Saturday, 11 October 2014

Custom Acoustic Guitar

My friend and long time customer Shannon Coulomb ( popped into the workshop late last year. He's a great player with a fantastic ear so I was keen to get his opinion on one of my handbuilt guitars.
This was the one he played:

It has a Carpathian (European) Spruce top, Australian Blackwood back and sides and Mahogany neck with rosewood fretboard and bridge. I use bone nut and saddle and stainless steel frets.
 I inlay a Piwakawaka (fan tail) in the headstock, otherwise I like to keep it simple.

Carpathian Spruce has a lovely balanced tone with sensitive, strong treble, a chimey bass and just enough mids.
 Australian Blackwood (NZ grown in this case) has similar characteristics to Rosewood.

The materials used are only part of the story, design and construction methods are equally important. You can't buy a guitar purely on the 'spec' of its component parts. That's fine for buying a phone or computer but a guitar made of the best timber but poorly built will not be a good guitar.  The skill, knowledge and experience of the maker are the most important factors.

 I like to build my guitars light - that way they react quickly and sound lively and full - I want them to "fly".

Shannon seemed to rather like the guitar, he was back a few weeks later for another go.

Then in August he was back again, he'd been around all the Auckland shops trying out guitars and couldn't find just what he wanted. So he commissioned me to make him a guitar just like the one he'd tried only with a tiny wee bit more bass.
 So to achieve this I've decided to make his guitar's body slightly deeper across the lower bout.

 Here are a few pictures of the construction process. I haven't finished his guitar yet, but some 'bare bones' pics might be of interest.

 Here are the two bookmatched halves of the back getting glued together with the centre strip.

I mainly bend the sides in my heater side bending machine then finish them off free hand with a bending iron.

The box is coming together.

I've inlaid a very traditional herringbone rosette.

All the braces are jointed together. Most guitars I see have the braces just butted up to each other or even just close. I cut all joints to fit snugly - even the bridge plate. This is much stronger and means the top and braces can be built lighter.

On this guitar I'm using a traditional 'X' brace configuration. All braces are quarter sawn spruce.

 The advantage of a handmade guitar over a factory, mass produced one is in the bracing. I 'tune' the top to match the properties of its components as well as what the customer requires. This is the really fun part - shaving the braces with thumb plane and chisel until its 'right'.
It's a shame all the clever stuff is tucked away inside.

 The neck is mahogany. Here's the heel very roughly shaped - there's a still a long way to go.

If you're interested in a guitar I always have examples of my work at the workshop.



I am no longer repairing guitars - since covid 19 I now work full time making pickups