Oh yeah! Martin!

Discussion in 'Other Guitars' started by duceditor, Mar 2, 2021.

  1. duceditor

    duceditor Squier-Axpert Gold Supporting Member

    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    I'm sure I'm far from alone in rejoicing with the several S-T members who have, in some cases "finally," gotten themselves a Martin. I sure do. For I wanted one for some 40 years before my Martin dream came true. And that is one reason why it, along solely with my equally lusted after Alhambra classical, tends to remains 'cased' -- something so for none of my other and rather many guitars.

    For me it goes back to the so-called "folk era" that was the mid to late 1960s.

    I wasn't at first a "folkie." And in life style I never was. But I, along with my rockin' musician wife, 'went folk' shortly after our son was born.

    That may sound odd to more than a few. Why would having a child necessitate one leaving the rock scene -- especially when there were still on the table some rather exciting prospects?

    In our case that was a standing contract (actually Jan joined the group after the contract was signed) with a major producer.

    For me/us parenting was a rather serious undertaking. Just our natures I guess, as to us most undertakings are undertaken seriously.

    But in any case we did -- we went folk. Jan sold her main rock instrument, a Farfisa organ, and for a time concentrated on what to her was secondary. Her guitar playing. (She had for a while been accompanying her solo singing on a Fender "Villager" 12 string.)

    Jan with Guitar circa 1969.jpg

    The only acoustic I had back then was a classical. Which I played as just that -- Bach and the like -- but also used with my most successful til then rock band, the Abstracts, for some numbers.


    But 'going folk' require something with a bit more "bite" so, along with a 5-string banjo, I went out in search of what to me was the ultimate "folk" guitar. A Martin D-28.

    'Twas not to be. Frankly I just didn't have the money. So based entirely on its sound and feel I got an unknown 'look alike' -- a then unheard of Yairi D-77 -- a hand made but yet available for only a bit over $300 (or in my case an even trade for my old, and much played, Starfire V electric).

    Today that Yairi is a much sought after, and very valuable, gem, but I had no way of knowing that would happen, and indeed, didn't even know for a good while that it had.

    No, my Martin lust remained. As in "some day I'm going to get one!"

    One reason I rejoice so with Eddie and others who here got a new and lovely Martin for so little is because such back then was impossible. In fact even when I finally got mine it was nowhere near the low price "bargain" that Eddie's was. That because only fairly recently did Martin figure out how to make "real" Martins with real Martin quality for so little.

    Mine when I finally got it -- just 10 years ago -- was the product of Martin taking a different approach and "solving" a rather different marketing problem in a rather different way.

    They'd tried just putting their name on foreign made geets. "Sigma" I think they were called. -Pretty nice guitars from what I hear, but never really seen and accepted as Martins. That because in fact they weren't.

    The problem that Martin had was this: Their business model was built on their guitars being sold in old school guitar shops. Those with skilled and knowledgable help that gave a lot of hands-on salesmanship and support.

    How could they sell true Martins -- ones just like those such shops sold -- at what the new market was becoming? Online stores and Guitar Center type stores that sold with low markups and offered no such support? It would have killed those small, but essential, shops.

    Today Martin does this by making true "Martins" that are built using far less expensive materials and methods while still selling classic D-28s and D-17s and the like the old fashioned way.

    Even 10 years ago they could not and so they took a different tack. One that led me to my guitar.

    What they did was make what were called -- yes, officially-- "Custom" guitars. One similar to, but not in a few ways the same as, those D models.

    Mine is such.

    "Custom"? Really?


    That's what it says on the owner's card and on the inside of the guitar itself. As here:

    Martin Card.jpeg

    But the shops gave them their own names. Names that did not appear in Martin's own catalog.

    It was a trickery of sorts. A way to placate their old dealer base -- not alienate them -- while still finding sales on through those newer type stores.

