This guitar was a 51-year-old 12-fret classical and Tim Teel, (no relation to the lizard skin), one of C F Martin’s most experienced and finest builders, now the Director of Research and Development at Martin, rebuilt the instrument with an Adirondack spruce top that came from a 400 to 500 year old tree that was felled (by natural causes, as they say) in the Smoky Mountain National Park in West Virginia during Hurricane Opal – a Category 4 hurricane that formed in the Gulf of Mexico in September 1995. Normally the harvesting of trees in National Forests is not permitted, but due to the fact that it fell over a road it had to be moved and John Arnold, noted luthier and one of the first people to cut Adirondack “Red” spruce in the post WW2 era, was able to source the log from the salvage company and made many beautiful tops out of it. We are told that some of these tops went into the making some of the original Limited Edition Martin Clarence White model guitars which instruments have achieved fabled status.
This magnificent six-string has a nut width of 1 ¾” and a string spacing at the bridge of 2 ¼”. It was made with hand-cut pearl (actual pearl from ersters, not Ablam) including abalone on virtually very border of the body including the areas adjacent to the neck heel and end graft. It has the delicate yet traditional snowflake, diamond and cats-eye fingerboard pattern starting on the first fret; it has wood fiber purfling (not Boltaron) bordering the abalone in all locations, and grained ivoroid binding on top, back, heel cap, end graft, neck and headstock. This guitar is provided a long-scale modified V-shape neck, an adjustable truss rod, and the headstock is the original taper based upon a 1930s Martin OM-45 which was examined from the Martin Museum Collection. It has the torch inspired inlay in its Brazilian rosewood headplate, that pearl having been crafted and cut by Tom Ellis, a noted mandolin maker who owns Precision Pearl Inlay which company provides materials to Collings, Campellone and any other maker whose name starts with a “C.” Not surprisingly, we believe that Comins buys this pearl also. Impressively, it sports quarter-inch Advanced X scalloped Adirondack bracing, and like its prewar Style -45 predecessors does not have a “popsicle” brace -- the lack of which many believe enhances a guitar’s sonic traits.
The guitar was finished in a premium nitro-cellulose lacquer – a thinner finish than what is conventional today, which also enhances its sonic cachet. This finish is now an option at C F Martin and specifically used on their D-45 Authentic. While sonically preferable this finish is extremely durable – it is said not to oxidize and retains its aural luster. The tuners are gold-plated Waverly open-gears with metal butterbean buttons; the nut, saddle, bridge and end pins are made out of fossil walrus tusk ivory (guaranteed deceased before harvesting); the end piece inlay is “boxed” in the manner of the rare late ‘60s D-45s that Mike Longworth talked about with great enthusiasm. This guitar has been compared quite favorably, in beauty and in sound, to an OM-45 that resides in the Martin Museum.
The Brazilian back and sides are, of course, quartersawn, having a gorgeous black streak of “spider” grain – a pattern that is both prized and no longer available in this wood. It would rival any set of Brazilian rosewood that has ever been used on a Martin guitar (as you can see in the photos if you are reading this online, and if you aren’t you should be).
This top of this superb instrument displays an aging toner tint; the full-sized teardrop pickguard is a pretty much exact recreation of the prized brown swirly celluloid material that Martin used in the period 1937 to 1939.
Its sound is both ethereal and melodious – not, in any way boxy or compressed. On the contrary, it is effusive with tonal prowess and amplitude. It has extraordinary sustain, separation, transparency, and balance yet the bass is, atypically, strong for an instrument of its size. Fourteen fret 00-size Martin guitars are not at all common and to have found one in this configuration that sounds this amazingly fine, is a rare treat indeed.