Martin Wood Grading

A reader asks for specifics about Martin wood grading.

I’ve seen it written “higher grade rosewood and spruce. But Martin does their grading solely on looks” on your website and other places. 

How do you know this is the what Martin does? How many grades of wood does Martin use?

Does it start with the Road Series being the lowest grade, then 16 series is next, then 18/28, then 35, and the 40+ gets the top grade of woods?

I read somewhere that the HD-28 had a better top than a D-28. is that correct?

Spoon writes:

It is true Martin only grades wood based on how it looks. However, the debate will remain forever as to whether visual appearance can accurately suggest what a piece of wood will sound like once it is on a guitar.

There are many who believe that perfectly quartersawn wood is not only a safer bet when it comes to long-term strength and stability, but that it is also more resonant or simply “sounds better” than flat sawn wood. Others dismiss such claims based on their own experience. And the same can be said for other visual clues from cross silking or bearclaw or haselfichte markings in spruce to quilting and other exotic figuring in tonewood like mahogany or maple.

When it comes to customer orders at Martin, for instance from the Custom Shop, wood like Madagascar rosewood used for back and sides or Adirondack spruce used for tops, receives a designation of either “Standard” or “Premium.”

According to one veteran employee deep in Martin wood lore, “Premium means we sort through all the available 7 – 8 tops to pick out the best.”

A number grade like 7 or 8 is part of the internal grading system. There are usually two grades of wood for back and sides, and eight grades for spruce tops…

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Martin Wood Grading
Wood Grading Station at Martin Factory



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