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1.5 Millionth Guitar: About the Designer

Harvey Leach is a world renowned luthier, inlay artist and inventor. He has been building musical instruments since 1972, starting out with banjos and mandolins, and, since 1980, guitars. Over the past 30 years he has built more than 350 guitars. His guitars are played by music industry elite such as Roy Clark, Brad Paisley, Dolly Parton and Thom Bresh, to name a few. As impressive as that list might be, Harvey is best known for his inlay work which has pushed the boundaries of the art form, inventing a technique that results in a holographic/reflective effect. His own guitars, such as the Geisha (featured at the Museum of Making Music inlay show in 2007), Samurai and Sept. 11th, combined with the commissioned work for industry leading guitar companies, including C. F. Martin, Paul Reed Smith, Collings and Warrior, have set new standards for artistic inlay.

Harvey’s collaboration with Martin Guitars started about seven years ago when Chris Martin approached Harvey about inlaying “museum quality” instruments that could be sold to the buying public. The first project, The Harvey Leach – Martin Custom Cowboy, was created to debut at NAMM alongside the Millionth Martin. Harvey decided that it would be fitting to have the past represented beside such a milestone and created an inlay theme based on the time period during which the first Martin guitar was built.  This guitar featured a new technique that Harvey developed, which uses thin layers of mother-of-pearl shell to obscure inlays underneath.  The result is a holographic effect.  In the bar scene on The Cowboy pickguard, a mirror was created using this inventive technique as well as the smoke coming from the train on the headstock.  Martin’s Dick Boak nicknamed the effect “Smoke and Mirrors.” Other Martin collaborations include the Melisa Vine, the Western, the Medieval, the Asian Dragon and the Hot Rod. 

Harvey is also the inventor and founder of Voyage-air Guitar, a remarkable full-sized, full-featured acoustic guitar that folds in half to travel in a backpack case.  Voyage-air started out being built one at a time in Harvey’s shop, but demand required that a full-fledged guitar company be built around the concept to import high-quality copies of the original design. 

Harvey Leach

- Martin Guitar

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