Notes From the Road (2) - The Sound of Music

Had a full week visiting wood plants last week. The best stop was a visit to the Martin Guitar Company in Nazareth, Pennsylvania. You may recall that we took a video tour of the plant as part of a previous Go Wood post.

Well, news is good in Nazareth. Company folks affirmed that yes, the guitar business is much so, that the company expanded its manufacturing capacity to a new operation in Mexico a few years ago. When a thing is good, it will live on.

Certain things stood out to me as I toured the plant with members of the New England Kiln Drying Association. As one who has been through hundreds of wood operations, and seen the good, the bad, and the ugly, I can tell you...this operation is well-managed. Very well managed. It shows in the plant, and on the faces of the employees as they speak of their work.

In the milling operation, every unit of lumber is clearly identified and quantified.

As components are manufactured, they are tracked with precision through the process, so that both stock and custom guitars can be made in the shortest possible time.

As we learned in "The Secret of Stradivari", the internal design of a musical sound box is the key to the tonal quality of the instrument. Martin has their own internal designs, and each component is manually shaped by human hands to achieve the aged sound Martin guitars are famous for.

The sides of the guitar are curved in an interesting process, one that has been improved by the employees so that it cuts the time for this step of the process in half.

Every woodworker knows the value of proper sanding in the process. Here, in a great example of efficient cellular processing, boxes are sanded to a smooth surface prior to final finishing. One person noted the absence of dust in the factory...the guide smiled and said something like..."Five million dollars buys a heck of a dust removal system." I may be wrong about the amount, but it was a big enough number to make the tourist realize that these guitars are the products of a huge capital investment.

And speaking of huge capital investment... Marty, the company's resident robot. This thing was amazing in the precision and versatility with which it handled the guitar boxes as it polished them on two large polishing wheels. Another sign of the inevitable rise of the machine in society, even when the products being produced are highly "customized".

I never knew there were so many different types of pearl.

Now, I don't play guitar, but I might buy one of these to carry around just to look good.

And to top off a great visit, I spent some time perusing the Martin museum on site, open to visitors. Wow.

I appreciated the comment of company CEO Chris Martin in the video above when he acknowledges how fortunate he was to be born into a historic guitar manufacturing family, and not an accordion manufacturing family. And yet, he and his employees are more than just fortunate...they are living evidence that love of music, and history, and pride in your work, combined with some ingenuity and a passion to make it always better, will produce great results.

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