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  #1  
Old 12-31-2020, 03:57 PM
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Default Who makes the "best" Martin-inspired guitar?

I know we have hashed this over before, but when I searched the forum I didn't really find a comprehensive list. Also, "the best" is just catchy, this is not meant to be a competition.

For the purposes of this thread I would even use the word "clone;" not to belittle the luthier of course but rather to be very narrow in the connotation of "Martin-inspired."

IMHO, about the only thing I'd let slide would be bolt-on neck joint, since it is so doggone common lately. Also, Martin-inspired instruments do not have to be what the luthier is known for.

So, here's a list of luthiers I would use to build a fairly tightly defined Martin inspired instrument. Dred, OM, etc. I will also of course entertain smaller shops that everyone always brings up Bourgeois, Preston Thompson, Collings, Schoenberg, Santa Cruz, etc in a separate list.


Bob Altman
Matt Arcara
John Arnold
Jayson Bowerman
Bagnasco &Casati
Blazer/Henkes
Jimmy Caldwell
Julius Borges
Laurent Brondel
Lynn Dudenbostel
Jimmy Edmonds
David Eichelbaum
MJ Franks
John Greven
Ronnie Griffin
Wayne Henderson
Ken Hooper
Howard Klepper
Koe Konkoly
Nick Kukich
Per Marklund
Jim Merrill
Frankie Montuoro
Roy Noble
Leo Posch
Mario Proulx
Bruce Sexauer
John Slobod
Caleb Smith
TJ Thompson
Kim Walker
Judge Wolfe

This is not meant to be exhaustive, and please add whoever I've overlooked and I'll put them on the list!

Last edited by CoolerKing; 01-05-2021 at 11:30 PM.
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  #2  
Old 12-31-2020, 08:26 PM
CarolynS CarolynS is offline
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My vote goes to Kim Walker.

And if we weren’t already on Kim’s list, I would commission a guitar from John Slobod.
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Old 12-31-2020, 09:45 PM
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Smile Wise decision, my friend

"IMHO, about the only thing I'd let slide would be bolt-on neck joint, since it is so doggone common lately. Also, Martin-inspired instruments do not have to be what the luthier is known for. "

It is common because it really works, IMnotsoHO.

Meanwhile:
A very happy New Year's Eve, and a healthy and prosperous new year as well

Paul
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Old 12-31-2020, 11:48 PM
JCM615 JCM615 is offline
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If you're focusing on matching a vintage Martin perfectly (and why not!) then I'd go with Lynn Dudenbostel, John Arnold or TJ Thompson. The difficult part is getting a commission from any of them. I know John and Lynn are both under #100 after 30 years.
If you get a spot, though, it'll be a spectacular result, which would fit right in with some of the other wonderful guitars you have!
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Old 01-01-2021, 12:45 AM
Dustinfurlow Dustinfurlow is offline
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Slobod/Circa has my vote.
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Old 01-01-2021, 01:52 AM
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Jayson Bowerman.
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Old 01-01-2021, 05:52 AM
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John Slobod ... that is why I'm on his schedule!

Happy New Year all!
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Old 01-01-2021, 06:24 AM
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I would Add MJ Franks. He builds in the tradition of the pre-war Martin era, with the exception of a bolt on neck.
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Old 01-01-2021, 07:32 AM
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OK list updated! Thanks y'all.
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  #10  
Old 01-01-2021, 08:54 AM
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Matthew, you have created a fairly comprehensive list of luthiers who make guitars derivative of Nazareth with differing degrees of replication for discussion (thanks).

As in all things guitar, who is “best” depends on the individual buyer and their definition of “best”. To some, accuracy of a recipe of Nazareth design, materials and methods is that definition of “best”. To others, it can be based on visual precision of their execution, quality of materials, work methods, tone, cost/benefit or availability. So in this post, I suspect that we will reflect this heterogeneity.

