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-   -   SANTA CRUZ GUITAR CO. Fingerstyle Model [Italian Spruce | Claro Walnut] (https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=632257)

iim7V7IM7 11-23-2021 06:35 PM

SANTA CRUZ GUITAR CO. Fingerstyle Model [Italian Spruce | Claro Walnut]
 
I have decided to commission a custom guitar with the Santa Cruz Guitar Company.

Santa Cruz Guitar Company (SCGC) passed its 45th Anniversary earlier this year as an acoustic guitar manufacturer. They have always been a high-quality “small shop” manufacturer who built steel string flat tops sold through a network of select brick-and-mortar dealers. As I understand it, a few years back, after reflecting upon the nature of their business, SCGC decided to recognize that their focus was really a small shop that was primarily making:

a) Custom spec. guitars for dealers and
b) Custom guitars for clients who commissioned instruments through their dealer network.

Today, their shop makes about 400 guitars/year sold through about 60 dealers globally. As a company, they really fall in between the paradigm of a “manufacturer” and a “solo luthier”. Like a luthier, they can be more select in their tonewoods given their low manufacturing output; and can alter wood choices, voicing, ergonomic and aesthetic preference to better match an instrument to a client’s goals and needs. But like a factory, guitars a made by a small team of specialists who perform different luthier manufacturing operations.

After going back and forth with Carolyn Sills at Santa Cruz Guitars (who consulted with Richard Hoover) along with input from Matthew Chulka (my SCGC Dealer @ Eddie’s Guitars), they were able to to recommend a model, tonewoods and custom features for my playing needs and sonic goals. SCGC is building me a custom version of their Fingerstyle (FS) model. The FS is a larger bodied guitar (15-7/8”) with a narrow waist, moderate depth (4-3/8”) and a Venetian Cutaway. The FS model was originally developed by Jeff Traugott, Michael Hornick and Steve Palazzo who were all working at Santa Cruz about 35-years ago.

Given my primary playing style (jazz chord melody) and tonal goals (a responsive guitar, balanced timbre with strong trebles) for the instrument and looking through their wood locker, they recommended a light, stiff set of Italian Spruce for the top and proposed that they brace it with straight-tapered Adirondack Spruce bracing using hot hide glue. For the back and sides, they also felt that some Claro Walnut that they had acquired was perfect for supporting my tonal target. They also recommended staying with an Ebony for the belly bridge and the fretboard.

This is the M (Master) quality (e.g., an aesthetic designation meaning flawless, straight, regular and fine growth rings) Italian Alpine Spruce set from Rudi Bachmann in the Dolomites of Italy that Santa Cruz recommended for the guitar. It was its stiffness to weight that they liked in this set given my playing goals and the wide lower bout of the FS model.

https://hosting.photobucket.com/imag...26CC904C2.jpeg

Here is the Claro Walnut set that I chose from the different sets that they presented to me. The set has some strong curl figure to it. It appears to be mostly on quarter going slightly to rift in the outer regions of the lower bout. Claro Walnut is a stable hardwood. The pin knots on the back set should fall outside the body pattern and the pin knot on the left rim can be remedied with some filling.

https://hosting.photobucket.com/imag...546CA073E.jpeg

Once the basic tonal architecture of the guitar was established, it was up to me to select among the wide variety of options that SCGC offers to ergonomically and visually customize the instrument. Here are the custom specs for my FS:

Guitar Ergonomics: Other than narrowing the standard FS nut width from 1-13/16” to 1-3/4” (I play with a pick and my fingers) and requesting EVO frets, these are all standard specifications for the FS model.

Scale Length - 25-3/8”
Nut Width* - 1-3/4”
Bridge Spacing - 2-5/16”
Upper Bout - 11-1/4”
Lower Bout - 15-7/8”
Body Depth - 3-3/8” to 4-3/8”
Body Length - 20-1/6”
Neck Profile - Round Neck Profile
Cutaway - Venetian Cutaway
Frets* - Jescar EVO 0.043’ x 0.080’
Fretboard Radius: 12” to 18-1/2” Compound Radius
Top Dish: 33’ Radius
Back Dish: 12’ Radius

Wood Choices: The standard FS model is a Western Red Cedar / East Indian Rosewood guitar braced with straight-tapered, Sitka Spruce braces. The custom features here are the top wood, bracing and back and sides. Both top and back/side sets were presented with photos for my approval.

