Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Let's all help Paul Geremia

Paul Geremia is a great player of country blues and historian of early American music.  He has been playing as a sole means of support for 45 years.  In that time he has traveled to most of his gigs in his car, crisscrossing the US countless times, and also touring Europe.  In June of 2014, Paul suffered a stroke and since then he has been on the road to recovery.  There have been some friends who have been helping him on that road, and his friend Janet has been doing the lion's share of the work.  Because of all the medical care, Paul has incurred some large medical bills and he has been unable to play the gigs which he normally relies on for support.  As a result a fund has been set up for friends and fans to contribute.  If you are a friend of Paul's or a fan of his music, I ask you to help out in this time of need.  If you could contribute to this fund, it would be greatly appreciated.  Thank you.

Here's the link:

Friday, June 27, 2014

Lydia Mendoza and Her Acosta 12 String

Lydia Mendoza c. 1937 when she was performing on Border Radio

Much of my appreciation of old instruments comes from listening to old recordings, seeing old photos of the musicians and asking the question, "What are they playing?"  The harder the instrument is to identify the better (I especially appreciate instruments that were built in small shops).  I then start digging and begin a process which a buddy calls "guitarcheology", trying to find out as much as I possibly can about the instrument and the people who built it. I then put together the pieces of the puzzle and try my hand at building one.  I have done quite a few projects like this and each time I gain a greater appreciation and understanding of the musicians and the luthiers who made their instruments. These projects have put me in touch with the families of the musicians and the makers and I have heard some wonderful stories.  A year or so ago my friend Nikki Grossman asked me if I would be interested in making her a 12 string like Lydia Mendoza's. I was very excited at the prospect of finding out more about Lydia and trying to find out more about the guitar she was playing in the iconic photos of her early career.

Mendoza family c.1930, her mother is playing the Acosta 12

Lydia Mendoza was a Mexican-American singer and 12 string guitar player from Houston Texas.  She started recording in 1928 with her family band, Cuarteto Carta Blanca, and in 1934 she had a big solo hit with her song "Mal Hombre". I suggest you give it a listen and read on:

Lydia was a fantastic singer and incredibly inventive and technically proficient 12 sting guitar player.  On that front I hold her in the same regard as Leadbelly and Willie McTell.  She was a prolific recording artist and performed on border radio stations throughout the 1930s and 40s.  She received many accolades for her music and achievements and was recently honored with a U.S. Postal Stamp.

 The 12 string guitar that Lydia Mendoza played should not be confused with a bajo sexto.  Both have 12 strings, but a bajo sexto is tuned a full octave below a standard six string guitar (like a bass) while Lydia's 12 string was tuned a fourth below (which is considered a baritone).  Interestingly enough, this is the same tuning that Leadbelly and Willie McTell used for their 12 strings.  I've heard Lydia's 12 string referred to as a "guitarra doble" and have seen old catalogs where 12 strings were sold as "Mexican 12 strings".

Lydia in the recording studio c. 1934

When Nikki asked me if I would build a copy of Lydia's 12 string, I told her that it was going to take a while.  First I had to figure out what it was, that meant finding out when it was made,who made it, how was it built, how was it tuned etc.  That was not an easy task as the guitar world has largely ignored Mexican American instruments and because of that, it was going to be very difficult to find an example to study.  I started inquiring with different guitar geeks I know and kept coming up empty handed.  Finally the great blues player Steve James, who lives in Austin, Texas and who knows quite a bit about Tejano music, musicians and instruments, told me that he thought that the guitar was made by the Acosta family of San Antonio, Texas.  Steve suggested I get in touch with Lydia's biographer Yolanda Broyles-Gonzalez. Yolanda suggested that I speak with her husband Francisco Gonzalez who was a musician and string maker.  Francisco confirmed to me that the guitar was built in the shop of Guadalupe Acosta.  He also told me that he had restrung one of Lydia's guitars at some point.  He said she used a standard 12 string set made by D'Addario and that she tuned the guitar down to B.  This piece of information was like gold to me.  To get confirmation of the builder was huge, but to get an idea of the strings she used and her tuning was a big boost.  Neither Steve James nor Francisco Gonzalez knew of anyone with an old Acosta 12 string, but they both told me that the grandson of Guadalupe Acosta, Mike Acosta, had a music store in San Antonio and that I should try to contact him.  I found the number for Acosta Music in San Antonio but to my disappointment it had been disconnected.

