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Martin D-42 Special
 
A variation on a classic model built with premium woods features an inlay design by Dick Boak.
October 5, 2022
 

Having been around since 1833, Martin Guitars has a lot of tradition to contend with. When it comes to Martin’s standard styles, the company’s long history means that designations such as “18,” “28,” “42,” “45” etc. have come to represent very specific specs and appointments. But Martin has often found a way to modify a style for a special run of instruments. Earlier this year, Martin introduced the D-42 Special, and we had a chance to check out the guitar in the Peghead Nation video studio. 

While Martin’s style 42 has been around since the late 1800s, it wasn’t applied to a standard production dreadnought until 1996, making the D-42 a relatively recent arrival. Popular with players who want a fancy guitar but don’t want to step up all the way to a D-45, the guitar is currently available in standard and Modern Deluxe versions. How do you turn a 42 into a 42 Special? The creation of the D-42 Special involves an intriguing story that goes back more than 20 years and includes illustrious former Martin employee Dick Boak, who retired in 2018. An expert draftsman (a skill he was originally hired for in the mid-1970s), Boak had many jobs at Martin, including head of artist relations. Years ago, Boak created an elaborate floral pickguard design he hoped to recreate on a then-new laser engraver Martin acquired in the late ’90s. However, the pattern was too intricate to be duplicated, so the project was shelved. Recently, Boak remembered the drawings, so he asked Maryland-based inlay experts Pearlworks to make pickguards with his design. Chris Martin loved them and asked Boak to create a matching fingerboard and peghead inlay, and the D-42 Special was born. 

While the Dick Boak–designed additions take center stage in the instrument’s appearance, it is still fundamentally a D-42. The guitar is built with the highest grade of Indian rosewood and Sitka spruce, and it includes abalone purfling, an abalone rosette, a style-45 center strip on the back, and a fingerboard with white binding. Like a standard D-42, the instrument is built with forward-shifted, scalloped X-bracing, and it includes Martin’s High Performance Taper neck, with a modified low-oval shape and a width of 1¾ inches at the nut. 

I’ve played quite a few D-42s over the years, and I’ve always felt that they have a distinctive tonal character. Naturally, the D-42 Special has the big, powerful rosewood dreadnought voice, but it delivers it in a smoother and more well-balanced manner than is often the case. This makes it a wonderful sounding rhythm guitar, though its easy-playing neck and ability to project even when playing single-note lines also makes it highly capable for playing leads and fingerstyle. In other words, the D-42 Special is a guitar that plays and sounds as good as it looks!

As is always the case with guitars that feature elaborate designs and appointments, the D-42 Special won’t please everyone. However, many Martin fans will delight in seeing a Dick Boak contribution on a new model; the instrument’s materials, craftsmanship, and overall execution are first class; and it sounds great. Though the edition is not limited in number, the D-42 Special is bound to be a fairly exclusive guitar, so if you get a chance to check one out, do!

SPECS: 14-fret dreadnought body. Solid Sitka spruce top. Scalloped and forward-shifted X-bracing. Solid Indian rosewood back and sides. Genuine mahogany neck with dovetail joint. Ebony fingerboard and bridge. 25.4-inch scale. 1¾-inch nut width. 2⁵/₃₂-inch string spacing at the saddle. Nickel Waverly tuning machines. Dick Boak–designed inlay. Made in the USA. $12,199. Martinguitar.com

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    ● Courses
    ● Live Workshops
    ● Instructors
    ● Sample Lessons
    ● Notation Guide
    ● For Beginners
 
 
    ● Vintage Vault
    ● New Gear
    ● Fine Lutherie
 
 
    ● Workshops
    ● Advice
    ● Repertoire
 
 
    ● Recordings
    ● Events
    ● Breaking News
 
 
    ● In The Studio
    ● Live Onstage
    ● Backroom
 
 
    ● New Products
    ● Inside Look
    ● Performances
    ● Partner Pages
 
 
© Copyright 2020 PegheadNation.com