1947 Custom Martin ‘Employee’ Ukulele


Vintage Martin Ukulele. Extremely rare 1947 Custom C.F. Martin ‘Employee’ tenor ukulele handcrafted by Ken Smith Jr, (former) employee of the legendary C.F Martin & Co. in Nazareth, PA. Authentication letter drafted by Dick Boak, Director of C.F. Martin & Co. Artist and Limited Editions, and signed by Ken Smith Jr.

Martin employee ukuleles are amongst the rarest and most desirable ukuleles to have ever been handcrafted and only a few (sopranos) are known to be in existence. This one is a remarkable and historical example of a gorgeous custom tenor ukulele, the only tenor sized employee ukulele known to be in existence, handcrafted with the stylings and appointments of a vintage Martin D-28 guitar.

Martin employee ukuleles were only allowed to be built under one of two circumstances; 1) retirement in which an employee was allowed to handcraft his own instrument in any style or combination of styles as a retirement gift from the company or 2) as a means of improving luthier techniques and skill levels.  Consequently, these instruments do not bear the classic decals or insignias that are typically found on C.F. Martin & Co. ukuleles and were only allowed to be fashioned by factory employees during off hours.

(i.e. during a lunch break, after typical work hours, or on a day off).

The 1947 C.F. Martin & Co ’employee’ tenor ukulele can be characterized by a solid spruce top, gorgeous quartersawn mahogany back and sides with slight figure, mahogany neck, brazilian rosewood headstock cap, round soundhole with three stripe rosette 6/5 black-white grouping, 3/3 black-white ivoroid top and back body binding, ivoroid end graph and heel cap, narrow chainlink rope marquetry back stripe, 12-fret joint to the body with 18 overall frets to the soundhole, ebony fingerboard and bridge with white bridge pin setup, pearl slotted dot inlays on positions 2, 5, 7, 10, 12, and 15, and classic style Champion friction tuners. (Note: C.F. Martin & Co. D-28 guitars crafted between 1931-1969 utilize brazilian rosewood back and sides whereas later models crafted between 1969 to present utilize indian rosewood back and sides. This ukulele, however, is quite unique and is fashioned from neither of these two tone woods but rather from an exceptionally gorgeous piece of faintly figured mahogany wood.)

There is some minimal play wear, light finish wear in a few spots, and a couple of places with a little buckle rash on the back of the instrument. Overall the instrument is in remarkable original condition. The hard case is also the original case that was previously owned by Ken Smith Jr. as well and remains structurally sound although it has sustained aging over the last 60 years!

The overall weight of the instrument varies slightly from that of the production made model tenor ukuleles. This could be due to the differences in the density of the woods used between this full custom piece and that of the all mahogany models. Likewise, there also seems to be a slight variation in the overall thickness of the body chamber itself, especially the soundboard. The ukulele is very well balanced and all seams and joints are cleanly connected and meticulously handcrafted. The edges of the instrument are also `soft` and easy to cradle against your chest when playing. Tonally, the spruce top makes for a brighter tone than the typical all mahogany model as well. This also contributes to the incredible projection, clarity, and sustain of the instrument. The instrument has very rich deep tones with pronounced mid-range and crisp/clear high tones as well. A very, very nice piece. Absolutely amazing!

This gorgeous instrument is a definite one-of-a-kind C.F. Martin & Co custom ukulele crafted and dated back to Martin’s golden era of guitars and ukuleles and in classic fashion with similar appointments to the legendary Martin D-28 guitar. A tremendously rare museum-quality collectible ukulele.

Price: SOLD

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