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015 Mahogany nylon string one-of-a-kind guitar.

Disclaimer: I’ve never been able to (and I really never plan to) make guitars that anyone can buy in a big box music store. Factories spit out instruments on such a level that there are literally millions of guitars in stores right now that are pretty, decent playing, and cheap. If you’re shopping for a first time guitar but somehow have landed on my website, just Google search or go to any Guitar Center with $300 and you’ll find a guitar to be satisfied with and most likely with a case or a gig bag. You might even go home with some change in your pocket. I cannot compete with that. Why would I even try to make a factory guitar clone when I have none of the tooling, infrastructure, or skilled labor they have? It’s not even remotely possible nor even close to desirable for me.

What sort of guitars do I make? The only kind of guitar I will ever make is one that has no equal anywhere else in the world. Am I saying that I’m the best luthier in the world? No, not even close! My focus and my passion is making a single-production, unique, inimitable artstruments. When not being payed, my goal is that this guitar (and any other guitar I make) will be one of the most elegant conversational pieces hanging in your home. My ideal client is the discriminating buyer looking for something undeniably special to add to their most cherished possessions. I’m only making guitars for the eccentric collector, the curator of the uncommon. If you’re looking for a truly unique guitar for yourself, your special someone, or for your impeccable collection, then I may have something available for you. If I don’t have exactly what you want, I am open to doing custom builds specifically for your needs (as long as your needs don’t include replicating a factory made that’s already been done).


On to the topic at hand

This particular guitar (number 015) is perhaps the pure embodiment of my building philosophy. It is the intersection of art and science. Under the hood, traditional building techniques are the strong motor and chasis of this machine. The exterior form is shaped asymmetrically using the Golden ratio as much/wherever as possible. It’s a design I’ve created myself using straight edge, compass, and french curve templates. I’m obviously a fan of Victorian voluptuous design. This guitar will cuddle with you.

  • Back, top, sides: Mahogany
  • Binding: flaming Maple
  • Fretboard: Padauk

There is no other guitar in the world that could be confused with this one. Just sayin.’

The Sound

Not exactly a studio recording here, but it can paint a picture of the beautiful music you’ll make with this instrument.

This guitar has a clear, warm, and full tone. It’s malleable to many playing styles and thus suitable for singer-songwriters, couch to porch guitarists, jazz musicians, and classical players wanting a non-traditional classical (nylon string) guitar. Let’s dive in a little….

Volume.

The loudest guitars are steel-string dreadnoughts with spruce tops and those are the best if you’re going down to the campfire kegger hootenanny to play with 17 other pickers (who also have loud spruce-top dreadnoughts or banjos which are even louder). This guitar has been adorned with all mahogany and nylon strings, giving the instrument a completely unique tone and use case, well-suited for use by solo players/singers or with smaller numbers of more finessed playing. Of course, you can have a pickup installed later and then it could be suitable for playing loudly at your first MerleFest or Bonaroo performance.

Sustain.

This guitar has lovely, balanced sustain, meaning that the decay time for a given note or chord held is lengthy. I attribute this to the thicker than normal mahogany top plate and taller bracing underneath.

Evenness.

Sometimes instruments will produce more volume at different fret ranges on the neck or sometimes one or two open strings might produce louder volumes even when these notes are given the same force when played. This guitar has a decidedly even output all up and down the fretboard and with all open notes as well. This is because of the thick top and tall bracing that also produce the sustain mentioned above.

Balance.

Does an instrument produce more output in the bass, in the treble, the bass and treble, midrange only, or is there a broad tonal balance? Some of my favorite guitars that I’ve made have a lot of emphasis in the bass range. That’s because, personally, I do love a heavy bass tone because I like to play jazz chords while using my thumb to mimic walking notes a bass player might play. While this guitar does produce a very nice bass range, it is not stronger than the other ranges. This one has a demonstrably even distribution making it great for singing strummers and finger-pick blues and jazz players alike: appropriate lows, even mids, and crisp highs.


The Wood

I acquired this wood from Carlton McClendon’s Rare Woods and Veneers right here in Atlanta. If you’ve never been, you owe it to yourself to check them out if you have any need for top-shelf wood for your home or woodworking projects. Plan on staying a couple of hours! You will.

I. Love. Mahogany.

Mahogany has been used in instruments for quite some time. Normally, it is used for backs, sides, and necks for guitars. I’ve only seen five or six all-mahogany guitars in my life and four of them are ones that I’ve made right here at Hart’s Guitars. I love the tone of mahogany and the bass-y well-roundedness of those instruments. I have three guitars I cherish and adore….. and every single one of them is an all-mahogany guitar.

Kasha-style bracing? what the…..?