    (Continued on the next post)

    Last edited: Mar 3, 2021
  2. duceditor

    duceditor Squier-Axpert Gold Supporting Member

    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    (Continued from above)

    Those sold by the new type dealers sold for a lot less than the D types, but the differences from them were subtle and carefully chosen. Some "key" attributes (such as a neck volute) were simply left off, and the neck was mounted using a method more commonly found on a Taylor than a traditional Martin (but even this was a sort'a cheat -- as the internal "bolt" was just actually in use there until the glue dried, and the dovetail, while simpler than that of a traditional Martin, none-the-less was real and effective).

    But to counter these cost constraints they offered some pluses --some payoffs. All solid woods. Ebony boards. Gold hardware. So these Martins were, yes, "different" than the classic "D"s , but still super fine.

    Mine in one such.

    I bought it from Musician's Friend (before they merged with GC), and it was called by the store an "MMV."

    There is no official use of that name, and no official answer to how the guitar was so named, But most think it came from the roman numerals for the year Martin first made it available. MMV = 2005.

    Mine was built towards the end of the project. And although MF officially had only one price for them which they advertised (going from memory) as "regularly $2400, but now $1300". -The supposed "regular" price likely conjured from what such a guitar would cost of it were a regularly named "D" model with similar features. But in fact the $1300 (later it went as high as $1800) was fixed and never discounted.

    Well, so they said.

    I 'New Yorked' them and got them to give me a discount (15%? 20% -- I don't remember) with a bit of gentle wrangling.

    In any case I have had this "MMV" for now 10 years and it is as wonderful as I hoped it' be.

    Solid woods across the board. Solid East Indian Rosewood for the back and sides. Sitka Spruce for the soundboard.

    Martin MMV "Custom" 2012.jpeg

    The fingerboard is a particularly nice Ebony. The fretwork is perfect -- just what you'd expect to find on a Martin.

    Here it is after 10 years of regular playing:

    Martin MMV Ebony board.jpeg

    The headstock is pure Martin, except for the gold Gotoh hardware (which some really like, and others not so much) and the lack of a volute (the sharp edged bulge classic Martins have where the neck meets the headstock).

    Martin MMV headstock.jpg

    The guitar has the famed Martin "X bracing -- this, too, Sitka Spruce. Here using A-frame rails up front with a slightly forward "X" brace pattern which is one of the things said to give these guitars such a sweet top end along with the expected D type bottom.

    The bridge, too, is ebony.

    MMV Bridge.jpeg

    The guitar came with a lovely hard case. And at my request Martin sent me (at no charge) a neck adjustment tool.

    Was it worth the 40 year wait?

    Yup! She's truly a sweetheart of a guitar. And while nowhere near the steal that Eddie and others have gotten, she was a lot of guitar for the (maybe $1100 or a bit under) I paid for her back then. A lifetime wish to be kept for... yeah! a lifetime!

    Last edited: Mar 3, 2021
  3. Hoss

    Hoss Squier-holic

    Dec 20, 2009
    McGill, Nevada
    Very nice Don! My brother has the same guitar. I played it a few times. It was just as you describe...wonderful! Rich and full of that Martin sound. A treasure for sure. They don't make them any more.
    ScoobySnacker, Taurus and duceditor like this.
  4. Uncle Joe

    Uncle Joe Squier-holic

    Dec 18, 2015
    Nice Don. I agree, my Martin gets the most love around here. I went through some clips and put this together just now. Two minute montage of Martin songs recorded around the house. Love my Martin. It's really the only guitar I should own.

    Treynor, Hadronic Spin, Hoss and 5 others like this.
  5. DoctorBB

    DoctorBB Squier-Nut

    Mar 2, 2016
    Beaumont, TX
    My classic custom D or custom classic D. Don’t remember how it goes.
    C10D0254-EFCF-42C8-B516-D688309FBB22.jpeg 40248A82-576E-4395-9760-3311CFE2155E.jpeg
  6. Taurus

    Taurus Squier-Nut

    Sep 8, 2018
    North Wales, United Kingdom
    Absolutley beautiful guitar Don :) looks and plays fantastic after 10 years. While I love Taylors, this Martin is truly stunning, looks flawless and I bet it sounds flawless too.

