Luthier Frank Montuoro's "Bench Copy" Guitars

Posted by Andy Cambria

We here at TME are very excited to partner with luthier Frank Montuoro on the release of his new "Bench Copy" guitars. The idea of a "Bench Copy," i.e. a forgery-grade replica of a historically significant instrument, comes from the violin world (there's a nice feature here from our friends at The Fretboard Journal wherein Frank discusses this concept at length). Although there are many outstanding contemporary guitar builders producing their own versions of Golden-Era Martins, Montuoro's guitars are the only ones we've seen that would fool even the most discerning eyes and ears.

The subject of this post is the second Bench Copy guitar produced, a replica of a 1935 D-18. Every element of the inspiring guitar has been measured and recreated to the thousandth of an inch. The geometry of the finished guitar is remarkably accurate, and bears no difference from an original. Perhaps most striking are the pickguard and tuning machines, which Montuoro has worked tirelessly to reproduce (we know of no better 30's style Martin pickguard or Grover G-98 style tuner). The neck carve is a dead ringer for an original; and the weight of the finished guitar, 4 lbs., 3 0z., is identical to the inspiring 1935 D-18. Have a look at our photos of Montuoro's guitar below:


As for the guitar's sound ... there's no other newly built D-18 style guitar that comes this close to sounding like a vintage guitar. It's warm, fat and incredibly open -- all the sound is way out in front of the guitar. It has the snap and responsiveness in the high end that we associate with a great 30's D-18, and the boomy, warm bass we all want to hear when we pick up those guitars. Montuoro prefers John Pearse "Pure Nickel" .013-.057s on these guitars, and their round-core tension and uncolored sound are definitely part of what's going on here too. 

Have a listen to the guitar below (please note, we have D'addario Nickel Bronze medium-gauge strings on the guitar in this recording):

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