Hi, I am Ted Brown, designer and builder of hand made guitars at Blackwood Guitar Company. A long-time professional woodworker, I was educated in Ottawa as a cabinetmaker. I then took the Fine Woodworking Program at the College of the Redwoods in California in the early nineties where I learned how to design and make custom studio furniture. In 2002 I opened my own fine woodworking school in Almonte, Ontario, and for five years taught students from Canada, US and Europe in the art of fine furniture making.
These days my passion has turned to building acoustic guitars. It is a never ending journey to continuously improve a guitar made simply of wood. I studied under master guitar maker Sergei de Jonge, and now offer four guitar models hand built in my Ottawa Shop.
So why buy from an independent maker?
A good question, there are many guitars in many retail stores, why would someone want a custom guitar? The answer is as involved as the process of building a truly unique instrument. Every piece of wood is different, so it is up to the individual guitar maker to create an instrument taking into account the response of each piece of wood he integrates into your guitar.
Look at flex in the sound board for example – after finding a combination of top thickness and bracing, it would seem we would have a formula for success. Not so, because wood varies, and so we have to adjust the sound board thickness to obtain a desired flex, and then we add braces, which in turn are tuned (carved) to create a diaphragm with a known flex, and most importantly, a lively tap tone.
Fit – just as a good tailor makes a suit that fits you, a good guitar maker will make a guitar selected for the type of music you wish to play, and the right size to fit you. We can adjust the shape and size of the neck, depth of the body, add a cutaway, adjust the action, change the nut width, use your favourite tuning machines, add an arm rest and so on. I can make a guitar that will feel like a glove, look fantastic, sound amazing, and play the way you expect.
As an custom maker, I have the option to use a wide range of lovely woods. Woods like Cocobolo, Ziricote, Bubinga, Curly Maple, Claro Walnut, Malaysian Blackwood, Koa, Mahogany, Australian Blackwood, Honduran Rosewood, African Blackwood, Chocolate Mango and so on – the point is, the creative opportunity is limitless. We can work together to choose a combination of woods to suit both your aesthetic desire, and the type of music you like to play. I spend a lot of time sleuthing for tone wood, the result is a very cool collection of incredibly interesting, vibrant wood for you to choose from. Its like having a great wine cellar – no down side!
Finish is another point that is critical. Imagine finishing a guitar with one quarter of an inch of plastic all over the guitar – the sound would be completely muffled. What we want to do with finish is to protect the guitar, have a pleasing shine, and most importantly we must keep the finish thin and flexible to avoid dampening the vibrations that are the music you are creating!! To that end, I use a hand applied, hand rubbed, French polish finish. This particular finish is a modern version with added resins that resist attack from perspiration and liquids. The end result is a beautiful, thin, resilient finish that actually improves the sound of the guitar versus a sprayed on film finish. This all takes time, and an independent guitar maker willing to put in the effort to reap the benefits of this process.