3 New Black Martin Guitars Made From Weird Stuff

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Martin DCPA5 Black
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So we’ve got three new models here, and they’ve all got sides, back and tops made from HPL, black Stratabond necks, and Richlite bridges and fingerboards.

These guitars might seem a little foreign to you if you look at what they’re made of. Things like HPL, Richlite, and Stratabond certainly aren’t as familiar as – say – maple or spruce or rosewood, so before we dive into these guitars, let’s take a bit of a closer look at what they’re made of.

What is HPL?

HPL has been in use for a good number of years at Martin Guitars, and it’s actually H.P.L. – that’s an acronym for “High Pressure Laminate”. HPL sounds good and is extremely durable – it’s a special pressed wood-ish substance that is made specifically for manufacturing guitars. Many people like the sound – many don’t. Some say it’s more “bassy” and others say it has too much mid-range. Still others say, “It sounds just right, so back off!”

It’s a very dense substance so at times it can appear very thin. Martin calls it “highly compressed wood fiber derivative material” that is laminated under high pressure. It has often been compared to Formica – the stuff kitchen counter-tops are sometimes made of.

Maybe they’re just trying to make things more durable after they saw what Willie Nelson did to his Martin Guitar.

What is Richlite?

DCPA5 Martin Headstock
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Richlite is made from recycled paper and phenolic resin. Strangely – that’s also been used in kitchen counter-tops. The paper is soaked in the resin, then baked dry, and rolled back up. Then layers upon layers are stacked together – hundreds of times, and pressed into the hard wood like material.

What is Stratabond?

Stratabond is basically a plywood, and it comes from the Rutland Plywood Corporation. It’s made from wood veneers that are dyed in earthy tone, and has been used to make stocks for guns and handles for bows for a long time before guitar manufacturers got a hold of it. For a neck, it can be a little heavy, but some folks prefer the Stratabond necks.

Interesting combination of materials, anyway – all of them are more environmentally friendly that whacking down trees, I suppose, and Martin only uses these materials on their lower priced (but still high quality) guitars.

Ok, Back to the three new black Martin Guitars.

… So we’ve got three new models here, and they’ve all got sides, back and tops made from HPL, black Stratabond necks, and Richlite bridges and fingerboards. See, that sentence makes a whole lot more sense now.

  • Price on each: $1099.00 list
  • Electronics: Fishman F1 Analog
  • Tuners: Chrome Enclosed
  • Fret Markers: Dots, offset
  • Frets: 20, with 14 clear of the body
  • Scale: 25.4 inches
  • Fingerboard: Goes from 1 3/4 at the nut to 2 1/8 at the twelfth fret

The nuts are all black Corian. What is Corian? Interestingly, it’s another man made product – this time from DuPont. It is made from an acrylic polymer, and alumina trihydrate. Its primary use? Kitchen and bathroom counter-tops.

Technology & wood

I know this is all funny stuff – but hell, you can’t say Martin isn’t innovating. They’re consistently on top of technology to make their product better, as evidenced in our article a couple years ago about Martin’s advancements in protecting against counterfeiting. I think it’s pretty cool that they’re trying out new things. And these guitars actually sound good.

Is there any real wood on these guitars? The answer is yes. The top braces are solid Sitka Spruce. 5/16 inches of it, to be exact.


GPCPA5 Martin Black Guitar
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Martin OMCPA5 Black Guitar
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Martin DCPA5 Black
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Tim Monaghan

Tim has been playing guitar & bass since he was 12 years old and has been in Jazz, funk, rock & metal bands. Influences include Jeff Beck, Stanley Clarke, Doug Stegmeyer, Baden Powell, Steve Vai, and pretty much anyone else who has a unique style that expresses their individuality. One of Tim’s many hobbies is building, tweaking, and repairing basses and guitars.

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