Underneath the soundboard, I have used a bracing style invented by Dr. Michael Kasha in the 1970s. Here is a link to this unusual approach at soundboard bracing. There are very, very few guitars around with this style of bracing because it adds a lot of extra time to the process. But, it produces an evenness in the soundboard and an overall unique quality, adding one more detail to this instrument which makes it rare. I’ve attached a “deep dive” .pdf at the end of this article for anyone wanting more info on classical guitar bracing styles.

I just love to chose ways to make guitar building more difficult, esoteric, and time-consuming. Totally worth it!

It almost looks like a city in there

See those bridges, underpasses, shipping containers, and off-ramp exits east?

If you seek an out of the ordinary instrument that has no equal anywhere in the world, a one-off artisan guitar sculpted and refined by a single pair of hands over 9 months using only top-shelf tonewood, then please add this one to your list of things to see on your quest of curating the uncommon.

$3600

A Deep dive into classical guitar bracing styles


Other items for sale


Art pieces for sale

Sold

Paintings $130 – $420 some with and some without frames. If interested please e-mail me.

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Guitar 014: a Brazilian rosewood Madame de Goni style guitar – 1840s C.F. Martin tribute.

For this instrument, I decided to make a guitar in the style of an 1840s Martin. In those days, there was a lady named Madame de Goni who toured around the United States playing music on a guitar that would have been the size and shape of the instrument I present very proudly to the world today. Thus, I’ve developed a tendency to refer to it as the DeGoni guitar (or the Madame de Goni guitar).

  • Soundboard – Western red cedar drying for over 50 years.
  • Fretboard – Brazilian rosewood drying for over 100 years..
  • Sides – Brazilian rosewood from the same stock.
  • Back – Brazilian rosewood ” ” ” “.
  • Binding – flaming maple
  • Rosette – traditional Spanish rosette encircled by numerous rings of various species.
Even if you’re not a luthier or guitar player, this coffee table book is a page-turner for anyone who appreciates nice things.

The vision of this guitar began forming back in the spring of this year (2021). I purchased a beautiful book, Inventing the American Guitar, to add to my ever-growing library of luthier and woodworking related reference materials. I’m particularly fond of the craftsmanship of earlier times and this book has a plethora of images demonstrating instruments that are nothing less than works of art and what some might justifiably call lutherie porn. Nearly two-thirds of the way into the chronological display of how the modern guitar evolved from the romantic era Spanish-American guitar, there is an entire chapter dedicated to the story of Madame DeGoni. I fell in love immediately and months later I’m happy to present the guitar I might have made for the touring charmer if I had be asked to do so.

A status update sort of pic I took back in September is the best shot I have because the light in the room was perfect.

C.F. Martin made a special guitar for Madame De Goni and it was not the typical Spanish fan-bracing soundboard but a prototype for what would turn into the famous (and some say revolutionary) x-bracing soundboard reinforcement which was codified by the 1850s and is used to this very day!

María Delores Asturias y Navarres de Goni (1813-1892)

The famed poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow attended a house concert in Boston, Massachusettes in 1842. In two different letters he wrote days later it is obvious that the lady from Spain charmed his auditory as well as his visual tickle spots:

There is a sweet Spanish woman here, playing the guitar, La Señora de Gony,-delicious.” –La Señora de Gony, whose guitar delights me more, perhaps because it awakens sweet remembrances of early youth and Spain;-perhaps because a woman plays it, and the devil is in it.

Smitten.
Which one would Madame de Goni pick if she had been given the choice? Discuss.

I really made the best attempt I could to make this guitar feel and look like it was snatched up during a time travel drive by of the 1840s. I went so far as to give the finish the appearance of an antique guitar that had been retouched and refinished through the years. I really had a lot of fun with this one.

This De Goni tribute is made by simply the best wood possible. I’m pretty sure I could not be any more fortunate than I currently am with the wood I have at my disposal. For the soundboard, classical guitars are overwhelmingly made using either spruce or western red cedar. In the spring of this year, I acquired a collection of wood that has me set up with the finest tonewood which I can use to make guitars for the rest of my life, most likely. A local luthier named Wade Lowe passed away earlier in the year and I was indeed a fortunate soul, one of the few chosen to view his immaculate collection of wood his family was selling that he built for himself as a luthier and woodworker.

for a little more on the topic: https://sheshreds.com/martin-guitars/

For sale now at Village Music in downtown Avondale Estates in Decatur, Georgia.

Village Music

If you seek an out of the ordinary instrument that has no equal anywhere in the world, a one-off artisan guitar sculpted and refined by a single pair of hands over 6 months using top-shelf tonewood, then please add this one to your list of things to see on your quest of curating the uncommon.

