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SJ VanSandt 05-31-2013 07:35 PM

Allison build: slope shoulder dread, German spruce/black walnut
John Allison is an Austin, Texas luthier who builds acoustic, electric, and lap steel guitars out of a small shop with two of his sons and (currently) one other assistant. He began building his own guitars about 30 years ago in Chicago, but stopped producing his own after moving back home to Texas and going to work for Bill Collings. He set up his own shop about ten years ago and concentrates on making rather traditional acoustics, mostly in the Martin tradition. My guitar, however, will be built using the Gibson advanced jumbo body style, as John feels this works better with a short scale than the Martin square-shouldered dreadnaught.

SJ VanSandt 05-31-2013 07:39 PM

Anyhow, this is going to be the short-scale, 12 fret AJ that I agonized about in another thread. I'm really excited now that things are moving, and it's great to be able to go to his shop and watch the guitar take shape in person. Sorry my photos aren't better, but maybe with practice . . .

cigarfan 06-01-2013 05:57 AM

Photos look pretty good to me. Congrats on getting started. Love the grain on the black walnut. I think you are going to like the ss 12-fret.

Dru Edwards 06-01-2013 08:24 AM

Congrats on getting your build selected and started. I'm not familiar with Allison - do you have a webpage for him/her?

Linking in your last pic (just put [img][/img] instead of .

SJ VanSandt 06-01-2013 10:22 AM

Here is the link to John's web site:

There's also a nice interview in the current issue of Acoustic Guitar Magazine. I wanted to stick with a local luthier for my first (and maybe last?) custom guitar, and John is my favorite, though there are some other good luthiers in town - and of course Collings.

Thanks, Dru, for putting up that other picture for me. Hopefully I'll figure that out next time!

Earwitness 06-02-2013 05:53 PM

I only played two John Allison guitars, and bought one. It is the best guitar I ever heard, at least to my personal taste, which is why I took it home from the ball, I suppose. Can't put it down, and can't be bothered to play anything else. Never played a walnut guitar, so I'm not sure what you are in store for.

On another note, I have to admit that I can barely tell a sloped shoulder Martin-shaped guitar from a square shoulder. (I can recognize a jumbo Gibson style.) Your guitar's shoulder can't be but millimeters different from my square one, and the waist looks identical. Is that something some of us uninitiated folks just can't see? Are you expecting an audio difference in that respect?

Anyway, cool for you...I bet you can't wait.

Earwitness 06-02-2013 06:09 PM

Well, I only just now read your other thread, and apparently yours is an AJ shape. That just goes to show that my perception skills as to sloped shoulders are even worse than I thought, because I can't tell it from a dreadnought by the picture except for the slightest angle at the fretboard.

Good thing I go by my ears and not by my eyes!

SJ VanSandt 06-04-2013 07:17 PM

The difference in the square and slope shoulder dreads is pretty subtle, really. I think the AJ is a tad longer and wider in the lower bout, so the total volume comes out about the same. I haven't played one of John's AJs yet, but I just played several of his other sizes this morning (trying to hit on the right neck profile), and both his standard dread and the 0 size were as sweet as anything else in the shop. There were guitars that cost half again as much that weren't nearly as good, to my ear.


SJ VanSandt 06-07-2013 01:40 PM

Progress on the AJ
I have some more pictures, if I can just figure this process out AGAIN.

SJ VanSandt 06-07-2013 01:52 PM

SJ VanSandt 06-07-2013 01:54 PM

I wanted just a tiny bit of bling without being ostentatious, and I think he hit the right balance here. The gold mother-of-pearl will be repeated in his logo on the headstock and in the position markers.

SJ VanSandt 06-07-2013 03:08 PM

The knot in the wood between the seventh and eight fret may be seen as a flaw by some but I love it, and I'll tell you why. I tried my best to get John to move the position markers that are normally above the seventh and ninth frets up to the eighth and tenth frets respectively (from B and C#, in my mind, to C and D), but he balked at that. Untraditional, would hurt resell value, etc. But now I have my C position marker provided by nature! Have my cake and eat it!

My poor point-and-shoot photos don't do John's work any favors, unfortunately, but neither of us have time for more careful, artistic shots. It's still exciting for me to witness the process, and I think the end results will be exciting as well!

SJ VanSandt 06-07-2013 07:28 PM

John is holding up my top next to a 14-fret AJ body for comparison. Both these tops are German spruce - he puts an aging toner on it to tone down the whiteness. Mine will have a light burst, I think, so it will be a bit darker yet.

Haans 06-09-2013 04:21 AM

German and Walnut...should be a really sweet tone.

SJ VanSandt 06-09-2013 09:29 AM

That's what I'm going for, Haans: sweet but still powerful.

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