Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Music to My Ears

It has now been raining solid for a week and a half. Ok, so I am exaggerating….but when the rain is not falling from the sky, it is gray with 99% humidity, and we are covered in a fog blanket. Our rain coats are always by the door, shoes soaked, and the dog is always wet (mostly because she elects to run through the muddy puddles). We are in the foothills of the Poconos in Pennsylvania. We decided to come here for a few reasons. One, my Aunt and Uncle live here as does their daughter and her family. We are always happy to see them, get caught up, and share some laughs. Besides, my Aunt Linda promised us a trip to Jayne
We forgot to bring flowers but, obviously, someone else did.
Mansfield’s grave site, cool whip enchiladas (sounds strange but they were delicious), and cold beer. Second, we wanted to go to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area so we could enjoy some kayaking and hiking. Third, it was on our way. While we did get to visit with my family, we never made it to the Delaware Water Gap. The rain kept us away and we had to find other indoor activities.

It so happens that 25 minutes away was a guitar factory in the town of Nazareth (which is next to Bethlehem – go figure. Oh, and the town of Intercourse is not too far away. I’m not sure these all belong together). The C.F. Martin and Co. website promises free guided tours of the factory, a museum, and gift shop. Neither of us knows anything about guitars and has no idea how to play, but this sounded really fun. Little did we know that some of the biggest named stars and most revered guitar players choose Martin guitars, including Eric Clapton, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Page, John Mayer, etc.

The company was started by Christian Frederic Martin in 1833. Martin was born in Germany and veered away from the family cabinet making business to apprentice with a renowned guitar maker. The family business is now run by a 6th generation Martin and has survived wars, a depression, financial ruin, and prosperity. Prices start in the $2,000 range and go up depending on the model and type of woods. The most expensive one listed in the catalog is over $109,000 for a limited edition constructed of Brazilian rosewood.

The factory tour lasts about an hour and takes you through the entire guitar making process. From selecting the raw wood to applying the final polish, you get to see all the steps. The tour starts by showing all the different types of wood that are used. Wood planks come into the saw mill and are cut and planed according to what part of the guitar they become (i.e., the neck, finger board, bracing, etc.) Different woods actually change the sound that is produced. What impressed us most about how these guitars are made is all the manual labor that goes into them. Most of the construction process is by hand and not a machine, including planning rough cut wood, applying inlays, sanding, and polishing. It takes 3-4 months and requires over 300 steps to complete one guitar.
The inside of the guitar is rimmed with a flexible piece of wood.  That wood will provide a base to
mount the back and front of the guitar onto.  Old fashion clothes pins are used to hold it on while the glue dries.

The makings of a guitar.

The "neck" of the guitar is hand cut.  Craftsmen use a gauge to get the measurements exact.

The necks are ready to be mounted after they are cut, sanded, lacquered, sanded again, and buffed. 

After the first coat of lacquer, guitars will be sanded again, then get another coat of lacquer.
This buffing stage is one of the few robotic segments in the factory
Final products getting their neck attached.
These guitars look good but are not quite finished.  They need a final buffing, strings,
inspection and to be tuned by a well-trained employee.
The museum houses over 200 rare and vintage instruments consisting of ukuleles, mandolins, banjos, and of course guitars. The exhibits are entertaining and informative and explain the history, craftsmanship, and influence of guitars throughout the years. Outside of the museum is a “picking parlor” where visitors can take their turn playing some of Martin’s high-end and limited edition models. Our one complaint was there was not more guitar music playing in the museum and lobby but you could buy CDs in the gift shop. This tour was one of the best tours that we have taken so far and we now know a lot more about guitars.

Vintage Hank William guitar made by Martin.

Founder C. F. Martin and one of the best selling Martin guitars.

Classic Martin guitars played by musical greats like Johnny Cash and Eric Clapton.

Martin original....the 1,000,001 guitar decorated with intricate pearl inlay. 

Up-close of the pearl inlay.

Pickin' and grinin'


  1. I would love that place. The inlay was fantastic. What fun. Oh, it's Jimmy Page. Be safe and hug Otter for us.(me, two poodles and a husky)

  2. Really interesting post. I had no idea the amount of work that goes into a guitar. Great pictures too, nice to see a factory that allows you to take them.

  3. I just reread this one. What a great post. Can you imagine what the guitars in that big case are worth? Thank you.

  4. Thanks for the comments. This really was one of the most interesting factory tours because we had no idea how guitars were made.


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