HEAR A PIN DROP

The Evolution of Bridge Pins on Martin Guitars

 


While the pin style bridge is generally associated with steel string guitars, C.F. Martin used pin style bridges with gut strings for close to 100 years before introducing steel string guitars.

Here we trace the evolution of bridge pins used by Martin and his descendants through the years.

 
The earliest guitars of C. F. Martin in America were in the style of the Viennese instruments he learned to build before leaving his homeland, including a "moustache" pin style bridge with a fretwire saddle.

The early bridge pins were made of ebony with abalone dots.


 





A number of early Martin and Martin & Coupa guitars following those with the "mustache" bridge have a "badge" or "shield" style bridge, in either ebony or ivory, often with an added ivory pendant or "flower".  Some ivory versions have a fretwire saddle similar to those on the Stauffer "moustache" bridges.

The "shield" style bridges also included bridge pins of ebony with pearl insets.

 







The earliest pin style pyramid bridge is only a slight step away from the "tie style" pyramid bridge, with a similar "lipped" or scooped back.


These pins have the flat heads typical of the period.



 

 


Martin 1850's 2-24






1850's "ZigZag" Martin Pearl rosette 1-28


The later round back pyramid bridge, made of ivory on higher end Martins until about 1919, shows the larger size of the early pearl insets.


1889 Martin 2-34







 
 


1893 Martin 2-34

This 2 1/2 - 17 from 1889 shows the rounder pins with smaller pearl insets seen later in the Century.






1893 Martin 2-17


1896 Martin 2 1/2 - 42






Note that many 19th Century pins have heads that are wide and round.

1870's Martin Pins


1896 Martin 2 1/2 - 42



Pins with "eyes" seem to appear in two distinct periods.

This first pin comes from my unusual 1850's Martin which is similar to what is thought might be an early Style 28 with pearl rosette, but with a zig zag top border.

In the first decade of the Twentieth Century, and into the "Teens", some attractive bridge pins have "eyes".

By the turn of the Century, ivory pins begin to replace wood pins on fancier Martin guitars.

1905 00-42S







The pins with flatter heads typically have wider decorative insets than the pins with rounder heads. 

Ebony pins typically have pearl insets, while the ivory pins have abalone insets which are often, but not always, quite decorative.

Note that the ivory pins with abalone are seen not only on the early Style 40's range of guitars, and even Style 34 Martins with ivory bridges, and Style 27 with abalone rosettes, but also on Style 26 and 28 Martins, which do have ivory bindings. 

On the other hand, I have Style 30 and 34 Martins with ebony/pearl pins rather than ivory/abalone.
 
 
 
During the boom years of the Hawaiian craze in the mid-teens, as Martin was struggling to keep up with demand, the company purchased "Chicago Style" bridges supplied by Lyon & Healy, with flat, raised wings, and a long, through-cut saddle.


Here we see the first use of plastic bridge pins.







The ebony pyramid bridge was used until 1930, though it has been revived for models such as the new version of the Ditson 111.


This pyramid bridge is on an early 1930 OM-28.


The 1930 pins were solid white with round heads and small black dots.






Less expensive Martins had a rectangular bridge in the 1920's with plain wings rather than the more expensive pyramids.   The Style 18 and lower typically have plain black pins.


1926 00-18





 


Among the first of the Martins to have the belly bridge were the 18 style tenor guitars.

The black pins of the period have the same round shape as the white pins.



1931 0-18T Tenor guitar.






 

The OM-45 DeLuxe was the only cataloged Martin ever offered with an inlaid bridge, though these were common on many Chicago guitars.


Style 45 guitars of the period had white pins with abalone dots.

 
 




Style 28 pins became slotted in 1945, having a tortoise "red eye" dot until 1966,

...and a black dot thereafter.

While the Style 21 had moved to the belly bridge in 1930, Martin revived the old style plain wing rectangular bridge for the "New York" Style 21 models of the 1960's.

The style 21 typically had black plastic pins with white dots.

Style 21 pins became slotted in 1943.

 





The following replica pins are produced by my friends at Antique Acoustics in Germany, and available from Elderly Instruments:

IVORY BRIDGE - 1910's - Fossil ivory with pearl dot, authentic non-slotted.
7.65 mm head diameter, 5.5 mm cone diameter & 3 degree taper.

STYLES 28, 40, 42 & 45 - 1920-1930 - Ivoroid with black dot, non-slotted.
7.65 mm head diameter, 5.5 mm cone diameter & 3 degree taper.

