Felix Martin’s green, headless, double 8-string guitar was built by Skervesen Guitars in Poland. The guitar is called “the Goliath,” and features fanned frets, which Martin says help him write differently. Photo by Mary Escalona
Sidebar headline: Strength in NumbersFelix Martin’s left-handed, doubleneck, conjoined guitars aren’t something you just walk into a store and buy. He must seek out daredevil luthiers, convince them he isn’t crazy, and work with them to craft instruments that fit his needs.
Martin’s first instruments were built by Canadian builder JP Laplante. Laplante was instrumental in refining Martin’s original concept and built many of his guitars—including his 7+7-, 9+7-, and 8+6-string configurations.
Martin’s most recent collaboration, however, is with Skervesen Guitars, a small shop based near Gdańsk, Poland. Skervesen built the green, headless, double 8-string beast called the Goliath that Martin is using on his current tour and on Mechanical Nations.
“Everything was a bit different because of his unusual playing technique,” says Skervesen company spokesman Maciek Horaczko. “The main thing was shaping both the upper and lower horns so Felix can access both the upper neck and also play easily in the sitting position.”
Building the necks also proved to be a challenge. “Shaping the profiles of two necks, which are connected together, was one of the biggest problems,” Horaczko says. “It’s not obvious, but when you look at the back of the guitar, you can see the necks are not parallel. We had to recalculate the placement of the frets so that the guitar is playable and that all the notes are in place.” Each neck is seven pieces of wood—a combination of rosewood, maple, and ebony—bound together to form a 15-piece doubleneck. Each neck also sports a truss rod plus additional carbon rods to compensate for the extra tension. “The tension of so many strings is enormous,” Horaczko says. The fretboards are maple.
Skervesen also took pains to craft an instrument that was not only light, but wasn’t top-heavy. “We went with a headless construction,” Horaczko says. “When you have 16 tuners, no matter how small they are, the number 16 makes it heavy. We also used lightweight pieces of wood. The body is swamp ash, which is lightweight and has a nice sound.” The top green piece is made from poplar burl.
The biggest challenge, though, was testing the final product. “Once we finished the guitar, it was such a crazy and unusual custom guitar that there was no one who could try it,” Horaczko says. “It is also left-handed. I’m left-handed, but I really couldn’t play anything that made sense.”
Martin’s guitar is a one-of-a-kind instrument, though you can order one, too. “It costs about €5,500, which is still less than two 8-string guitars,” Horaczko says.