$9125

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Wade Lowe, Atlanta luthier, was an inspiration for many wanting to learn the art.

Wade Low, luthier.
Wade Lowe was one of those characters that had a tremendous impact on many others.

I recently had the pleasure of getting to know Whitney Lowe and of being invited to the workshop of Wade Lowe, his father and an Atlanta based luthier since the 1970s. Wade was nothing short of a Renaissance man. Before becoming a luthier, his primary wage-earning wisdom, from what I’ve been able to uncover, was that of a machinist, something that actually had intrigued me. He knew machine tools, how to make them, using lathes, other milling machines, and grinders to produce precision metal parts. Although he may have produced large quantities of a given part during his time on the job, precision machinists often produce small specialty batches and even one-of-a-kind, single production specialty parts. From the feel of ingenuity abundant throughout the workshop, I’m sure when the company needed a crucial, complex part for an important process, they sent the task to Wade Lowe. He not only learned it and made a living, but he brought this particular art into his home with an amazing machinist lathe placed right there in the workshop. I’ve never seen such a complex piece of equipment in someone’s personal space before, but rather only in the manufacturing jobs I’ve had myself.

In the second half of his life, Wade found lutherie and it was second nature to him, as if some genetic switch in his DNA was triggered to the “ON” position. He quickly became a master builder. I’ve read many accounts in the bios of other luthiers whoo credit Wade as being one of the most important figures in their development in the art of lutherie. On his website’s main page, John Kinnaird writes, “Along the way I was fortunate to make the acquaintance of Wade Lowe. Wade owned a guitar shop in Decatur Georgia where he did repairs and made custom classical guitars and violins. He became a mentor and showed me what it meant to be a craftsman.”

He put together an amazing hermit-style workshop in the basement of his Decatur, GA home through his years in lutherie. When I first stepped into this unforgettable space, I literally wanted to hit the pause button on the control panel of our space-time continuum and then, with great care, pick up and inspect every single esoteric tool and jig, smell and feel all the Spruce and Western red Cedar boards that had been curing for decades. I wanted to tap them while attentive with my ear up close to listen for the sweet sound of sustained vibration luthiers want to hear when they’re searching for and considering tone wood for instruments they plan to build. If the wood is usable, there’s a special sorta ding! when it’s tapped the right way. This “ding” indicates is that you’re holding a piece that will be a good (or great) component of an instrument. I also wanted to hold, tap, and listen to all the instruments hanging around the place. But, I knew I had only about 45 min because another person was coming soon for their appointment to look through the shop. This was early on in what turned out to be a three-week day to day estate sale for Whitney, who had left his home and Academy of Clinical Massage in Bend, Oregon to come to town for this gargantuan task, which also included the sale of the home itself..

Photo by Carlos Everett, longtime colleague and mentee of Wade.

I had allowed myself a budget of $250 for that first visit, which was a lot of money to me at the time (and still is, currently). This money I had alloted myself was Covid-19 era poverty money that I raided from special reserves in a special bank account which had suffered many attacks in my previous two and a half years of lutherie studies and investments trying to start a new living myself in the field. There was just way too much to look through and I could only go on what my eyes caught by skimming through and endless reserve of chisels, hand planes, clamps, wood, guitar tops that’d already been “thicknessed” (luthiers know what I mean), etc. My time was up before I could be too sure of anything more than I’d simply grabbed a few quality things. One of those things was a drum sander Wade had made himself. I also was able to find some lovely Spruce and Western Red Cedar that had been drying at least 50 years and some chisels.


There was one room in the back corner of the workshop. It was full of exceptional species of wood when it comes to instrument making. There was Brazilian Rosewood, Bird’s Eye Maple, Mahogany galore, Walnut, Cherry, Sitka Spruce and so forth. It was the special reserve, Wade’s best. Serious inquiries only and it was being sold as an entire lot, not to be picked through. I did not even dare set one foot into that room because it was absolutely out of the question. No, Sir! Don’t even think about it! I got home with my goodies from my visit to his shop. I knew I had to make a 2nd visit. There were so many things that intrigued me. The next day, I contacted Whitney and made a plan to go back and dig again. I thought another $250 of special reserve funds was justified because I would never be in such a place again with this chance to acquire some really amazing tools and wood. But, NOT the special room. No way! I was going to stay out of there.

Wade had always been building things since he was a little kid. He had a background in machine design and transferred a lot of that background into learning how to construct instruments. He was always fascinated with music and had thought he might try to learn how to play some, but was more drawn to building instruments than playing them. At the time when he started learning how to build instruments there weren’t many teachers around and of course there was no Internet and no widespread dissemination of information. He got some books and had some early teachers that taught him specific things, but a lot of it was trial and error experimentation on his part. This is the best way to learn, in my opinion, but it does make for some emotional highs and lows, moving from courage with respect to the future back to despair, sometimes many times a day. His very first instrument was a balalaika that he built based on a picture from a record album. According to the family, a friend of his currently has this instrument.

