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Old 12-26-2010, 03:43 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Default New Howard Klepper Advanced Jumbo in black walnut build project

Howard Klepper and I have been kicking around some ideas for a guitar for the last month or so, and we've finally gotten all those highly enjoyable "blue sky" discussions narrowed down to the point where we can talk about the guitar he's going to build for me.

Although I've ordered and received a number of custom guitars, mountain dulcimers and mandolins over the years, I've never started a build thread on this forum. But I've been watching a few instruments progress online here, and decided that some of you might find this new build order interesting.

As some of you who've read my posts may know, I'm a longtime fan of black walnut as a back and sides wood - when handled right, it can be an absolutely superb tonewood.

In some ways, it's a lot like koa, with a good overall tonal balance. But it's got a slightly quicker response than koa, and generally isn't as "lush" sounding. As a general rule, black walnut is a clear, loud, balanced, projective tonewood. It works especially well in instruments intended for use in group settings.

For a long time now I've had black walnut instruments that are companion pieces to some of my other stage instruments: in addition to my rosewood Baxendale Mossman 000-42, I've got a black walnut Larrivée OM-03W; in addition to my koa Blue Lion mountain dulcimer, I've got a Sitka spruce and black walnut Waterman mountain dulcimer that can heard over the loudest bluegrass jam session. So black walnut is a wood that's near and dear to my heart: I've had instruments made from it from the very start of my musical endeavors, and I like having walnut instruments for those musical situations where I find it to be the best choice.

I make a differentiation between black walnut and other species of walnut, simply because I've had better musical luck with it. Claro walnut can be incredibly gorgeous, but I've played a lot of visually spectacular claro walnut guitars that didn't do much for me as musical instruments. There are other walnut species in use as tonewoods, as well, but for this guitar I wanted to stick with black walnut. We had black walnut trees on the rural property we owned in Missouri when I was a kid, and so it has a personal connection for me that more exotic woods don't.

In any event, Howard Klepper and I have been kicking around some ideas for some time now, and have settled on a black walnut Advanced Jumbo. Howard has become more interested in working with vintage guitar designs recently, and I wanted a walnut companion guitar to the Indian rosewood and Sitka spruce 2001 Gibson Advanced Jumbo I got this past spring and which I've been using as my main performance guitar ever since.

Howard poked around in his wood stash, and even though he has some other walnut that has more flamboyant figure to it, for the musical results I'm after we decided this particular set was the one to use:

Here's the back:



Howard wrote me an email this morning that I'm quoting from here:

Quote:
The back and sides are the curly black walnut that we have been talking about. I shellacked the shape of a slope D on them, and put more shellac on one of the sides.
Here are the back and sides together:



And here's the top:



Howard wrote:

Quote:
The top is old growth Carpathian spruce, which is Picea albies like other European spruces. It's perfectly quartersawn, very stiff, and has a great, resonant, musical tap tone. I picked it by tap tone from a half dozen dread size tops that were in that batch. The color streaking and a few darker latewood lines make it look like Adirondack red spruce, and I would think that 99% of the time, that's what someone would guess if they saw it. Sonically, from the stiffness and the way it taps, I'm expecting a sound somewhere in between good euro and good Adirondack.

Howard plans to shoot a dark sunburst finish on the top, keeping in mind that I really prefer that the pigmentation of the 'burst be as close as possible to the walnut set we've chosen.

Not all of the details have been determined yet, but here's the plan and the appointments as we envision them right now:

Howard Klepper vintage style Advanced Jumbo

Body style: round-shouldered dreadnought, 14 fret body join.

Top wood: Carpathian spruce (Picea albies)

Back and sides wood: American black walnut

Neck and body binding: to be determined (tbd)

Fingerboard & bridge woods: tbd, but probably rosewood.

Tuning gears: Gotoh vintage style gears.

Fingerboard & peghead inlays: precise pattern tbd, but in gold mother of pearl.

Scale length: 25.5 inches

Nut width: 1 3/4 inches

Electronics: tbd

Nut and saddle material: bone


As for whether the bridge saddle will be the traditional "through saddle" design used in Gibson AJ's or the more modern contained saddle is something we'll decide later on in the process. I'm not convinced that through saddles are any more efficient or have a huge influence on the tone, but more research is needed before that feature gets decided.