Lydia c. 1937

A friend put me in touch with another San Antonio music store owner, Mark Waldrop.  Mark was friends with Mike Acosta and he passed along his number to me.  Mike was incredibly gracious and generous with his time and information on his family.  Mike ran the Acosta Music Company for 40 years and had only recently retired.  He gave me a lot of insight into how his family built guitars and he was a great help in this project.  Here is a summary of what he had to say.

Guadalupe Acosta c. 1937 (San Antonio Light Collection)

Mike's grandfather Guadalupe Acosta moved to San Antonio Texas from Mexico during the Mexican Revolution, sometime in the 1910's. He set up shop and worked with his three sons and making a wide variety of stringed instruments.    Mike said that in the old days they would make a batch of a dozen six string guitars, followed up by a batch of a dozen 12 string guitars. In the 1950's the demand for bajo sextos became so great that they spent the bulk of their time making them and didn't build many six or 12 string guitars.  The majority of the guitars had spruce tops and mahogany back and sides, but for the nicer instruments walnut would be used for the back and sides.  The earlier guitars were "cross" or ladder braced and later on they used fan bracing for some of their guitars.

In 1937 a photographer from the San Antonio Light, the local newspaper, visited the shop and took a number of photographs.  These photos give an incredible look into an instrument builders workshop at that period in time.  They shed much light into the building process, tools used etc. and were invaluable for me during this project.

Luis Acosta 1937 (S.A. Light)
Guadalupe Acosta sponsored a young Martin Macias when he came up from Mexico.  Macias worked in the Acosta shop for eight years or so and then went on to open his own shop.  Macias is quite well known for his bajo sextos and his son and grandson followed in his tradition.  His grandson George continues to make fine instruments in San Antonio. The old Macias bajo sextos are quite heavy in weight and have stout necks (one of the reasons they are prized by Conjunto players).  Mike said that his family's instruments were built lighter than the Macias' and had slimmer necks.  His father and grandfather felt strongly that the instrument should be comfortable and responsive.

Miguel Acosta c. 1937 (San Antonio Light collection)

 Mike's father Miguel Acosta grew up in the families guitar shop and remained involved until Guadalupe passed away.  Mike had a collection of instruments that his father built and they are all very unique works of art.  Mike said that his father really came into his own as a luthier when he returned from service in WWII.  The most unique of these instruments is a double neck six string/bajo sexto which is equipped with pickups that his dad built in 1947.  Miguel made the guitar for himself to play at gigs where he was required to play both six string guitar and bajo sexto.  Mike's son pointed out to me that this is probably the first double neck electric guitar ever made and that his grandfather should have applied for a patent.

Miguel Acosta 1947 electric double neck

There was also an 18 string guitar which has a very unique shape (you can see an 18 string neck on the workbench in the above 1937 photo of Miguel).  This would have had six courses, with three strings in each course. Mike told me about a guitar that his father made to look like a lava lamp, "It's hard to describe.You just have to see it." 

Mike Acosta with Lava Lamp Guitar

Miguel Acosta 18 string

I was really blown away with the work that the Acosta family had done.  Their instruments were so creative and beautiful, I couldn't believe that I hadn't heard of them before and that they weren't more widely recognized.  I came away from the conversation energized and feeling prepared to get to work.

