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.

Because I like a challenge, I decided to apply a transparent sunburst to the top of the walnut orchestra guitar (serial number 16) that’s just a few weeks from being completed. I wanted to show off the beautiful grain of the Adirondack spruce top, so I chose to use reactive dyes to produce the color without the opacity of applying colored finish. Generally speaking, dyes enhance the grain while color coats, like colored lacquer, dry to a colored film that’s more like a lens.

Applying dye directly to wood can be pretty dangerous: the surface preparation needs to be perfect (no oily finger smudges, no glue smears that didn’t get cleaned up thoroughly) and the application needs to be close to perfect. The dyes can be dissolved in water or alcohol; alcohol is quite a bit more forgiving because it dries more quickly. (The longer the dye stays wet and active, the stronger the color. That’s why tie dye t-shirts look the way they do.) Because it dries quickly, you can mix the dye to a much weaker strength and apply more coats, making it easier to control the blend. Also, alcohol doesn’t raise the grain of wood like water.

To get a rich color that responds to a variety of lighting conditions, I ended up using a series of four dyes. I first lightly dyed the entire surface with a golden yellow. Then I began creating the burst with a peachy toner around the edges. Next, I further refined the edges with mahogany-ish tone, with the final edge treatment a reddish walnut color.

I masked off the herringbone body purfling and rosette rings with a liquid frisket from my watercolor kit before I began, and the results are very crisp.