Martin M Customs (May 25, 2013)
The M, or 0000-size Martin guitars of today are outgrowths of a guitar I built back in 1967 for David Bromberg, noted performer, player, sideman, personal friend to this day, and a lot more. The idea came to me from Marc Silber, who in the earlier 1960s, via his guitar stores in Berkeley and New York, had the thought to take a 1930s Martin F-9, a top-of-the-line archtop F-hole guitar that he found (with a smashed top), and convert it to a flattop guitar. The F-model Martins from the 1930s were the same shape as 14-fret 000s but larger, a full 16" across the body. They had rosewood backs and sides, just like the better flattop 000s, but with a slightly more arched back, and a 24.9" (short) scale length. The F-9 in particular had 45-grade rosewood, Brazilian of course. I believe that Marc originally had a man in California named Mario Martelli start the job; I know for a fact that Eugene Clark, a marvellous classical guitar builder, finished it here in New York sometime around 1964-5.
So........... Cut to 1967, by which time I was a pretty well-known and respected guitar repair and restoration person here in NYC (this was before I had a store), and my friend David Bromberg came to me with an F-7 (same size as an F-9 but just a wee bit less fancy) and asked me to convert it for him, which I did, and which he still has and plays. Rather than use a factory-stock D-28 top like Marc had done, I made a top from scratch, with modified bracing and other special features. I also decided to use the longer 25.4" scale length. The entire job was done in 42-style abalone trim and binding, and I used some original, 1930s unused Martin snowflake fingerboard inlays that I had, the acquisition of which is a story for another time.
After seeing David's guitar, the people at Martin toyed with the idea of putting something like that into production, but it took them another twelve years to finally get around to doing it; they were and still are quite conservative. On the other hand, when they finally did come out with their very first production 0000 in 1979, which they called the M-38 (they decided to use a letter rather than a bunch of 0s to avoid confusion, though why they chose the letter M I can't recall), they gave me credit for it in their catalog, for which I am still grateful. In the ensuing years, there have been a few other M-size guitars:M-18, MC-28, M-36, and a host of Js, which are M's in all respects but with a deeper body. This I believe was an idea that came directly from Chris Martin himself sometime in the 1980s. Today, there are only the M-36, the J-40, and the J12-16GT in their standard lineup. There was the M-21 Steve Earle Artist Signature model that Steve and I co-designed a few years ago which was a particularly successful project, but it is now out of production by Martin as they only make any of the Artist Signature guitars for a limited time.