Have I mentioned that I still hadn't been able to find an example of a 12 string made by the Acosta family?  I did find out that Lydia's had been stolen from her at some point and there was no hope of tracking it down and using it for reference.  I did have though the information that Mike had given me and a photo of his father building a 12 string which offered many clues.  I needed some good photos of Lydia with the guitar.  I contacted the Arhoolie Foundation which has done an incredible job of preserving Lydia's music, and they graciously shared photos of Lydia with the guitar which I have included here.  Each photo gives a glimpse into different details of the guitar, the woods used, the trims, the dimensions etc.

Putting together the pieces into a working plan.

I spent several weeks pouring over all the information, organizing the photos chronologically, making notes on the details and then making scale drawings based on the photographs. I made over a dozen plans before I came up with one that I was happy with.  The final plan had a scale length of 26 1/2" and a lower bout of 14 1/4".  Of course I can't be sure that it is perfect, but I'm confident it comes close.  I would love more than anyone if someone could produce an Acosta 12 string that was built around the same time as Lydia's to see how right or wrong I was.  I can only hope that it happens.

Judging from the information that Mike Acosta had given me, as well as the way that the light reflects off the guitar in black and white photos, I decided to use mahogany for the back, sides and neck, and spruce for the top.  I chose ebony for the fingerboard and bridge.

Inlaying the D shaped inlays on either side of the fingerboard proved to be a challenge.  I have a router with holes in the base which operates like a compass, but normally I drill a hole through the top of the guitar to create a pivot point, as is the case with the soundhole and rosette.  With the D inlays, I was unable to drill through the top of the guitar and into a workboard, so I had to make a template which I could clamp to the top of the guitar, which had a pivot point as well as the D cutout.  It worked pretty well.  Getting the D holes to line up symmetrically with the fingerboard, rosette and edge purfling was quite difficult and I did manage to lose one top in the mix.

The bridge was another piece of the guitar that was quite distinct.  I noticed in the photos of Lydia with the guitar that there was a strip of white wood that was running through the bridge at a certain point.  In all the photos her hand is covering up the middle of the bridge, so I was unable to make out the specific details.  I came to the conclusion that it was a laminated bridge, ebony or some sort of "ebonized" wood, with a piece of maple running through the top of the tie block.  I think this design was to give strength to the ebony at the tie block as there are 12 small holes going through that portion of the bridge and quite a bit of string pressure being exerted on the weakened wood.  It seems that eventually that part of the bridge would split due to all of the work it was required to do.

Another thing that is noticeable from the photos of Lydia is the metal tailpiece.  In the old days, people didn't always think to repair guitars, at least not to the extent that they do today.  Oftentimes the repair for an unglued or failed bridge was to put a metal tailpiece on a guitar and transfer the string tension from the bridge to the tailpiece.  In the early photos of Lydia and her mother with the guitar (from c1928 to 1934) there is no tailpiece.  The tailpiece shows up in the later 1930's, I suspect that the bridge finally failed at the tie block and the tailpiece was the solution.  I did tell my friend Nikki that if the bridge failed, I'd happily make her a tailpiece as a solution (if she didn't want the bridge replaced).

The shape of the headstock is something which also seems to have changed over time.  In the oldest photo of the guitar, the one in which her mother is playing it, the profile of the headstock seems very strong and distinct.  The headstock of the guitar Miguel Acosta is building in the photo has a very similar shape.  In later years the headstock seems to have been cut down a bit and the profile is not as sharp.  My only thought here, and this is speaking from experience, is that at a certain point Lydia needed a case for the guitar.  It is very difficult to find a case for a small bodied, long scaled guitar with a long headstock.  Cases that fit the body won't accommodate the overall length of the guitar and cases which fit the length don't offer much protection for the body because they are too big and the body bounces around.  In order to get the guitar to fit into a case that fit the body properly, some material had to be removed from the top of the headstock.  I have seen this in at least one other case (no pun intended)

