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.

I’ve just began a new set of triplets, and the first on the list is a transitional J-45-inspired slope-shouldered dreadnought for Devin. It will feature a beautifully figured Tasmanian blackwood (Acacia melanoxylon) back and sides set and a primo red spruce top from Old Standard Wood. After letting the woods adapt to my shop environment (the back and sides came from an Australian tonewood company), I’ve joined the top and back plates and selected a Honduran Mahogany neck blank from my collection of seasoned neck wood. The next jobs will be bending the woods for the rosette, routing and installing the rosette, and then my favorite task: thicknessing the top and back plates and bracing them.



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: