My Early Guitars
Alpha guitar was the first guitar - assembled from a Martin D-28 kit, guided by the classic reference Guitarmaking: Tradition and Technology by William Cumpiano and Jonathan Natelson. This guitar was assembled during 1998-1999.
A kit is a great way to assemble a first guitar. Few fixtures are required so one can focus on basics such as clamping, gluing and finishing. Generally the components are slightly overbuilt but close enough to end up with a good sounding, good playing instrument.
After assembling the Alpha guitar, I decided to build a second guitar to present as a gift to my oldest daughter Tara in celebration of her graduation from Ball State University in 2001. I ordered a custom kit from the Martin Guitarmakers Connection based on the Martin 000-28 EC guitar. The sides were pre-formed, the neck, bridge and braces were pre-shaped, and the fingerboard was slotted.
My first finish on this guitar resulted in white specs in the pores so I sanded the entire body and refinished. In hindsight this probably improved the sound of the guitar. The lesson learned is that we can turn our mistakes into positives.
Rachel's guitar was presented as a gift in celebration of her graduation Cum Laude from Butler University in 2002. (Rachel went on to earn her Doctor of Medicine degree from Indiana University.)
For Rachel’s guitar I purchased unbent sides which required that I construct a side bending fixture based on the popular Fox bender. I also added an outside form to hold the side shape while the soundboard and back were glued to the sides.
Rachel found that the 1 13/16” fingerboard was too wide for her hand so I reshaped the neck to 1 ¾”. That’s when I observed that the profile and stiffness of the neck has an effect on sound and especially on sustain.
Beta guitar was an experimental model aimed at constructing a guitar that frets easily, and was constructed in 2003. A short 24.9 inch fingerboard scale coupled with extra light strings results in low string tension. A thin cedar soundboard compensates for the low string tension, and the 12 fret neck on the OM body locates the bridge in the center of the lower bout thus increasing volume. The result is a guitar that's easy to fret with a pleasant sound that is not as bright as some other guitars.
This guitar was built for my playing style. I tend to play guitar sporadically which is hard on fingertips. This guitar is fingertip friendly.
Scott’s guitar was presented as a gift in celebration of his graduation with a Masters of Science in Information Systems from Indiana University in the Kelly School of Business in 2006.
It has a bearclaw sitka spruce soundboard with koa back and sides.
This is my first guitar with a laminated neck, carved from dimension lumber. It was also the first with a bound fretboard.
Madagascar Rosewood Guitar
This guitar and the Cocobolo guitar were the first models of the phi proportioned body style, constructed in 2008. The soundboard is a striking bearclaw Sitka spruce. The back, sides and bridge are Madagascar rosewood. Binding is curly koa.
The neck and headstock are bound in ebony with a thin bloodwood strip. All of the phi proportioned guitars have a phi symbol on the heel plate.
This guitar and the Madagascar rosewood guitar were the first models of the phi proportioned body style, constructed in 2008. The Englemann spruce soundboard is sensitive to a light fingerstyle playing style. The cocobolo back and sides are dense and heavier than many of the other guitar woods. The ebony binding gives the guitar a crisp formal look.
Both phi proportioned guitars are very comfortable to play, due in part to the narrow waist.
Spalted Maple Guitar
This guitar and the walnut guitar were the second generation models of the phi proportioned body style, constructed in 2009. This guitar has a spalted hard maple back and sides and is becoming a favorite. The inside of the spalted maple was sealed with a thin coat of epoxy to stabilize the spalting. The soundhole rosette is also spalted maple.
These pictures show the double X bracing pattern. The lower X pair are bridged to avoid over-stiffening the lower bout. This bracing has allowed me to finally achieve the top tuning and Chladni pattern results that I couldn't achieve with traditional bracing.
This guitar and the spalted maple guitar were the second generation models of the phi proportioned body style, constructed in 2009. The neck and headplate are bound in ebony with a thin maple strip.
All of the phi proportioned guitars have a graphite reinforced neck and have five piece necks. I determined on Rachel's guitar that the stiffness of the neck affects sustain.
All phi guitars are also glued with hot hide glue in all critical joints including braces and bridge.