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-   -   Tom Sands M-12 / Swiss Spruce and Malaysian Blackwood (https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/forums/showthread.php?t=579993)

Vaillant75 05-02-2020 11:16 AM

Tom Sands M-12 / Swiss Spruce and Malaysian Blackwood
 
2 Attachment(s)
Hi folks,

The day has come. After living vicariously through the AGF’s custom shop, it’s now my turn to bring a modest contribution to this temple of guitar geekery. This will be my first custom built guitar, so the excitement is paramount after a wait of almost 2 years.

A bit of background

For the guitar enthusiast, it is a good time to be alive. There are plenty of talented luthiers nowadays, and this healthy emulation drives them to keep pushing the enveloppe of guitar building. I would feel proud to own an instrument from many contemporary names, so narrowing down to the “chosen one” has been challenging. Still, a few variables had influenced me.

First, I have always been intrigued by the work of Mr. Somogyi, and I regretfully admit that I’ve never played one of his instruments. I chased down his latest apprentice and learnt about a young English luthier that was the latest addition to the Somogyi roaster. A prompt due diligence revealed adamant opinions, especially from the forum’s British crowd. Some advanced form of patriotism? ;)

Second, my teacher at the time (Jonny Moss, member of this forum and part of the aforementioned crowd), got to demo Tom’s guitars and raved about a Spruce/Blackwood model L (“Large”, think MD). He even said the infamous words: “one of the best guitars I’ve played”, and gone was my last bit of resistance.

Finally, I read the adage that custom builds are about relationships, and it automatically clicked with Tom. He commands a wide range of artistic skills that go beyond guitar building, and his past woodworking background really shines trough in his aesthetic choices.
His social media accounts are also great ressources, (youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC54...gRDrJEz-aXB-Jg), full with light hearted and entertaining videos.

Start of the journey

Now the nitty gritty.
First and foremost, I have to thank Tom for his patience… Being my first build, I got slightly obsessed about getting it RIGHT. I spent countless hours imagining all sorts of wood combination and ergonomic choices, but without getting to any conclusion. It was enjoyable at first, but quickly got exhausting. Thankfully, I soon realized that my best option was to express my preferences to Tom, and to simply rely on his knowledge and skill. 



So, enough talking, onto the specs:

- Model M (Think slightly larger than a Martin OM)
- Cutaway
- 12 fret
- Fan fret arrangement (25.75-25 I do believe)
- Arm bevel

Now, the woods… I love spruce - that was the easiest one - so I went for a master grade set of Swiss Moon Spruce. For the back and sides, Tom spoke highly of Malaysian Blackwood which he already used for 2 guitars (one of them being that very L mentioned before). 



Below is the Blackwood set that Tom picked for me. Interestingly, the straight grained, quarter-sawn back reminds me of the pre war Brazilian goodness (first bias of many more to come, be warned!). I also quite like the hint of sapwood on the sides.

Attachment 37067

For the bridge and fingerboard, we did something not quite conventional. We went for some stripped ebony, that almost has a rosewoody vibe to it. Below you can see how the lighter colors in the chosen one (in the middle) echo the brown of the Blackwood, and the darker stripes should contrast nicely with the spruce top.

Attachment 37068

That will be it for now guys. For those that are still following along, I am quite excited about sharing this endeavor with you, as so many shared theirs before.

Until next time,
Tom

*****

Caveat 1: I am not the most knowledgeable aout guitar building, so I might not be the most accurate. Don't hesitate to chime in and add more context to the process!

Caveat 2: I am French so English is not my mother tongue. Please excuse any potential mistakes along the way.

Deft Tungsman 05-02-2020 11:26 AM

Mon cher Thomas!

This is such exciting news! Your build is about to begin, and I have no doubt that you two Toms will have a great time poring over any remaining details until, together, you do in fact get it JUST RIGHT!

I'm eager to follow along here, and even more eager to see your guitar in person once it arrives.

Fret not (I know, a worn out pun here on the AGF, but hey, cheap entertainment is still entertainment!), your command of English is commendable.

