Acoustic instrument design has fascinated me since the 1970s, when I worked with my father in his shop, building dulcimers, harps, and viols. Decades later, I have my own shop in Eastern Oregon, where I have been immersed in developing methodology in pursuit of my goals in custom acoustic guitar construction. The first guitar I built was the only one that used totally conventional design.

I love to build any type of guitar, but with 1001 other luthiers and companies large and small already specializing in tweaked versions of the concepts developed and perfected by Martin over the last century, I have been particularly drawn towards the evolution of designs that let me create a more personal expression of the acoustic guitar, particularly seeking rich tonality, superb projection, and exceptional dynamic range.

• Most of my guitars are now built with a player-adjustable neck angle for immediate resetting of the action height to compensate for humidity changes, different playing styles, or structural changes as the instrument ages.

• All of the necks have a cantilevered fretboard extension, freeing up a greater area of the soundboard to vibration, resulting in increased tonal depth and excellent sustain.

• The necks are reinforced with carbon fiber rods in addition to the normal adjustable truss rod. A rigid neck results in less wasted sound energy.

• The frets are a special alloy that is harder and more durable than the standard metal.

• The construction inside the box is also more robust than the standard design used by most builders. Flying buttress braces provide tremendous rigidity to the heel block, decreasing the typical distortion of the body over time. Solid linings create a more rigid framework for the soundboard, resulting in more energy being available to vibrate the top.

• Double sides also contribute to the rigidity, and and decrease the likelihood of side cracks due to impact.

• And there are numerous well-crafted and appropriate aesthetic details, visible in the photos. Many of these details are standard, such as burled wood headstock, side purfling on body and neck, and binding on the headstock.

Structurally speaking, I build three different types of guitars, each available in any of the models.

Solid Top: The first type uses the standard solid top and bridge, with my version of the traditional x-bracing found on almost all steel-strings. One of the inherent weaknesses of the x-brace system is that often the best tone is achieved by scalloping the braces to reduce weight and increase response, but this does reduce their strength and increases the likelihood of excessive "bellying" of the top under string tension. In my solid top guitars, I often construct my x-braces with a spruce and carbon fiber laminate. In my experiments, for an equal mass, this structure provides a bit more stiffness than solid spruce, and equally important, these braces will always maintain original shape integrity, and not gradually and permanently metamorphose into a shape imposed by the string tension.

Doubletop: The second type uses a soundboard known as a "doubletop", along with a standard bridge. Working with inspiration and advice from Charles Fox, a pioneer of doubletop steel string guitars, I have been developing my own variations on this process since 2007. The doubletop concept refers to the structure of the soundboard, in which a strong but extremely lightweight honeycomb core material is laminated between two thin layers of tonewood, usually spruce or cedar. This is a very exacting and expensive process, but the results are well worth the effort. The resulting soundboard requires less bracing than a normal solid wood top, and will also weigh less than a standard top built to the same stiffness. The real benefit is the sound quality of course, and here a properly made doubletop will have excellent balance, noticable power, exceptional dynamic range, and very good response to both light and hard attacks in any style.

Tailpiece with Doubletop: The third type of guitar takes the doubletop capabilities an exciting (I think) step further. In these guitars, the strings are attached to a tailpiece, which allows the removal of most of the structural bracing under a specially modified doubletop soundboard. Though the basic tailpiece concept has been around for more than a century, the result really bears no relationship to earlier flattop guitars with a similar appearance. The special interlocking bridge which captures the strings before they cross the saddle was inspired by an 1893 patent, and allows the use of normal flattop ergonomics instead of the tall bridge and saddle used on archtops. Due to the lower mass and inherent stiffness of the doubletop, and the de-stressing of the top from using the tailpiece, the response, tone quality, and volume is exceptional.
Many of my construction methods have been inspired by the work of other luthiers. Please click here to read about the original sources.
Click on photos to enlarge
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Adjustable neck - this style has the adjuster bolt for angle/action hidden inside body
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Inside view of guitar with solid linings and double sides - "flying buttress" braces also add tremendous rigidity to the body framework.
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External style neck angle/action adjustment bolt
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Doubletop under construction, showing honeycomb core and spruce outer skin.
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Doubletop with HVLP soundboard system with tailpiece and low tension bridge.