I have been enjoying playing my new classical prototype…a lot. The sound is a very good match to my taste, with a woody, full midrange and sparkly, fat trebles. The basses are solid and loaded with tone. Most importantly, the sound is consistent throughout the range and the instrument sounds great in quiet sections and even better when driven hard.
A short sample of the guitar’s sound.
In considering construction decisions for this Cavins classical, my primary inspiration was the guitar sound on the incredible Scott Tennant album “Guitar Recital.” The album was an instant favorite for me (thanks to my guitar teacher, who introduced it to me), and the sound of his guitar captured me right away. I’m sure that Scott Tennant could make any guitar sing, but I understand that the instrument on the recording was made by Miguel Rodriguez.
Since I knew I wanted a crisp, woody bass, I chose a stiff Engelmann spruce top and braced it using a very lightweight seven-fan bracing layout. To reinforce the midrange and trebles I chose red maple sides and back (in my steel-string experience, it produces lush trebles). The very lightweight black walnut bridge contributes to the percussive, lively attack. The fingerboard is Honduran rosewood, and the binding, end wedge, and other trim are black walnut. The sample audio was recorded while the guitar was strung with Augustine medium tension strings, although “hard tension” La Bella 2001s are an even better match for this guitar. I incorporated a sound port in the upper bout, and I’ve really enjoyed the immediate and transparent feedback that it provides the player.
As usual, our artist-almost-in-residence has outdone herself with beautiful Ozark flora- and fauna-themed tuner buttons for the Mermaid. The tuner buttons were engraved with exacto knives and the engraving filled with archival ink, with a tiny pen.
Four down, one to go!
Clockwise from top left: baby catfish, craw daddy, fern, dogtooth violet
Clockwise from top left: craw daddy, baby catfish, dogtooth violet, minnow
l-r: crappie and button fern, dragonfly and dogtooth violet, trillium, walking fern
Just in time to ring in the New Year, the mermaid banjo was strung and ready to play.
The all-wood rim produces a warm, yet crisp sound with lots of depth.
She’s surprisingly resonant, with just the balance of tone with percussion we’d hoped for. Bluegrass banjos, with their hard resonators and snare-drum-tight heads, tend to be brash and sharp; old-time banjos tend to err in the opposite direction, with large pots and loose heads to create a sound that’s more thump than tone. Amber had chosen this pot in the hopes of a goldilocks-like compromise between the two that would suit her light, melodic clawhammer style. Continue Reading →
The very best thing about building guitars is making good guitar/player matches, and I think this player has found a lifelong friend in this guitar. He wrote me a few days after he picked up the guitar, asking, “What’s the opposite of buyer’s remorse?” The answer is the grin on this guitar builder’s face, of course!
While working on a repair a couple of weeks ago that required some hand planing, I realized that I couldn’t stand using my overlarge, rickety bench for another day. Maybe not even another hour. I’d been planning to replace my workbench with something better suited to how I work now, and the urge was suddenly implacable. So I tore it down and threw myself into finishing the new bench.
I tried to make most of the chance to re-imagine my workspace. A stout top and new storage topped the list.
It sounds strange to complain your bench is too large, but it dominated my small shop space, and it was large enough that there were areas I never worked on. Those areas accumulated a jumble of offcuts, often-used tools, and bending forms. And then, when I did need a guitar-sized space to work, there wasn’t one. Continue Reading →