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Da Vinci Unplugged: Unveiled

Alongside an ambitious slate of new, innovative products that continue to push the largest producer of acoustic guitars in the U.S. to new heights, C.F. Martin & Co. (www.martinguitar.com) has unveiled the 1.5 millionth Martin Guitar at the 2011 NAMM Show. 

Dubbed “Da Vinci Unplugged” over the past year and a half, the parts of this milestone guitar were carefully crafted at the Martin factory in Nazareth, PA, and then sent to expert luthier and inlay artist Harvey Leach, who designed the Leonardo da Vinci-inspired Mona Lisa headstock, Last Supper pickguard and Vitruvian Man back.  Scrimshaw artist Bob Hergert then added his expert touch, including intricately engraved illustrations – based on an array of da Vinci drawings – to Style 45 hexagons that were cut from fossilized mammoth ivory and inlaid into the fingerboard and bridge wings.  The guitar was then returned to Nazareth for final assembly, delicate Style 45 perimeter inlay, and finishing.  

“Since I became chairman and CEO of the company, I have been fortunate to have overseen the creation of several milestone guitars, including the company’s 500,000th in 1990, 750,000th in 2000 and one millionth in 2004, and each of these accomplishments leaves me in awe,” said Chris Martin IV.  “The unveiling of the 1.5 millionth Martin Guitar marks the shortest period of time we have taken to produce a half-million Martins.  This is testament not only to the demand for our guitars and the perfection expected from us, but also the quality of work, passion and skill of the craftsmen and women behind each hand-made instrument.”  

The 1.5 millionth Martin also features special gold tuning buttons engraved by Tara Mitchell:

A case is crafted by TKL:


And a strap hand-tooled and donated by leather artist Chuck Smith:

 

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Da Vinci Unplugged: The Vitruvian Man

When I pulled the body of this Martin masterpiece from its case and put it on my couch, I nearly cried. I was awestruck. The Vitruvian Man stood in a background of Brazilian rosewood of such beauty that I felt God himself was telling me that anything I would ever do could not match such creation. The grain was a goddess’ auburn hair. It shimmered in the light. It brought me to my knees. 

Harvey matched the perfection with his inlaid circle and square. How? I may never know. Thank you Maestro Harvey Leach. Thank you Chris Martin. Thank you Martin luthiers. Thank God.

Bob Hergert, on behalf of Martin Guitar.

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Da Vinci Unplugged: The Vitruvian Man

In many ways, the Virtruvian Man was the easiest part of this project. The actual inlay is made up of only 10 pieces, which just happens to be the same amount used to create Jesus’ feet on the pickguard. The real challenge with this inlay was that I would need to work over  the back of an existing guitar. I would normally prefer to inlay the back prior to building the guitar so that I don’t have to deal with the domed surface,  add to that the fact that we’re not talking about just any guitar here… I mean you just can’t go back and make another 1,500,000th guitar! Standing there looking down on probably one of the most valuable guitars in the world while holding a router spinning at 30,000 rpm’s is not something I recommend for you first day on the job. No matter how many times you do something there is always the risk that something could go wrong… the router slips out of your hand… the bit slowly works its way out until you’ve cut a hole clean through…

Because I would only have one shot I had to devise some template that would allow me to make highly accurate cuts for the circle and rectangle and devise a method for locating them accurately as well. Using a small router with a guide bushing and 1/16” carbide bit the cuts were made by following templates cut from ¼” medium density fiberboard (MDF) that were clamped to the guitar body.

The V-Man was cut from a piece of Corian called “Chamois” which had just the right look of the old parchment of the original drawing.

Here the pattern is placed on the guitar back to make sure the size is correct. Next, a piece of cardboard was cut to fit the front of the guitar and taped in place to protect the soundboard:

To accurately cut channels for the circle and rectangle, ¼”  MDF was cut into 2 identical squares. The pattern for the rectangle was cut into one and the circle into the other. Next 2 straight edges were placed so that the rectangle and square would be perfectly aligned (below).   

Click here to see the rest of this series on Flickr. And then come back for the next post as Bob goes back to work on The Vitruvian Man.

Harvey Leach, on behalf of Martin Guitar. 

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Da Vinci Unplugged: The Pickguard, Last Supper Background

The tapestries and right wall are cut from dark green jade and grey Corian: 

The left wall is created using the same materials as the right wall:

The window scene behind Jesus is cut from turquoise, sugulite, gaspeite, green recon and dark ivory:

The background  comes together nicely just before Bob goes back to work on the Scrimshaw. Take a look

Harvey Leach, on behalf of Martin Guitar.

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Da Vinci Unplugged: Jesus and the Apostles

The first Apostle on the left side of the table has pipestone recon for the hair and beard. The robes are cut from red, green and blue Corian. The robes of the second Apostle are cut from spiny oyster:

The second Apostle’s hair and beard are cut from Bastogne walnut:

The third Apostle’s hair is cut from walnut and his robes from blue Corian:

Click here to see how the rest of The Apostles come together, as well as the addition of Jesus.

Harvey Leach, on behalf of Martin Guitar.

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