Borough of Nazareth in Lehigh Valley with Martin Guitar
Video released on: June 7, 2011
Tracy Warner: Hello, welcome to this edition of Lehigh Valley Visions, a video podcast highlighting local attractions. I’m your host Tracy Warner. Today we’re taking a behind the scenes tour of the CF Martin Guitar company in Nazareth. This company has been turning out world-famous guitars for over 170 years, and they’ve been played by some of the music industry’s most elite members. Our guide for today’s tour is Dick Boak, Director of artist relations. Dick, what is the history of Martin guitar?
Dick: Well Martin is interwoven with American culture, and American music, world music for that matter, since 1833, when we were founded. CF Martin came to the United States. Set up shop in Nazareth in 1839. We’ve been here ever since, building the best guitars in the world.
Tracy Warner: How Long has Martin Guitar been offering a behind the scenes factory tour?
Dick: Ever since 1964, when this building was constructed. But, since the new visitor center and museum were buil, we’ve been getting tremendous visitation from all over the world.
Tracy Warner: What days of the week are the tours offered?
Dick: Tours are offered Monday through Friday, between 11 o’clock in the morning and 2 p.m. in the afternoon.
Tracy Warner: And the tour is still free?
Dick: Free tour, unless it’s a group, you’ve got to prearrange that.
Tracy Warner: What precautions should visitors know about for they take a tour of an active factory?
Dick: Well, we want them to wear closed toed shoes, and stay within our yellow lines, and that’s pretty much it.
Tracy Warner: Sounds exciting, I’m looking forward to it, Dick. Can we get started?
Dick: Let’s go.
Tracy Warner: All right.
Dick: I’ll show you around.
Undoubtedly, Larry [inaudible 00:01:43] a is one of the best benders of guitar sides in the world. He’s been doing this job for more than 42 years. The irons are heated to about 400 degrees, and Larry’s bending the wood across the hot irons and then checking repeatedly against the template to make sure that the shape of the guitar is perfect. This is a D-28, this is the workhorse of Martin guitars. You can see that the bent sides have been glued to the front and rear blocks, and now the ribbon lining which is critical to the sound is being glued in using this really high-tech process of close pins.
I’m holding a completed guitar body that’s been carefully prepared for the binding or decorative edge. The first step is to glue the binding on using masking tape. After that’s done, the binding is wrapped using a mummified cloth tape. This is how we clamp it up over overnight for drying.
Tracy Warner: Dick, I understand that the neck fitting phase of the guitar’s manufacturing is very precise. Why is that?
Dick: There’s so many compound angles on the dovetail joint of the neck. It’s almost incomprehensible what to do to fit this down in order to center it, or pitch it back so that the neck is perfectly playable. It’s just, I think one of the hardest jobs there is in all of the guitar making.
Tracy Warner: What is she doing here?
Dick: She’s setting the neck into place, checking it for centering, and now checking for the pitch of the neck, which is crucial to the string height. That will make the guitar play comfortably. What’s kept Martin successful is a tremendous marriage between technology and hand craftsmanship.
You can see that here with the polishing robot, as opposed to the traditional method of polishing by hand by using a lambswool bonnet. After the tuning shims and neck have been installed onto the polished body, then it’s time for the bridge to be glued. After the bridge is glued down, then this is the last step before the guitar can be strung and tuned.
Tracy Warner: Well Dick, we’ve made it to the final inspection stage of the guitar is manufacturing. Tell me what they’re looking for at this stage?
Dick: Well, the final inspectors are stringing and tuning the guitar, putting the pic guard on, and getting the strings adjusted for perfect playability and then checking every square inch of the instrument for perfection. After that point, it’s ready to go out to music stores and musicians. We keep all of our best guitar players back here, and that’s what George is. George, here you go.
Tracy Warner: Well, I’d love to hear the guitar played. George would you mind?
Well, we’ve made it to the gift shop at Martin Guitar. What kind of souvenirs can a visitor take home from here?
Dick: Well, after the tour you can pick up, strings, books about Martin guitars, T-shirts, , sweatshirts, hats, anything that has anything to remotely do with guitars, we have it.
Tracy Warner: I heard that there’s a room here where people can play a Martin guitar before they leave.
Dick: A great pic and parlor were you can play guitars you’d never ever get a chance to play in music stores.
Tracy Warner: Would you show it to me?
Tracy Warner: Dick, which model is your favorite Martin guitar?
Dick: Well that’s a tough one, because I like all the guitars for different reasons. I love this one in the room. This is one of the Roger McGuinn signature additions. It’s a seven string, very unusual. He used it to get that very signature bird sound, just wonderful, wonderful to play.
Tracy Warner: Well Dick, the Martin Guitar museum is absolutely beautiful. I understand it’s a recent addition to your facility. When was it built?
Dick: The museum was completed in 2004, after about two years of planning. This is really Chris Martin’s vision for what he wanted to do. He wanted it to first have a place to display our incredible collection of guitars, but beyond that, he wanted to be able to tell the Martin story. We have an incredible history and legacy and the museum goes a long way in telling that.
Tracy Warner: Now, I know you’ve worked for the company for over 30 years. I bet you’ve met your fair share of celebrities.
Dick: Well, my job is mostly e-mails and phone calls like everybody else, but I do have some very special moments, and I’ve had the opportunity to meet Eric Clapton, and Johnny Cash, Mark Knopfler, Crosby Stills and Nash and Young. Just about everybody. We’ve done a lot of projects and it’s special to meet them.
Tracy Warner: Any unique stories you can share with us?
Dick: Well, I have a Willie Nelson story that I can’t share with you.
Tracy Warner: Okay, we’ll leave that as it is. Well, Dick this concludes our tour today. Thank you so much for taking us around.
Dick: Well thanks, and I hope everybody gets a chance to come here personally and see for themselves how special it is. Thanks.
Tracy Warner: I hope this review of the Martin Guitar factory tour, museum, and gift shop has piqued your interest, and that you’ll want to visit soon to take the complete one hour tour. To request a free Mark Guitar brochure, contact Lee High Valley convention and visitor’s Bureau, at one 1 800 747 0561, or visit us online at lehighvalleypa.org. Thanks for joining me for this edition of Lehigh Valley visions.