

The neck was built with a rough-carved mahogany blank that came out of Martin’s North Street attic. Despite the pre-carved volute not being an exact replica of a late 30’s original, the rare opportunity of using an old Martin neck for this project was just too good to pass up. I did my best with the volute to get it looking authentic and also completely recontoured the heel shape. There’s a steel T-bar in the neck, ebony fingerboard with hand-cut diamond and square inlays, .06” ivoroid side dots, integrally carved nut, and full 7/8” ivoroid heel cap with 30s shaping. The neck carve has mid 30s feel, with a softened V hull, rounded sides, and a comfortable roll at the edge of the fingerboard. It’s not too big, not too small, and measures 1-3/4 at the nut. The strings taper to 2-5/16” at the bridge. The headstock features Martin’s 30s style logo and a set of Waverly butterbean tuners.

The guitar’s bridge is hand-carved black ebony and replicates the look and contours of a late 30s 2-5/16” spaced original, complete with unslotted Style 28 pins and a glued-in through-cut style saddle. The pickguard is made from the most accurate replica celluloid I could source and back-painted for a chocolaty color, but, unlike the originals, it is mounted overtop of the finish to ensure no future damage from shrinkage. 

The finish is thin nitrocellulose lacquer that’s aged up nicely over these past 5 years. It shows very little playwear, no checking, and has a lovely high gloss.

A powerful, smooth and loud D-28, this conversion has a clean and clear fundamental, and exceptional balance.  The trebles are bold and full and the basses are forward and defined, which makes this guitar a first-rate flat-picker, especially in a jam setting. It has excellent cut and presence, lots of strength in the mids and low mids, and expansive headroom. I’m looking forward to hearing it again in another five, ten, or twenty years!

Set up with Medium strings and an action of 5-6 64ths.

With deluxe double-arch hardshell case