©Terry Docherty Guitars 2013
My good friend Wally Bell asked me to make him this custom copy of C. F. Martin’s iconic early 1930’s carved arch-top guitar. For Wally, it was intended to be the realisation of a 40 year dream having first seen a C model in the hands of luthier, Stefan Sobell when he came to do a gig at the then Morpeth folk club around 1970. Wally thought then that it was the finest sounding guitar he’d ever heard and hasn’t changed his opinion since.
I mentioned this to Stefan recently and he confirmed that he does in fact still have his C model and also that it remains a truly outstanding instrument.
Such was the challenge I’d been set.
These guitars were made as a three model series with both round and “f” sound-holes but not many of the round sound-hole models were made and so they remain very rare indeed.
have a little experience of carved top instruments but I have never made a carved arch-top guitar and so some homework was definitely in order. As a member of the Guild of American Luthiers, I was able to access invaluable information about these guitars and to obtain a detailed 2 sheet plan of the C3 and so in late March 2011, armed with my drawings, some extra tools and a liberal sprinkling of blind faith, I set to. I made a fairly comprehensive photographic record of the guitar in progress which I used to keep Wally up to date and which are available to anyone who might require more information but here is the finished article and an independent review will be posted in due course.
Good arch top bridges are hard to come by and I bought several. The best came from Highly Strung International in Wantage, Oxon but this ebony bridge was an "all wood" construction. The original C models all had bone saddles and so I modified this bridge after fitting the lower half to the curvature of the top, by making a new, upper adjustable portion complete with removable bone saddle. I set the guitar up so that the saddle portions are inter-changeable and while the all-ebony bridge produces a nice sound, it is muted by comparison with the bone saddle which produces by far the loudest, brightest, warmest and most colourful tone, to say nothing of separation and sustain. This experiment allows me to conclude that the originals were built that way for very good reason.
The ebony fingerboard inlays are a classic Martin "snowflake" design in green abalone as determined by the drawings used to build this guitar. I obtained them from Mike Reid at "Small Wonder" in East Sussex who also handcut the pearl logo.
Wally Bell playing his C model carved archtop guitar for the first time. With Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee in the background, I think he's in good company