For some time now, we have wanted to have a way to communicate with those who really have interest in what the Custom Shop is up to and why. Each month going forward, a Custom Shop Team member will write a blog based on subject matter they are passionate about regarding custom guitars. This will keep it interesting and informative but more importantly, give you a peek inside what we do every day. The team’s passion is expressed in the guitars we create, whether designed by you the customer or by the team itself. The desire is to share our direction with those who are as guitar crazy as we are.
'Tis the season of sharing, but to be honest, I have struggled with selecting the initial subject with which to launch this new blog. So I’ve decided to begin by going back in time to an era I believe is responsible for many of today’s desirable guitar features. In the mid-30’s, Martin Guitar’s 14-Fret D-28 began flowing out of the factory in quantities that allowed many of them to still exist today. Many of our favorite musicians own and play Martin products and much of the recorded music we have heard throughout our lives was recorded using a Martin.
What makes those old Martins so special? That’s tough to answer since we enthusiasts look and listen for different things, things that tell our brains something is special. For the sake of a short read, we’ll stick to those things most hard-core enthusiasts agree on; old Martins just sound great. Let’s face it, in their own way, they look great too. They look great because……well, it makes sense….it’s an old guitar. It shouldn’t look new. Just like your favorite flannel shirt, worn jeans, or as my son would add, ‘his favorite blankie he cuddles with’. They are comfortable and they just feel ‘right’. With the introduction of the Martin Vintage Tone System (VTS) last year, we began the journey towards finding those special features that bring an instrument closer to those old Martins. Sure, we can play a new guitar day after day and the tone gets sweeter as the guitar opens up, it is a wonderful thing. In contrast, that very first ding or scratch we get on our new guitar sends chills down our back. But slowly, year after year, that guitar takes on a look that says, ‘I’ve been around and I’ve played a lot of songs.’
Of course one can simply buy a new Martin and play it for decades, putting their own patina on it and it will eventually look and sound like an old guitar. Yeah they sound great to begin with but only sound like the old ones when time has done its magic. VTS allows us get that tone much faster but the look of the instrument still says, “I’m new.”
Sure, there are those who never want a guitar to look used and prefer pristine finishes. We get it; we like that too. However, there are many who wish they could afford to go out and purchase a 1937 D-28 but it simply would cause too much trouble at home….you know what I mean? To have a new Martin that not only sounds like an older Martin but also looks like a rare older Martin would be nirvana for many of us. Too often I receive comments from customers and dealers who express great interest in Martins that not only reach for that older Martin sound right out of the box, but they share the desire to have them look like an old Martin.
This consistent request has been received loud and clear! Being guitar nuts ourselves makes it very easy to see the attraction a guitar like this from Martin would be. Let’s face it; not many companies can produce an factory-aged guitar and it seem ‘right’. If the company has been around long enough for their products to naturally be that old, then yes, it becomes more acceptable for them to produce aged versions today. A company that has only been around for a short time has visual and mental obstacles to overcome. Does it look right to see factory-aged versions of their guitars trying to masquerade as guitars that never existed? Nobody wants to see a Rat Rod Tesla.
In 2017, the Martin Custom Shop will be producing a limited quantity of hand-aged Authentics that capture not only the sound but the look of Martin’s from the 1930’s. We have painstakingly reproduced those features that appear on our 30’s era museum guitars. As we move forward, we plan to create more versions and levels of aging on guitars through the Custom Shop. You can learn more about this process in January 2017 here.
Stay tuned each month as we open the doors to the Custom Shop and share the experience.
G.M. Custom Shop
C.F. Martin & CO., Inc.