One thing for certain is that through saddles do limit the electronics options, as most undersaddle pickups don't work all that well under them. But we'll see.

In any event, I'm just stoked that Howard Klepper wants to build this guitar for me! I'm really looking forward to his reports as he progresses.

In conclusion, I'll just quote Howard's email from this morning one more time:

Quote:
So off we go.
Off we go, indeed...


Wade Hampton Miller

Last edited by Wade Hampton; 01-08-2011 at 07:57 PM. Reason: clarity
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Old 12-26-2010, 05:50 AM
redcloud redcloud is offline
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I am happy to see your pics of the chosen woods. Good luck on your build, 8 suspect it will turn out very special.

When will he get started on the project?

Scott
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Old 12-26-2010, 06:00 AM
Fliss Fliss is offline
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Congratulations and thanks for sharing your excitement! I look forward to seeing how your new guitar grows

Fliss
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Old 12-26-2010, 06:42 AM
tkuane tkuane is offline
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Ah, I see why you were so excited! Congratulations!
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Old 12-26-2010, 08:11 AM
kirkham13 kirkham13 is offline
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very, very nice.
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Old 12-26-2010, 08:12 AM
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Michael Watts Michael Watts is offline
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That looks great!
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Old 12-26-2010, 08:19 AM
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Congrats Wade and Howard.....I'm sure Howard will make it sound as good as it will look!! Keep us updated guys ...pic's and all!
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Old 12-26-2010, 09:32 AM
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This is going to be a great guitar - where are the next pics?!!!
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Old 12-26-2010, 09:53 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Thanks, all. More pictures will arrive as Howard takes them.


whm
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Old 12-26-2010, 10:05 AM
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Spieler Spieler is offline
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I'm confused. I don't see how this is going to be a black guitar. I guess it will look better after it's painted?

When my grandfather remarried, his new wife asked my parents what they wanted for Christmas. They asked for red wine glasses.

Come Christmas day, she handed them a wrapped box, complaining "These were really hard to find." Tensions were already running high, and it seemed she thought my parents had given her something hard to buy on purpose.

Inside the box? Wine glasses with clear bases and stems, topped by the most gosh-awful shade of off-red bowls.

TA DA!

Congratulations on your new project. I love the details you've settled on and how you came to them, and look forward to seeing your black walnut guitar. Emphasis on walnut.

~ S.
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Old 12-26-2010, 10:10 AM
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murrmac123 murrmac123 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wade Hampton View Post

Howard plans to shoot a dark sunburst finish on the top
You got plenty of time to rethink that option.

Looking forward to pics of the progress.
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Old 12-26-2010, 10:15 AM
rlouie rlouie is offline
 
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Sarah, black walnut is not actually black it's just the name of the wood.....

Wade,what kind of neck profile are you going with??? does Howard have his own type of profile or did you just describe what you wanted???
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Old 12-26-2010, 10:16 AM
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Wade, Congrats on your new build..The Black walnut/carpathian combo is stunning.. and with Howards touch ..should produce an instrument with great tone, dynamic range with headroom to spare.........It'll be fun to watch this build progress..Can ardley wait to see the bracing pattern .......(:
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Old 12-26-2010, 10:19 AM
Wade Hampton Wade Hampton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Spieler View Post
I'm confused. I don't see how this is going to be a black guitar. I guess it will look better after it's painted?

...

Congratulations on your new project. I love the details you've settled on and how you came to them, and look forward to seeing your black walnut guitar. Emphasis on walnut.
Black walnut is a species of walnut common to Missouri and elsewhere in the Lower 48 states, not the actual color of the wood or the shade of lacquer Howard will spraying on it. I think it's called "black" walnut because the bark on the tree is very dark, though not actually black.

This guitar will be the same shade of dark brown you see in the photos, and the sunburst will be matched to the natural color of the back and sides as closely as Howard can match it.

Hope that clears up any confusion.


Wade Hampton Miller
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Old 12-26-2010, 10:30 AM
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I was joking, as I was hoping my red wine glass story would illustrate...?

I now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Ho, ho, ho!

~ S.
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