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Meet Dick Boak and Richard Johnston to talk about the history of Martin Guitars

Boak and Johnston co-authored the new books Martin Guitars: A History and Martin Guitars: A Technical Reference and in doing so, uncovered new information about the history of C.F. Martin and Co.

In this forum environment, we invite you to engage with the authors of those books and ask questions about the research that went into the project, some of the new facts that are presented both in the books and in our story, and the long process of writing the books.

Tags: discussion, event, guitars, history, martin

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Why does my beautiful HD-35 have a three piece back?

Why does literature from Martin on my 2005 HD-35 list the neck material as "Select Hardwood" instead of the type of acutal wood?

Thanks,
Robert John Cook
Hi Robert
The reason your HD-35 has a 3-piece goes back to the mid-1960s, when Martin introduced the D-35. At the time, the company was using Brazilian rosewood for the backs and sides of ALL its rosewood guitars (those in Style 21 and higher). But supplies of Brazilian rosewood were running out, and the size of the rosewood logs Martin was able to get were smaller. The solution was to introduce a D model with a 3-piece back, so the company could make a big guitar from smaller rosewood logs. At that time, Dreadnoughts represented a vast majority of Martin's guitar sales.
On the neck wood issue, I believe that in 2005 all HD-35 models still had genuine South American mahogany necks, although Martin started using Spanish cedar for necks on lower models like the DM in 1999. South American mahogany trees have been so extensively harvested that this species, like Brazilian rosewood, will probably be on the endangered species list in the next few years. Spanish cedar, btw, is a wood Martin used for necks on its guitars up until around 1916, when it began to use mahogany. Martin also uses cherry for necks, and has used other woods as well, which is probably why it now prefers to list the neck material as "select hardwood" rather than the actual species.
I play an HD 35 as well as a D16. They are both awesome. Many players have at least one rosewood and one mahogany model. I also have a mahogany S O uke.
Looking forward to the discussion today, Richard and Dick. Thanks so much for joining us.

Community members, if you haven't seen Richard's insightful story on the history of Martin Guitars and the writing of the new books Martin Guitars: A History and Martin Guitars: A Technical Reference in the July 2009 issue of Acoustic Guitar yet, check it out here.
Martins are the Best sounding guitars peroid
Robert,

Because of increasing difficulties with the availability of genuine mahogany and the likelihood that mahogany will be further restricted by CITES, a decision was made to specify "Select Hardwood" for the neck wood, thereby giving greater flexibility to production to use whatever species is currently available. Typically, the HD-35 will have either genuine mahogany or Spanish cedar (often with glued headstock wings) for the neck these days, though it may be necessary to add other species like African "mahogany," naytoh or sapele in the future. I have tried to champion calling out the exact species that appears as the neck wood, but the problem is that if changes occur due to availability and we put the new species in the specs, people with instruments that precede the change will get wrong information. Unfortunately, it's more complicated than it appears, hence "Select Hardwood." I wish there were a better way!

dick boak
Mr. Boak & Johnston
It is wonderful to finally be able to meet ya's! Frank Ford is one of my Master Repair instructor luthiers that came to Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery. The designs "Modified X Brace system" was used as the original model from Martin Guitars. The first Jumbo Acoustic Electric design prototype I hand built under the guidance of William Eaton, John Reuter, Joe Vallee, Robert "Mudd" Mazzulo. Rick Turner also came in to do master workshops with Frank Ford at Roberto-Venn what amazing people and an incredible experience I had in learning the art of luthiery in Arizona... The two guitars i built have opened doors to wonderful opportunities and experiences. Including putting my guitars in the hands of some of the worlds greatest known guitarists. They all had nothing but the greatest compliments to give me, and look forward to future prototypes from me asap! Real life circumstances have curtailed me from being able to do efficient production. Although I still slowly make one part at a time entirely by hand in my basement in Pittsburg Kansas. So I have not given up :o)
I personally have taken an expedition to the Tropical Evergreen Broadleaf Lowland Rainforest of Peru and it was an incredible experience!!! You better believe i swung off a vine hanging from a banyan "mahogany" tree!!! I was part of a group from several Universities while I attended Pittsburg State University. This area was near Iquitos where the Napo "Blackwater" and Amazon Rivers merge. Unbelievable diversity in animals, insects, trees and plants living on plants living ontop of those plants!!!! Now that I am more mature and strongly environmentally active and aware. I would love to be able to take another trip to contribute to some sustainable practice of planting new mahogany, jacuranda, and many more species in the rosewood "dalbergia" and mahogany "acacia" family. This would help the environment at the same time as helping the luthier community as well as help supply a sustainable source for the demand. I have friends with private land in Costa Rica as well as Hawaii and South America/Mexico. So many possibilities but Political red tape is getting very thick and harder to cut through...
I think it would be great if more guitar makers, and even players, would do less complaining about the increased prices and restricted availability of their favorite guitar woods and instead would become more active in preserving rainforest habitat, and other environments, where those disappearing species originate.
No kidding! A lot of it i think comes from a nearly inexhaustable lust of "traditional" tonewoods and relentless drive for their musician idols sound.... Well what would the world be without rock n roll? te se ra se ra, but! It all starts with people like us who are aware of what needs to change and actually walking the talk, being the change that we want to see in the world! Hmmm was that M. Ghandi who said that? We can do it, and it will take time! The good changes are already becoming more evident for the betterment of all those who breathe air. Lets keep it clean for our future childrens children <3 Namaste' _/\_ God bless
P.S.
Where in Heavens name is our buddy Frank Ford! His knowledge and expertise would be such a great addition to the acoustic guitar community here too!!! LoL
Frank is teaching at the Roberto Venn school in Phoenix this week, he'll be back on Friday.
exactly right!

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