I was able to get several personal facts about Wade from Whitney that paint a bit more detail to his life portrait. In his young years, his favorite musician was Benny Goodman. As he got older his musical taste got quite eclectic, Whitney said, but added, “we had a lot of good times in the late 60s and 70s singing songs from Creedence Clearwater Revival and he really liked them all away through his life.” He was really good at design and three dimensional renderings of things. Whitney recalls that “he was somewhat interested in art and he and I took an art class together one time which we had a lot of fun with but it’s not something he ever pursued much.” Outside of lutherie, he did have some daydreams about doing other things like building a boat. He always was interested in some kind of new and interesting challenge that would pose challenges or difficulties for him, something different and unique. A pity that there are only so many hours in a day!

Of all the instruments he made, his very favorite one was a Brazilian Rosewood violin. That was really sort of a tradition breaker and something he was really proud of. It was a marvelous instrument. Definitely a kindred spirit, he was, as I find it difficult to stay within the boundaries of traditional tone woods for classical guitars.

Whitney also reminisced that he had “so many memories of his marvelous workshop space. I used to go down there when I was a little kid and simply watch him work and create magical creations. Through the years it was always impressive to see what he was working on a new ways that he was finding to do things. More than anything he simply enjoyed the process of building things and also the end product of knowing that he would make people happy by what he was doing. Clearly he lived for the joy of making other people happy.”

Fortunately for me, Whitney gave me the chance to come shop in his family’s home when he found my website online and could see that I was local. On my third visit to the shop, I had the courage to inquire about the price of the lot of wood. I had already decided I was going to make an offer because it was unclear up to that point if there were any serious candidates. Still, I had no idea how much they were looking to get for that special room of sterling tone wood. Regardless, I had given it a lot of thought and knew very well just how much I could afford to spend without putting myself into a precarious spot economically speaking. When Whitney told me the price, I thought I might faint because it was something I could pull off. I pretended to think about it, “do some numbers” and get back to Whitney but I knew in my heart there was no chance I’d let this opportunity slip away. Later that day, I began hauling that treasure home.

Wade left behind a collection of wood that is hard to describe without consulting a thesaurus. Phenomenal, unparalleled, exceptional? I just don’t know which word to go with. Every piece of wood was labelled, dated, and kept in a humidity range that fine woods both deserve and need. If I am able to continue do this for many years to come, I will not run out of world-class pieces of wood that Wade had been caring for over the course of decades. Some of the Brazilian Rosewood pieces were cut “pre-1939” as one of the labelings indicate.Od all the Spruce and Western Red Cedar I acquired, there is none that hasn’t been curing since the 1970s. I could never have imagined I’d be having the opportunity to even look at such a refined collection and I certainly cannot believe, still, that I was able to buy it and bring it home. I

I made many trips to Wade’s shop, to load up my car to bring the things home I’d bought. Eventually, I was shown a picture of him from an article in a quarterly publication from the Guild of American Luthiers. Immediately I was struck by the feeling that I knew Wade. I’m almost positive I knew him, I just cannot remember from where. It may take me years to remember when and how I met him, but I’m sure it was in that hazy, forgotten time before I found lutherie. Until then, I’m gonna do my best to bring these pieces of wood together, shape them into instruments I hope would make him happy.

screenshot is courtesy of the Guild of American Luthiers

If you’re ever in Bend, Oregon or close-by and find yourself in need of a clinical massage from an expert, find Whitney Lowe. http://www.academyofclinicalmassage.com/

Friends of Wade who could not make it to his shop during the estate sale for an opportunity to buy some of his chisels, feel free to contact me and I will give any to you I can part with as a gift. I’d like to pass along a bit of the generosity extended to me by the family during my visits doing business with them.

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011. The Classikulele.

Using the same techniques as the ones employed in building classical guitars, Hart’s Guitars is excited to introduce its debut Classikulele!

I’ve dabbled in ukulele playing before when I bought one for $50 fresh off a beach trip, wanting my life to have a little bit more tropical je ne sais quois. There was a songbook as well, Crazy Jim’s Ukulele Songbook, or something to that effect. I learned a song called Chasing Rainbows and it was a lot of fun to play and probably the first jazz-standard feeling song I ever learned. Typical as with most obsessive impulsive hobbies, the ukulele ends up collecting dust and I later loaned it out with the book to a girlfriend and then never saw it again.

