Circa. 1920. Martin “Employee” Soprano Ukulele handcrafted in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. Martin employee ukuleles are amongst the rarest and most desirable ukuleles to have ever been handcrafted and only a small number are known to have been made. This one is a remarkable and historical example of a gorgeous Martin “employee” soprano ukulele.
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 1920 C.F. Martin & Co ’employee’ soprano ukulele can be characterized by a Mahogany wood top, back, and sides with a matching mahogany wood neck and bridge and a Brazilian rosewood fretboard. The instrument also boasts a bow-tie inlay on the 7th fret, a kite design inlay at the headstock, fretboard purfling lines down the center of the fretboard, and an inlaid purfling line at the nut. Moreover, a pendeloque inlay, often called a “whale taild” inlay, was also meticulously done at the butt of the instrument. Detailed 6 ply concentric circle rosette and 3 ply outer purfling on the soundboard. The ply number varies from that of a standard 3M also attesting to the nature of the build as an “employee” model. In addition, the snow white top and back binding identify this instrument from a time period in Martin ukuleles that predate the off-white ivroid binding, which came at a later time and is utilized on models 2, 3, and 5. 12-fret joint to the body with 17 overall frets to the soundhole, and position markers on 5, 7, and 9.
There is some minimal play wear, light finish wear in a few spots, and a couple of places with either dings (especially on the neck) and a repair to one of the sides of the lower bout that has been professionally addressed. See photos for more details. Overall the instrument is in wonderful condition.
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 instrument has incredible projection, clarity, and sustain. Surprisingly rich deep tones with a warm and inviting appeal. Absolutely amazing! #230008