One of the things I enjoyed recently was visiting the Martin guitar factory, only about 35 miles to the west from here. I had a motivation. I was thinking that not only did I want to see how Martin guitars are made, but also to get my own Martin 12-string guitar, a gift from dear, dear friends, repaired because it was cracked and breaking. Martin guitars come with a lifetime warranty, so theoretically all I had to do was take it in and have them repair it for free. So, again, while Anne was in California visiting with Amy and Matt, I called them up, and took it in. While I was waiting for them to look at my 12-string, I took a tour of the Martin factory.
All I could say for hours was, "Wow!" They hand-make every single guitar. From cutting the wood, shaping the wood, gluing the wood, sanding and varnishing the wood, every step is designed to achieve perfection. They even play every guitar when they're done, and then again a week later, to make sure they are absolutely perfect in every way - even the sound. They employ 650 people at the factory. It takes about three months to make one guitar, from beginning to end, and they produce about 250 guitars a day.
Do you mind if I show you a few pictures?Here is the station where the wood is being soaked in water, then bent and glued into the standard guitar-looking shape.After the glue dries, they glue to the inside edges with a wooden binding so they can eventually glue the tops and bottoms on. It was amazing to me that the basic clothes pin was their "clamp of choice" to hold the binding in place until the glue dried!Here are a few guitars in various stages of sanding and varnishing. Each guitar undergoes multiple sandings and varnishings, and from this point on until they are completely finished, they are never touched by human hands because the natural oils in a human hand can show up after a varnishing, and they would have to sand it down and varnish it all over again.. They have special wooden "holders" which they screw into the bottom of the guitar to assist them in handling the guitars.Here is a rack of guitars awaiting the installation of their necks!After the tour, I get the word on the repair of my guitar. It is beyond repair, so they gave me another completely brand new 12-string guitar! Having just witnessed the process and care with which these guitars are made made me appreciate so much more the Martin guitar that I now have! You can't really see the new guitar here because it's in the case, keeping warm, much like it's owner is trying to do.