By Greg Olwell
Though it began to make ukuleles prior to 1917, C.F. Martin & Company began offering ukuleles to the public in earnest 100 years ago. To celebrate this centennial , Martin is kicking off the anniversary celebration with two special models, the Style 1 Centennial and the Style 3 Centennial. Martin will be making 100 of each, making them instantly collectible.
Though these ukuleles celebrate the company’s long ukulele-making heritage, they are not replicas of past instruments. Instead, these modern renditions were created to celebrate the little instrument that helped keep the lights on during some lean years.
Like all modern Martin soprano ukuleles, these instruments have 17-fret fingerboards. In earlier eras, Martin used 12-fret fingerboards on its lower-end ukuleles, saving the extended fingerboard for its high-end Style 3 and Style 5 models. The Style 3 Centennial is built using genuine mahogany for the body and neck and includes the distinctive body ornament used on on Style 3‘s until 1950 and the multi-stripe rosette. The mahogany headstock faceplate features a ivoroid kite-shaped inlay similar to ones used until 1920.
When Martin debuted its ukulele line, the Style 1 was the simplest, most affordable instrument in the lineup. Keeping up that spirit, the new Style 1 Centennial is plainly appointed, though traditionally the Style 1 featured a bound body, initially in rosewood then tortoiseshell celluloid (in 1936). It too has a mahogany body, though a neck from sipo (an African wood also called utile that is similar to mahogany) and a morado fingerboard.
The Nazareth, Pennsylvania maker also introduced a natural finish to its popular 0X Bamboo series, which debuted last year. These soprano ukuleles are made in Mexico using a high-pressure laminate for the top, back, and sides.
Body Mahogany body with Sitka spruce bracing
Neck Sipo with a morado fingerboard
Other features Tusq nut and compensated saddle, padded gigbag
Price $599 (MSRP)
Body Genuine mahogany with Sitka spruce bracing, ivoroid binding front and back, multi-stripe rosette, and ivoroid decoration
Neck Mahogany with ebony fingerboard, inlaid with abalone square and diamond inlays and multi-stripe center strip, kite-shaped inlay on the mahogany faceplate
Other features Bone saddle and nut, hardshell case
Price $2,999 (MSRP)
Body HPL (a high-pressure laminate) with a bamboo pattern
Neck Multi-laminate birch with fingerboard
Price $449 (MSRP)