STYLE 45 - 1931-1942 Non-Authentic - Authentic in shape, but not material and dot size (see set AAPS1-P20 for authentic set). Ivoroid with small abalone dot, non-slotted.
8.1 mm head diameter, 5.6 mm cone diameter & 5 degree taper.

STYLE 45 - 1934-1942 - Vintage cream with large abalone dot, non-slotted.
8.1 mm head diameter, 5.6 mm cone diameter & 5 degree taper.

STYLE 28 - 1931-1939 - Ivory white with black dot, non-slotted.
8.1 mm head diameter, 5.65 mm cone diameter & 5 degree taper.

STYLE 28 - 1931-1939 - "Aged" cream with black dot, non-slotted.
8.1 mm head diameter, 5.6 mm cone diameter & 5 degree taper.

STYLE 28 - 1939-1945 - Ivory white with black dot, non-slotted.
7.75 mm head diameter, 6.1 mm cone diameter & 5 degree taper.

STYLE 28 - 1945-1966 - "Aged" cream with tortoise dot ("red-eye"), slotted.
7.58 mm head diameter, 5.58 mm cone diameter & 5 degree taper.

STYLE 21 - 1920-1930 - Black with ivoroid dot, non-slotted.
7.65 mm head diameter, 5.5 mm cone diameter & 3 degree taper.

STYLE 21 - 1939-1942 - Black with ivoroid dot, non-slotted.
7.75 mm head diameter, 6.1 mm cone diameter & 5 degree taper.

STYLE 21 - 1943-1970's - Black with ivoroid dot, slotted.
7.6 mm head diameter, 5.6 mm cone diameter & 5 degree taper.

STYLE 17, 18 - 1920-1930 - Plain black, non-slotted.
7.65 mm head diameter, 5.5 mm cone diameter & 3 degree taper.

STYLE 17, 18 - 1931-1939 - Plain black, non-slotted.
8.1 mm head diameter, 5.6 mm cone diameter & 5 degree taper.

STYLE 17, 18 - 1939-1942 - Plain black, non-slotted.
7.75 mm head diameter, 6.1 mm cone diameter & 5 degree taper.

STYLE 15, 17 - 1939-1942 - Plain "aged" cream, non-slotted.
7.75 mm head diameter, 6.1 mm cone diameter & 5 degree taper.

STYLE 15, 16, 17, 18 - 1943-1970's - Plain black, slotted.
7.6 mm head diameter, 5.6 mm cone diameter & 5 degree taper.

STYLE 15, 16, 17, 18 - 1943-1970's - Plain black, non-slotted.
7.6 mm head diameter, 5.6 mm cone diameter & 5 degree taper.





Headstock Buttons



Through much of the Nineteenth Century, Martin guitars with the optional ivory tuning "pegs" also included a peg or button the back of the headstock, sometimes made of ivory, but often made of horn.




Headstock with matching horn pin.







Style 42 headstock with ivory pin.


1894 Martin 0-42







End Pins


  Most Martin guitars have an end pin on the lower bout made of the same material as the bridge pins.


c. 1855 2-23
 
 

 
 

 
1850's 2-24
 
 




1840's Spanish Martin with pearl diamond rosette.








Martin 1919 0-45
 
 






The end pin is sometimes made of horn, matching the button of the same material on the back of the headstock on guitars with optional ivory pegs.


1896 Martin 2 1/2 - 42






1893 Martin 2-34






1899 Martin 0-28






c. 1870's Martin 2 1/2 - 26







The "horn" Martin end pins are made in two pieces on an ivory shaft.





Back Pins


The earliest Martins sometimes have end pins on their backs, rather than on their end strips.  These are seen on some of the earliest Martins, such as this Martin & Coupa.






After the earliest years, the back pin is most often seen on Style 20 Martins.
 

c. 1860 2.5-20
 



 


I have several Style 24 Martins, including two very similar early ones. The one appearing on the cover of the Gura book has a cedar neck and a standard end pin.

The other, also X braced but with an ebonized neck and ice cream cone heel, has a back pin.

My Martin & Coupa also has a black neck.

The back pins do not appear on Martins with strap pins on the headstock, which all have cedar necks.


This leads me to believe that the back pin was associated primarily with ebonized neck Martins in the 1840's, and was not seen on the "Spanish" Style Martin with cedar necks..

By the mid-1850's or 1860, the back pin appears to have become a regular feature of the ebonized neck Style 2 1/2 - 20, and also of those few Style 24 having an ebonized neck.


Some early Martins, usually high end presentation guitars, have no end pin at all.



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