Beating the Bones Out of It: The Martin D-42 Acoustic Guitar Review

After enjoying the delight of my Eric Clapton acoustic Martin guitar from the great guys at Wildwood, I quickly rediscovered the magnificence and beauty of Martin Guitars.

Once that Martin fire gets reignited in your belly, you fast begin to wonder anew about other guitars in the Martin line and my love and want for a Martin D-42 — the middle child classic with just enough bling and power nestled nicely between the entry-level D-41 and the full gore of a D-45 — that I made the hard decision to thin my current guitars collection herd in order to pay the way for the heartdream of a Martin D-42.

Of course, the first stop for my D-42 wanderlust was Wildwood — “D-40s” Martins can be hard to find in stock at a good price — and while my friend Troy Benns at Wildwood didn’t currently have any D-42 guitars, he could order one for me direct from Martin with a third down and a six-week waiting period.  The price, of course, was excellent, as always, and impossible to resist.  Troy Benns knows how to seal a deal for a great guitar!

I bit.

Troy ordered.

I bided my time.

In two weeks, not six, I had Wildwood photos of my new Martin D-42 fresh from the factory in my Inbox, and a delightful message from Troy telling me the guitar was currently being professionally set up by Wildwood and everything would be ready to ship by the end of the day!  I was amazed and astonished by Troy Benns’ muscle and quickness with Martin on my behalf, and true to Wildwood form, I had this Martin D-42 in hand overnight!

I really love how the silking above and below the bridge is already happening on what is really an infant guitar that still has that “musty vanilla” scent of virgin guitar lacquer.  The whole house smelled of “New Guitar Day” for a week!

When my D-42 arrived from Wildwood, I immediately thought, “this shipping box is too lightweight!  They forgot to include the guitar!”

When I opened the shipping box and saw the injection-molded guitar case in the box, I immediately thought, “This guitar case is too lightweight, they forgot to include the guitar!”

When I opened the guitar case and found this beautiful, joyous, guitar waiting for me, I thought, “I can’t believe how lightweight this guitar is in hand!”

Yes, it’s true.  I had forgotten how featherweight a Martin guitar is in being.  They are so light, in fact, they feel as if they could fly away right out of your palm.  I like that.  There is a purposeful, delicate, glow in these Martin guitars that you don’t find in something like, say a Gibson L5, and I appreciate the expert, detailed, craftsmanship of a Martin guitar that shows you a delicate touch in a true historic aesthetic.

I wrote a thank you email to Troy Benns and said, “It is a beautiful guitar and already plays incredibly well with grace and love.”

Playing this D-42 was quite a different experience from the Martin acoustic Clapton.  The Clapton is fresh and manageable while the D-42 is brawny and manhandles you — the expectation this guitar has of your hands is challenging, overwhelming, and purely delightful.

This D-42 BOOMS — and glistens!  Yes, this D-42 is a thumper, but it also has a wider sense of high-range melodic grace than other guitars in this form, and it sings every bass allusion that no other guitar can match.  This is the reason Martin has been family owned since 1833:  Quality and history matter in the realm of musical human prestige.

Here are the D-42 specs straight from the Martin website:

  • Model: D-42
  • Construction: Mahogany Blocks/Dovetail Neck Joint
  • Body Size: D-14 Fret
  • Top: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • Rosette: Style 45
  • Top Bracing Pattern: Standard ”X” Scalloped, Forward Shifted
  • Top Braces: Solid Sitka Spruce 5/16”
  • Back Material: Solid East Indian Rosewood
  • Back Purfling: Style 45
  • Side Material: Solid East Indian Rosewood
  • Endpiece: Grained Ivoroid
  • Endpiece Inlay: Black/White Boltaron
  • Binding: Grained Ivoroid
  • Top Inlay Style: Abalone Pearl with Black/White/Black Boltaron
  • Side Inlay: Black/White Boltaron
  • Back Inlay: Black/White Boltaron
  • Neck Material: Select Hardwood
  • Neck Shape: Low Profile
  • Nut Material: Bone
  • Headstock: Solid/Diamond/SquareTaper
  • Headplate: Solid East Indian Rosewood /C.F. Martin Block- Select Abalone Pearl
  • Heelcap: Grained Ivoroid with Black/White Boltaron Inlay
  • Fingerboard Material: Solid Black Ebony
  • Scale Length: 25.4”
  • Number Of Frets Clear: 14
  • Number Of Frets Total: 20
  • Fingerboard Width At Nut: 1-11/16”
  • Fingerboard Width At 12Th Fret: 2-1/8”
  • Fingerboard Position Inlays: Style 45 Snowflakes – Select Abalone Pearl
  • Fingerboard Binding: Grained Ivoroid
  • Finish Back & Sides: Polished Gloss
  • Finish Top: Polished Gloss w/ Aging Toner ; Sunburst available at additional cost.
  • Finish Neck: Polished Gloss
  • Bridge Material: Solid Black Ebony
  • Bridge Style: Belly
  • Bridge String Spacing: 2-1/8”
  • Saddle: 16” Radius/Compensated/Bone
  • Tuning Machines: Gold Open-Geared w/ Butterbean Knobs
  • Recommended Strings: Martin SP Lifespan Phosphor Bronze Medium Gauge (MSP7200)
  • Bridge & End Pins: White w/ Abalone Pearl Dots
  • Pickguard: Tortoise Color – Beveled & Polished
  • Case: 640 Molded
  • Interior Label: none
  • Electronics: Optional

I have been beating the bones out of this Martin D-42 guitar for a week — and every moment, every minute, every hour and every day the guitar grows in depth in my hand.  It’s quite an experience to feel something so new start to come into its own being.

In two months, this guitar will live even better.

In two years, this guitar will be unbelievable.

In 20 years, this Martin D-42 will be unrecognizable from today because it will sound like a totally different masterpiece with added age and fulfilled grace in an ongoing aging of the wood.

Guitars are journeys, and when you can walk with them, they’ll take you by the hand to deliver new levels of love and exploration.  Don’t be timid.  Take the ride.

My Martin Clapton acoustic is a great, smaller, guitar for fingerstyle. My larger Martin D-42 is a fine rhythm guitar, elegant strummer, dynamic slide guitar wonder — as well as an excellent fingerstyle master.

If you want to get your hands on a fine musical Martin, look to Troy Benns and Wildwood Guitars. They’ll help you find your playable dream at a excellent price — and your hands will be singing in wood in no time!

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