The commissioner of No 28 got in touch with me after seeing number 27, the first slope-shouldered dread I built. He was sure that was interested in a J45-like guitar, but it needed to work well for strumming and fingerstyle playing. I knew that the Adirondack spruce tops I buy from Old Standard Wood would produce a crisp, articulate sound great for fingerstyle, and we decided on Tasmanian blackwood for the body wood. Sourced halfway around the globe from Australian Tonewoods, this acacia species is a relative of Koa, and has a mass similar to Honduran mahogany but a harder surface. The result is a sound that has many of the desirable qualities of a mahogany guitar (dry, woody tone and a relatively quick decay) with increased definition and crispness. The acacia worked beautifully with my water-based dye sunburst technique, and looks very deep and shimmery under the sunburst and waterborne lacquer finish.
The top is an absolute powerhouse. When I first played it, I was instantly aware of how “awake” the neck is, with plenty of tactile feedback for the player. It has the powerful, beefy bass desired in this size of guitar, but the mid-range and higher treble notes have dimension and interest far exceeding what I would expect from a guitar this large. All of the purflings, bindings and rosette are crafted from real wood, and Taylor Mullins (Holter Pickguards) made a custom celluloid pickguard that looks perfect. I’ve used an adjustable neck joint inspired by Mike Doolin, though I keep tinkering with the joint design. This guitar is electrified via a K&K Pure Mini.
Overall, number 28 is a beaut, and a thrill to play; I hope it provides many decades of thumping excitement and rich sound.
Here is a sound sample played using a Clayton “Raven” pick.
I know I’m nearing completion when it’s time to make guitar bridges. Number 28 (Tasmanian blackwood sides & back) is close now. I am sanding out its finish, which means that the bridge will probably go on in the next week or so. I roughed out four bridges for upcoming guitars: African blackwood (a nearly black rosewood), granadillo (the golden brown bridge pictured below), and two East Indian rosewood (the brown purple blanks which will be used on the slope-shouldered dread siblings.)
I’ve put just about as much finish as I want to on these bodies. Meanwhile, I’ve pushed the neck blank toward being a neck, complete with frets, color and finish. I still need to apply some final finish top coats to both the body and the neck, then, while the finish has a chance to cure up, I’ll make the bridge, saddle, and nut. Because of the adjustable neck joint I use, once everything is cured, the guitar will go together pretty quickly. So far I’m happy with the looks, feel and sound of everything, so stringing this one up will be fun!
In honor of 2-22-2022, here is a snapshot of the slope-shouldered dread twins showing off their in-process sunburst finishes. Especially in the brighter lower parts of the guitars, you can see how deep and transparent the dyed color is.
It’s time to get the bodies finished so I can allow the finish to cure while I finish the necks. Once the bodies are sanded, the pores in the the wood need to filled, then it’s time to get out the wood dye. This acacia body is getting a classic burst (which will look amazing over the curly wood).
These J45 twins are coming right along, and I’ve installed the sugar maple bindings and done quite a lot of the neck and fretboard work. Once the box was closed, I switched over to doing the major carpentry work on the neck, which is somewhat complicated by using my version of the Mike Doolin adjustable neck joint. For these guitars, I’ve made a small change to my method again so that the fingerboard is supported by a single, contiguous length of mahogany to further improve the playability of the neck.
The slope-shouldered siblings are moving along quite speedily, with the box on this Tasmanian blackwood guitar being closed over the last week. The Acacia melanoxylon sides and back have been a joy to work with: it bends easily, sands well, and has a nice, smooth finished surface. The box has a tremendous tap already, and the top frequency came in right at 148Hz before gluing the back on. I’ve moved onto the necks and will return to this body to install bindings once the no 30 box is closed.
I’m building two J45s this time around, and this is the second. The commissioner is looking for a pretty classic J45 sound–friendly, unpretentious and loose. I have had a really nice set of mahogany on hand for a decade or longer that was looking for the right project. This is the one. It’ll be paired with the slightly more flexible of the two Adirondack spruce tops to make a fantastic slope-shouldered dread.