    Ok, forget electric guitars, these acoustics look too stunning, those pictures are just flawless.
    Hadronic Spin and Caddy like this.
  7. wickedtools

    wickedtools Dr. Squier Gold Supporting Member

    May 16, 2010
    west texas
    Beautiful guitar, and love the cool stories you share here.:):cool:
    duceditor and Hadronic Spin like this.
  8. duceditor

    duceditor Squier-Axpert Gold Supporting Member

    May 29, 2014
    The Monadnocks, NH USA
    Had some free time today (Hah! As if I didn't most days!) and all these various Martin threads got me looking at what Martin is doing today.

    Seems like they are again in the midst of a model shift. And that probably explains why some here have gotten such good deals of several models. -They are now leaving (or have left) the catalog.

    No matter. Martins come with a lifetime warranty for the original purchaser and the company has always been quite scrupulous about what guitars can and will wear the Martin name.

    But still, the times they are a changin.' And some of the older models, including my "Custom" described above, are not too different from what they are making now -- except that (surprise!) the price for those can be much higher and some of the "features" less.

    The closest available now to my own seems to be this one:

    Screen Shot 2021-03-05 at 1.58.35 PM.png Screen Shot 2021-03-05 at 1.59.19 PM.png

    Similar construction and materials. Forward X bracing, sitka and rosewood. Like mine it has a "simple" dovetail neck joint although in fact I do not think the construction is quite the same. This one may be simpler yet.

    The soundboard is glossy but unlike my own on this the rest is satin.

    Oh, and like my 2012-made "custom" it has no valute on the neck. (In fact only the truly "classic" models today seem to have that.)

    This guitar does, though, have a Fishman PUP where mine is solely acoustic.

    Fretboard material is not mentioned. I suspect that means it is the manmade (but highly thought of!) material used these days on most lower end Martin models. My older one has truly lovely ebony.

    Oh, and this one comes only with a gigbag, not the hard case.

    It is interesting to see how things change -- even for a company with such a long history.

    Or maybe it is that willingness to effectively change that has enabled that history to continue.

    Last edited: Mar 5, 2021
    Hadronic Spin likes this.
  9. RegularJim

    RegularJim Squier-holic

    Dec 30, 2017
    Illiconsin, Wisinois
    Now I have to find me a Martin. Thanks for the GAS, @duceditor !
    Caddy and duceditor like this.
  10. Caddy

    Caddy Dr. Squier

    Nov 29, 2010
    Highly thought of by me (a traditionalist as you know). I would take this Richlite over the recent wood substitutes for rosewood that they are using now days on most guitars. Very, very smooth, very dark (looks much like very dark ebony (without the grain) and very hard. I have a feeling that it would take at least a lifetime to ever wear any divots in it (if it could ever be done). For anyone that likes to bend strings this stuff is as smooth as a baby's bottom.

    I really never thought that I would ever be able to get a new Martin made with all solid wood, scalloped braces, Graphtech saddle and Corian nut, perfectly setup out of the box, nice gig bag (it will get a HSC) and Pleked at the factory for under $500. And it does really have that 'Martin' sound. I can't stop playing it.
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2021
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  11. Tepid Pilot

    Tepid Pilot Squier-Meister

    Back in '64 I paid $110 in a 14th street pawn shop for my D-21, like a D-18 but rosewood instead of mahogany. Still have it, still play it.


    We've been through a lot together.

    duceditor, johnnywizzo and Caddy like this.
  12. Caddy

    Caddy Dr. Squier

    Nov 29, 2010
    Back in about 1980-81 I bought my 1978 Martin D-18 from the guitar player in my bluegrass band. Can’t exactly recall what I paid him for it but I’m thinking something just over $300. He gave me deal. Still have it and still play it some but am really not too fond of dreads, especially since my bluegrass festival days are over.
    duceditor likes this.