Specialty Products &
Overall Winner

Name: C.F. Martin & Co. Inc.
Nazareth, PA
Year Established: 1833
No. of Employees: 600+
Shop Size: 190,000 sq ft
Specialty: Guitars and other stringed instruments.

The run of Martin’s D-50 Deluxe guitar is limited to no more than 50 special guitars, says the company. Each guitar is individually numbered and signed by Chairman and CEO C.F. Martin IV. Martin says, “Since [the D-50 Deluxe guitars] are so costly and rare, we keep tight control on the parts and materials that go into [them]. They are stored in a locked cage in our acclimating area, and we inventory them often.�

Ornate Elegance and Beauty String the Heart Along

A first edition D-50 Deluxe guitar is the overall winner in this year’s Design Portfolio Awards.

By Lisa Whitcomb

Some people may think that a guitar is just a guitar the world around. But the D-50 Deluxe guitar from C.F. Martin Co. Inc. certainly dispels that belief. Martin’s D-50 Deluxe is a unique instrument in the fact that it is the company’s first-ever guitar to feature an inlay on the instrument’s sides and back.

With two pairs of floral designs, called the Tree of Life, appearing on both sides of the back inlay strip and on either side of the neck heel and end piece, music connoisseurs and woodworking fans alike cannot help but fall in love with such an exquisite instrument. The guitar was top winner in the Specialty Products category and also overall winner of this year’s Design Portfolio Awards competition.

During the finishing process, occasional openings in the pearl were addressed by dropping-in lacquer and then polishing them just enough to close the gap, but not enough to create burn-through.

The guitar was crafted from many international premium woods. Chairman and CEO C.F. Martin IV says, “The sides, back, headplate, end plate and heel cap are crafted from Martin’s highest grade of C.I.T.E.S. Certified Brazilian rosewood.� Other woods used in the construction include premium-grade Sitka spruce with heavy “bearclaw� figuring that was bookmatched for the guitar’s soundboard. For the internal X-braces, Adirondack red spruce was used. Martin says the spruce was forward-shifted to a position 1 inch from the sound hole and carefully scalloped for optimum tone.

Every leaf, flower and stem of the Tree of Life, inlaid on African ebony fingerboard, was cut from colorful dark heart abalone and “painstakingly bordered with a thin band of mother of pearl. The thin pearl bordering creates a shimmering effect that is almost jewel-like in appearance against the ebony background,� says Martin. The ebony bridge and polished black pickguard were inlaid with matching Tree of Life patterns as well.

To round out the design, the company used Brazilian rosewood on a special end piece and heel cap, which also were inlaid with the Tree of Life pattern. The D-50 Deluxe was bound with grained Ivoroid throughout and inlaid with the same dark heart abalone at virtually every possible seam, says Martin. Specific areas were further enhanced with special herringbone pearl.

To complement the beauty of the wood, the company incorporated vintage -styled Waverly gold-plated brass tuning machines with vintage-styled butterbean knobs, which were individually hand engraved, says Martin. Genuine fossilized ivory was used to make the nut, saddle, bridge and end pins. “The bridge and end pins are further enhanced with star sapphire inlays and bordered in 14-karat gold settings,� he adds.

Creating a piece of musical art, which boasts beauty as well as functionality, is certainly more arduous than the genteel D-50 Deluxe lets on. “Naturally, building such an unusual instrument was not without its challenges,� says Martin. “For example, the sides were bent with the pearl already inlaid. Brazilian rosewood, by itself, poses many challenges when being bent, such as a higher incidence of warping and more possibilities for breakage. With inlays, there is a greater possibility for the pearl to pop out during the bending process,� he adds.

Furthermore, the continuous Tree of Life pattern made it difficult to locate and align the pearl-inlaid headplates and fingerboards accurately on the neck. To rectify this problem, the company established CNC-machined locating patterns to ensure the correct alignment of the headplate to the headstock and hand-picked the binding material. “There was no room for error in gluing, friezing, binding and fretting the boards,� Martin says.