The Martin Custom Shop’s first Madagascar rosewood guitar from 2007
A short-scale 000 with 1/4″ OM bracing
Specs include: Auditorium body size; Madagascar rosewood back and sides; Adirondack spruce top with aging toner, wood fiber rosette and fine herringbone purfling; 1/4″ Adirondack spruce braces, with Golden Era style scalloping; 1-3/4″ mahogany neck with satin finish, 30s style heel; ebony fingerboard with no fret markers; ebony 30s vintage belly bridge; bone nut and long saddle; 2-5/16″ string spacing; flamed European maple body binding; Gotoh open back pewter turners
A String of Firsts
My first custom Martin was basically an MC-18GE. It was based on the popular D-18 Golden Era, but done in an M size, with rosewood bindings, and a hand-carved neck that copied a particular OM-28VR that had an abnormally shallow profile more like the earliest prewar OM-28s than had yet appeared on a modern Martin. It took some face to face lobbying to get the go ahead on a one of a kind neck and it was quite an up charge since it meant a specific template plates had to be made, etc.
Ultimate the neck wasn’t exactly the same as the OM, and I never did quite bond with the guitar. I did however learn a lot from the experience.
I sold that guitar in England for a nice profit and used part of the cash to buy the very first Schoenberg Soloist that had been made with pearl trim. Constructed at the factory from parts made by Dana Bourgeois and T.J. Thompson, it had Brazilian rosewood back and sides with an outrageous Sitka spruce top, drenched in hazelficte patterns that went way beyond bearclaw, as it looked like fluted waterfalls across the entire soundboard. That guitar is now in the private collection of C.F. Martin IV and part of those proceeds were used to pay for my next custom.
In January of 2007, I was in the lobby of the Martin factory where their Head of Instrument Design, Tim Teel, was giving me a personal tour of the new models debuting that morning out at the NAMM show in California. I asked him if my sources were correct that Martin had decided to allow custom orders using Madagascar rosewood. He said that he had not heard of anything of the kind, and stopped a woman passing by to ask her to ask Bob Fehr to come out if he had a moment. Mr. Fehr was the long-time head of the Custom Shop at that time.
He strolled out and I asked him the same question. He and Tim looked at each other for a moment before he nodded and said they did expect Madagascar to be released to the Custom Shop. And so I asked, “Does that mean I can put in an order for a custom Madagascar rosewood Martin?” And Mr. Fehr replied by way of removing the pencil from behind his ear, taking a small jotter pad from his shirt pocket and asking, “What do you want?”
Customized to Taste
I said that I wanted a 000-18GE with a cutaway and Madagascar rosewood back and sides. He seemed pleased I didn’t ask for another custom neck.
I then asked how much more would it cost to have the guitar done in Style 28. And that led to further discussions as to exactly what version of Style 28. Ultimately I got the body inlay of an OM-28 Marquis, flamed maple binding to keep the woody motif as much as possible, and the back strip of modern Style 28 because I forgot the vintage strip is officially called “zig zag” not “Style 28. But I have come to prefer that back strip as it puts the emphasis on the tonewood, not the back strip.
I left the fingerboard blank and did not order a pickguard, so the guitar resembles a Laurence Juber signature model only with a short-scale neck. But really the guitar differs from a Juber in neck shape, string spacing, and bracing as my guitar has the GE bracing and the Jubers have the Standard/Vintage series bracing.
A good friend who happens to be a Martin dealer showed up that day and before I left they had worked out a price, and it was all signed, sealed, and ultimately delivered some four months later.
It has developed into a faithful and much loved companion and I make a point of saying hello to Bob Fehr whenever I see him at events around the Nazareth area.
I remain convinced that Martin should have been putting 1/4″ braces on their 14-fret 000s all along. They just open up the voice and make it much more responsive and resonant. Basically it is as close to a short-scale OM as is possible, since by definition an OM is a long-scale Auditorium size guitar. But the short scale makes everything so much easier on the hands.
And that is one man’s word on…
Martin Custom Shop 000C-28V
Martin D-28 1966 conversion (coming soon)