Smaller Things

T-28 Martin Tiple

Modified by dick boak

1976

Cigar Box Ukulele

Mahogany, Rosewood Western Red Cedar

1981

1/4 Size 6-String Guitar

Rosewood, spruce. ebony.

1981

     While running the Martin Wood Products Division, I decided to hold a contest to figure out what to do with an attic full of old ukulele necks and oddball leftover parts, including many small square wooden boxes that Chris Martin and I had brought back after the Levin guitar factory in Sweden had closed. In order to get things started, I made a few entries of my own, including a tiny cigar box ukulele with a fretless fingerboard. I recused myself from the contest, of course, but a Martin retiree named Adam Strohl picked up on the idea and made a batch of these little ukes in his basement that soon became a popular consignment item at Woodworker’s Dream.

   And speaking of small, in many finer craft fields, a tradition has existed among guilds where upon completion of study, the apprentice would make a miniature working scale model or “apprentice piece” of the full sized object. These precious samples were easy to transport and served to demonstrate the mastery level of each craftsman’s skill and attention to fine detail. Apprentice pieces were common both in the furniture as well as the violin-making fields. 

      Given my fascination with minute illustrative detail, I quickly became captivated with smaller musical instruments. I loved my little ten-string tenor ukulele-sized tiple and soon attempted to replicate that specific size as a miniature 1/4 size six-string guitar. That little instrument became my apprentice piece. 

      To further explore my obsession, I sought out the old patterns from the small Size 5 parlor model. Martin had made thousands of these prior to the depression – mostly for ladies – but the fad had gradually subsided. 

      I dusted off the old body forms and initiated a custom order. Upon completion, the little guitar was so spectacular, especially when equipped with Nashville-style high-octave strings, that it deserved and received considerably greater attention. The popular Mini-Martin Special Edition followed with a customer base made up of many extraordinary musicians including Eric Clapton, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, John Mayer and Sting. In fact, Sting recorded the beautiful song Dead Man’s Rope from his Sacred Love CD with his Mini Martin – spurring the inevitable Sting: Mini rainforest friendly edition of 100 little guitars – and proving once and for all that size does matter... or is it that size doesn’t matter at all?

Custom Martin 5-41V

High Strung “Terz” Guitar, 1998

Prototype For Mini Martin

Sting Mini High String “Terz” Guitar.

Martin Limited Edition, 2005 

Padauk, Western Red Cedar, Katalox.

Baby Dreadnoughts

 

     Another of my favorite projects was the Baby Dreadnought. My comrade John Arndt and I had reduced all of the full size Dreadnought dimensions, including the inlays, to 7/8 size. As a first prototype, I commissioned a fancy 7-42 Sunburst with an inlaid pickguard and my signature in pearl at the last fret. That guitar was my pride and joy, but after several years and much prodding, I agreed to sell the guitar to a collector in Philadelphia. I regretted this and soon was horrified to learn that he had resold the guitar for a substantial profit. Fortunately, karma guided the little jewel into the instrument collection of the legendary Scott Chinery. When I visited him at his New Jersey estate, I was so honored to have my Signature Baby D in the company of such significant guitars.  After Scott’s passing, the guitar was sold by the estate to an unknown buyer. 

Custom Martin 7-42 Sunburst

1st 7/8 Size Dreadnought - Circa 1984 

(Courtesy of the Scott Chinery Collection)

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