Saturday, August 30, 2014

C. F. Martin & Co. Guitars - Fine Wood Craftsmanship in America

I visited the C. F. Martin & Co. guitar manufacturing plant in Nazareth, PA and took the factory tour. I was very impressed and also very surprised.  For some dumb reason I had expected to see a tiny woodshop with talented luthiers using hand tools, producing a few guitars a day.  Martin Guitar certainly has talented luthiers using hand tools, many with over 30 years of experience; but this all takes place within a humongous factory that uses modern production machinery to produce several hundred guitars per day.  Sure, they use laser cutting of the wood and robots for the final sanding and polishing, but the important woodcraft, all fitting and forming, is still done proudly by hand.
I observed one craftsperson fitting the guitar neck into the body. To me, it looked like a nice tight fit, but it was obviously not up to Martin Guitar standards, or her own personal standards as a luthier.  She tapped the neck out and used a very sharp chisel to shave a tiny, paper-thin slice from each side surface. She then gave it another dry fitting before gluing. It was now perfect.  It makes me feel good to see that exacting wood craftsmanship can still exist in such a high production environment.

The guitar tops are almost always made of spruce.  The sides and back of the guitars is where the “wow” factor comes in.   Martin Guitar uses beautifully grained hardwoods like walnut, tiger maple, mahogany, sapale and rosewood.  Just gorgeous.

Many of Martin guitars are custom made and have special mother of pearl inlays.  Laser assisted, but the final inlay and fitting work is all done by hand.

If you are a serious guitar player, the Martin Guitar factory with its spectacular guitar museum is like Mecca to Moslems or Vatican City to Catholics.  I don’t have to tell you about it.  You’ve probably been there already.  If you are a wood crafter or love objects made from wood, I would recommend that you go out of your way to visit this place and take the tour.  It’s very impressive.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Dad -
I can't believe I didn't recognize this place int he photo Mom sent. Looking forward to taking the tour with you when I get into town. I know these aren't woodcrafty but somewhere witin driving distance I think we can get tours of Latrobe, Zippo, Snyders, what else?