Good Day Trip from Jersey – Legendary C. F. Martin Guitar Factory and Museum

C.F. Martin Guitar Factory

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Two hours from Manhattan.  Drive across Jersey & just over the line into Pennsylvania is the sleepy little village of Nazareth – its claim to fame?  The C. F. Martin Guitar Factory & Museum. Housed in the same building it has been since 1859, the factory had already been in business 25 years in another location in Nazareth. Eric Clapton, John Mayer, Johnny Cash, Tom Petty – a short list of guitar players who are Martin aficionados.  It’s been hailed by some as the greatest acoustic guitar ever made.  Why not check out what all the hoopla’s about – It’s good day trip from New Jersey.  And there’s lots of lunch choices in the downtown area.  I chose the Nazareth Diner (hey, you can take the girl out of Jersey, etc.)

You can tour the factory and the museum.

The factory requires that you take a guided tour, and if you’re lucky you’ll get my tour guide, Mark Smith .  He’s worked for the company 15 years, started out doing grunt work and now leads the jewel of the factory, it’s “Custom Shop”.  He knows everything there is to know about making acoustic guitars.  His passion for Martin guitars was obvious.  The tour provides you a view of the step by step process of creating these hand-made guitars, from the wood selected to the stringing.  And by the way, Mark, has met a few guitar legends in his day – from the Rolling Stones,  John Mayer – they’ve hung out and chatted him up in the custom shop.

All of the guitars are made mostly by hand, there have been a few modernizations through the years with machinery, but the company is “obsessed” (Mark’s word not mine) with quality control, and the factory is pretty picky when it comes to choosing the right workers – candidates don’t make the cut if their colleagues don’t think they’ve got the right stuff to be guitar makers.  The custom shop though is different – and expensive – but those are completely built by hand by a handful of the best and more experienced craftsman from C.F. Martin.  I was amazed at some of the most expensive guitars that are created in the custom shop – it’s all about the wood.  The rarest and what many call the finest type is Brazilian rosewood – this can cost you $25,000 and upwards.  Don’t fear, this isn’t the only wood Martin uses – there are models for a moderate price.

The Museum displays the history of how the original Mr. C. F. Martin  came to build guitars in a sleepy little village in Pennsylvania.  The highlight of the museum is its guitar collection – original “first editions” of some of its innovations throughout the years and how they were inspired.  Probably the most fun are viewing the famous “signature series” models – Johnny Cash, Elvis Presely, Mark Knopfler.  All reproductions of famous custom Martin guitars loved by the artists.

There are some beautiful one of a kind historic models, such as the jewel encrusted 1,000,000th model made by the museum last year.  The inlay has to be seen to truly be appreciated.

It’s good to take advantage of what’s cool in around NJ & a day trip out the Martin Guitar Factory & Museum, especially if you’re a guitar fan (I’m not, but my husband is & he really, really loved it) – is a time well spent.


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