I'm very happy with the way that the guitar turned out.  It was very light in weight and responsive.  It was a great joy for me to build it for Nikki who will do it, and Lydia's music, justice.  I thank her for giving me the opportunity to build it and to delve into this world.  It was great to speak with Mike Acosta and his son Mike.  Many thanks to them for being so generous with information and for providing photos of the instruments that Miguel Acosta had built.  I hope that this project brings some more recognition to the wonderful work that their family did and that they are recognized as the great American luthiers that they were.  Maybe then more of their instruments will be flushed out of the woodwork.  Thanks to the Arhoolie foundation for the loan of the photos of Lydia with the guitar.  Thank you to Yolanda Broyles-Gonzalez, and to Francisco Gonzalez for the information on Lydia's strings and tunings.

 If you're interested in learning more about Lydia Mendoza, I highly recommend checking out some of her music on the Arhoolie Record label.  They have recordings she made throughout her career. She also appears in the1979 Les Blank film "Chulas Fronteras", which is a great look into Tejano music.  For an in depth look at her life, I recommend her biography "Lydia Mendoza's Life in Music / La Historia de Lydia Mendoza" by Yolanda Broyles-Gonzalez.

You can read more about the Acosta family in "Hecho en Tejas: Texas-Mexican Folk Arts and Crafts", which features an interview of Miguel Acosta and outlines his construction of a bajo sexto.  The Acosta family is also featured in the book "The Mexican-American Family Album" by Dorothy an Thomas Hoobler. 

Todd Cambio
June 2014

Postscript.  Here are a couple clips of Nikki Grossman playing some Lydia Mendoza tunes on her 12 string.  This was such a great project!  Not only did I get to delve into the world of Lydia Mendoza and the Acosta family, I was able to make an instrument for a great friend and fantastic player.

Friday, April 25, 2014

A Manifesto on Domestic Woods

Quartersawn white oak back and sides which came from a local farm.

When I started building guitars I was very enthusiastic about using domestic woods.  The first guitar that I made had white oak back and sides, wood that came from a farm not far from my house, a maple neck and fingerboard, and a red spruce top. I had salvaged the maple from an old beam in a barn that I had worked on.  I used white oak for the first half dozen guitars that I made.  It's fantastic wood.  It works nicely, bends like a dream (they use it for barrels and boats), has a great tone, it was used on many guitars from the early 20th century, and when it is quartersawn, it's beautiful. 

White oak parlor

As the great luthier Al Carruth told me, "White oak is one of my favorite tonewoods.  The only problem is selling it!"   I was once at a guitar show with a white oak guitar.  There was a fellow who saw the guitar from across the room.  He came over to my booth and was captivated by it.  He
asked if he could play it and he strummed a few chords and said, "That sounds great!  What kind of wood is this?"  When I told him it was white oak, he promptly put the guitar back on the stand and without a word turned and walked away.  Al Carruth was right.

As time went by and I started building guitars full time, I found myself using domestic woods less.  I began using mahogany more, occasionally koa or rosewood, because that's what my customers wanted.  Once in a while someone would request a guitar with white oak, birch, maple or walnut for the back and sides, but for the most part people were skeptical.  I've used red spruce, which comes from the northeastern U.S. on the majority of my instruments.  Red spruce is highly regarded and prized in the guitar world, though it wasn't always that way.  I've also used poplar for necks, something which was done quite a bit in the old days, but which has fallen out of fashion and is no longer a consideration for most builders.  The old Galiano that I play has a poplar neck which has remained straight with no reinforcement for the 90 plus years it's been alive.

It has surprised me that in a supposed age of environmental awareness, the use of domestic woods has not caught on.  There are a few independent builders who use them on occasion, but the big companies seem to stay away.  Martin made some white oak guitars a few years back, but the wood they used came from England.  They are currently making some guitars using cherry, which the deserve credit for.

