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.


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  2. Cool story Todd, Pretty soon I can have my own collections of guitars too! I am a beginner of guitar and its never too late for me to learn and I really enjoyed it :)

  3. Nice Guitar presentation! I am so much fascinated on your total arrangements!
    beginner guitar