Guitar design is incredibly intriguing, because everything affects everything! It is my ultimate pleasure to make an instrument that feels great, looks great, and most importantly, sounds great, all from a few pieces of wood.
Key to any guitar is the wood that the luthier selects. I use fine grade mahogany for my necks because it is light, feels good in the hand, and it supports a broad tonal range. Bodies are made from a wide range of exotics such as Cocobolo, Wenge, Curly Maple, East Indian Rosewood, Honduran Rosewood, African Blackwood, Malaysian Blackwood, Australian Blackwood, Koa, Bubinga and more.
Wood selection gives the instrument its character, its fundamental sound, brilliance, feel, and charm.
Sound board selection plays a large role in the final sound of your guitar. I build with various species that include Sitka Spruce, Carpathian Spruce, German Spruce, and Adirondack (red) Spruce. Finding a nice sound board with fine grain, good “silking”, the right flex, and a tap tone that rings like a bell is a great beginning in the building of a fine instrument.
A fine guitar is the assembly and shaping of many pieces of wood that together become a lovely guitar. The maker’s journey includes the joy of picking the right woods that when assembled and shaped, come together to make an exceptional instrument.
Hand shaping allows for the making of a custom neck for example: is it a bullish neck for someone with a large hand, or a slender neck for someone looking for a more intimate feel? Typically I use a “modified C” shape, but shaping to your style is certainly and option.
Selecting weights and physical sizes of components makes all the difference in the ultimate sound of your guitar. How thick should the top be? How much flex is right? What will be the thickness of the braces, and what placement is right? These are the nuances and special considerations that you get from a custom guitar maker. In the end, your guitar is unique, and hopefully exceeds your expectations in terms of looks, sound, and feel.
The neck shaping is finished; a very satisfying part of making a guitar – to get that neck just right, all by hand. I enjoy the look of a soft volute on the back that speaks to craftsmanship in its shape, while it strengthens the headstock bend.
Hand made, one by one…
Each Blackwood Guitar is made by hand, with great attention to detail. This is a Cocobolo “Harvester” model in the process of having the back attached to the sides. The green bars are called “go-bars”; they apply clamping pressure to the back during gluing. You will notice a guitar shaped “caul” in place under the bars to protect the Cocobolo back from being dented while the glue cures overnight.
A good finish does several things; it protects the instrument, gives it a lovely sheen, and it affects the performance/sound of the guitar. When it comes to finish, we don’t want to dampen vibrations, so thin is good!
I use a traditional French Polishing technique that creates a very thin, pliable finish that lends a beautiful sheen to the guitar. The formulation I use is a mix of natural and synthetic resins that protects your guitar from perspiration and liquids. Hand applied, and hand rubbed into a fine polish, it is not a fast process, but it is, in my opinion, the best finish for superior sound.
The guitar in the photo is a Brazilian Rosewood “Forest 1” model with a superb German Spruce sound board. The top is finished, then the sides, and then the back. Soft towels are placed over the jaws of the “Trojy” while I apply finish, to protect the front and back.