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dennisczech 05-17-2020 04:45 PM

Branwell guitars: a hidden English gem, Videos and pics added
Occasionally we come across an undiscovered delight in the world of custom guitars. I made a trip to South London today and spent some time with Nick Branwell. His workshop is in an incredible converted church hall, which he shares with his wife, who is an established sculptor.

He's been building for a few years now, and he makes a mix of classical and steel strings. I played a few different guitars, and the recent ones show clear signs of progress from his early student work. The quality of his workmanship is very high. Michael Watts has done some demos, which are on Nick's website:

I played a "505" larger model in cedar/walnut which was nice, but didn't grab my attention. He had an early version from his student days of his "Estuary" model which was a 24 1/4 inch scale and worked well in DADGAD despite the short scale. I enjoyed it, but found it lacked a little something, especially when compared to the one guitar he had which was truly outstanding.

This was a "Southfields" model, which is a slim-bodied OM, in Engelmann and Black Cherry. I can't say enough good things about this guitar, as a fingerstyle instrument it's really superb, and has all the qualities that I would look for: sweet and powerful trebles, super-responsive, excellent balance, plenty of depth and body to the tone, lyrically musical and expressive. It's one of those that you just don't want to put down, a very involving and refined instrument that seduces you into a relationship and steals your heart, calling out to you after you've left it behind...

We're talking high-end stuff: this guitar would easily sit alongside much more expensive instruments, and for 2500 I thought it was really well-priced. I am extremely picky when it comes to guitars, and this one is in the top bracket of the instruments that have really floated my boat.

It's great to come across a new builder who's producing such classy work, and as you might expect, is a thoroughly nice guy to spend half a day with. As I left, Nick said "this has been really good fun". Nice way to start breaking out of lockdown...

Michael Watts 05-24-2020 04:39 AM

Hello Dennis - I hope you're keeping safe and well!

I'm glad you've discovered Branwell Guitars - Nick's workshop is quite something!

Here are the videos I made of the three models he'd completed when I visited last year starting from smallest to largest body sizes.

All the best


dennisczech 06-16-2020 10:19 AM

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I paid another visit to Nick this weekend. He had completed a delightful 0 sized parlour in sitka/wenge that sounded superb, everything you would want in a guitar. I'm very taken with wenge, definitely had the Brazilian glassy character, but lots of luscious warmth also. Got to play the Southfields (OM) in cherry/Engelmann again, it was as lovely as I remembered. Excellent clarity, separation, balance and loads of volume, wrapped in a unique personality. Both guitars are in the same tonal ballpark, so he's developing a signature tone that is very user-friendly! I'm very much in love with the Southfields.
Thought I'd share some videos and pics. The large workshop is his wife's sculpture space, and you can see a gorgeous maple Torres classical he's working on the bench. Vids recorded on iPhone. If youtube embedded doesn't work, I've put links below the pics.

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