Martin 000-16 Custom

Saw this on Reverb on couldn't pass it up.

  • 000 size
  • 12 fret slot head
  • Spruce top
  • Rosewood back and sides

The 16 series is an interesting mix. This one is from the custom shop so there are probably not very many like it. At first I really wasn't sure the back and sides were real wood, but they are indeed East Indian Rosewood. Now East Indian Rosewood is nothing like Brazilian Rosewood, but it is very different from the Mahogany of all my other guitars.

Having gone the full route from a dreadnaught to a parlor size guitar I was curious if an 000 would be the sweet spot for sound, volume, and playability. I'm thinking it might be. Here is a size comparison. 

guitars Left to right, Martin 0-15, Larrivee OO-03, Martin 000-16

With all of these 12 fret guitars the body is longer, and thus has more volume (both in space and sound), than their 14 fret counterparts.

The sound is very nice with a rich bass and bell like highs. It sounds good strummed or finger picked.

I got what I thought was a pretty good deal on it because the top has some dings and scratches. A shame really but doesn't affect the playability or sound at all

As of July 2022 this is my everyday player.


Sigma DM-19

I got the Sigma in 1988. Its a Japanese Martin. I probably play this one the most. Its got a rich, full bodied sound, and it plays nice. Sigma guitars were based on standard Martin models and were inspected at the Martin factory before going to market. I had initially thought the model was DM-1B, but now believe in is DM-18. The DM stands for "Dreadnaught Model". Update 4/2021 it's actually a DM-19

The top is solid spruce, stained brown. The sides and back are laminate mahogany.

Martin has since let go of the Sigma brand and it was acquired by AMI in Germany, so the old website listing this model is no more. Here is one just like it. Wikipedia has a page for Sigma guitars.

Between 1988 and 2020 this was my only playable acoustic and I played it all the time. It has a bold sound as you would expect from a dreadnaught and very playable action. In 2020 I expanded my collection significantly with smaller guitars better suited for playing solo, but the Sigma still stands out with the biggest and brightest sound.

Sigma Headstock
Sigma label and serial number
Sigma guitar

Fender F-1030

My first guitar which I got in 1969 for about $75. Actually a re-branded Harmony H165. This guitar always sounded great but the action was rather high.Found this site which shows the Harmony H165 and this site which has this exact model. It has solid mahogany top, back, and sides. It originally had Waverly 3 on a plate tuning machines but sometime in the 70's I replaced them with some open gear Grover's. 

Eventually the neck got so out of wack that it was not playable so I added a filed down nail to the nut to raise it even more and I just play it with a slide. For a while I used a Dean Markley pickup so I could play electric slide. This worked for a few years but eventually the guitar just sat in the closet.

Over the years I took it in to a couple of guitar shops to see if it could be repaired and the answer was always "It's not worth fixing". Sure it was a cheap guitar to begin with, but it was my first guitar which I learned to play so many songs on. So it sat in my guitar closet in my garage just waiting for the day.

Then in the fall of 2019 I discovered a series of guitar repair videos on YouTube by Jerry Rosa. Jerry makes custom mandolins as Rosa Sting Works, has a bluegrass band, and repairs all manner of stringed instruments. His videos are very well done and make working on guitars approachable. So after watching him do a neck reset a couple of dozen times I pulled out my old guitar and gave it a go. Call it beginners luck but it came out really good. This guitar now plays better than ever before and sounds as sweet as ever. 

Update January 2021. Although I now have 4 other acoustics I still play this one almost everyday.

A few more links. Acoustic guitar forum and a good history of Harmony made Fenders.

Fender Guitar

Martin 0-15 Custom

I finally own a Martin guitar. There has never been any doubt in my mind that Martin sets the standard in high quality guitars. So now I have joined the club.

The story starts a little over year ago when I began my search for a smaller body guitar. I played an 00-15M at the Troubadour which renewed my love for all mahogany guitars. That guitar didn't quite fit the bill though. By then I was pretty much set on a parlor size 12 fret to the body guitar. That led me to the Teton STP-103NT which despite it's ridiculous name, is about as nice a $300 Chinese made guitar as you can get. Shortly after this is was lucky enough to get a really good deal on a Larrivee OO-03, which has mahogany back and sides, but with a spruce top.

So then this Martin 0-15 Custom shows up on Reverb. Martin hasn't had an 0-15 in their production lineup since 1961. When they were introduced in 1040 they sold for $25! The 15 series is Martin's most affordable lineup. Woody Guthrie called the 0-15 the "people's guitar". Not only is mahogany cheaper than rosewood and spruce, but these guitars are unadorned. No binding on the body or neck or fancy inlays. Of course those things don't add to the sound and the construction of the 15 series meets the same high standards as their higher priced guitars. So here is the one out of the custom shop with exactly the specs I wanted. 12 frets to the body, a shorter 24.9" scale, and a slotted headstock. It also has the sound hole closer to the waist which is supposed to be a feature of 12 fret to the body guitars, but which my other small body guitars don't have.

