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Questions: Martin Style 5-18

Questions: Martin Style 5-18

by R.J. Klimpert

Originally published in American Lutherie #103, 2010


Larry Crozier from the Internet asks:

A customer wants a Martin-style 5-18 guitar built. I was wondering if GAL Plan #8 for the Martin 1-18 is the same or close enough. If not, could you recommend somewhere to get a 5-18 plan?

R.J. Klimpert of Barrington, Rhode Island

The chief reason that the 1-18 pattern won’t work to build a 5-18 is that the Martin 5-18 is a “terz” guitar, meaning that the neck and scale length are considerably shorter than that of a regular Martin, allowing for the higher-than-standard tuning that terz guitars are known for. The 1-18’s body, while narrow and seemingly similar in size to a 5-18, is too long to allow for a terz short-scale neck. The 5-18 is actually closer to a Martin Style 51 baritone uke in body size and scale. In fact, Martin reportedly reused an old terz guitar pattern when they started producing the 10-string tiple in the late ’teens. As for finding a pattern that would work for building a 5-18, it might be possible to reduce the dimensions of a 000-18 — all except the width of the neck — to approximate the correct size and shape. Or conversely, scale UP the dimensions of a Martin tiple (GAL Plan #37), since the 5-18 terz guitar lies somewhere between the two. ◆