Sunburst on birch back

 I see the use of domestic woods in guitar making as a cycle that is in need of a paradigm shift.  There is little demand for instruments made of domestic wood because there are few instruments being made of it and people haven't had the chance to play and hear instruments made with the stuff.  Guitar makers and companies make a good margin off of marking up the prices of wood, and people seem to want exotic wood, as they equate exotic wood with good tone and that is what they are familiar with.  So the incentive for the maker is to use exotic woods, the more rare the better. 

Sunburst on maple
Another factor is that sets of domestic tonewoods are hard to come by.  Because there is little demand from customers or builders, many of the larger suppliers of tonewood don't bother carrying them in their inventory.  I was once asked by a large wood supplier if I had any suggestions for their company.  I suggested that they carry sets of white oak and birch and market it as environmentally responsible, locally sourced wood that was easy to work with and good for people who were building their first guitar.  They looked at me like I was a lunatic and never followed through.  I did appreciate that they asked for my feedback.  Suppliers would rather source wood from Africa, Asia, India and South America and in some cases certify it as "Sustainably Harvested" (never mind the fact that it has traveled halfway across the world to get to the supplier), than contact local mills for a source of domestics.  Looking at the sites of two of the biggest tonewood suppliers, the only domestic options for back and side wood are cherry and maple.

So if a builder wants to use domestic wood they have to find the wood and  resaw it themselves.  This is what I've always done in the past but it makes the whole process of building a guitar that much more complicated.  Resawing is not an easy task, it requires the right equipment and there is quite a bit of time involved.  It's much more convenient (and cheaper if you take the time to resaw into consideration) to order a set of wood from a supplier which is already milled to the proper dimensions. There are some smaller suppliers who carry domestic sets, but they are often difficult to find.

Talk is cheap though.  The proof is in the pudding.  I've included some photos of some of the guitars I've made with some highly figured domestic woods for the back and sides.  They certainly look nice, you'll have to take my word for it that they sound good too.  In most of these cases I've only used domestics for the back, sides and top.  For the necks I've used mahogany (the white oak parlor has a poplar neck), and for the fingerboards and bridges either ebony or rosewood.  Here are a few examples of instruments I've made using domestic woods for the entire instrument:

1. Bajo Sexto: A few years back I made a copy of a bajo sexto  made in the 1950's by Martin Macias.  Like many of the one man shops of his day, Martin Macias used the wood that was locally available to him.  For the guitar which I copied he used walnut for the back and sides, fingerboard and bridge, poplar (which he called "magnolia") for the neck, and pine for the top.  I used all the same woods, but opted for red spruce for the top.  I especially liked using the walnut for the fingerboard and bridge as it's difficult to find a good domestic hardwood for this application.  The walnut worked wonderfully and was comparable to many rosewoods which are often used for these parts.

Francesca with poplar b&s

Stella 12 with poplar back
2. Francesca 12 string: Last year I restored two Stella 12 strings from the 1920's.  I have worked on a lot of Stellas over the years, but on the first one of these, I realized that the wood used for the back and sides, which I had always assumed was birch because everyone referred to it as birch, was actually poplar.  I had long known that Oscar Schmidt used poplar rather extensively for necks and occasionally fingerboards, but I hadn't considered that they would have used it for back and sides.  The guitars are very often dirty inside and it can be difficult to identify the wood, but on one of the old 12 strings I had to take the back off and upon cleaning the wood I realized that it was poplar.  It totally made sense and went along with everything I have always thought about Oscar Schmidt's production ethic, poplar was inexpensive, it takes stain wonderfully and it doesn't have pores, which means that you can skip the step of pore filling which is one of the most time consuming steps in finishing, and time is money.  I immediately wanted to try building a poplar 12 string but I had to wait until I could find a customer who was interested. 

Not to long after I was contacted by a Blind Willie McTell acolyte who requested a guitar like one of Willie's old Stella 12s.  I talked to him about the poplar and he was game.  I used red spruce for the top, poplar for the neck back and sides and maple for the fingerboard and bridge.  I stained the maple black so that it would look "ebonized", like the fingerboards on the old Stellas.  The guitar turned out great.  It was very light in weight, sounded great and looked like it rolled out of the 1920's.

maple board & bridge
poplar back

Anunziata with Hemlock top.