This guitar was part of a series commisioned from the Martin custon shop by LA Guitar Sales in 2011. I got this reply to my inquiry from Ted:

We did order a bunch of them at that time and have kept ordering them ever since. In 2011 they were 100% Honduran Mahogany, AKA "genuine" Mahogany, I have one myself from that batch. ... You have a great little guitar there so congrats on the acquisition.


Here is the full spec.

All solid  woods
Genuine Mahogany top
Genuine Mahogany back and sides
1-piece Mahogany neck
Bolivian Rosewood fretboard and bridge
"0" body size (13 1/2" lower bout) -- 12-Fret
24.9" scale
1 3/4" nut width
Mod low oval neck        
Bone nut and saddle
Satin finish
Faux tortoiseshell pickguard
Grover tuning machines
Slotted headstock

Martin 0-15
Martin 0-15
Martin 0-15 headstock
Woody Guthrie

Home made Tahitian Style Uke

After seeing Mike Hawkey's video on YouTube I knew I had to build one of these. So I did. Amateur that I am a lot of things went wrong during the build. Most notably a router mishap led to a weirdly shaped neck. You can also see where I sanded through the top ply on the plywood sound board. I will make another one and it will be better.

The strings are fishing line. I couldn't find the green stuff used on the build in the video, and had some trouble getting the right weight for the tension this high tuning creates. I ended up using 30 pound line for the high E string and 25 for the others.

It still plays as it should. The middle two strings are tuned an octave higher than a standard ukulele so it has a high ringing sound. It's supposed to be strummed very fast, but I can't do that. Its still an interesting sound that would definitely add to any ukulele jamboree.


Tahitian Style Ukulele

Allen Melbert Custom 8 String Lap Steel Guitar

I was looking at lap steels on eBay and one of these came up. I lost that auction but started a correspondence with Bob Allen who makes these in Tennessee. He made this one for me and gave me a great deal. I've got this tuned to C6.

Here is the Melbert Guitars Website

Every few months I pull this out and try to play it, but I'm not making any progress. Maybe it's the C6th tuning or maybe 8 strings is too many. I may sell it and get a 6 string lap steel.

Lap Steel 6 string

I made this one myself in February 2020. The body is Alaskan Yellow Cedar. Fretboard is hard Maple. Headstock overlay is plywood which had been the top of my cakepan banjo. Trim is Mahogany. 

My Lap Steel

Teton Concert Uke

Saw this baby sister to mt Teton guitar and had to have it. I wnted a concert size uke. This is the low end TC003 made from Mahogany plywood. It sounds good but I'd like to upgrde to the TC103 which is solid top Mahogny.

Teton Concert Uke

Teton STP-103NT

All through August 2019 I was researching small body guitars. I eventually decided I wanted a 12 fret to the body, short scale, all mahogany, parlor guitar. Problem is these things are impossible to find in local guitar stores. I even started calling around in Portland and Eugene. Then, just before labor day, I saw this Teton on for under $300. I jumped on it. Teton is a company out of Idaho. The guitar of course is made in China, but seems to be very high quality. And it is really gorgeous to look at. It has that characteristic mellow tone of a mahogany top guitar, that I really love.

  • Solid Mahogany top. Mahogany back and sides.
  • 12 fret to the body, parlor size, short 24" scale.
  • Slotted headstock.

This guitar is for me to get a lot better at finger picking. That's the goal.

Update: January 2020. Been playing this a lot. Mostly with a thumb pick nd fingers. Really liking it a lot.


Teton STP-103NT

Larrivee OO-03

I wandered into The Troubador some time in July 2019 and saw this nice Martin 00-15m mahogany guitar. This piqued my interest as I had been thinking I wanted to get a smaller body guitar than my Sigma dreadnaught. I also really like mahogany guitars. This one was a bit out of my price range so I started looking around and doing some research. I found that Bredlove, out of Bend, made a all magogany parlor guitar and they listed Bullfrog as a dealer. So I went into Bullfrog. They had lots of gorgeous Bredlove guitars but evidently they quit making the parlor model. They did have this really nice Larrivee OO-03 at a very attractive price, but still more money than I had.

So I was on the fence for about a month still looking around. Meanwhile the Martin 00-15m sold. Just before labor day I found the Teton STP-103NT on Reverb for a price I couldn't pass up. So I jumped on it. I still had it in my mind that maybe I would also get the Larrivee. A week later I was at a party with some of the friends from San Diego that first met 50 years ago in 1969. So I'm talking to Don and he slips an envelope to me and says "I'm paying you back for the money you loaned me in 1971". I was floored. It was more than enough to by the Larrivee so thats what I did.

  • Hand crafted in California. Born on  Feb 18, 2010. Serial #109661
  • Solid Sitka Spruce top and Mahogany back and sides.
  • Double O size, a little bigger than parlor. 12 frets to the body.
  • LR Baggs anthem pickup and preamp.

I think I'll be playing this for a long time.

Larrivee OO-03