My passion for woodworking began as a young child growing up in Montpelier, Ohio. I had no sophisticated tools at the time and no formal instruction, but carried my hot coal of passion for woodworking throughout my life. When I was a teenager, my family moved from Ohio to North Alabama where the Marshall Space Flight Center is located. I was fortunate to gain employment with a prime contractor to NASA
at the beginning of the Space Shuttle program. As an adult, I continued with my woodworking and the Space Shuttle program provided a vehicle for my passion by crafting hardwood shuttle art pieces. To date, I have made well over 150 one-of-a-kind models. They are commissioned by astronauts, collectors, and for NASA retirees and contractor personnel. My art pieces are currently on display in two museums.
I first became aware of the C.F. Martin Guitar Company
about thirty years ago when I acquired a vintage 1931 Model 1-17 Martin guitar, Serial #49206. In response to my request for information about the guitar in 1983, I received a letter from C.F. Martin's Mike Longsworth about the heritage of that guitar. The information in that letter planted a seed and prompted me to begin a process of serial numbering my art pieces.
I enjoy playing the guitar and writing music. Since I am totally deaf on one side, I knew I needed a top-notch instrument that could maximize my talents. My goal was to someday purchase a new HD28 Martin guitar. I became aware that C.F. Martin's 1994 timeline includes 'the first [American] guitar in space' exhibit. Since the Space Shuttle program was beginning to wind down, it occurred to me that placing one of my shuttle art pieces
in C.F. Martin's museum with the first [American] guitar in space exhibit would be a fitting and appropriate tribute to the Space Shuttle program and I could order my HD28 at the same time!
STS-62 astronaut Pierre Thuot playing the first [American] guitar in space in 1994.
I began my personal relationship with C.F. Martin in the summer of 2008. I was fortunate to become acquainted with Dick Boak, C.F. Martin's Artist and Public Relations and Museum Curator. Dick enthusiastically embraced the idea of placing one of my shuttle models in the museum and so began the journey. Over the next couple of years, we shared many emails and phone calls about our mutual interest in wood, guitars, space, and plans for placing the model in the museum. He graciously sent some wood to be used in the model including ebony cutoffs from the guitar that Martin crafted for David Crosby's D12 that was, at the time, being custom built. He also sent some Brazilian rosewood out of his personal collection.
The shuttle model, Serial #10-15, was finished in January 2011. The Crosby ebony was crafted to make the external tank nosecone and the Brazilian rosewood was used in the body of the orbiter. Since C.F. Martin is located on Sycamore Street, I used sycamore wood for the three main engines. To further connect woodworking with guitars, after I write a song I remove the guitar strings and use them as my burnishing tool on the shuttle's tank and boosters. Like Martin guitars, all my shuttle models receive a serial number to document the date it was made and the traceability of its heritage.
Scott Phillips with C.F. Martin's Chris Martin and Dick Boak
Over two years of planning had come to fruition. My journey brought me to Nazareth, PA on January 19, 2011. Fortunately, my trip happened right between two major snowfalls. With great anticipation, I arrived at the C.F. Martin Company. As I entered the facility, I was greeted with a warm and welcoming smile from Cassandra Frantz. We enjoyed a friendly conversation while I waited for Dick Boak. Within minutes, Dick came down to meet me. I didn't realize it at the time, but he had cleared his calendar and spent the entire day with me. We proceeded through an electronic entrance upstairs to the executive suite.
After stopping for a cup of coffee, we went to Dick's office where the boxes I had sent ahead of time were waiting. While we were discussing the day's agenda, I was hoping there would be an opportunity to meet Chris Martin. I was blown away when Dick informed me that Mr. Martin wanted to meet me and that we would unveil the shuttle model that I created for their museum, with Mr. Martin, in his office. Mr. Martin loved the model and inquired about the LOX feed line and commented how much he enjoyed the level of detail. It was a bittersweet meeting as his younger brother had passed away the day before I arrived.
We then moved on to the museum with the shuttle model. Dick unlocked the glass case and placed the model next to the first [American] guitar in space. He allowed me to handle the guitar that Astronaut Pierre Thuot carried into space in 1994, which was a great thrill. Actually, it was overwhelming!
After lunch, Dick took me on a private tour of the guitar factory. I felt like a movie star. I was able to visit one-on-one with the craftspeople and we presented them with Shuttle lithographs and NASA meatball stickers along the way. It made me proud to be an American as I watched these world-class artisans working and to experience the authenticity exhibited by this extraordinary company. I would highly recommend touring the C.F. Martin facility.
Knowing that I am passionate about history, Dick invited me into their archive vault, which didn't appear to be part of the general tour. What a bonus that was! They had huge volumes of sales ledgers from back to the early 1900's as well as letters from many famous people including Elvis Presley and Gene Autry. It was both fascinating and highly informative.
Well, my moment had come. Dick asked me, "Are you ready to see it?" We went back to his office and I was presented with my new HD guitar that was over two years in the making. It absolutely exceeded my expectations. The inlay, crafted by Tracy Cox
, depicting the STS-1 shuttle launching off the pad was stunning! We took lots of pictures. Dick took one interesting picture of me holding my guitar with a picture of C.F. Martin III holding a guitar in the same way. Wow!
My amazing day had come to an end. As I reflected back, I felt like I left part of my family with them (my shuttle model), yet I felt a real connection and that I would forever be part of the Martin family.