To me, when I have played vintage Martins that I enjoyed (Honestly, some I did not), what I found were instruments that had a tonality with:
  • A balanced, clear fundamental surrounded by differing degrees of supportive partials and decay (e.g. the “dry” sound) depending on whether they were mahogany or rosewood.
  • They are responsive to touch and feel “alive” like a living, breathing thing when you play them.
I have played instruments by a number of builders who have captured this type of guitar including Laurent Brondel, John Slobod, TJ Thompson and Kim Walker.

For me, my favorite is Bruce Sexauer.

Bruce makes and broad spectrum of styles of guitars from Martin derivative to cutting edge evolved traditional instruments. Even when a client wants a guitar in the Martin tradition, Bruce’s guitars are NOT Nazareth copies and differ in a number of significant but to my view “good” ways:
  • Mold-less, Spanish tradition top up construction vs. factory based, use of molds and back up construction
  • Use of an oil varnish finish vs. nitrocellulose lacquer
What I like about his building approach is:
  • He builds his guitars one-at-a-time serially vs. in parallel small batches
  • All aspects of construction are executed by him using traditional shop and hand tools vs. use of purchased CNC fabricated components
  • He consistently uses some of the best, seasoned, quarter-sawn timbers
  • His oil varnish finishes are time consuming to execute and are, low density, flexible and thin
At this point, he has five decades of experience building 500+ instruments including 70+ Guitars for Eric Schoenberg. Lastly, being a guitar playing musician he has an inate sense of what a guitar as a tool needs to do in terms sound and feel. In my opinion, his approach combines the best aspects of traditional classical guitar lutherie in the Spanish tradition with the design construct of Nazareth when you ask for a Martin-like guitar.

What is important to me, is not Nazaresque accuracy, but that his guitars have tonality with a balanced, clear fundamental surrounded by differing degrees of supportive partials and they are responsive to touch and feel truly “alive” like a living, breathing thing when you play them.
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Old 01-01-2021, 11:47 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CarolynS View Post
My vote goes to Kim Walker.

And if we weren’t already on Kim’s list, I would commission a guitar from John Slobod.
As a Walker owner, I'd love to hear about your Kim build!
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Old 01-01-2021, 11:54 AM
Rwpierce Rwpierce is offline
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Default Who makes the "best" Martin-inspired guitar?

I have guitars from 4 of the individuals mentioned and for the most part I agree with Bob that Bruce’s guitars are at the top of my list. With that being said my Slobod Circa is as an amazing reproduction of a 1930 Martin (fit, finish,woods in a class of their own) as I have ever played. As such I am on John’s list for 2022.
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Old 01-01-2021, 12:51 PM
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Hard to say. There are a lot of great builders doing the Martin thing. I was mightily impressed with the OM-28 Blazer and Henkes I played at Schoenberg. Blazers tend to be quite dry. John Slobod’s work is sometimes meant to duplicate the Martin sound, but mostly he’s doing his own thing now. I’d say his guitars generally, but not always, have more mids and volume. Laurent Brondel doesn’t build that many Martin-style guitars, but he’s doing it more and more. I’ve only ever played the one I own, and it’s a fantastic Martin derivative, though it has more bass than most vintage Martins I’ve played.

My Klepper-built Schoenberg is also incredible, as was the Klepper OM-33 I played many years ago. Sadly, after being traumatized by the fires, Howard isn’t building anymore.

I think the trouble with saying how Martin or non-Martin a builder happens to be is that Martins themselves vary so much.
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Old 01-01-2021, 07:23 PM
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I'd like to mention Caleb Smith.... I acquired #81 OM-28 Brazilian Adirondack last year and its been a favorite of mine... I owned a Martin Prewar before and this is very similar... Along the same lines but more open, blooming and resonant than the a modern Martin OM-28 Authentic 1931 I demoed in my home recently... definitely worthy of this list in terms of fine Martin inspired guitar!

https://www.fretboardjournal.com/col...s-caleb-smith/
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  #15  
Old 01-01-2021, 11:09 PM
CarolynS CarolynS is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jt1 View Post
As a Walker owner, I'd love to hear about your Kim build!
It's actually my boyfriend's. I know he is anxiously waiting to finalize the specs sometime this year. I will let him show it off as I don't know how to post pictures. I will post recordings in Show and Tell however.
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