Since beginning the study of lutherie, I’ve wanted to build many types of instruments (like the Oud, for example) and on top of that list or near so has been the uke. After finishing up with a recent student and with a few days of downtime to recover from a Guitar Building Intensive, I decided to build one.

I got online to order some plans. Then, I thought. Do I need any plans? I don’t need any plans! So, as with my first guitar build, 001, I decided to simply design my own. I did not need to spend $30 on any plans from the Guild of American Luthiers! So, I sketched my idea for this classikulele in the morning of Thursday, July 2nd and started working on it. A week later I was finished except for the frets, which were somewhere in the USPS backlog.

Do you wanna build your own ukulele? Hart’s Guitars will be offering workshops soon. In the meantime, there is a book you must have if you’re seriously contemplating the idea of taking the plunge into the world of building a ukulele. Here is my book review of The Uke Book Illustrated: Design and Build the World’s Coolest Ukulele. I have to contain myself from a tendency to overhype things I love. But, this book is the sh!+! Let me explain….

Worth the price simply for all of the watercolour paintings in its pages.

Sarah Greenbaum is an artist. John Weissenrieder is a luthier. His shop is in the historic part of Florence, Italy! Sarah went to spend time with John, to observe him working, and paint illustrations of all the steps of the process and over cappuccinos they collaborated in this way to make the coolest book of lutherie you’ll ever see. Don’t be fooled by the picture book feel of the cover because this little tome is full of incredible information including: how to make jigs and tools of various sorts, Pythagorean math as a way to create the perfectly radiused arch in the instrument’s cross struts, and how to flush fret endings to the fingerboard and give them a 60° bevel, what!!?. There are paintings, watercolour paintings, that illustrate these things!

I’ve owned this book for nearly two years. I’ve consulted it often as it is an invaluable resource of information and inspiration for guitar builders. I loved it from the moment I opened it. It was only a couple of weeks ago when I decided to build a ukulele that I decided to read everything in the book, beginning on the cover, reacquainting myself with the author’s and illustrator’s name, and then flipping over and starting with the introduction to the book and that’s when I learned something that cemented a perpetual top 5 spot in my favourites for this little textbook.

Before The Uke Book Illustrated was finished, John Weissenreider passed away from pancreatic cancer. In 2015 he received the diagnosis. At the time, he and Sarah Greenbaum were a year and a half into the project. From the moment of his diagnosis until his passing, Sarah Greenbaum writes that he spent countless hours devoted to this book, “making sure there were no gaps left unfilled.” He wanted to pass on to the world, through this book, all of his knowledge. This is the sort of learning one gets through apprenticeships. This book is his legacy, a key into seeing the beauty and details in the handmade. I imagine they were more than collaborators while they worked together on this. The art of watercolour and the secret teachings of lutherie come together. Who new. Even if you have no inclination to get into the world of lutherie, this is a book you could fall in love with.

My first ukulele build.

Thanks for stopping by to read my post.

Coming soon, an article about my experience building Guitar 012….a little bit of tragedy but with a happy ending?

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Guitar 001

Before there was ever a website, an operational classroom of guitar lutherie, or a logo, there was only an idea to make a guitar I’d never seen or heard anywhere before. I was after something that I struggled to described: a timeless guitar, nylon string but not strictly classical, big-bodied, voluptuousness that you’d want to curl up with and never let go of. A delight to touch, to see, to hold and to hear. It would be perfect for jazz (especially bossa nova and latino jazz), blues, classical, flamenco, Americana, country, jazz country, and maybe even for styles not yet known. I wanted it to be a piece of art. I wanted it to be the one I’d never let go of. I wanted it to be my Trigger.

I never was able to find that guitar but one day the sky opened up and lit an unmistakable path so I could find that guitar. That was about two years ago almost to this very day. Despite having worked as a carpenter, having learned to and made numerous West African drums called sangban, kenkeni, and dununba, it had never occurred to me to try to learn to build a guitar. I thought lutherie (the art of making stringed instruments) was something you were born into, like people are born into wine-making families, farming families, investment firm families. It was for other people who were not me.

Two years ago I was on a short drive from Athens, GA to Lexington to visit friends I had not seen in over a decade. There was a store in the turn-of-the-century brick downtown of Lexington that had a window display of some of the most interesting guitars I’d ever seen. I was on summer vacation as a public school teacher with money in pocket and always open to getting a cool guitar so I pulled into the parking space in front of that store and went in. The showroom was cool. It was perfectly small, cozy, warm and inviting. It was full of the coolest guitars I’d ever seen. Turns out, dude in the store, a guy my age, was the owner of the store and he made all those guitars himself. They were unique in shape, size, and build. I played a few of them and instantly wanted to drop a lot of money into his cash register.

