Guitars are another long-time fascination of mine. It began when my folks got a piano and my sister started lessons. I must have been jealous because Mom and Dad bought me a Harmony Guitar (but no lessons!). I learned a lot with it and kept it for over 30 years. I finally sold it at a garage sale sometime in the late 90s – wish I hadn’t.
When people ask, I usually say that I “play at” guitar. I think the small amount of natural talent I have comes to me from my Mom’s side of the family. Her father played in a band on the radio in the 1930s.
Granddad Harrison’s Band, about 1939. He’s the one in the middle with the fiddle.
Anyway, Martins are a sort of ‘holy grail’ for guitar players and I wanted to visit. Since we were already in Pennsylvania, I talked Lynn into stopping by the C. F. Martin & Co. Factory in Nazareth. They have a wonderful behind the scenes tour and I signed us both up.
Ed, outside the Martin Guitar Factory. Lynn said I looked like a kid in a candy store!
We got there a little early and spent some time in their museum. It’s interesting to see guitars that many of my favorite musicians played. Martin started in 1833 and their collection of memorabilia and more than 200 instruments show off the history and timeline of the company.
The factory tour itself was wonderful and lasted about two hours. Our tour guide (Ben) was the retired plant manager. He certainly knew a great deal about how they’re built.
Panorama from a walkway overlooking the factory
The first thing I noticed walking in to the factory was the delightful aroma. I won’t soon forget the smells of all the wood being worked.
I built a guitar (from a kit) once, so I’m familiar with how they go together. But seeing the factory in action, with its blend of hands-on craftsmanship and modern machinery / robots was spellbinding.
Using machines on some pieces (e.g. necks) increases the accuracy and precision of the parts and fit. And they can apply finish and polish without exposing humans to the fumes and dust.
There’s still a lot of hands on work, especially in their custom and Retro Series guitars.
Almost done – these are waiting to be strung up and tested
They’re very photo friendly on the tour. They don’t want you making any video, but photography is fine, except for a couple of locations (they’ll let you know). The light is pretty good inside. I used ISO 400, f/1.8 – f/2.8, and my shutter speeds varied from 1/13 sec. to 1/200 sec. You’ll need to be careful if something’s in motion, but otherwise image stabilization should take care of the slower shutter speeds in dimmer light.
The 1833 shop is next to the museum and sells Martin branded items. And their “Guitar Maker’s Connection” is located in the old Martin Factor a little bit away from the main site. The behind the scenes tour is $25, requires a reservation and begins at 9:30. Highly recommended if you’re anywhere nearby. Check Martin’s site for more details.
I have more photos from our tour in this album on Flickr and more from Pennsylvania in this album.
Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go play your guitar – or make some photos!
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