Manheim woodworker crafts bodies for Martin Guitar

By on July 20, 2016
Martin Guitar wood crafter Richard Eyman works in his shop in Manheim. He supplies wood for the world-famous acoustic guitar manufacturing company Martin. He works on a band saw to slice the wood down to 180 thousandths of an inch. (Photos by Richard Hertzler)

Martin Guitar wood crafter Richard Eyman works in his shop in Manheim. He supplies wood for the world-famous acoustic guitar manufacturing company Martin. He works on a band saw to slice the wood down to 180 thousandths of an inch. (Photos by Richard Hertzler)

 

Richard Eyman’s work as a tone woods vendor has taken a leap forward this year. He now has a contract with Martin & Co, the 183-year-old acoustic guitar company located in Nazareth.

“Martin and Gibson are the two biggies for guitars,” Eyman said.

According to information on Martin’s website, Ed Sheeran, Colbie Caillat, Dierks Bentley, Joan Baez, Paul McCartney, James Taylor, Bob Dylan, David Crosby, and Johnny Cash all have played Martin guitars.

Chris Thomas, a Martin representative, confirmed that Eyman has a contract to supply wood for the company.

“We’re proud to be working with a Pennsylvania luthier (a maker of a wide variety of stringed instruments such as guitars) to supply wood we’ll be using; we’ve known of Eyman’s work for a couple of years,” Thomas said.

What began as an effort to collect wood to use in his Manheim home has morphed into building custom guitars as well as supplying tone wood to other luthiers, and now Martin. A left-handed guitar player, Eyman found that building what he wanted was easier than finding it on the shelf. He started Otterhound Guitars and Tone Woods, a custom guitar and tone wood business, about three years ago.

“People have been told that Brazilian rosewood or Honduran mahogany are what they should seek for a good sounding acoustic guitar. Those woods are no longer readily available, and if you can find them, they’re costly,” Eyman said. “The market is changing and people are now looking at domestic woods for musical instruments, which is a great opportunity for someone like me. Oak produces a good sound, but right now sycamore is the wood that’s popular.”

 

Martin Guitar wood crafter Richard Eyman works in his shop in Manheim. He supplies wood for the world-famous acoustic guitar manufacturing company Martin. Wood from trees he cuts down are stored and then later dried.

Richard Eyman works in his shop in Manheim. He supplies wood for the world-famous acoustic guitar manufacturing company Martin. Wood from trees he cuts down are stored and then later dried.

 

He pointed out that all the wood he uses is harvested locally.

“I can take someone to the exact spot where the tree stood, he said. “When I’m out driving, I sometimes spot a tree being cut down, and I’ll talk with the property owner about it.”

And, for now, the wood that’s harvested is hand-dried.

“It’s old-fashioned, but it’s really the best way. Luckily I have the space to dry it indoors,” he said.

But letting nature take its course can take time. Now that he has a contract with Martin, he is in the process of installing a kiln to decrease the drying time.

“It could take three years to dry some wood; a kiln cuts that process to about three weeks. But it’s still important to have a quality product,” Eyman stressed.

He explained that the inquiry from Martin came out of the blue in January. He’d attended a Martin event in Nazareth for the past several years and had met one of the company’s tone wood buyers.

“In January I received an email asking about the cost of sycamore sets. We negotiated a cost {which he declined to disclose} and I received a preliminary order for 50 sets {a set is a book-matched back and book-matched sides},” he said, “Martin’s also sent me their templates-acrylic patterns-for the pieces.”

The sets were delivered on April 1. He said that each piece was tested for moisture prior to being accepted. The moisture level in the pieces ranged from 6.3 percent to 8.9 percent.

 

Sign outside Richard Eyman's shop in downtown Manheim.

Sign outside Richard Eyman’s shop in downtown Manheim.

 

“Ideally they wanted to see close to 6 percent. What they’re buying today, they may not use for a year of two, so they test each piece,” Eyman explained. “I wasn’t aware of the testing, but it makes sense. The range of moisture in the wood that I hand-dried tells me that I’m doing something right.”

He stressed that he’s still learning and knows that he has a lot to learn about being a tone wood provider for a company like Martin’s.

“I think it’s neat that you have a Pennsylvania company dealing with a Pennsylvania supplier who uses Pennsylvania wood,” he said.

Eyman also operates Eyman Fence Company, a company that he said has been in continuous operation since 1917.

Rochelle Shenk is a correspondent for the Lititz Record Express. She welcomes your comments and questions at RAASHENK@aol.com.

 

Richard Eyman looks over the wood that is drying in the upper level of his shop.

Richard Eyman looks over the wood that is drying in the upper level of his shop.

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