Monday, May 9, 2011

C.F. Martin Guitar Factory Tour

Good morning!

I would like to start out by saying that I have been more than happy with my Martin acoustic guitars over the years, and am really fond of the D-18V that I currently have. Well, there is a real treat out there if you are a Martin fan, or even just a fan of watching things being built – the Martin factory tour.

C.F. Martin is a legendary name in the guitar world, having built guitars in the United States since 1833. For most of those years, they have produced their guitars in eastern Pennsylvania. Beautiful country, it is.

And you, my friend, can drive out to Nazareth Pennsylvania and tour the factory, and it is no lightweight crummy Jelly Belly factory tour either. You get to smell lacquer and sawdust, and watch true craftsmen at work.

As far as I can tell, Martin does not hire tour guides, and tours are led by their employees who volunteer to lead the tours in addition to their regular work. Our tour leader was super and did a fantastic job of leading our group of 12 through the plant. She was really slick and knew all of the terminology of the guitar parts and did an admirable job of explaining the technology and processes of guitar making to a bunch of laymen.

Each of us was provided with a radio headset so we could hears what she was saying, which came in pretty handy because it is a working factory and there is plenty of noise from the power tools and equipment.

On the tour we went through the custom shop, and then got an overhead view of the automated shop floor where the milling and a lot of the larger cutting and gluing processes take place. From there, we moved on and saw just about everything there was to see.

She led us all around on the shop floor, within touching distance of most of the workstations, and without any pesky Plexiglas in the way. We got to see necks being shaped, braces being glued, sides being bent, and plenty of sanding and polishing. We even got to see frets being seated and dressed and a gnarly machine that automatically drills holes in headstocks all day long.

The only part of the factory that we did not get to see was where they spray finish on the guitars, but I imagine they cannot let a bunch a yahoos such as myself in there to caper about amongst the fumes.

Though it was only an hour long, It was the best factory tour I have been on, and it was totally worth driving out from northern New Jersey for the afternoon.

Oh, and did I mention that the tour is free? Yes, free. And before or after you tour, you can tour the Martin Museum (also free), and buy stuff from their gift shop (not free). You could easily spend an hour or two in the museum. Well, I could, anyway.

Public tour hours are from 11AM to 2:30PM on weekdays, and spaces are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

Check their website before planning your trip to make sure the hours have not changed and that the factory will be open.


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