While many people are familiar with the tattered nylon-string Martin N-20 Willie Nelson calls Trigger, few seem to know about the other guitars Martin built with an internal stamp that reads, “Made for gut or nylon strings.”
Martin produced a few classical models by attaching a wide, 12-fret neck to a 00-size body. One of them is the Martin 00-18G, seen here in an example from 1958. Made from 1936 until 1962, the 00-18G was constructed for use with either gut (that’s what the G is for in the model name) or nylon strings. True to classical guitar form, most 00-18Gs have fan bracing and a tie-style bridge, though some have a more Martin-like X-bracing and pin bridge. Otherwise, the appointments are the same as other Style 18s of the time.
The current owner’s mother bought this particular 00-18G new in 1959, when she was a 17-year-old flamenco guitar student in Santa Barbara, California. Rather than baby the guitar, she gave it plenty of honest playing wear, including belt-buckle rash on the mahogany back and marks on the back of the mahogany neck from using a capo around the third, fifth, and seventh frets. The most noticeable wear is on the spruce top, which is sprinkled with many fingernail-shaped pits caused by the golpe technique—where a player uses her middle or ring finger to tap the top percussively. Around 1962, she added the white plastic golpeador to prevent further damage. Eventually, she stopped playing to focus on other pursuits, and about eight years ago passed this instrument on to her son, who plays it at home often.
Though it’s assessed at only around half the value of a steel-string 00-18 from the same era, ask to play one the next time you see an old, small-bodied Martin with a wide neck and nylon strings in a guitar shop. You might be surprised at the pleasant tone and comfortable feel of one of Martin’s less-appreciated guitars.
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This article originally appeared in the February 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.