1938 Martin D-18

An important piece of Canadian music history, this 1938 Martin D-18 has been one of David Essig’s mainstays since buying it in 1965. Throughout the 1970s and into the ‘80s this D-18 was the resident highstrung (Nashville tuned) acoustic at Bob and Daniel Lanois’ Grant Ave Studios in Hamilton, Ontario, where Essig regularly worked as a producer and musician. Essig produced the first three Willie P. Bennett albums, Fred Eaglesmith’s first three albums, and Cathy Fink’s first two albums – all of which featured this very D-18. Stan Rogers was a close friend of David’s, and casually played this guitar often, although it was not featured on any of Rogers’ recordings. Essig estimates that he recorded 20 of his own albums with this guitar. In short, this guitar and its long-time owner were an integral part of Canada’s folk and roots music landscape through the last 50 years.

As with most professionally used instruments, this 1938 D-18 has seen its share of repair and restoration. It has numerous repaired top cracks, a 70’s Martin style rosewood bridge plate, which itself has worn and been capped, an oversized ebony bridge, and, most notably, a replacement neck. The guitar’s back and sides are largely original including well-worn finish. The top has areas of finish repair overtop of worn original finish and spliced cracks, and its original forward-shifted scalloped bracing remains intact and in excellent condition, with no evidence of repair or regluing. The same can be said of the back’s original bracing. There are a few repaired back and side cracks, and a ‘popsicle’ brace has been added to reinforce top cracks along the fretboard extension’s edges. The neck was fitted with the guitar’s original headstock overlay, and a set of modern Gotoh Waverley style tuners. It has a full carve and a big 30’s wide-neck feel. There’s a filled-in strap button hole on the side adjacent to the neck heel, and the endpin has been enlarged for a pickup’s endpin jack, but there is no longer a pickup in the guitar.

A bold, dark and big sounding guitar, this 1938 D-18 offers a huge bass response, thick and woody trebles, and a strong and supportive midrange. It’s an excellent flatpicker, and we have it set up with medium strings and bluegrass action. Tone for the dollar, this guitar probably won’t be beat.

The neck was built with graphite reinforcement rather than the T-bar that would be in an original. As such, the guitar is a bit lighter and offers some of the overtone development and warmth of a wartime D-18, but remains tonally in the wide-neck camp. The neck is one-piece mahogany with style 45-quality wood and an ebony fretboard. 1-3/4” nut width, neck depth of .908” at the 1st fret which tapers to 1.135” at the 9th fret. String spread at the saddle is 2-5/16”. Playability remains excellent for a heavy flat-picker, with full height modern frets and slightly higher action of 5-8 64ths at the 12th fret. We’re happy to adjust the action lower upon request.

With 70’s hardshell case