Comparison: Small Shop D-18s

Three mahogany dreadnoughts, all inspired by the original Martin D-18s, and all taking the well-loved design in their own direction.


Jordan takes a look at three D-18s we have (or recently had) in stock in The Exchange from Blazer & Henkes, Wayne Henderson, and Jim Merrill.

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Built from their blueprint of a 1936 Martin D-18, this Blazer & Henkes Phoenix SB 18 is an authentic powerhouse dreadnought crafted using traditional methods and the highest quality tonewoods. Its Alpine spruce top paired with its two-piece mahogany back and sides give this guitar a powerful, warm, and dynamic voice, with slightly darker low-end overtones. Its vintage voice is perfectly complemented by its tortoise binding, and classic black/white rosette and purfling. This Blazer & Henkes Phoenix SB 18 authentically embodies the vintage voice and look previously only reserved for the coveted Martin dreadnoughts from the 1930s.

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For those who have immersed themselves in the world of pre-war inspired guitars, luthier Wayne Henderson needs no introduction. Having built guitars for some of the most demanding and respected players in the world, his name has been carried to the top of the scene. But really, his guitars speak for themselves. Meticulously handmade with many of the materials being self-forged, this mahogany D-18 is a testament to what doing things slow, and right, can accomplish. The sound is dry, powerful, and exceptionally clear, giving the player a true edge when facing off against other instruments. The condition is excellent with only minor signs of wear and a structure that remains as sound as the day it was made. Wayne has very little competition when it comes to true-blue guitar tone, and they don't show up very often on the market.

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Incredibly lightweight and responsive, Jim Merrill's C-18 is exactly what you hope for when picking up a recently crafted mahogany dreadnought. It combines the dry, woody, rumbling tone that pre-war guitars are loved for with modern playability and comfort. As well-suited as this guitar is to flatpicking, fingerpickers should take note, too. The set-up is easy-playing and responsive enough for the lighter attack of fingernails. (Be sure to check out both demos below!) The overall condition is very good, with a few beauty marks here and there, and the structure remains sound. Although this guitar already has the voice of a seasoned instrument, it still has a further to go on it's journey to open up and it is waiting for the right hands to take it there.


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