Day 9: Touring The Martin Guitar Factory & Museum

Martin & Co. produces some of the world’s finest guitars, and in 2008 celebrated its 175th anniversary as the oldest surviving maker of guitars in the world. When I think of a company like this one, I envision a great factory in some big city that can’t be seen by a peon like myself. Yet, it’s crazy that all this time, the Martin Guitar Factory and Museum has been just around the corner. I mean, I knew it was there, but I guess I just didn’t give it as much credit as it deserved. I just thought of it as a small factory where you could see how a guitar was made and blah blah blah let’s move on to the Crayola factory. Well, after my experience today, I must say that I want to boast to everyone I pass on the street that I just saw the Martin Guitar Factory where they make the Martin guitars and I am practically a celebrity. It was just that awesome.

I was a little nervous going into this visit because I was going by myself and I didn’t want to look like a total dork not having a friend. “Kayak for one!” (Cameron Diaz, The Holiday) Unfortunately, I had no choice and hoped it wouldn’t be awkward.  They have 1-hour-long factory tours at regular intervals from 11 to 2:30 on the weekdays, and I would be arriving after 2. I didn’t want to be that person, who shows up right before closing, but I was desperately hoping they would still be doing a tour at 2:30 and that I wouldn’t be the only one on it.  When I got there I hesitantly asked the receptionist if there was another factory tour for the day, and got a yes! My excitement was somewhat put out when she then asked, “Is it just you?” I wanted to scream, ” YES! AND THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT! I HAVE FRIENDS!” Instead I just replied with a firm and pleasant ‘yes’.

As I stood in the lobby area waiting for them to page me for the tour, the receptionist asked me if I played the guitar and pointed to the ones on the wall, telling me they were all ready to be played. Hah! She didn’t know what she was asking. I decided I’d leave her ears in peace and make a fool of myself another day. I then wandered into the museum. This was wonderful. I love museums. I always forget how much I love them until I enter one. This museum was small and dimly lit. But what it lacked in grandeur was made up for by ambiance, as a feel of greatness hung in the air and touched all those who entered. The walls and center of the room were lined with cases filled with old instruments and pictures telling stories of great legends that once graced us with their music accompanied by a Martin & Co. masterpiece. It also displayed the 1 millionth guitar made by Martin & Co.! This guitar was incredibly beautiful and well deserving of more than the pedestal upon which it spun.

My tour was called and I was prepared to walk into the lobby with confidence to go on my solo tour. Surprisingly, though, there were four others waiting for this tour as well. Phew, I had escaped what was sure to be an awkward experience. Our tour guide, Rob, gave us headsets to wear so we could all hear him clearly without him having to shout over the noise of the factory throughout the tour. And then it begun.

First we saw the different wood used to make a guitar and how it was cut and shaped into the pieces needed for the sides, back and front. We then walked around the factory and saw all the stages the pieces of the guitar went through: getting the sides ready to be attached to each other, putting the rosettes on the front, attaching all the pieces together, sanding wood down, putting the frets in, etc. It blew my mind to see how much of the process is done by hand and exactly how precise it has to be done so that the guitar sounds and looks just right. I can’t even remember all the times I was amazed.

This is the guy shaping the sides by hand!

For instance, the two sides are shaped by a machine, but there was one man there who shaped the sides by hand by heating the wood and using a heated bar. Rob told us that they make so few of this particular, small guitar that it’s not worth the money for the machine. All the rosettes are also done by hand as is many other aspects of the process. In fact, I think there were more humans there at worktables crafting pieces by hand than there machines. The factory produces anywhere from 200-250 guitars a day, and each one has been poured into, making it a true work of art in itself, without being played. It is incredible to think that this is the company that has made custom guitars for great musicians like Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton, the Beatles, and so many more.

It was truly an incredible experience seeing how these wonderful instruments are made. If you have never been, I highly recommend going (and telling me, so I can go again!)

“If I could choose what to come back as, it would be a Martin OM-45.” – Eric Clapton

 

Tomorrow, I’m going to write some letters to servicemen.

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2 Comments on “Day 9: Touring The Martin Guitar Factory & Museum”

  1. Nell Ruch Says:

    Deb, two summers ago a younger guy friend from Wisconsin came on vacation to our area. What do we have to offer? He is a self-taught guitarist…plays a classical style, very nicely.
    Russ took him to the Martin Guitar Factory and both men THOROUGHLY enjoyed the tour. They talked a lot about it!!
    I’m planning to send John your tour description.

  2. Susanna Says:

    Wow Sarah!! What a great day! I wish I could have gone with you. You made me laugh out loud at work :) Proud of your confidence!


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