1. 5 Millionth Martin
BY CHRIS KIES
In 1833, Christian Frederick Martin moved from his hometown of
Markneukirchen, Germany, to New York
City and started C.F. Martin Guitar &
Company. Five years later, Martin moved to
Nazareth, Pennsylvania, where it has been
headquartered for 173 years—and where it
has produced most of its 1. 5 million guitars.
In 1990, Martin celebrated the completion of its 500,000th guitar, an HD- 28
signed by all of their employees. In 2004,
luthier Larry Robinson spent nearly two
years designing, cutting, and applying
inlay pieces by hand to complete their millionth guitar. And for the recent 1. 5 millionth Martin, the company went with a
Leonardo da Vinci theme—complete with
a Last Supper pickguard inlay, da Vinci
artwork-inspired inlays, a Mona Lisa headstock, and a Vitruvian Man design on the
back. To complete the one-and-a-half-year
process, they turned to renowned inlay artist and luthier Harvey Leach (of Voyage-Air
Guitars) and scrimshaw engraver extraordi-naire Bob Hergert to apply their intricate
art forms to this guitar.
This historic Martin features an
Adirondack spruce top and Brazilian rosewood back, sides, and neck. The pickguard scenery and background are
crafted from jade, gray Corian, turquoise, sugulite, gaspeite, green recon,
and dark ivory. The Twelve Apostles,
Jesus, and their robes were made from
Corian, spiny oyster, and pipestone
recon, while skin tones were crafted from
walnut-tree particles. All of the faces were
engraved by hand by Bob Hergert.
The bridge and the neck inlays depict
images found in da Vinci’s notebooks.
The headstock uses Corian, malachite,
jade, chrysocolla recon, green acrylic, and
spiny oyster. “One of the great challenges
of doing the Mona Lisa was recreating
the mysterious swirling background done
by sfumato, which da Vinci described as
“without lines or borders, in the manner
of smoke or beyond the focus plane,’” says
Leach. “I cut each tiny section from alternating patterns. I do this—rather than cut
all from the same spot—so that the lines
in the material will be different from piece
Detail photos courtesy of C.F. Martin & Co.
Photo by Joe Coffey
Photo by Harvey Leach
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to piece.” Mona Lisa’s skin is cut from fossilized ivory, and her dress and shawl are
derived from walnut.
Each gold tuner was handtooled by
Tara Mitchell to mimic da Vinci’s notebook sketches. The process took more
than 100 hours in all.
The figured Brazilian rosewood on the
guitar’s back matches the Vitruvian Man’s
wavy locks. “He was cut from a piece of
Corian called chamois, which had just the
right look of the old parchment of the
original drawing,” says Leach. “The actual
inlay is made of only 10 pieces, which just
happens to be the same amount used to cre-
ate Jesus’ feet on the pickguard.”