Each person in the custom shop plays a role in constructing the guitar. Some specialize in neck carving, fretting, neck fit, etc. But who actually puts the bodies together? Meet Chris and Mike, whose workbenches look like they’re straight out of the 1930s. These guys use a lot of old-school methods that have been proven tried and true when it comes to getting that pre-war Martin sound. Most days Chris and Mike can be found working on one-off customs or special runs like the Authentic Series.
Mike began working at Martin Guitar in 2006 in the pre-finish department. Mike quickly became the go-to guy in the department for all things pre-finish. After earning a job in the custom shop, he became the go-to guy for all things neck related. Mike basically starts with a baseball bat of a neck and, with his draw knife and files, shapes it into the correct profile. He’s also one of the few people who install bar frets. After mastering the neck, Mike moved onto the body and currently builds some of the most sought after guitars out there.
Mike’s marking out the bracing on a 000-30 Authentic 1919. He’s getting set up to tuck and carve the braces to totally mimic a particular 000-30 from 1919. This guy basically starts from scratch, or should I say sticks. These braces will look much different once he’s done.
Chris started at Martin Guitar in 2005, working on X-Series instruments. After learning most of the department’s jobs, he moved on to working on Standard Series instruments. From sanding the lacquer finish in between coats to building the bodies of D-45s, Chris’ resume then landed him a job in the Custom Shop where he apprenticed with some of the most skilled craftspeople in the building.
Chris is in the midst of gluing a top on a D-18 Authentic 1939. When you work with hide glue you have to move quickly so it doesn’t dry on you. But it’s worth it… hide glue dries like glass and in terms of sound transfer, it doesn’t get much better! Chris has pocketed the ribbon so that the braces tuck right in there like a puzzle. Everything touches. These little things add 5% here and 7% there but it all adds up to a superior sounding guitar.
Chris and Mike get pleasure from working on the most elite guitars to come through the shop. Chris is checking out the inside of this D-200 Deluxe, making sure everything’s tight and centered. Don’t get nervous Chris, it only retails for $150K! All the stops are pulled out for this one. These guys are used to handling exotic woods like this pre-CITIES Brazilian Rosewood.
Emily has worked at Martin Guitar for 10 years. She has been cross-trained in every aspect of guitar building and currently serves as the Martin Guitar Custom Shop Administrator. You can also hear more from her on Dear Emily an advice column that will appear bi-monthly on the Martin Guitar Blog.