Thanks for sharing, it's going to be EPIC!

ericcsong 05-02-2020 11:31 AM

Can't wait to see this come together! Congrats!

roberts 05-02-2020 11:34 AM

Tom - Congrats on what will surely be the guitar of a lifetime! Keep the build pix coming....Robert

cigarfan 05-03-2020 03:59 AM

Congrats Tom! (two birds one stone). I think you are in for a real treat. Although you have followed AGF builds for a while, there is nothing like a build that will end in your hands. Enjoy the journey! I will surely be following along. :)

jonnymosco 05-03-2020 04:17 AM

This is really exciting Tom, well worth the wait and I'm looking forward to following the build. Just seems like yesterday when we had those discussions.
A bientot !

Jonny

steveh 05-03-2020 09:40 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Vaillant75 (Post 6367377)
I chased down his latest apprentice and learnt about a young English luthier that was the latest addition to the Somogyi roaster. A prompt due diligence revealed adamant opinions, especially from the forum’s British crowd. Some advanced form of patriotism? ;)



...or perhaps we've simply had more opportunity to sample them? I've been chasing Holy Grail guitars for years and have come to the conclusion there are a lot of great builders out there, in all price brackets. Given that, I think there's a lot to be said for using a luthier in your own backyard: I've "enjoyed" plenty of stress over the years with shipping guitars overseas, getting nervous whether they return, and non-responsive emails etc. Having said all that, at least you can get to Tom via train.

I see you've never played a Somogyi? I've played some that were fabulous, some that were merely "good" (if we ignore the eviscerating cost of entry) and one that was not really very good at all IMHO. The same applies to many of the apprentices. IMHO, on average, Tom's guitars live with Somogyi no problem at all. So do Jason's etc. Tom has the very obvious benefit of being the cheapest of those three, which was a huge consideration for me when I got on Tom's list.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Vaillant75 (Post 6367377)
First and foremost, I have to thank Tom for his patience… Being my first build, I got slightly obsessed about getting it RIGHT. I spent countless hours imagining all sorts of wood combination and ergonomic choices, but without getting to any conclusion. It was enjoyable at first, but quickly got exhausting. Thankfully, I soon realized that my best option was to express my preferences to Tom, and to simply rely on his knowledge and skill. 



I hear this a lot from luthiers: Bat-s**t crazy customers who provide several pages prescribing how the guitar should sound etc etc. "Like a Traugott AND a Somogyi AND a Walker...AND a Claxton...". You get the idea. And they're working with wood! In our defence, we are commissioning a guitar because we want something very specific, that can't be bought off the shelf, but be reasonable!

IMHO you've done the right thing - find a great builder whose guitars you enjoy, and then let them get on with it. My best builds have turned out like that, including mine from Tom from a couple of years back. We settled on the specs pretty early and then I left him alone. The guitar is a constant delight and one of the longest "honeymoons" I've had.

Quote:

Originally Posted by Vaillant75 (Post 6367377)
Caveat 2: I am French so English is not my mother tongue. Please excuse any potential mistakes along the way.

Your English is ridiculously good.

Cheers,
Steve

Vaillant75 05-03-2020 01:31 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Deft Tungsman (Post 6367385)
Mon cher Thomas!

This is such exciting news! Your build is about to begin, and I have no doubt that you two Toms will have a great time poring over any remaining details until, together, you do in fact get it JUST RIGHT!

I'm eager to follow along here, and even more eager to see your guitar in person once it arrives.

Fret not (I know, a worn out pun here on the AGF, but hey, cheap entertainment is still entertainment!), your command of English is commendable.

Thanks for sharing, it's going to be EPIC!

Ah! count on me. You introduced me to the vibrant AGF Paris scene and it's been a real treat. Looking forward for more playing, and to discover the guitar as a listener from your skilled hands.

You've already been hearing plenty about this build, but I know you never shy away from a guitar conversation :)

Vaillant75 05-03-2020 01:42 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by ericcsong (Post 6367391)
Can't wait to see this come together! Congrats!

Thanks Eric.
if it could be only a quarter as epic as your Kostal threads, I'll be quite content with myself.

