Over the past 40 years I have developed and made a range of instruments for the discerning player. I build small batch acoustic guitars using my stock of 30 year seasoned wood. I will build with premium woods for custom orders. I also have a range of electric guitars, basses, mandolins and banjos which are made to order.
I have tried to produce a range of reasonably priced guitars with the very best tonal characteristics. Something that's a cut above your normal well-known factory product where your well-earned money buys you a better sound rather than a well-known logo. Something with soul, individuality that stands out both visually and tonally from the mass produced industrial product. Something with oodles of vintage tone and volume but with a designed-from-scratch approach. Almost 90 years ago the first 14 fret steel string guitar was an original creation as an industrial product in an age that the only hand built guitar was the gut string classical. Even though carved-top jazz guitars have been made since the early 1900s it wasn't until the 1960s that individual luthiers started to offer hand-built steel string flat top guitars as an alternative to the mass-produced product.
I am not a factory and don't use any computerised CNC machinery, just traditional hand tools with certain power tools for economies of labour. Wood is extremely variable; no two trees are alike and unlike metals or plastic, its strength varies considerably. Factories make every part the same size so frequently over-engineer at the expense of liveliness and tone. I do weight and strength tests with all elements of the soundboard and then individually voice each instrument. Being an acoustician, I choose the very best of woods for the important part of the instrument; the soundboard, the top, bracing and bridge are the best wood tonally and structurally, no compromises. All other woods are chosen for their visual beauty and structural strength and long-term stability. Each instrument is Custom, a one of a kind, achieving the best sound with the best choice of materials.
In order to distinguish my guitars from factory products I have put certain design details which can only be handmade. Rosette, bridge, headstock and fingerboard end together create a distinctive combination.
My 30-70 year seasoned wood for backs and sides is Pre Convention Bubinga, Purpelheart or Irish Oak.
Tops are European Spruce, bracing is sitka spruce and the neck Honduras Mahogany. Standard pricing includes 32 segment exotic or special domestic rosette, contrast purfling with a range of binding woods, 30 year seasoned Ziricote bridge of my design.
I make commissioned instruments and Custom guitars together. All are different, Custom instruments are generally available from stock or a short wait list.
If I have a Custom batch in process it is possible to book one and have some choices depending at what point you come into the loop. This includes rosette, binding, headstock overlay and backplate. Nut width and string spread is wider than factory guitars as standard but as this is one of the latter processes can be adjusted. Standard neck profile is a cross between C and modern vintage but as all necks are handmade can be adjusted prior to finishing.
Custom range finish is gloss nitrocellulose vintage coats. Full or top only French polish is an option. Neck can be french polish, shellac, true oil or nitro. Please see specification list for full choice of options.
My current range.
Acoustic Guitars - These are 21st century design instruments taking cues from the first 14 fret steel string guitars. The 14 fret guitar is an American industrial product introduced in 1930 and was the first guitar designed from scratch in over 200 years. There were many things right about it in terms of tone and volume but also many structural issues which in time were corrected at the expense of the former.
Three Body sizes S, M and L. All are made normally with a slightly wider neck than normal factory product.
Large Modified Dreadnought
This has the same internal volume and sound hole diameter of the traditional dreadnought but the shape is curvier with a more pronounced waist. This allows the guitar to be balanced on the knee while sitting for a more comfortable playing position. The x-bracing is moved closer to the sound hole which opens the points of contact with the stiff rim. It also opens up more vibrational area below the X and subsequently the tone bars are repositioned to take advantage of this. It also has the anchor; a structural combination of an L-shaped neck block tenoned into the very substantial mahogany upper transverse brace.
This is the do-it-all guitar, aimed at the performing musician who also likes to play the same instrument for songwriting and recording. It is equally at home with finger or flat-picking.
The essence of a Mod D is the cutaway version. It has the look and feel of a smaller body but has all the volume and tone of a Dreadnought and more. I make it with a 25.25 scale length and optimised for 12 or 13 gauge strings.
The first batch of these are now available.
Medium OM/000 type
This is what I call the desert island guitar. If you could only have one acoustic guitar, this would be it. Small in size but plenty of volume and a more mellow tone in the highs than the Mod D. This was the first of the Vintage Redesigned based on the first 14 fret steel trying guitar. Many of my 21st century design changes were solving original structural issues of the OM. The OM was only made until 1934 and then became the short scale 000 for the next 35 years. I make mine with a 25.34 scale length and optimised for 11 or 12 gauge strings.
