Up for sale, a 1955 Martin 5-18 in excellent condition and in perfect working order. The smallest Martin guitar, with a lower bout width of just 11 1/4“, Martin’s size 5 was initially conceived as a Germanic-style “terz” guitar, which were shorter scale instruments traditionally pitched a minor third higher than standard E to E tuning. C.F. Martin Sr. was heavily influenced by Germanic luthiers like Johan Stauffer, who was known for his terz guitars, and some of the earliest surviving Martins are terz instruments. Martin’s 5 body size lasted into the rise of the parlor acoustic’s popularity in America, and towards the turn of the 20th century, the Nazareth luthiers began marketing their size 5 instruments as Junior, or 3/4 size. The 5-18 model was initially introduced in 1898, but truly came into its own in the ‘50s and ‘60s, when it was popularized by Marty Robbins, who used one extensively onstage. This particular guitar has received all the maintenance due its vintage, befitting from a full refret, a fresh neck reset, and a new carved and compensated bone saddle.
Tonewoods include an X-braced Sitka spruce top, mahogany back and sides, a mahogany neck, and a Brazilian rosewood fingerboard and bridge. This guitar offers impressive projection that belies its size, with a lively, expressive character and a clear, balanced quality across all strings. Woody and percussive when digging in, the wound strings have a touch of brassy growl, and the smooth sweetness of the trebles and upper midrange lends itself to sonorous fingerpicked passages and melodic lines. Featherweight at just 2lbs 9oz, this 5-18 has been professionally setup here at Mike & Mike’s Guitar Bar with easy-playing action and 12-54 bronze strings tuned standard E to E.
The mahogany neck has a substantial soft V-shaped profile carve with a gentle increase in overall heft in the higher registers of the fretboard, measuring .870” deep at the 1st fret and 1.045” at the 9th. The Brazilian rosewood fingerboard has been refretted with medium fretwire that's in excellent shape, exhibiting only light flattening of the crowns on the treble side from frets 1-5. There is also some finger wear into the rosewood as well, largely in the first position.
The guitar plays cleanly in all registers up the straight neck, with a 21.4” scale length. The modern hand-carved bone nut measures 1 5/8” in width. On the Brazilian rosewood headstock veneer, the Martin logo is clean, and the original open-gear Waverly tuning machines turn smoothly and hold accurate pitch.
The guitar benefits from a fresh professional neck reset, meeting the body at an ideal angle and ensuring viability for decades of future use. A new carved and compensated bone saddle has ample height for future adjustment, and the Brazilian rosewood bridge sits flush with the top on all edges. The original tortoise pickguard is intact, exhibiting some light wear through the original lacquer across the strum path. The model and serial number are stamped on the neck block, visible through the soundhole.
The original nitro lacquer finish is present with extensive lacquer checking across the body, and there is a targeted area of touched-up pick wear between the pickguard and bridge. There are a couple very slight and professionally addressed splits adjacent to the binding on the lower bout edge on top. Wear is otherwise limited to a handful of minor nicks and finish scratches on the instrument as a whole, largely relegated to the rims and lower bout on top. The nitro lacquer gloss on the neck profile has a worn-in, smooth feel.
A vintage chipboard case is included.