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Old 03-12-2020, 11:20 PM
alohachris alohachris is offline
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Join Date: May 2008
Location: Honolulu
Posts: 2,276
Default Excellent Response, Ryan

Aloha Ryan,

Thank you for your well-written, thoughtful response. My questions could have been misconstrued as trying to be snarky or negative. That was never my intent.

It's true, in luthierie as in everything else in life, YMMV. Your track record of making beautiful, durable & great sounding guitars cannot be denied, only admired. I really was curious about how to use those flat-cut woods.

At 75 now, unable to build or play anymore, my mileage included many years of repairing thousands of acoustic instruments, including many historic BRW Martins. I noted the grain of the cracked, well-travelled instruments. Then I applied those lessons to the 218 acoustic guitars, hundreds of ukes & other various & strange instruments I built over 40 years. I guess that's where my 'use quarter-sawn-woods-only' impressions have come from.

However, quarter-sawn, straight-grained hardwoods on backs will never provide the striking, incredible, natural beauty of your creatively designed & crafted instruments using flat-cut woods, as in your pictures. Curly Hawaiian Acacia Koa is one exception to that, IMO. I do know that most of your guitars are made of quarter-sawn woods. But I've always wondered if there was a trick(s) to using flat-cut backs & making them durable. And, if customers who order flat-cut woods know the risks.

When I first started sending instruments all over the world in 1970, even using all-quarter-sawn woods didn't save me from the fact that I could not afford to pay the electric bills to properly humidify a woodshop in wet Hawaii. So my early exported guitars sometimes cracked & moved all over the place, no matter the grain. I repaired them all & learned an important lesson: beyond using quarter-sawn woods, a luthier must humidify his shop or at least have a conditioned drying & set-up room, as expensive as that is out here. When I did that, I had more success with durability in my exported instruments.

Fortunately, I was mostly able to use very dense, flitch-matched, quarter-sawn, choke-curl Hawaiian Acacia Koa that I cut & milled on the Big Island, stickered, air-dried, then kiln-dried in the late 70's, early 80's. Because of demand, I also used BRW & other RW's on many guitars. BRW did not fare as well on the road with traveling musicians - more prone to move & crack.

As you wrote, many players today DO take better care of their guitars. Some (many at AGF) seem to obsess over them or even deify them. But most of those players do not play OUT regularly with them.

My generation of giggers (I played out almost nightly for 55 years) were not nearly as over-protective or doting on our instruments. We played guitars of any value in any environment (except the classical players). So different, huh? We were players first, not collectors. We weren't interested in hiding our custom (or not) guitars away in humidified cabinets, or only playing for recording, or occasionally breaking out a DADGAD tune that shows them off in AGF or Soundcloud video's - Ha! Our approach was that great guitars deserve to be played out & heard by others. EX: It would have been inconceivable for great guitarist Norman Blake to think twice about playing his unbelievable 1934 Martin D-18H in any setting. Or Alex DeGrassi not playing his huge-sounding custom Lowden F-35c or outstanding Traugott Model R at his gigs.

Additionally, many modern players here seem to go through custom instruments every other year or so. Never satisfied. Great for custom builders. But their ongoing, new guitar G.A.S. prevents them from realizing the full potential of any brand of guitar unless they play it in for a few decades, & not turning it over too soon. Playing a great custom instrument & holding on to it for many years IS where the "holy grail guitar" is truly to be found. A quiver of custom guitars won't get you "there." I mean, imagine how your great-sounding new Maddy OM will sound in 30 years, if maintained properly, doesn't crack, & is played regularly?!?

Here's Leo Kottke's take on the "holy grail guitar":

Sorry for rambling here. I'm just an old guy.

Stay healthy, Ok!


Last edited by alohachris; 03-16-2020 at 04:06 AM.
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