I normally build this with a thinner back for more player feedback while playing seated.
12 fret instrument coming in 2018. Recently I cleaned up some Irish Oak planks that have been in the workshop from day dot. They're over 70 years old, perfectly quarter sawn and will become the basis for this guitar.
Top - Master grade Lombardy spruce.
Old Growth wood back and sides - Bubinga, Purpleheart, Irish Oak and various other woods that were cut over 30 years ago
Highly figured wood or plain binding. Koa, European Maple, London Plane, Ebony, Purpleheart
32 segment radial rosette in various exotic woods
Neck - Honduras Mahogany. Scarf joint headstock with front and back exotic wood plates and matching truss rod cover
Fingerboard 21 1/2 fret unbound ebony 16-20" compound radius
Bridge - Ziricote
Tuners - Gotoh
Hiscox Pro2 Case
Current Old Growth Series Price
Full Body from €3000
Florentine Cutaway from €3500
Instruments are priced as they are coming to completion. If you want to reserve one during construction you may purchase at the fixed price above and the remaining construction allows for custom choices.
Neck depth and profile
Fret height and width
A full personal custom one may be ordered. This is the Landscape Series. Along with the above woods there are premium woods available. There are many tonal and decorative options.
I make my guitars differently, I call it Vintage Redesigned. Below are some of the key construction points.
Here are eight reasons why the VR is different.
1. Upper body neck joint is radically different to normal guitar design. This is what I call the anchor.
Neck block is L-shaped and dovetails into the upper top brace making a solid platform for the upper fretboard and a solid boundary for the top to vibrate. The neck load is spread across the whole upper body of the instrument.
2. Laminated sides on Premium range.
Ziricote 2 mm laminated to 2 mm African Mahogany. Ultra-stiff sides so the energy of the top and back can radiate as sound without the sides sucking all the energy out of them. Ziricote is notoriously difficult to bend and distorts and cracks easily. Once laminated it is stabilised and extremely strong. And beautifully figured.
3. All wood construction.
All my instruments are made with wood, bone, metal and shellac. All structural joints are glued together with hot hide glue which sets like glass for the best sound transmission. Each join is also reversible with heat and moisture. There are some exceptions. The wood binding is glued on with Titebond aliphatic resin which is the glue normally used for all factory construction. It's slightly rubber consistency gives extra protection to the binding when it has to do its job of protecting the edges and the top/side/back joints. French polished instruments have a small scratch plate piece of 0.13 mm clear Mylar to protect the top from nails, plectrums or fingerpicks.
4. Three-piece laminated tail block.
The tail block is a simple piece of wood that glues the sides, top and back together. It will often accommodate a strap button or jack socket. I have repaired instruments for many years, and one repair stands out as extremely fiddly and difficult: a broken or cracked tail block. To counter this, I construct a cross laminated tail block, which means it will not crack even when dropped by a failing strap or a momentary lapse of concentration. Grain direction matches all glued surfaces so nothing will come adrift, and lamination allows for lighter construction.
5. Headstock lamination.
Not necessarily something unique but just the addition of a head-plate and a backplate to the head along with head stock scarf joint means it is extremely difficult for the head to break off. At the normal vulnerable neck joint there are five laminations. I've also added a volute not just because it's pretty but also to increase the cross section at the joint. The double action truss rod is assisted by two graphite rods to prevent twisting of the neck and offers a wide range of adjustability particularly with heavier strings in non standard tunings.
6. Short heel.
The strength of the neck is in the joint and a long tenon with a double bolt ensures extreme strength and sound transmission. It is seamed with hot hide glue so no cracks develop along the joint. The short heel allows access to all the upper frets comfortably. A bolt-on neck means any future reset of the neck is easier for the luthier. My mandolins and arch-top instruments have a traditional dovetail joint as the smaller joint has insufficient space to get a reliable bolt on joint.