Hemlock top.
3. Hemlock and White Oak Anunziata - My friend Clancy is a timber framer who has a sawmill.  He and I are always talking about wood.  Recently Clancy came across some hemlock which had been salvaged from some massive beams in an old warehouse built in the early 1900's. It had probably grown in Wisconsin before the North woods were clear cut.  Clancy had resawn the beams to use in a project and he had some nice quartersawn cutoffs which he gave to me. The more I looked at the hemlock the more it reminded me of some of the wood used on tops of guitars built in the early 20th Century, especially some of the early Chicago made guitars.  I used the wood on a couple of projects and I was more than satisfied with the results.  It sounded great and with a coat of varnish it immediately look old and warm.

I built a guitar for Clancy and his wife Sara and wanted to use wood which he had given me over the years.  I used the hemlock for the top and some white oak for the back and sides.  For the neck I used poplar and for the fingerboard and bridge I used some walnut from a tree that I cut down back in my carpenter days.  The guitar has a very plain and simple but elegant look to it.  It sounds fantastic.

White Oak Back

In conclusion, I think it's up to all of us.  As builders we need to try to use more domestic woods, even if it's only for one or two guitars a year.  Experiment with different woods and get educated about them.  If builders start using more domestic woods, they will see that it is great stuff and compares very favorably with the exotics, and sometimes exceeds them.  As customers, we need to ask builders about domestic woods and consider them as an option.  They can be beautiful, sound great and there is a historic precedent for them.  Eventually the idea will catch on an some of the big guys will start carrying sets and the bigger makers will use more of them.  It's much like organic food, years ago it was only hippies and back to the landers who would grow and eat organics. It took many years but it eventually caught on and now you can buy organic food at Wal Mart, which is not a bad thing.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

A Whole Bunch of Guitars

 I have been a bit negligent of the blog, but nevertheless busy in the shop.  I figured rather than write a post with a specific subject, the best way to catch up would be to post photos of some of the work I've done since the last post.  So here goes:

Numero Uno:  Here's a nice little 14 Fret Anunziata that I made for my friend Jack Klatt.  Jack is a great guitar player and singer/songwriter from Minneapolis, Minnesota.  He's an excellent fingerpicker and fabulous writer of ballads.  Check him out at his website  Jack told me he wanted a 14 fret, smaller bodied guitar.  As I was in an X bracing frame of mind and as I thought something along the lines of an old Gibson would be suitable, I decided to make him a very lightweight, X braced, 0 sized, plain Jane Anunziata.  It's a great sounding little guitar.  I think it was in the 3lb range.  He's been traveling the country with it and sounding fantastic.

Next up;  Ernie Hawkins contacted me and asked me to make him a rosewood guitar.  He had played the 14 fret Angelina that I made for Mary Flower and said that it was the first rosewood guitar that he ever liked.  He said he wanted something like Mary's but with more of a plain look.  I made him a 14 fret X braced Angelina, 00 sized, red spruce top, Madagascar rosewood back and sides.  A powerful sounding box.  I look forward to hearing him work his magic on it someday.

Round Three:  I had the opportunity to build another Leadbelly 12 string, bound for Austin Texas.  I always enjoy building Leadbelly guitars.  The challenge on this one was the pickguard.  I haven't put one on one of my copies and it was such a prominent aesthetic element of Leadbelly's guitar.  It was fun tracking down photos of him with the guitar and scaling out the pickguard and making a pattern.  Rather than screwing it directly into the top, as it was on the original, I opted to put in two false screws and adhere it to the guitar with padded double sided tape.  This way it has the look of the old one but the screws invite cracks.  With the tape, the guard can be removed with no damage to the guitar.