This is the good part. After a few minutes of playing and chatting, he asked me if I wanted to see his shop. We walked through a curtain door into a room that opened up to three, four, or a thousand times the space that was in the showroom. In a space of one second:

  • I saw a room full of guitar necks in different stages of development.
  • I feasted my eyes on all sort of old-fashioned woodworking tools: hand-planes, chisels, clamps, you name it
  • I saw guitar bodies, sides, tops, backs.
  • I knew I was going to leave teaching and that I was going to make guitars.

Yes, that all happened quickly. Things didn’t start rolling immediately, it took at least two hours for me to get back home to Atlanta, get on Amazon, and buy Guitar Making Tradition and Technology (but I had to be cool and pay triple the price to have the original 1st edition hardback). Then, it took another 5 minutes or so to find a guitar building workshop to attend, one that aligned perfectly with my fall break at school.

But, where to set up shop at home? By the grace of God, I had a full, unfinished basement under my 1200 square foot upstairs living space. Not only was it completely unused space but the basement also has a very clean concrete floor and no moisture problems, at all, which had actually been the tipping point when I decided to buy the house.

I found inspiration in this nook. I wanted to transform it. It would become something special and that would be the kickoff project for the transformation I was about to undergo. I bought a Japanese pull-saw, some framing 2x6s, and found a stash of old wood I’d been hauling from place to place each time I moved for the last 5-10 years. After a couple of days, the nook was something new. I still have not found a perfect use for it, but it has filled many roles.

I quickly decided that I wanted to make the guitar out of an old dresser. These are the first top and back set I ever cut. Not having any luthier tools, what you see in this pick took about 5 hrs of work. I eventually learned what kind of wood you must use to make a decent instrument, so they never made it into a guitar, poor fellas.

The learning curve is quite an elliptically exponential and seemingly never-ending trudge through hard decision$ to make concerning purcha$ing the necessary tool$ and then learning how to use those tools. Millions of videos on how to: use the tools, sharpen the tools, calibrate the tools, fix the tools, but nothing on how to slam the tools on the floor or throw them across the room when they won’t do what you want them to do.

Highlights from the first bend in the learning curve.


Binah

Along the way, I lost a very special friend, soul mate, son, brother, BFF, homie and once in a lifetime sorta pet. I probably might have finished the guitar in 6 months, but the emotional high of becoming a luthier was crushed to bits with the rest of me. Binah will always live inside this guitar. He was there with me through the beginning and all the way up til this moment: As soon as I got to this point, attaching the sides to the top, I put the guitar down and headed out for Thanksgiving. It was the last time I ever saw my little man alive.

There’s no way I can ever tell the story of my first steps into guitar-making without placing this footnote where it belongs. I’ll never forget Binah.


I didn’t have a blog when I finished this guitar, so it never had its own article. Out of all the ones I’ve built so far, it’s definitely the one that deserves it the most. In celebration of two years on this journey, I can think of no better way than to hit the publish button then go grab a spot on the couch with this beauty until it’s bedtime.

Not for sale.

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Guitar 010.

I began this making this guitar alongside a student building his in February. Then a pandemic came. We focused on finishing his. To say the least, it has been a very strange gap between my last post and what I have to share today, which is a small gigantic milestone. I want to celebrate the fact that I’ve made 10 guitars.

But, aside from this being a trivial matter considering the moment we find ourselves in, there just really isn’t any reason why the number ten should be any more meaningful than 9. In fact, in some regards, the number 9 is a sacred number (in the Bible and also in other major religious texts and traditions). But, I digress. Let’s get to the pics, shall we.

Hart’s Guitars Ltd Co is back in full swing. Don from Brunswick is coming next week to stay here at The Bamboozle and build a guitar using plans based on an 1864 model of Antonio de Torres, an unrivaled and revolutionary figure in the world of 19th century classical guitar luthiers.

When I get a new set of plans…I trace all the parts, transfer the trace paper to the pieces of wood, cut and sand to shape.

Then I need to make a monstrosity of a jig to bend the sides.

I spend about an entire day building this “side bending machine” for each different guitar.

The guitar is from a set of plans for an 1867 Francisco Gonzalez and he had a much more flamboyant rosette and binding style than most guitars we see today. My intent to make this one in his style really got off to a slow, then ugly start. I almost threw the soundboard away.