Top* - Italian Alpine Spruce
Top Bracing* - Tapered Adirondack Spruce with Hot Hide Glue
Back & Sides* - Figured Claro Walnut
Neck - Honduran Mahogany
Fretboard - Gaboon Ebony
Bridge - Gaboon Ebony, Belly Bridge
Nut & Saddle: Unbleached Ox Bone

Aesthetic Appointments: This is the area where a customer is free to create a unique look. I decided with the figured Claro Walnut would look great in the context of contrasting decoration. The body, Ebony fretboard and peghead veneer framed purfled African Blackwood bindings. SCGC has a number of sunbursts that they offer. I chose what they call a Buttered Toast sunburst which is a warm, gold fade burst. I also chose blue/green Paua Abalone rosette and top purfling because the blues should visually “pop” against the warm gold hues of the burst. I had a few other shell features in an abalone SCGC peghead logo. As a unique decorative feature I asked for a sole MOP Deco Position Marker at the 12th fret (these are typically used in the FTC model and are in eight different frets).

Peghead Veneer* - Gaboon Ebony
Heelcap, Back Strip, Body, End Graft, Fretboard & Peghead Bindings* - African Blackwood
Body, End Graft, Fretboard & Peghead Purflings* - Maple & Black Fiber Purflings
Rosette & Top Purfling* - Paua Abalone
Inlay* - Mini Logo in Abalone on Peghead, Deco Inlay in MOP @ 12th Fret, & 2 mm MOP Side Position Markers
Pickguard* - Tortoise Teardrop
Finish* - Nitrocellulose Lacquer, Buttered Toast Sunburst Top

Hardware & Case: I chose abalone dots for the Ebony bridge pins and I supplied SCGC with some custom Macassar Ebony buttons for the gold Gotoh 510s because I thought their dark browns and blacks would visually tie in with the African Blackwood binding

Bridge & End Pins* – Gaboon Ebony with Abalone Dots
Tuners* - Gotoh 510, Gold with Bill Wise Macassar Ebony Buttons
Strings - Santa Cruz Parabolic Low-Tension Phosphor Bronze
Case – Ameritage

As I get photos from the shop during the build I will share them here in the forum.

justonwo 11-23-2021 07:44 PM

This is going to be incredible. Thanks for posting!

Haasome 11-23-2021 08:25 PM

Should be a great guitar. I look forward to the progress reports. Do you have an approximate ETA?

JCM615 11-23-2021 08:50 PM

I probably couldn't afford to, but could I hire you to spec my next build??
What great combination of woods, peripherals and forethought.
The Italian spruce is as straight grained and evenly spaced as could be. And I've never seen medullary figure on Claro like that.
This'll be fun to watch.

min7b5 11-23-2021 09:51 PM

Oh my. This will be something

iim7V7IM7 11-23-2021 09:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by justonwo (Post 6863123)
This is going to be incredible. Thanks for posting!

:)

Quote:

Originally Posted by Haasome (Post 6863141)
Should be a great guitar. I look forward to the progress reports. Do you have an approximate ETA?

My guess is March / April ‘22

Quote:

Originally Posted by JCM615 (Post 6863152)
I probably couldn't afford to, but could I hire you to spec my next build??
What great combination of woods, peripherals and forethought.
The Italian spruce is as straight grained and evenly spaced as could be. And I've never seen medullary figure on Claro like that.
This'll be fun to watch.

I hope my vision lives up to your expectation…

iim7V7IM7 11-24-2021 06:38 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by min7b5 (Post 6863184)
Oh my. This will be something

One can hope Eric…:up:

jt1 11-24-2021 11:55 AM

A wonderful build! Well, except for the narrowing of the nut. :)

I look forward to following along.

Diamondave 11-24-2021 11:56 AM

WHOA! This is going to be awesome seeing this come together, thx for sharing, exciting, great call...

Mr. Paul 11-24-2021 12:26 PM

Santa Cruz builds great guitars and this one is pushing buttons I didn't know I had ;)

Nemoman 11-24-2021 12:30 PM

Beautiful woods to start off with on another fun ride--thanks for taking us along!

iim7V7IM7 11-24-2021 03:04 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jt1 (Post 6863571)
A wonderful build! Well, except for the narrowing of the nut. :)

I look forward to following along.

But then, it might approach being “good enough” :). Better that it is not…

Quote:

Originally Posted by Diamondave (Post 6863572)
WHOA! This is going to be awesome seeing this come together, thx for sharing, exciting, great call...

