Thursday, October 06, 2016

Thursday 13: Martin Guitars

In Nazareth, PA, the Martin Guitar Company builds guitars for those of us who like to do a little strumming.

Martins are terribly expensive guitars, though. I don't own one.

Anyway, we toured the finishing factory. It was a one hour tour and with my health issues I was a whipped by the time we finished.

What we saw was how a guitar is made.

This is the exterior of the Martin Guitar Company. It says "established in 1833" on the front there.
This cutout shows you the parts of the guitar - the top assembly, anyway.
Before a piece of wood is cut into the well-known guitar shape, it is thoroughly checked both by laser and visual inspections for blemishes or thin spots. Wood that does not meet quality standards is not used.
This is a display of how they bind the sides together, using clothespins, after the wood has been shaped in a days-long process.
Lots of guitars. They try to put out nearly 200 guitars a day.
This is what  a guitar looks like without the neck, polish, or decoration.
Our tour guide explained how the fret boards are placed on the guitar necks.

This man was inspecting the guitar for quality. The guitars are checked at every step.
These are guitar necks, which will be fixed to a guitar body. Some are fixed with machines; others by hand. The ones done by hand can take about an hour to place properly. These, of course, are custom guitars and expensive.
A display showing the guitar and how it is put together.
Guitars that have been stained and polished await additional work.
I like the sunbursts. (The reddish looking ones).
The factory was huge. It took us over an hour to tour it.
This robot polishes guitar bodies to a high sheen.
Martin also has a factory in Mexico which is making cheaper guitars. They are not made from real wood but instead are created from composite wood. I played the small one (second from the tour guide's hand - that other thing is called a backpacker) and personally found it lacking in tonal quality.

The guitars made in Mexico have an "X" in the model number and range from $429 to $879 and up. The guitar *I* would like to have (if I could find one to play first) is an OO-18 Authentic 1931 made of genuine mahogany that looks to be about the same size as the small cheaper guitar that I played. The OO-18 has a price tag of (gulp) $7,499. So there is a big difference in price between an "X" guitar and a non-X Martin guitar.

A Martin Dreadnought D-455 Authentic 1936 made of Brazilian rosewood sells for (big gulp) $59,999.  And custom guitars sell for much more than that. I suspect noted musicians routinely come in there and pay $100,000+ for specialized instruments.

More on guitars tomorrow. They also had a museum, and I will show pictures from that.


Thursday Thirteen is played by lots of people; there is a list here if you want to read other Thursday Thirteens and/or play along. I've been playing for a while and this is my 468th time to do a list of 13 on a Thursday. 


  1. Thanks. I don't know if I'll ever get to visit Martin Guitars, but now I know a lot more about them! Your pictures and your text help me feel like I'm right there.

  2. I know you must have loved this tour! :) My T13

    1. I did! It was great to see all of this.

  3. A couple hundred a day doesn't sound like much all things considered.

    1. That is what makes them so valuable. They are technically not mass produced.

  4. Interesting! I like this sort of thing. I haven't been to a guitar factory.

    1. It was quite a learning experience.

  5. Wayne Henderson guitars are coveted here. Eric Clapton has one. Arthur Connor is a Floyd fiddle maker and treasure.

    1. I suspect Clapton has tried every kind of guitar ever made.


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