By Trefor Owen
When on the band-stand, in the heat of battle
so to speak, the demands on Working jazz guitarists are extreme, therefore
we dream of acquiring the perfect instrument, which has playability, tone
and no feedback!
After many years searching and experimenting I have found my dream
guitar, and judging by the favourable reaction of other players who tried
out the instrument at the LA NAMM Show January 1998, its a winner.
The guitar is built by Jim Mapson, based in Santa Ana,
Southern California. To understand how Jim builds his guitars it is important
to know more about the man. Jim has a degree in mechanical engineering
and has built up a very successful engineering business. His experience
in tool and die design and fabrication and computer aided design has provided
the foundation of his approach to designing and building archtops. Metal
work and metal working machinery deal with accuracy's of .001", roughly
1/3 the diameter of a human hair and the discipline and techniques required
to work so precisely are Jim's basis in understanding and controlling the outcome of each instrument.
For instance, instead of a hand held router and lexiglas/wooden jigs to cut the dovetail
joint in the body and neck, Jim utilizes a vertical 3 axis milling machine with digital readouts.
This means he can precisely hold a 3.5 degree neck angle with a .003" slip fit for the glue gap.
Jim can build three necks for the same guitar without the need of shims in the neck to body joint and each neck
is interchangeable. This kind of precise neck to body joint improves the tone of the instrument.
In 1997, I visited the NAMM Show at Anaheim, and whilst walking through what seemed to
be endless corridors and a wall of sound came across the tiny booth of Guptill Music. Amongst the display of
finger-picks were two beautiful archtop guitars. This is where I first met Jim Mapson, the new kid on the block
in terms of archtop building. Jim had on display the first two archtop guitars he had ever made, and they were
stunning. I spent most of my time at the NAMM Show playing Jim's guitars. I was so impressed with the acoustic tone,
playability and finish of the instruments that I talked to Jim about building an electric archtop for me. Over the next
few months we kept in touch and also met up at the Long Island Guitar Show where Jim had a booth, and discussed in detail
what I wanted in a guitar.
In my years as a performing Jazz guitarist I have
owned and played many archtops and have always experienced difficulty when the instrument has been
an archtop acoustic guitar with a floating pickup.