Background and Construction Philosophy
I am located in Southern California in Orange County. I began building instruments in
1995. I am a member of NAMM, ASIA, and GAL, and have displayed instruments at the NAMM
Anaheim California Annual Convention, the Healdsburg Guitar Festival, the Long Island NY
Classic Guitar Show, and the NAJA National Association of Jazz Artists Annual Convention.
I hand carve 8-12 archtop instruments annually to order and enjoy working directly with
the player, personalizing each guitar's aesthetics and sound.
Technique and Design
As a self taught luthier, many of my ideas come from studying what
is published in books and taught at various seminars and publications
available to members of trade organizations (GAL, ASIA),
as well as the open book of ideas shared freely between builders.
Empirical evolution of the designs is a constant refinement of
my instruments based on the reality of what works best. This
can only come through careful building of 'quality' instruments, as
opposed to 'quantity'.
I am currently exploring the theory's of Robert Benedetto and
James D'Aquisto. Bob has volumes of published material easily
obtainable, while James D'Aquisto passed away with only a few
interviews and understudies, as well as his instruments, to draw
Tools of the Trade
My experience in tool and die design and fabrication, and computer
aided design has provided the foundation of my approach to designing
and building archtop guitars. Metal work and metal working machinery
deal in accuracy's of .001", roughly 1/3 the diameter of a human
hair. The discipline and techniques required to work this precisely
is helpful in understanding and controlling the outcome of each
For instance, instead of a hand held router and Plexiglas/wooden
jigs to cut the dovetail joint in the body and neck, I utilize a
vertical 3 axis milling machine with digital readouts (.0001" increments).
This means I can very precisely hold a 3.5 degree neck angle with a
.003" slip fit (for glue gap) if I want. The result is better
control of construction dimensions in the areas that matter.
By using CAD to design my instruments, I can debug the design before
cutting wood. My customer can get a rendering for approval prior
to beginning construction. My system outputs dimensioned prints
for use in the shop to create tooling. I can enter the top arch
and desired string action, for any scale length and compute the
exact neck angle required to achieve a desired saddle height.
It all starts with obtaining the best quality and appropriate
species of wood available. I utilize suppliers as close to the
source of cutting as possible, to be sure of the origin and
age of the wood. I resaw, thickness sand, and store the wood
stickered; monitoring changes in moisture content periodically.
I use domestic sources for Bigleaf Maple back and sides,
and Engelmann, Colorado Blue, and Sitka Spruces for tops.
My European woods are typically German Maple and Spruce from
a supplier of Cello and Violin wood.
Once a customer defines the parameters of the instrument and
its use, I will select complementary woods and the appropriate
dimensions of arch carve, bracing, and body depth to compile
the voice we are looking for.
This phrase means many things to many builders. For myself,
I prefer the term 'tap response optimized'. This refers to
the process of carving, bracing, and recurve (final carving)
of the back. The goal is to establish the most efficient
transfer of string energy through the top, and the most sensitive
reaction of the back to the air placed in motion by the top
These instruments tend to have enough treble and upper-midrange
by design. The real task is to develop a balanced spectrum of
tone by bringing lower-midrange and bass projection out of the
back. This is where a production line approach sacrifices the
last 20% that can mean the difference between an average or a
spectacular voiced instrument. Each of my guitars in a batch
will have a week where I work only on it, devoting my full
attention to developing and maximizing its voice.
Although these instruments can stand on their own merits
acoustically, the reality of the range of performing venues makes
electric pickups a necessity for most professional musicians.
If the customer knows the setup he wants, I can accommodate
most applications. The typical installation is a floating
humbucker in the neck position, mounted on the pickguard,
with volume and tone controls. I have had good results with
a custom pickup made for me by Kent Armstrong with adjustable
poles. Setups are checked through an Evans Jazz amplifier.
Done correctly, the electronics should not detract from the
acoustic quality of the instrument. A good mix of the pickup
output plus a mike near the lower sound hole produces a
very pleasant and full archtop sound.