Fine handcrafted guitars

Two guitar tops for size comparison
The J45 (underneath) is the largest guitar I’ve ever built. The soundboard on top is for a grand concert, which is not exactly a small guitar.

I’m currently building a pair of commissioned guitars and having a great time because the two instruments have such different goals.

The first is a jazz machine: I’m shooting for the strong, independent voicings and fat, certain trebles I’ve seen in several of my previous builds. This one is a Grand Concert size 12-fret with a red spruce top over a double-wall sugar maple rim and back, one of my all-time favorite combinations.

The other is a street fighter, with plenty of confidence and swagger, lots of low-end thump and a devil-may-care attitude about clean trebles. It is inspired by the best J45 I have ever played, a maple-or-maybe-birch-backed “Banner era” belonging to one of the best old-time guitarists around. My build is a red spruce top over a red maple rim and back.

Serial Number 26, a grand concert in sugar maple

Serial Number 27, a J45-style guitar in red maple

 

Like all interesting things, this repair started out simply enough. I saw my friend Bill down at the North Arkansas Fiddlers’ Convention, and he said, “The bridge is just starting to pull up on this old guitar,” as he handed me his 1944 D-18. I didn’t think regluing the bridge would be any big deal, then Bill said, “The bridge has been off before. And there’s a hole through the top underneath it that you could put your little finger in.” Continue reading “Interesting Repair: Putting a new top on a 1940s D-18”

Here’s a sneak peek of a not-quite-finished guitar. Number 22 is a 12-fret grand concert guitar with a red spruce soundboard, sugar maple sides, back and neck, an African blackwood fingerboard and bridge, and gold Evo frets with matching, smooth-running Gotoh brushed gold X-finish high-ratio sealed tuning machines. It uses a 24.9″ scale and the nut is about 1-3/4″ wide. The neck profile was suggested to me by the commissioner, and it feels great! It’s got just a hint of a V to it and is very comfortable to play. This guitar uses doubled sides and an adjustable neck. It both feels and sounds great. This guitar will be for sale for $2750 once I’ve finished it. Contact me if you’re interested.


Here’s a quick sound sample recorded on a little Zoom audio recorder:


See photos of the build process in these galleries:

An auditorium guitar in red spruce and American sycamore was strung up for the first time today. Right away, I noticed how even the notes across the bass strings are, from open low E well up onto the G string. When playing bass runs or lines, it’s hard to tell when I’m switching or alternating strings because they all have a similar body and brilliance (listen for the bass notes in the waltz snippet in the following sample). Also, there’s great texture to closed chords, with the chord voicing coming through nicely. One thing you can’t tell from the audio is how great the neck shape chosen by the guitar’s commissioner feels; it’s a vintage-inspired soft V contour, and I’m a fan after just a few minutes.

There will be some adjustments to be made as the body and neck settle in to having string tension applied, but the adjustable neck makes relief fixes much simpler. Once I’ve let the finish harden a bit more, this guitar will be on its way to its new home in the Pacific Northwest.

This American sycamore and red spruce guitar is rounding third base headed for home. The finish has been built up and now I’m on to compacting and burnishing the French polish finish. I still love the sycamore!

 

Between coats, I’m working the last piece to shape for this guitar: the pyramid-style bridge made of African blackwood.

 

See the earlier galleries for this guitar: part one, part two.

This American sycamore and red spruce guitar is coming right along. I’ve completed the woodworking and am deep into the finishing. The box sounds and looks wonderful–sycamore has almost unbelievable figure naturally and my previous sycamore guitars have given me some good practice on getting the most out of this wood. The adjustable neck joint front loads a lot of what is typically final setup work, so this guitar will be playable very soon!

See the first part of the gallery.

I’ve just begun work on a new 12-fret auditorium in American sycamore (from Callaway County, Missouri) and red (Adirondack) spruce. This guitar will feature laminated sides, an adjustable neck joint (adjustable from the inside of the guitar) and that wonderful snappy sound that sycamore provides. The aesthetic will be pure classic on this one: clean and simple rosette, binding, a slotted headstock, an African blackwood fingerboard and bridge and a warm brown finish.

See the next installment of the progress gallery.