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Friday, July 11, 2014

Why Eric Clapton Loves Nazareth

Why Eric Clapton Loves Nazareth PA

The photo below is a hint!

Eric Clapton loves Nazareth, PA.  To be more accurate, Eric Clapton loves Martin Guitars and Martin Guitars are build in Nazareth, PA. The photo is of a design collaboration, the third in a series, between Clapton and Hiroshi Fujiwara.  The instrument is lacquered and polished with a striking dark navy. .
Today we were going to visit the zoo, but instead decided to visit the Martin Guitar Factory.  The kids had been to the Lehigh Valley Zoo, but although Kacie is the only one who plays an instrument (she studies piano), we all were very interested to see how the world famous Martin Guitars are built.  I am an Eric Clapton fan, and when I found out he played Martin Guitars I really wanted to visit the factory.

C.F. Martin & Co.: A love story of a true craftsman

Pennsylvania, by the way, has a lot of factories, and many of them give guided tours, making the state an especially fun place to visit if you love to see how some of your favorite products are made. 

C.F. Martin Guitars has been building instruments since 1833.  The company has a rich history, and it's obvious the people who work there love their craft!

The guided tour takes place in the "new" building at Sycamore and Beil.  There is a round lobby area surrounded by the museum and display area, gift shop and area where you can actually try one of the famous guitars and a waiting area where you can relax until called for your tour.

The tours are Monday through Friday from 11am until 2:30pm, and as they fill up fairly quickly (they are first-come/first-serve), it's best to arrive a half hour before the tour is scheduled to leave.  They are all very well organized and everything moves smoothly.  Each tour guest is given a headphones and a receiver, the better to hear the tour guide.  You move through the 84,000 square foot factory, stopping along each step of the construction.  All but the custom built guitars are built using a combination of machine and hand crafting.  The custom guitars are all hand built.

The woods, the lacquers, the humidity

At the beginning of your tour you get to handle various components of the guitar in full view of the largest Martin Guitar built (as a float in the Nazareth centennial parade).  From there on you are given a thorough explanation of every step along the way to the final product.  I found it very interesting, even though I know absolutely nothing about guitars or other similar stringed instruments.  The woods are exquisite, and the fragrance of the lacquers linger in the air, but as you may have guessed it was the humidity that did me in.  The raw (unprocessed) woods used must be carefully monitored and kept at the proper degree of humidity in order to keep the wood in the optimal condition for working.  It's quite amazing to learn about the processes used to shape the various components, and heat and water are both employed.

Also, if you are an original Martin Guitar owner, and you ever need to have your guitar fixed (oh, and there were some really disturbing examples of battered instruments), you just contact the company, and they will fix your instrument.  The base price of a guitar, including custom models start at about $2000; from there the sky's the limit but the craftsmanship is truly superb.  

The display area is filled with various models and accompanied by pictures of many of the famous owners.  I saw beautiful, hand-tooled, leather guitar cases.  Some of the most gorgeous inlay work to be found, and the bling on the 1,000,000th Martin Guitar built is breathtaking.  

Have you heard of...

Eric Clapton is not the only famous musician to own and love a Martin!  Here are just a few names you might recognize:  Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Kurt Cobain, Gene Autry, Chris Martin, Eddy Vedder, and Woody Guthrie to name a few.  Quality chooses quality!  

Martin has a Signature Model Series and the names of the various artists with their Signature Models read like a who's who of American Music.  Martin Guitars are just simply superb.

The trip worth more than a thousand words

Words don't really do the tour justice, you need to visit the facility even if you don't have a musical bone in your body.  It is so worth the trip!

7/11/14 Zip Winner
Kacie giving the guitar a try
I found the entire tour fun and the kids really enjoyed it...actually more than they thought they would!  Coming from an 11 year old and a 13 year old, that's high praise.  They were very appreciative of the tour and we had a super fun time.  Followed by a pizza dinner with s'mores dipped graham crackers for dessert we ended the day with a quick game of Zip!