7. Bridge and bridge-plate design.
A guitar's bridge is the prime point where the strings' energy is transmitted to the sound box of the instrument. The bridge on the OM and all my current guitars are made of Ziricote as well as the backs, sides and head-plate. It's not just a cosmetic choice; Ziricote is a wonderfully resonant wood like Rio Rosewood before its general use was banned in 1969. Ebony, the universally used bridge wood is heavy and lifeless. It modifies the sound rather than transmitting it directly to the top. It's attributes suit archtop bridges to give a nice attack and short sustain to the sound; however, flat top instruments want to be as light as possible. This bridge is married to a long grain Bubinga bridge-plate underneath. This prevents string end wear and the wood is torsionally stiffer than cross grain preventing the bridge from twisting. Traditionally one of the most stable hardwoods, I purchased a large amount of Bubinga over 30 years ago so it's well seasoned. The bridge is slotted, not the bridge pins, so the strings have a greater break angle than normal. The slots follow the angle of the saddle so there are no changes in string volume across the strings. The saddle is 6 mm thick: the most energy-efficient and twice the thickness of a normal bridge to allow for perfect intonation.
8. Interior finish.
Factory instruments are finished on the outside only. The interior is the rough finish from woodwork machinery. This arrangement means moisture is quickly absorbed to one side of the wood so uneven stresses can build up to cause cracks. Secondly, rough surfaces absorb acoustic reflections. A smooth surface allows the sound to bounce around and assist with sustain and the character of the tone. My instruments have wood prepared as smoothly as the outside and then sealed with a couple of coats of shellac.
Landscape Range Series Guide Pricing
Full body guitars €3900 upwards
Florentine cutaway guitars €4500 upwards
Ziricote OMvr Landscape pictured is for sale at €5500
Other Fretted Instruments
A5 mandolin €1400 upwards
F5 mandolin €2500 upwards
Weissenborn style lap guitar €1300 upwards
Dobro €1200 upwards
Banjo 4 or 5 string open back €1400 upwards
Price includes Hiscox Pro2 case or similar quality if a non-standard instrument. Pegasus fibreglass cases available as an upgrade.
All instruments are designed with you, the player, involved in all aspects that affect playability.
Neck depth and profile
Fret height and width
Pickups and electronics
Choosing woods, decoration and finish
Once a design and specification is agreed a deposit of €500 is due. The balance is due on collection.
Approval Period and Warranty
All instruments have a 7 day approval period. In the unlikely event that you are not fully satisfied I will give a full refund less any shipping costs.
There are some limitations. Personalised inlay and non-conventional instruments are not covered.
All instruments are guaranteed for the life of the original purchaser provided they are looked after in the fashion that person would like to be treated.
Guitar finishes are not the same as found on a kitchen table and are easily damaged. Whereas it is relatively easy to reapply french polish unfortunately sprayed lacquers can't be as easily repaired.
General rules of pricing
Standard pricing includes wood binding and purfling, unique radial segmented exotic wood rosette, old stock top and Bubinga back and sides, nitrocellulose finish.
Custom design rosettes are my speciality and are available as an option.
All soundboard woods are master grade or AAAAA if not available in the instrument size desired.
Most top woods will have been cut at least 7 years.
Generally flat top soundboards have been glued and stabilised at least 6 months. Carved tops are glued and stabilised at least 2 years.
I have some adirondack spruce mandolin and mandola tops cut 25 years ago.
Inlay is time-consuming so adds up quickly. Dot markers on fretboard edges are standard, other types of markers are an option.
Fancy or difficult-to-work woods can add considerably to price.
I won't use Brazilian Rosewood. It has been restricted since 1969 and on then placed on CITES appendix 1 for good reason. If the idea that a coastland wood would suddenly appear as sunken logs out of rivers and that straight-grained stump wood would be magically available with genuine papers is too good to be true then it probably is. Any instrument with Brazilian Rosewood requires extensive documentation for International travel both leaving and entering countries every time and any incorrect procedure renders the instrument liable to confiscation and destruction with a substantial fine for the owner. It is a particularly difficult wood to work, highly prone to cracking and splitting which artificially increases the price. I believe that from an acoustic standpoint, Ziricote has the same complex tones and is an excellent replacement both tonally and appearance.
I make it my business to buy my wood either directly from the man who cuts it or through a long time known reputable source who refuses to deal with illegally-harvested wood.
If you would like more information on the current situation with international wood trade please click here.