I was not even close to happy with the way this was developing. I screwed up. The outer ring is made up of three slices of different species of wood bent to circles. From the outer layer goin in: Brazilian Rosewood, Spanish Cedar, Cocobolo Rosewood. You can see that some of the pieces were damaged especially in the 3 o’clock range. I’ve read that the secret to becoming a better luthier is to become better at covering your mistakes. So, I stayed with it and I’m surely glad I did because I am so proud to say that I turned it into this….
Ugly duckling into swan.
The soundboard is Alaskan Yellow Cedar. The binding that flows along its perimeter is made up of three thin strips of different species of wood that I spent forever and a day cutting, sanding and re-sanding, throwing away, re-cutting and sanding (Cocobolo Rosewood, Maple, & Chakte Viga). They meet up at the corner with with a beautifully made vintage strip of binding I found at a local exotic-wood shop, Carlton’s Rare Woods and Veneers.. The sides of the guitar is bird’s eye maple. I’m beyond satisfied with how this all turned out aesthetically. It added a week to the job of building this instrument, but in my attempt to balance the art and the science of being a luthier, I’ll always have my scales tipped to the art side.

A while back I asked people to vote for the fingerboard to be used. It was a very contested result, split down the middle between choices B and D. So, I threw the results out the window and went with the canary wood, E.

This has been a fun one to play and it sounds really distinct. I’m still letting it “settle in” which is a phenomenon that takes place over a few weeks and longer wherein the instrument plays and sounds a little better with every passing day as you make micro adjustments. It will be available for sale with all of the others, except 001 of course, in the coming days on a newly designed store page, with prices and photo montage videos with audio of the instrument being played.

This instrument sounds amazing. I am ready to sell it with no hesitation for $1795. This is quite a bargain for anyone who knows what hand-crafted guitars go for usually or have seen websites that sell independent-luthier handcrafted classicals. I will personally deliver within a 2 hr radius of Atlanta, GA for gas money and lunch. Honestly, I hate the thought of my instrument sitting in a place where it’s not cherished. If you have buyer’s remorse, there’s a no questions asked 30-day 100% money back guarantee. After that, a lifetime guarantee on anything other than normal wear and tear.

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Billy’s finished 1869 Francisco Gonzalez classical guitar.

Only days after we began our journey together, it became clear that Corvid-19 was no longer a warning but a guarantee. Billy and I decided we’d continue to do the class. I had some hand sanitizer and we kept our 1 Joey Ramone distance 90% of the time. Last night he took this beautiful instrument to show to his wife and kids: a Spruce top with Limba back and sides and a Brazilian Rosewood fretboard. The guitar was built from plans from the Guild of American Luthiers of an 1869 Francisco Gonzalez classic.

The Guild of American Luthiers has some nice plans to pick from.

I can’t believe we made this. Thank you so much for this amazing experience.

Billy H.

A bit of a recap on our work together

Over the course of the first week, Billy and I accomplished a TON of items on the list to make his guitar. Then, I had to go home to Greenville, SC to take my mom to the doctor and spend a couple of days up there. When I returned, I fell ill for several days (not with Covid-19) and only days before the Coronavirus became an inevitability. After some delay, we were able to get back to work. Seeing the near future clearly in front of us and the disruption to modern life that was shaping up, we decided to just be casual with our approach, in no hurry. I advertise my guitar building intensive as a 7-day course. That flew out the window and we added to our projects the process of French-polishing our instruments. So, this also added a but more time to the process.

As we worked, we realized there was a lot of common ground in our life experiences. Days flew by quickly. Billy said he’d picked up so many skills that would be useful in his daily life and other projects. That is such a gratifying thing to hear as it’s what has been my wish all along from the beginning, when this hole business was just a daydream.

With the soundboard voicing, we really took our time and did things right. Those tonebars are very important in determining the character of a guitar’s sound. Some have said they could listen to a classical guitar played while blindfolded and name the luthier who built it. Billy and I decided to take an online course together on guitar top voicing.

Then it was time to bend the sides. It was the first time I had ever worked with Limba. I made a form to bend our sides. Heat is applied to the thin piece of wood using a thermal blanket with a temp controller.

This took about a day to make.I could have bought one for several hundred$, but I’m poor, so…….

With the sides attached, and glue drying, Billy now has to carve more cross strut braces for the back. The back will be entirely domed in a 25′ radius dish. It’s a process of sanding which involves pushing and pulling the back all around the dish until it takes on the domed shape.

Back to doing one of his favorite tasks in guitar building using one of his favorite tools, Billy uses the finger plane and shapes the braces for the back of the guitar.

Attaching the back……

Attaching the back is always a nerve-wrecking endeavor, at least for me. This time I decided to make some new spool clamps to aid in the process. Normally, keeping the back tight to the body while the glue sets is done using a number of clamps. That number is every clamp you have available in the shop. Plus rope. And a cinderblock on top. Here’s how a made the new spool clamps.

With the back in place, we move on to routing out the channels for binding, which is used to protect the edges of the top and back. Binding is also an area where some luthiers give a special touch, their own signature in the way they pick colours and textures.

