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In 1931, the Martin guitar company entered an already well-established archtop guitar market with their C-Series archtops, an experiment that proved to be one of their less successful product lines. Using their usual combination of superior materials and a high standard of craftsmanship, the C-Series was not all that different from the other guitars Martin was building at the time; essentially, they took a 000 flattop and put a carved arched top on it. The back was not carved, but arched similar to a flattop model. While other successful makers were suspending the fingerboard over the top, allowing for a larger and more effective soundboard, Martin glued their fingerboard to the top.

This odd mix of archtop and flattop features could not compete with the more sophisticated designs of the era. While decent guitars in their own right, they simply were not what archtop players were looking for.

When the desire for what today we call “vintage guitars” started to become evident in the 1960’s, adventurous repairmen and builders began converting these undervalued archtops into more desirable flattops.

A number of factors combine to make these archtop-to-flattop conversions a practical – and more valuable – alternative. The Martin OM has long been established as the pinnacle of traditional flattop fingerstyle guitar design – but a genuine Martin OM-28 from the early 1930’s is not only difficult to find, but prohibitively expensive for many of the players who yearn for one. The high quality of the 1930’s era Brazilian Rosewood found in the bodies of both the C-Series guitars AND their flattop cousins is all but impossible to find in today’s marketplace, while the wonderful Adirondack Red Spruce Martin used in their classic pre-war flattops has become increasingly available in recent years. Why not keep that magnificent Brazilian Rosewood C-Series body and put a new Adirondack Red Spruce top on it to make an OM conversion that very much approaches an original?

If you have a Martin archtop guitar you would like converted, please contact me. An instrument with a damaged top is the most likely candidate, but I will consider all possibilities. Martin C-2 guitars from 1931 to early 1934 came with an OM style 25.4 “ scale length and a 1¾” wide nut. From 1934 to 1941 (when they discontinued the C-2) the scale length and nut width were changed to 000 specs (24.9” and 1 11/16”). To achieve a true OM conversion on these later instruments a new wider, longer neck must be made for the guitar.

The Conversion - A complete photographic tour of the process. In order to better understand the process I have included a step-by-step tour of the conversion of a 1939 Martin C-2 to 000-28 Custom flattop.

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OM Conversion Gallery


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