Quote:

Originally Posted by roberts (Post 6367395)
Tom - Congrats on what will surely be the guitar of a lifetime! Keep the build pix coming....Robert

Hi Robert, Great to hear from you, thanks for tagging along!

Quote:

Originally Posted by cigarfan (Post 6367974)
Congrats Tom! (two birds one stone). I think you are in for a real treat. Although you have followed AGF builds for a while, there is nothing like a build that will end in your hands. Enjoy the journey! I will surely be following along. :)

Thanks, and I can only imagine...
I remember that BIG video of your Kostal unboxing, that was quite something. Also had a good laugh when Michael rushed to protect the guitar from a dangerously close table. That fear of the first ding, a classic!

Itzkinguitars 05-03-2020 01:47 PM

Lovely set of timber, I look forward to following this build! I'm waiting on a model S due next fall so threads like this make the wait even more difficult!

Vaillant75 05-03-2020 01:50 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jonnymosco (Post 6367978)
This is really exciting Tom, well worth the wait and I'm looking forward to following the build. Just seems like yesterday when we had those discussions.
A bientot !

Jonny

Hi Jonny, great to hear from you!

You'll have to pardon me but I want to post your demo of the model L I mentioned before. Some of you might be familiar with the work of Mark Thomson, and this great tune is called "The Ringing Tune": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCV0f2d2Wbw

I just really loved the balance, resonance and clarity of that rather large guitar. And well, the great playing doesn't hurt.

Cheers,

Vaillant75 05-03-2020 01:57 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Itzkinguitars (Post 6368464)
Lovely set of timber, I look forward to following this build! I'm waiting on a model S due next fall so threads like this make the wait even more difficult!

Great choice, Tom's S guitars are amazing, and I dare to say it might be his most popular model so far. Will McNicol has recently done a comparison video of 3 model S on Instagram (check it if you can), and they consistently deliver.

Have you decided about your wood combination yet?

Thanks,
Tom

Itzkinguitars 05-03-2020 02:00 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Vaillant75 (Post 6368478)

Have you decided about your wood combination yet?

Yes! Figured Ceylon Satinwood back and sides, Swiss spruce top, Madagascar rosewood fretboard, bridge, headplate, binding, and a mahogany neck (I think I might talk to Tom about using Spanish Cedar once the build begins though)

Vaillant75 05-03-2020 02:10 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Itzkinguitars (Post 6368481)
Yes! Figured Ceylon Satinwood back and sides, Swiss spruce top, Madagascar rosewood fretboard, bridge, headplate, binding, and a mahogany neck (I think I might talk to Tom about using Spanish Cedar once the build begins though)

I heard great things about satinwood, and it's killer aesthetically. The Madi rosewood will really merge these two sets nicely. Is Spanish cedar mostly for the great smell?

Hang in there, I look forward to following yours in the near future!

Vaillant75 05-03-2020 02:29 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by steveh (Post 6368200)
I hear this a lot from luthiers: Bat-s**t crazy customers who provide several pages prescribing how the guitar should sound etc etc. "Like a Traugott AND a Somogyi AND a Walker...AND a Claxton...". You get the idea. And they're working with wood! In our defence, we are commissioning a guitar because we want something very specific, that can't be bought off the shelf, but be reasonable!

IMHO you've done the right thing - find a great builder whose guitars you enjoy, and then let them get on with it. My best builds have turned out like that, including mine from Tom from a couple of years back. We settled on the specs pretty early and then I left him alone. The guitar is a constant delight and one of the longest "honeymoons" I've had.

Hi Steve,

I am happy that you're chiming in.

Actually, I remember you posting very interesting comments about the danger of unrealistic expectations and "micro-management" in the build process. We tend to romanticize because we dream for the guitar to become a life partner, and it's part of the fun. But I've found that an excessive involvement at every step can become counter-productive. AGF can be a dangerous temptation, but also a place of wisdom! Ultimately, luthiers of that caliber manage to reach a great level of consistency, so I know this will turn just right.

By the way, you and Adam might be the sole owners of the Sands MMD, this is almost a collectible! Also glad to hear about the ongoing honeymoon. After 2 years, you can call it a successful match. Out of curiosity, how does it compare to your Claxton?

Cheers,
Tom


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