Numero Quattro, the Wild Child, ladder braced Angelina:  David Bragger is a great player of blues and old time music in Los Angeles.  David wanted something unique and suggested the idea of a blue guitar.  The challenge was to make it look classy, less like a cheap Chinese made blue instrument, more like a 1930's hallucination.  Classy may not be the right word, but it is definitely unique and makes a statement.

In addition to the blue, I upped the ante by adding a layer of glitter.  I varnished over the blue and the glitter.  The back and the sides were nice flamed birch, maple neck, ebony fingerboard and bridge. The glitter was a bit of a challenge.  It plagued all of my French polishing pads which I had to throw out at when the guitar was finished and start fresh.  Nevertheless I'm glad I did it as it really added to the overall look.  I had some old stock pearloid from the Harmony factory which I used for the peghead veneer and pickguard. 

Numero Cinque:  My friend Alvin Youngblood Hart was in town last Spring.  Alvin was very instrumental in me becoming a guitar maker.  I made him a 12 string about 12 years ago and he's been traveling the world with it ever since, and I'm honored that he's done so.  I've offered to make him a newer 12 a few times as I've learned a few things in those years, but he's always declined as the guitar suits him fine.  When he was here though he did say that he may be interested in a six.  The only guidance I was given was that it needed to have a solid peghead, and that he liked the old Regal Coke bottle headstocks.

Alvin's a ladder braced dude.  He hipped me to that style and I was going to stay true to it.  I wanted to make him something that looked like it was from the mid to late 30's, bigger box than his old Stella but with the same scale.  I made him a 12 fret Angelina with a 24.9" scale, birch back and sides, hand rubbed sunburst varnish finish.  I really dig this guitar and hope to hear him playing it soon.

Numero Sei:  My friend Eden Brower of the East River String Band wanted a small guitar as she is a rather diminutive young woman and has had trouble finding a guitar that fit her.  I have a couple cheap kids guitar that kick around our house that my boys play on and I find myself gravitating toward from time to time.  I also have a small guitar that Antonio Cerrito built in the 1910s or 20's.  I decided to make a new model based on a combination of these two.  Some folks call a guitar like this a terz, I'll opt for a small guitar.

Eden gave me the direction, "I like black and pink".  The spruce top has an ebonized finish, the paduk back and sides have a pink varnish.  There are skull, heart, liquor bottle and "Slum Goddess" inlays, and an inlaid pink leopard skin pickguard.  The rosette is reminiscent of the grooves of a record, as records play a prominent role in her life. The scale is 22".  With the short scale it can be tuned up to G, but she tunes it to standard pitch.

While I was laying out the top for the guitar, I realized that I could get another top out of the scrap of spruce which was left over.  I joined that scrap spruce and pulled out some wood from my scrap box which is full of cutoffs and mistakes and made a guitar for my boys.  Really it was a guitar for myself to play around the house, but the kids were a good excuse.  That is the blonde one.

Numero Sete:  Rami Gabriel, a great jazz guitar player from Chicago asked me to build him a 14 fret Felix like the one I made for Craig Ventresco.  Rami was digging the sunbursts I've been doing lately and I was happy to do another.  He was looking for something loud and punchy so I decided to ladder brace it, and use maple for the back and sides.  It's a honking good box.

Numero Otto:  A friend in North Carolina asked me to build a Loretta like the black one I built earlier in the year.  It was a great pleasure to do another one of these.  A ladder braced parlor with an ebonized top and inlaid pickguard.  This guitar was very light in weight, I think it was 2 lbs. 10 oz.  24 1/4" scale.  Despite it's small size, this guitar can really bark.

Finally, A nice little Erma which was Chicago bound.  Adirondack top, mahogany back and sides, mosaic purfling that I made, engraved fret markers, varnish finish.  This is my take on the Stella concert guitar, true to the old form but a little more refined. It is a lovely sounding box and I'd love to have one like this around the house.

There they are, the guitars that closed out 2013.  There are some new ones on the bench and I'll try to be better about posting them as they are completed.