My pleasure DD…How are those A2s doing?

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mr. Paul (Post 6863595)
Santa Cruz builds great guitars and this one is pushing buttons I didn't know I had ;)

My fingers are crossed that it will push mine as well…

Quote:

Originally Posted by Nemoman (Post 6863599)
Beautiful woods to start off with on another fun ride--thanks for taking us along!

The process of going from tree to musical instrument is always fascinating. I enjoy other’s posts as well…:up:

jt1 11-24-2021 03:34 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by iim7V7IM7 (Post 6863725)
But then, it might approach being “good enough” :). Better that it is not…

We won't know whether it is Good Enough until I christen it with the Mediocre Ditty!

iim7V7IM7 11-24-2021 04:02 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jt1 (Post 6863754)
We won't know whether it is Good Enough until I christen it with the Mediocre Ditty!

Touché…:up:

Steve Kinnaird 11-24-2021 10:17 PM

It already looks great!

Steve

Guitars44me 11-24-2021 11:17 PM

Yep
 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Steve Kinnaird (Post 6863955)
It already looks great!

Steve

What Steve said! This will be fun to watch, and even more fun for you to play…

Enjoy the process

Paul

cigarfan 11-25-2021 06:09 AM

Happy Thanksgiving Bob! :) And thanks for giving us another fun build to watch! :guitar:

iim7V7IM7 11-25-2021 06:51 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Steve Kinnaird (Post 6863955)
It already looks great!

Steve

Thanks Steve…

Quote:

Originally Posted by Guitars44me (Post 6863970)
What Steve said! This will be fun to watch, and even more fun for you to play…

Enjoy the process

Paul

My hope as well…

Quote:

Originally Posted by cigarfan (Post 6864042)
Happy Thanksgiving Bob! :) And thanks for giving us another fun build to watch! :guitar:

Happy T-Day to you as well Dennis…

Kenny B 11-25-2021 08:03 AM

Congrats on your new guitar build and thanks for posting your choices and detailed research that led you to those choices. I recently had a chance to demo a Santa Cruz OM Grand for a week and although decided not to buy, I couldn't be more impressed with the playability and sound quality. They really know how to build an excellent guitar so there is no need to worry about the final outcome, I'm sure it will be excellent.

The FS model is on my shortlist of guitars I'd like to own (along with a Pernambuco b/s guitar from a known luthier). I choose not to go with the OM Grand because I felt a FS model would be more suited for my playing. Still on the lookout for one with the right woods and specs.

iim7V7IM7 11-25-2021 11:58 AM

Kenny, thanks for your well wishes…:)

While Santa Cruz has guitars available to sample at their dealer network, these guitars were likely built to the dealer’s specifications and not YOURS. If you think you want an FS you might find one that you like at a dealer but you might be better off reaching out to Carolyn Sills at SCGC and begin a dialogue based on your likes and dislikes in other guitars you own or have played, playing style, ergonomic and sonic goals. This process is similar in some respects to the process one goes through with a luthier when beginning a project.

This can be done ahead of choosing a SCGC dealer or afterwards. Carolyn will typically discuss your project Richard to bet his two sense on the instrument and they will come back with some recommendations. Even within an FS model there can be significant sonic differences adjusted based on the choice of top wood, bracing pattern, bracing profile, choice of brace wood and back and sides. The ergonomic and aesthetic appointments can be optimized to your liking after that.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Kenny B (Post 6864117)
Congrats on your new guitar build and thanks for posting your choices and detailed research that led you to those choices. I recently had a chance to demo a Santa Cruz OM Grand for a week and although decided not to buy, I couldn't be more impressed with the playability and sound quality. They really know how to build an excellent guitar so there is no need to worry about the final outcome, I'm sure it will be excellent.

The FS model is on my shortlist of guitars I'd like to own (along with a Pernambuco b/s guitar from a known luthier). I choose not to go with the OM Grand because I felt a FS model would be more suited for my playing. Still on the lookout for one with the right woods and specs.


iim7V7IM7 12-03-2021 06:40 PM

Joined Back/Backstrip/Ladder Braces & Reinforcement Strip
 
I received some photos from Carolyn Sills at SGGC today.