Making the fretboard

Making the fretboard is a task. First, usually the piece of wood you plan to use is in the form of a short and slim board, called a “billet.” This particular billet was locked away in a special closet at Carlton’s Rare Woods and Veneers. It has been sitting in that closet since the 1970s. It’s a special collection of Brazilian Rosewood, which is now prohibited from being imported. There are many legal issues surrounding this wood including travel restrictions. Here is a good article on the endangered wood, Dalbergia nigra.

Brazilian Rosewood has a nice fragrant aroma when cut, sanded, planed, scraped. In fact, the tree used to be harvested to make perfume and because it took massive amounts of the wood to extract a tiny bit of oil, the tree became endangered as it was already beloved by luthiers and furniture makers.

Early on in the process, Day 1 I’m sure, we planed this beauty down to be trued and squared in two adjoining sides. This way, it will be cut with precision by the bandsaw. Otherwise, it comes out ugly because the bandsaw will make it wavygravy. Not groovy!

So the final stage was a lot of sanding, pore-filling, sanding, pore-filling, and. Billy was a great student, a sponge for valuable and pertinent lutherie information. He was eager to learn and do a French-Polish finish for his guitar, which is not normally a part of the guitar building intensive. But, with nothing but time on our hands, I was more than happy to learn it with him. He ended up being my teacher in some moments. Here’s a slideshow.

If you missed it, read part 1 of this story.

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A classical and acoustic guitar setup guide.

I’ve tried here to compile all that I’ve been able to learn regarding classical and acoustic guitar setups into an article for my students at Hart’s Guitars Co. Ltd. You may not need to read the entire article because you only need to fix one issue. Below, I have color-coded simple questions that can help you navigate quickly to the part of the process you need to jump to.


Do you need information about protecting your money’s value during this time of inflation?

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Jeffrey’s finished classical guitar.

At 2:20 am this morning, Jeffrey and I made the last incision into the depth of his high E nut slot to bring the string’s action down at the lower frets 1-3. And…..we were “finished.” HAHAHAHA. If you’ve ever made anything with your hands where you’ve put a lot of time and energy, you know that no such project is every really “finished.” Here’s a shot from around 1:45 a.m., the moment we had been waiting for since we began the journey: bringing out the color of that granadillo and mahogany to its full richness and depth. It was late and the only way we could see it was under the shop lights, which aren’t bad but definitely don’t give the same hues the Sun will.

In the shop, it was the beginning of guitar 008 but Jeff was student 001 at Hart’s Guitar’s School of Lutherie guitar building intensive. Along the way, I learned that the body style Jeff was building, a Goya G-10 (classical guitar made in Switzerland in the 1950s), is the same guitar, the very SAME! guitar, held by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. Jeffrey selected wood that makes it look pretty distinct from that famous guitar. We love the shape and size. It feels so good in your hands. Also, the scale length is 630 mm instead of 650 (which is .78″ or about ¾”). That difference of ¾” is enough to make a world of difference when it comes to playing a guitar. The standard for classical guitars has always been 650 mm (25 ½” roughly). Quick fact: Not everyone’s hands are the same size. Countless people have probably not had success in learning to play guitar because this standard scale length made learning not pleasant for their hands. At Hart’s Guitars, we can build your guitar perfectly sized to fit you.

We worked mostly on the weekends and a few weeknights. We began in early January. Jeffrey was a great student with cabinetmaking woodworking experience. He picked some really nice wood on our trip to Carlton’s Rare Woods and Veneers.

My first student at Hart’s Guitar’s Co. Ltd has been a friend of mine for a long time. His wife bought him a spot in my guitar building intensive as what must be the coolest Christmas gift ever for anyone who plays guitar. We’ve had so much fun reliving the time we knew each other Athens, GA where we met. For a short while we were even roommates sometime around the year 1999 or so.

We decided on his first visit to the shop that we’d be building a Goya G-10. The Goya brand name was initially used by Hershman Musical Instrument Company of New York City in mid 1950’s for acoustic guitars made in Sweden by Levin, particularly known for its classical guitars. In the 1970s, CF Martin (Martin guitars) bought the company and kept producing guitars under the brand name until the 90s. The “Goya” name comes from Francisco Jose de Goya, the famous 18th century Spanish painter known as the father of modern art (Francisco drew a lot of Spanish guitar players too). There’s a Goya G-10, made in Sweden, hanging in my house that belongs to my lovely girlfriend and it’s a beautiful antique instrument that plays like a dream.

This Goya G-10 was made in 1955!!

Jeffrey has woodworking experience so it’s been a joy to give him basic instruction and watch his mirror neurons replicate through his hands exactly what I’ve demonstrated. He’s putting together quite a fantastic instrument.