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Old 05-07-2021, 12:28 PM
dennisczech dennisczech is offline
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Default Branwell 00 build: The Goldilocks Guitar

I've gone a bit GASy over the last year, and have fallen in love with the tone of London-based Nick Branwell's guitars. His usual 00 "Estuary" is based on the Torres 1864 shape, which is 13.9 inches lower bout, but in a 14 fret configuration. I've asked him to build one based on the 1888 Torres, slightly larger (14.2 inches) but still smaller than a standard classical. I'm currently borrowing an Estuary model in Engelmann/Wenge that has a really big, meaty, chunky sound.
The new build is "Coyote" wood (one of the Platymiscium species like macacauba aka hormigo aka grenadillo), which we obtained from Timberline here in the UK. It has the most wonderfully satisfying and lively tap tone, and the density is similar to Braz. John Arnold has said on many occasions that this wood is one of his favourites. The top is Italian spruce from the 1980s which has a fair bit of coloration, and you can see how it has aged. We spent a happy afternoon tapping various tops, and this one just had an extra dimension to the tone, an intoxicating dry ring.










Last edited by dennisczech; 07-08-2021 at 04:43 PM.
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Old 05-08-2021, 01:49 AM
colins colins is offline
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That back wood looks fantastic! You piqued my interest with the name and I found it is number one on "the ten best woods you've never heard" - https://www.wood-database.com/wood-a...e-never-heard/

Congratulations, and looking forward to more posts as it progresses.
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Old 05-08-2021, 10:55 AM
BradHall BradHall is offline
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That is beautiful. Interesting brace pattern on the top. No bridge plate?
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Old 05-08-2021, 03:23 PM
dennisczech dennisczech is offline
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Originally Posted by colins View Post
That back wood looks fantastic! You piqued my interest with the name and I found it is number one on "the ten best woods you've never heard" - https://www.wood-database.com/wood-a...e-never-heard/
I was very tempted by some madagascar rosewood, but this stuff is so nicely quartered and is also very easy to work, plus the tap tone was to die for. I strongly suspect this is the same as or kissing cousin to the "granadillo" Bill Kraus recently posted.

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That is beautiful. Interesting brace pattern on the top. No bridge plate?
Correct Brad, he uses a pinless bridge system which ditches the bridge plate, as you can see in the pic below. Re bracing, Nick has just built a lattice braced classical as a trial, and I was wondering whether to persuade him to try a similar steel string, but in the end we felt that his double X pattern works pretty well and is a known quantity. You can see that the main X brace is less than 90 degrees and goes quite high up, with the aim of expanding the lower bout. It seems to work, as his guitars hit a sweet spot between responsiveness and depth of tone, as well as balance and sustain. I've played many many high end guitars down the years, and Nick's work is as good as any I've come across.

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Old 05-09-2021, 07:41 AM
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ChuckS ChuckS is offline
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Dennis, you're really on a roll. It's nice you can be commissioning all these guitars from luthiers that have impressed you. Quite some time ago a local luthier, Hans Brentrup, built a guitar from Hormigo but I didn't get a chance to hear or play that one in person. Alan Carruth built my 000 in 2012 and he used double X bracing on the top; sure works for him.

I'll be interested in hearing your comments on this guitars tone when it's done.
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Old 05-09-2021, 08:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dennisczech View Post
I was very tempted by some madagascar rosewood, but this stuff is so nicely quartered and is also very easy to work, plus the tap tone was to die for. I strongly suspect this is the same as or kissing cousin to the "granadillo" Bill Kraus recently posted.
I used to cut a good amount of the Platymiscium species woods from lumber into guitar sets. We'd buy it as hormigo, granadillo, or macacauba, and the color would range from light brick orange, dark orange to red and purple. The weight and texture would vary slightly also, differing sub species and or growing conditions I guess, but it was always a nice sounding tap tone in the end, a very nice sounding wood. This is the first time I've heard it referred to as coyote wood.
I can't wait to see the finished guitar.
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Last edited by Kerbie; 05-09-2021 at 11:51 AM. Reason: Fixed quote.
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Old 05-09-2021, 11:48 AM
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Itzkinguitars Itzkinguitars is offline
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Very cool! Is the original shape based on a specific guitar from 1864 like La suprema or the Courtnall plantilla? I assume the 1888 plantilla you chose is SE-114? Either way a very exciting project; my smaller model is built on the plantilla of Torres FE-04 (la leona) and this has me contemplating a steel string version as well!

Last edited by Itzkinguitars; 05-09-2021 at 03:40 PM.
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Old 05-09-2021, 03:39 PM
dennisczech dennisczech is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Itzkinguitars View Post
Very cool! Is the original shape based on a specific guitar from 1864 like La suprema or the Courtnall plantilla? I assume the 1888 plantilla you choose is SE-114? Either way a very exciting project; my smaller model is built on the plantilla of Torres FE-04 (la leona) and this has me contemplating a steel string version as well!
Brian, the "Estuary" 00 model is based on Torres FE19 from 1864. Nick hasn't yet built a steel string in the 1888 shape (which is indeed SE-114), but the plantilla is easily transferable. I can't overstate how successful the Estuary model is, the one Nick is letting me borrow whilst he builds this one is just stunning. Even the body depth is less than 4 inches in the lower bout, but the sound is so powerful and satisfying. I've played so many 00-shaped guitars that are a bit tinny or boxy, but this one just sounds faaaat.







