CD-ROM Box Cover: C.F. Martin Factory Tour

Welcome to Dansm's review of the C.F. Martin & Co. Interactive Factory Tour CD-ROM! This page is not designed as a plug for Martin's CD, it is merely an honest review of the CD from an acoustic guitarist who owns a Martin instrument and who has never seen how guitars are constructed. I will be up-front with you guys: Martin gave me this CD for free, understanding that I would put up an honest review on my page. But I did it to learn more about how guitars are constructed and to provide this information along with images to the web. So I hope you like what I have done!!!
C.F. Martin & Co.
Interactive Factory Tour CD-ROM


Produced and Distributed by G2G Productions, Inc.

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CD-ROM Introduction The CD took me about 40 minutes to go through the first time. The introduction is well done and makes me envious of the guitarists who can really play. The intro basically states the history of the company and contains a video interview with the current C.E.O., C.F. Martin IV. Once past the intro, the main screen pops up. You can choose either a guided tour or to explore by yourself. I had a small problem with the interface at first, but once I played around for about 30 seconds it became clear. Here is a low-res screen shot of the interface. The actual screen is set at 640x480 resolution (for all you poor people with 14" monitors, I guess). As you can see, it is well laid-out, with text appearing on the left and graphics shown on the right. There is also a narrator, who basically reads the text. At times, videos are also played on the right side of the display.

The Factory Tour travels in a logical direction--from choosing the wood to finished product. It seems to travel quickly at times and more slowly at others, but seems to provide a good overview of everything. The main segments included are listed below: It seems much easier to use the guided tour, since it leads you directly through the CD, while in "Explore" mode you must continuously select your next destination from the main menu. However, if you want to jump to a later segment, Explore mode is much easier.
Shaping the Body Sides One of the more interesting parts of the CD was the segment on shaping of the body sides. Martin uses two methods: either hand-shaping on heated irons (as depicted at right) or automated shaping on a hydraulic press. The basic idea is to heat the mold up (in some case to 430F) and bend the wood slowly around it. The heat allows the wood to keep it's new shape and prevents it from breaking. As you can see at right, the craftsman shapes the guitar until it fits perfectly along the pattern lying on the table. Other patterns for other guitar models are lined up along the left wall. This photo is from a video of side shaping. The sides are then joined together at the front and back by blocks of wood.

Carving Scalloped Bracing My favorite part of the disc was the craftsman hand-carving the scalloped bracing on the underside of the top. The photo at right is a screen shot from this video. In case you are wondering: scalloped bracing is a style of bracing invented by Martin in which the braces are actually carved out to reduce weight while maintaining strength. I was surprised by how much hand-craftsmanship went into these guitars, but was also surprised by some of the steps which were done by machine. I do wonder, however, whether all the hand-crafted stuff is still handcrafted in the lower-line models, like my D-1. The basic procedure is this: after the top and back have been glued together, the braces are attached and carved as shown at left.

Fitting the Guitar Top The final part of body construction is fitting the top and back to the guitar, as shown at right. Adding Frets to the Fingerboard After the top has been glued, the neck is fitted, removed, and passed on for final work. This includes final sanding, adding the fingerboard, and implanting the frets, as shown at left. The body and neck are then lacquered, polished, and joined together. The guitar is strung and passed along for setup. After setup, the guitars are set on a rack to settle for 14 days, when they are played again and setup once more. They are shipped to stores worldwide and bought by people like you and me! And boy do they sound wonderful once you get them home! I was impressed by the care and craftsmanship that goes into each Martin guitar. It seems like they care about their products, unlike a company that sends wood down an assembly line and it comes out as a guitar.

My opinion: a very interesting disc with a good interface and plenty of photos. I do believe that it is too short and should have more content (though I am unsure what more could be added; perhaps more videos). The videos are really interesting and highlight some of the more visually interesting parts of guitar-making. Martin has made a good effort to include every part of guitar-making (as far as I can tell). If you own an acoustic guitar (especially a Martin) and want to learn more about the construction of your instrument, you should check this disc out. The price is pretty reasonable (the other disc I reviewed cost $40). Remember, I got this disc free and may be biased in judging whether it is a good value or not. Don't buy this if you are interested only in electric guitar construction, or if you don't love playing a beautiful guitar. Enjoy!
The Martin Guitar Company
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Page 1997 Daniel E. Smith. Last updated 8-8-97.
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