Look Back at the Millionth Martin Guitar

By: Dick Boak

Such a simple number. A one followed by six zeros. Yet, that number placed on a Martin guitar suggests a long history, and an American tradition of quality instruments to musicians around the world. The C.F. Martin & Company’s millionth guitar represents so much:

  • A family’s dedication to an ideal that has endured for generations
  • An incredible 171 years of musical history
  • More than 700 craftsmen whose talents and attention to detail can be seen in every guitar
  • And countless guitar players for whom Martin guitars define their sound

So it’s only natural that the millionth C.F. Martin & Company guitar be a spectacular celebration of the Company’s history and art.

Crafted from C.I.T.E.S. certified Brazilian rosewood, Adirondack red spruce, black African ebony and genuine mahogany, Serial #1,000,000 (fittingly, a Dreadnought, one of the Martin’s most influential designs)is the most elaborate instrument in the company’s history, surpassing even the D-45 China Dragon (#700,000) and the D-45 Peacock (#750,000).

Intricate inlays of abalone, mother of pearl, sea snail, 18-karat gold, white gold and precious gems, including diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires and aquamarines, cover the back, fingerboard, headstock, rosette, pickguard and inset soundhole “rose.” Similar inlays accent the sides and neck.

The inlays feature Victorian and Baroque imagery as well as some uniquely Martin elements. Tendrils of vines and leaves frame the top, back, sides and neck, and more elaborate inlays in the same style are set into the back of the neck and the sides.

From an urn at the base of the fingerboard, a grand trellis rises and adorns the instrument. A golden eagle peers from a flourish of leaves on the headstock. The pickguard features a guitar top with Martin’s innovative X-bracing, as well as tools of the luthier trade.

Most spectacular of all is the guitar’s back. An urn near the center supports an arbor of vines and leaves on which four angels play guitars, a mandolin and a ukulele, while near the top, two more angels place a wreath on the neck of an early Martin of the sort the founder C. F. Martin Sr. made in his early years in the United States.

Framed by cascading tendrils, #1,000,000 is followed by the familiar C.F. Martin & Co., Est. 1883 logo in abalone. Near the bottom, an engraved portrait of founder C.F. Martin himself completes the inlay.

Work on the millionth Martin began in early 2002, when master inlay artist Larry Robinson submitted drawings for the various inlay elements. After selection and parts preparation in Nazareth, the various pieces were shipped to Robinson’s shop in Sonoma County, California.

Larry has just republished his great book The Art of Inlay that features the Millionth on the cover as well as the photo gallery. Both Chris Martin, CEO, Martin Guitar, and Bob Fehr of Martin’s custom shop also offered some ideas to the design.

Nearly two years of cutting the inlay pieces (by hand, with a jeweler’s saw), fabricating the designs, gluing them into carefully incised wood and flat-sanding followed. Robinson was assisted by world-class engraver Dave Guilietti, who engraved all the gold elements, as well as the angels, cherubs and a portrait of C. F. Martin Sr. on the back.

The jewels were tube set by Jeweler’s Warehouse. The various elements were returned to Martin in late 2003. The jewels were placed in their settings and the final assembly and finishing was completed in mid-December 2003, (just in time for extensive photography in anticipation of the guitar’s unveiling on January 15, 2004 at the NAMM Show in Anaheim, California). Martin had a special custom-made display case fabricated to house the instrument for the show.

#1,000,000 is definitely not for sale and will stay in the Martin Museum, but we do have the D-100 limited edition that is a very similar replica.

Is serial number 1,000,000 the ultimate C.F. Martin guitar?

Certainly it is an unprecedented museum piece and a pristine example of the guitarmaking craft. But as C. F. Martin & Co. continues to add to its guitarmaking legacy, the urge to create an even more fantastic guitar will almost certainly arise.

After all, #2,000,000 may be less than 20 years away!