They have joined the Claro Walnut backset; routed and installed a curly maple purfled African Blackwood backstrip. The set looks typical of an claro-english walnut orchard tree graft stump with its nature of light brown and dark brown striping and its curly figure.

https://hosting.photobucket.com/imag...0FCCE93D4.jpeg

You can see the deep arch of a 12’ radius dish in the joined set in the ladder braces.

https://hosting.photobucket.com/imag...F5AE733F7.jpeg

The ladder braces and cross-grain back reinforcement strip are both made from Sitka Spruce. They are carved to almost no remaining thickness where they will meet the linings. Looking on the inside, you can see how the set goes from quarter sawn to rift/flat sawn. There is also a pin knot is present in the lower bout (between ladder brace 3 and 4) that will likely need some stabilization and filling.

https://hosting.photobucket.com/imag...73A70C481.jpeg

iim7V7IM7 12-10-2021 07:28 PM

Top Joined & Rosette Installed
 
I received an update from SCGC today. They have joined, sanded to thickness and rough cut to shape the Italian Spruce top set from Rudi Bachmann.

https://hosting.photobucket.com/imag...27FD2C316.jpeg

They also installed a simple, clean Paua Abalone/Maple/Black Fiber rosette.

https://hosting.photobucket.com/imag...320751FB8.jpeg

colins 12-11-2021 04:13 PM

This is gonna be a very nice guitar!

Nemoman 12-12-2021 12:37 PM

Wonderful wood choices--looking forward to seeing it progress!

iim7V7IM7 12-12-2021 12:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by colins (Post 6877457)
This is gonna be a very nice guitar!

Quote:

Originally Posted by Nemoman (Post 6878030)
Wonderful wood choices--looking forward to seeing it progress!

Thanks gents…:up:

Tim Porter 12-14-2021 12:40 PM

So geeked to see yet another amazingly spec'd guitar for you! Following with great interest. Tim

iim7V7IM7 12-15-2021 07:30 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Tim Porter (Post 6879482)
So geeked to see yet another amazingly spec'd guitar for you! Following with great interest. Tim

Thanks Tim...:)

Deft Tungsman 12-15-2021 11:11 AM

This looks like it's going to be a guitar for the ages!

Great choice of woods, by the way. Walnut often gets dismissed as a "lesser" tonewood. I can assure you that my Italian spruce/claro walnut Claxton OM is exceptional in every way.

Shameless plug photos:

https://i.imgur.com/m9IRHlY.jpg
https://i.imgur.com/jfmPsTJ.jpg

iim7V7IM7 12-15-2021 12:05 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deft Tungsman (Post 6880231)
This looks like it's going to be a guitar for the ages!

Great choice of woods, by the way. Walnut often gets dismissed as a "lesser" tonewood.

Thanks! Ed build's profoundly great guitars out of any wood that he uses (congrats and thanks for sharing)...:up:.

Unfortunately, any hardwoods other than rosewood(s), mahoganies, maple(s) and koa are viewed by most guitarists as "tastes like chicken" :).

I selected the Claro Walnut back and sides and Italian Spruce top based on SCGC's recommendations as they reflected upon on my input as a player. I am likely a bit more wood agnostic/builder trusting than many players in that I have a number superb instruments made from odd hardwoods (e.g., Australian Blackwood, Black Cherry, Carved Back Flattops, Oregon Myrtle, Pernambuco etc.).

iim7V7IM7 12-17-2021 12:40 PM

Top Bracing
 
I received another update from SCGC:

The Italian Spruce top has now been braced. This is SCGC’s 1375th Model FS that they have made since the late 1980s when the first model rolled off their bench. The top is signed by long-time SCGC employee Adam Rose (AR). Adam has been with SCGC since the 1980s and has voiced many tops. I also believe that he is the Manager of CNC Design & Programming at SCGC.

The top has been straight taper braced with Adirondack Spruce bracing adhered with Hot-Hide-Glue. They have installed a popsicle brace above the upper transverse brace and a somewhat thick Hard Maple bridge plate that is chamfered on it right edge adjacent to the x-brace. Interestingly, the finger braces on the treble side of the top are straight taper profiled and a scalloped on the bass side of the top.

https://hosting.photobucket.com/imag...E4B4D35FA.jpeg

https://hosting.photobucket.com/imag...17D4D727C.jpeg

https://hosting.photobucket.com/imag...2CA3D6ADD.jpeg

https://hosting.photobucket.com/imag...0476277D9.jpeg

Here is a short, accelerated video that the company made of Adam Rose voicing the bracing on a top from about 5-years ago.



More when I get it in the new year...:up:


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