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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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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. Welcome to Hart’s Guitars’ classical guitar setup guide!