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Old 05-14-2021, 11:41 AM
dennisczech dennisczech is offline
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Starting to get boxy...




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Old 05-19-2021, 02:49 PM
dennisczech dennisczech is offline
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I like this bit of ripple in the rosewood fingerboard:



Box is taking shape:





End graft:

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Old 06-01-2021, 11:27 AM
dennisczech dennisczech is offline
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Nice to see a neck taking shape:



I like the way the top lines work with the ripples in the RW fingerboard:



And the heel cap serves to let the sapwood taper off nicely:

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Old 07-08-2021, 04:53 PM
dennisczech dennisczech is offline
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I currently have 4 instruments of the highest quality to choose from. There is a tendency for the latest squeeze to be the favourite for a while, and then I rediscover the pleasures of the others, but there’s something about this latest which has hit the sweet spot for me.

20 years ago Nelson Mandela visited the school where I was working and told a story to the kids about a man who travelled all around the world looking to find true love, only to return home and marry a local girl. As they left the hall, I overheard one of the kids say to her friend “I didn’t understand what he was on about, but he seemed like a nice old fellow”. My luthier journey started 23 years ago with a Brook dreadnaught: I vividly remember going down to this glorious patch of Devon countryside and picking out my first handmade guitar. Subsequently I have owned and sold guitars by Lowden, Martin, Armstrong, Kinnaird, Brondel, Ed Foley, Adrian Lucas, Al Beardsell, Frankie Montuoro, Larson Brothers, John Greven, Kevin Kopp, Tom Rein, Geza Burghardt, a few more I’ve forgotten, and I’ve played countless different brands in scores of high end stores. Always seeking for just the right match, the right feel.

This Branwell 00 is my local girl, as he’s based close enough to drive over for half a day’s visit. My 16 year old daughter has learnt to appreciate fine guitars, and this evening we played the current crop. She said: “The Branwell is the one that fits you best”. Over the years I’ve changed from strumming /flatpicking and needing something that can be played hard, to mostly fingerstyle and wanting something really responsive to a soft as well as heavy touch. My first few guitars had 1 11/16 nut, but I’ve gone gradually wider until I’ve settled on 1 7/8 and a wider string spacing of 2 3/8. I used to want larger bodied, now I prefer the 00 size, OM at the outside. I’ve also moved towards liking a slightly darker tone, but tonally some things have remained fixed: a need for strong trebles, a balance of sweetness and power.

Straight out of the box this Branwell 00 delivers: it’s incredibly punchy and powerful with a lively bounce to every note. The character of the tone is smoky, earthy and on the darker side. The tonal balance is excellent across the fretboard, I have yet to find a weak area and the trebles are plenty strong enough for my needs. There is plenty of sustain for a small-bodied guitar, and the Macacauba back adds a rosewoody reverb/chorus with enough angelic overtones for my taste without sacrificing a satisfying fundamental. I think we got lucky to source an excellent piece of 40 year old Italian spruce from one of the top classical builders in England, the sound is wide open straight away, and it’s huge, it defies logic that such a small guitar can sound so commanding.

The finish is a satin french polish, as thin as you dare, designed to let the wood sing without restraint. I love the shape and feel of the body, which is based on the 1888 Torres classical model with a lower bout of 14.2 inches (360mm) wide and only 4 inches deep. It sits just right in the lap, and the neck also feels perfect. Visually, I’m less bothered than most people seem to be, but I like the redness of the spruce, the back looks lovely, and the visuals on the RW bridge and fretboard work for me.

Everything seems to have come together in a way that I have been seeking all these years, so it has that Goldilocks vibe to it. I freely acknowledge that I am ridiculously picky, overly sensitive, prone to hype on early impressions, easily disappointed and fickle, with a chronic case of GAS and “the grass is greener” complex. I have played a few guitars over the years that have stood out as special ones: a Dudenbostel OM, a couple of Sexauers, the famous Amazon RW Bown OM. This one stands in that company for my taste, and I’m happy to admit that if I fall out of love with it, then I am truly a hopeless case beyond the reach of any therapy. I’ll record something as soon as I can get to it. On a final note, in terms of bang for buck, Nick Branwell is an outrageous bargain, his prices are absurdly low for the quality. Plus, of course, he's as decent and easy going a fellow as you're likely to meet. Happy days!











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Old 07-09-2021, 01:58 AM
colins colins is offline
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Great update Dennis, and very glad the guitar is delivering on its promise.

And nice that your daughter takes a thoughtful interest. I'd hoped my son would be interested in my acoustics, but he has gone over to the dark side (yes, he took up drumming!)
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Old 07-14-2021, 02:46 AM
UKPhil UKPhil is offline
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Lovely looking guitar
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  #15  
Old 07-14-2021, 04:06 AM
steveh steveh is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dennisczech View Post
I freely acknowledge that I am ridiculously picky, overly sensitive, prone to hype on early impressions, easily disappointed and fickle, with a chronic case of GAS and “the grass is greener” complex.
Rarely have I seen our collective malaise expressed more lucidly!

Very much looking forward to hearing this one Dennis. I really do have to check Mr. Branwell out, especially his nylon instruments. And especially as I can get to him in 30 minutes.

I agree 100% with what you say re geography - there are superb luthiers pretty much everywhere these days; no need to cross the Atlantic, or spend zillions for that matter.

Cheers,
Steve
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