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Martinez Guitar, ca. 1816

A guitar based upon an ca. 1816 Jose Martinez guitar, original signed by Fernando Sor.

The bridge is not a copy on the original, it is a "modern" bridge. It is made from rosewood and is fitted with an ebony saddle. The guitar is loud and sweet sounding with this saddle.

Douglas fir top, maple back and side, Spanish cedar neck. 614 mm string length.

A joy to play, it's voice surrounds you.


  1. Wonderful guitar. I have ordered the plans from GAL and although a little sparce, I think I can fill in the spaces. The 4mm bracing seems a little small, but I'm going to follow the plans none the less. I live in rural New Mexico and of course the lack of humidity is always an issue... what would you think about this guitar made entirely of Mahogany? Thanks and thanks too for the refreshing view on the basics in building... I couldn't agree more.


  2. Hi, Robert!

    My advice is to stick to the plan and all the measurements! If this is the first Martinez copy that you have made, why not use a nice spruce top with maple back and sides. Scot Tremblay, the luthier who drew the plans told me that a Martinez with maple back and sides rings like a bell. I had all ready made one (maple with a Douglas fir top) and it is as loud as a full size concert guitar. I think a mahogany topped is better for a steel string guitar, for this little guitar, stick with traditional woods for the top-spruce or fir, maybe cedar. Good luck!


  3. Hi Wilson, I'll take your advice! This guitar will be my first from scratch although I've worked on acoustic guitars for years off and on and am currently re-building a 1920's era Lyon and Healy parlor guitar that a doctor friend picked up at the Goodwill for $40.00. It was a basket case but all solid wood so I told her it might be worth a re-make. The bracing was a total wreck and I replaced the top bracing with a modified version of the 1816 plans. So far so good and the tap tone is really nice. I still have the bridge to do and am french polishing the guitar. The wood is quite beautiful. A friend of mine sent me a set of Robert Sorby chisels and I don't know how I got along without them! I laughed at your luthier comments, I'm attending the Nazareth Guitar Institute in April and will be building an archtop. Does that make me a luthier? I love the way you're building guitars, it's very inspiring. Thanks Wilson

  4. Robert, when you are finished with your course write me back and tell me if you consider yourself a luthier! Okay, I'll call myself a maker! Just got a message back from Scot Tremblay, he was glad to hear that you are making a copy of the Martinez. He thought maybe you should make an all mahogany one after you complete the first one for comparison. I'm curious about the Lyon and Healy guitar, how was the top originally braced? Ladder braced or ? And remember-Hand tools rule the school!


  5. Wilson, I have photos if you dare to see them of the mess I ran into! Someone along the way had removed the back (when they replaced it they didn't bother to line it up or replace the binding) and the top plate was braced with pink molding from an old house it appears, thick pink paint, and other scraps of wood including part of a wooden McGill mouse trap. I removed everything, bought bracing wood from Luthiers Mercantile and built a new bracing system including a back brace for the bridge. I based it on the Martinez plan with a slight modification for the center fan. Basically I wanted the center a little deeper to mortise over the bridge back plate. The reason is the owner of the guitar wanted me to convert it from a steel string to a nylon string guitar. The neck is just wide enough to allow this conversion. The back plate is ladder braced and other than repairing a crack, I left it alone. I'm going to fit a standard classical guitar on it from StewMac. The Lyon is all back together now and I installed new binding on the back, removed all the old finish and will do an amber french polish in a week or so. I never realized how versatile chisels were until I started using them correctly and without a hammer!

  6. Hi, Robert!

    I would like to look at the photos of your project, however, I am in the middle of getting ready to move back to Colorado, plus I am behind in writing up a proposal for some historic preservation work. Check back in about 2 weeks and we'll shop email addresses so I can have a look-see. Thanks!


  7. Wilson, okay and thanks. My daughter lives south of Denver in Castle Rock. She teaches guitar and piano and plays classical guitar. Colorado is a nice place.

  8. Robert:

    I know I should be headed for bed, just to let you know we'll be in Allenspark, just south of Estes Park right on the border of Rocky Mountain NP. I asked about the Lyon and Healy because I do so much historic preservation and the point of that is to maintain as much integrity of the structure as possible, that is the same work as a conservator. Have you checked out Jeff Elliot's article in American Luther #70 on restoring an 1869 Francisco Gonzalez guitar? He has some interesting thoughts on restoration of an instrument.

    Looked at my last post and I meant to say "swap" email addresses!


  9. Hi Wilson, I respect and agree with your comments on correct preservation efforts. In the case of this poor Lyon and Healy there wasn't much hope of returning it to its prior glory... modifying it slightly the way I have was the best course in my view, and at least now it will be a playable instrument! It was a real train wreck but I have enjoyed creating something from the ashes! It actually has turned out quite nice. Thanks for the restoration article recommendation and I'll check it out.

  10. Robert:

    Glad that you rescued the Lyon and Healy and gave it new life. I know a professor at Chico State University, California who got into luthierie by first starting in repairs, it is a good way to learn.


  11. Hi Wilson, back from my sojourn to Nazareth PA and have buildt my first archtop under the excellent guidance of Dale Unger of American Archtop Guitars and Nazareth Guitar Institute. Wow, what an amazing experience and what great people I met there. I can't say enough good things about Dale and the archtop building course. I'd recommend it to anyone! I still have to put the finish on the guitar but am electing to play it awhile first and will probably take the neck down a little more. Having received so much inspiration (I also met CF Martin the 4th and had a tour of the Martin plant, just incredible) I have begun work on the templates for the Martinez Salon. I'm very excited about building one now and feel at least a little more qualified to do it correctly! Hope you're well.


  12. Hi, Robert!

    Now that you have completed your course in archtop guitar building, can we call you a luthier?

    Glad to hear that you had a great time and got the chance to visit the Martin Factory, what fun!

    Enjoy building the Martinez, it is a sweet little guitar. Check out, talk about some inspiration! Scot Tremblay has posted a few photos of his work.



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