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Old 10-22-2018, 07:03 AM
nobo nobo is offline
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Default Tom Sands Model L Baritone ... with all the trimmings

Baritone backstory

If I recall correctly, my first proper baritone encounter of any length (beyond a brief noodle on Don Ross' in 2007) was with Thomas Leeb’s Lowden at his Bootcamp in Austria in 2008 (in those heady days of having hair):





This was very much the vibe. Ever since, I’ve been besotted with baritones.

Pretty much immediately, I started speaking to a few different luthiers about a potential custom baritone project. Given my preferred specs, to quote Matty Groves, it was going to cost me deep in the purse. Whilst I’ve (rather belatedly) come round to the “buy well, buy once” mentality, I was nervous about spending big money on something I wasn’t sure would get much playing time. So…


Early lowlands explorations

I initially experimented by stringing a Lowden jumbo (originally a 1988 S7, then a Newtonards O12 – both sitka over mahogany jumbos) with baritone strings. This worked surprisingly well. But the intonation on the lower strings was, predictably, a bit of a problem. So David Anthony Reid made this fantastic ultra-compensated saddle for my O12 (I was keen to avoid having to permanently modify the guitar itself).



Some years later (around 2011, I think) I took the plunge on a Lowden Baritone (sitka/Bastogne walnut), having stumbled upon the (then incredibly rare) opportunity to pick one up second hand.



More photos here.

The presentation on the 27.59” scale was quite different to that on the 25.56” – a bit more bass like, and less “guitary”, than the short-scale baritone experiments.

I was enjoying playing and composing on the Lowdens enough to make me think it might be worth taking the plunge on a bespoke baritone.

The whole project got a bit sidelined as towards the end of 2011, I put down a deposit on my first proper custom build: a fantastic Jason Kostal MDC (German over Claro), which arrived in August 2016 (as did, about 4 months earlier, in a fit of over indulgence, a lovely Euro/Madrose Kostal OM, originally owned by Steveh).

Jason, as most of you will know, apprenticed with the master of the modern lutherie that is Ervin Somogyi. I’d had the pleasure of meeting Ervin in 2014 at an inspirational talk he gave at The Acoustic Guitar Music Co (TAMCO) in Brighton, which was also the first time I had the pleasure of playing on of Ervin's guitars.








Meeting the maker

It was at that talk that I first met Tom Sands, who was sharpening his chisels in preparation for an apprenticeship with Ervin. I remember at the time being extremely excited that someone would be bringing back that knowledge and expertise to England, and thinking that I ought to give Tom a deposit then and there… I wish I had!

What with becoming a father and changing jobs, I slightly lost track of things. But in 2017, some of my friends (Adam, borborygmus, ianLP59, and later Steveh and David) were waxing lyrical about fantastic guitars they’d ordered or received from an extremely talented builder… none other than that very same Mr Sands. It occurred to me that he might well be the man for the baritone job.

I must confess to being a little apprehensive about ordering any bespoke instrument, for various reasons. There’s always something a little nerve-wrecking about ordering a guitar rather than first playing the actual one you’ll be buying (although I've done that many times over the internet); but all the more so when you’re planning on something very specific and high end. Plus this would be not only Tom’s first baritone, but – as far as I’m aware – the first Somogyi-camp baritone.

But several emails and phone calls later, I felt like I was in safe hands. Tom was confident, knowledgeable, passionate and a pleasure to talk to. What I’d seen of his work was sublime. Hardly surprising, given his background honing his woodworking skills from years working on award-winning luxury furniture, his eye for aesthetics and design developed during his time as a scholar and graduate of the prestigious Glasgow School of Art, not to mention his apprenticeship with perhaps the premier steel string builder of all time. But I'd yet to actually play one of his creations.


Meeting Tom’s guitars…

Somewhat serendipitously, a few weeks later I had the pleasure of meeting a quite few of Tom’s guitars - numbers 3, 4, 8 and 9 - all in the same room.



They all looked and sounded stunning, were ultra-responsive and had a warmth to them that was beguiling.

So I quickly found myself sending a deposit to Tom in July 2017 for his 17th guitar…


The nitty gritty

Right from the get go back in 2008, what I’d really craved was a custom baritone.

I only really feel comfortable playing guitars with wide string spacing (60-61mm at the saddle) and a wide nut (45 mm minimum, but ideally 46-48mm or more).

As someone who ventures away from the money making fretboard positions to the dusty end, I was also keen to have a cutaway.

Given the sorts of tunings I tend to use (often variants on CGDGAD, but on a baritone tuning down from B standard, that puts me at a low G (!)), I could see the sense in fan frets.

And as baritones are typically large-bodied instruments, and as I'm a guitar hugger who kinda wraps themselves around it when playing, I was keen to have some features that would make it seem smaller and more comfortable: a Manzer wedge and arm (and maybe also rib) bevel.

Body shape wise, given the thunderous bass that Modified Dreadnoughts put out, Tom’s own take on that model (his “L” – for Large) was the natural choice.

There’ll be enough going on in terms of features, so visually, “understated elegance” was the brief – let the woods speak for themselves.

But what would those woods be…? I'll leave that to the next installment.

All the best,

Dan
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Last edited by nobo; 10-23-2018 at 06:18 AM.
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  #2  
Old 10-22-2018, 08:06 AM
ericcsong ericcsong is offline
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Dan,

I can't wait to see this one come together!
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  #3  
Old 10-22-2018, 08:56 AM
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Guitars44me Guitars44me is offline
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Smile Nice thread!

What a lot of cool info above! Waiting for the next installment...

Given the low tunings I dig I am jealous of your ability to go to the long scale.

My 67 Y O left hand does not even like standard 25.5" anymore.

Carry on! And thanks for sharing...

Paul
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Old 10-22-2018, 12:40 PM
borborygmus borborygmus is offline
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Oooo... such an exciting thread!
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Old 10-24-2018, 03:26 AM
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Dan,

Thanks for starting what promises to be a very enjoyable build thread. My own baritone journey started in 2008 and finished with a custom build, completed in 2016, so your writing really strikes a chord (pun intended) with me!

Looking forward to the next post.

Col
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Old 10-24-2018, 10:42 AM
steveh steveh is offline
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Hi Dan,

You are well aware of my lofty opinion of Tom's work and will be pleased to know that my admiration for my model MMD remains undimmed since getting it. Indeed, it may even be getting brighter.

Looking forward to seeing this one come together, both here and on Tom's very active Instagram account.

Looking forward even more to playting it when it arrives; I know you're teasing us re the build components but what's the ETA?

Cheers,
Steve
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Old 10-25-2018, 04:03 PM
nobo nobo is offline
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Thanks for the replies! Lovely to hear from you.


It's been huge fun* so far working with Tom on this - so I hope some of that enjoyment wears off by proxy in this thread!

* Fun for me at least. Poor Tom has to put up with my meticulous spec'ing and obsessive micro-management (more on which later). He's a good lad!


I'll fill you all in on woods as soon as I get some more time at the computer again that's not spent working. (Life with a toddler and a baby - one month old today...!).


Col - interesting that you underwent a similar journey! Do you have a build thread for your baritone? Or can you let me know a little more about it?

You've also made me realise that it was about 11 years or so between my first "proper" acoustic guitar. In about 2005, I upgraded from a $90 Takamine I'd bought in Malaysia and dragged around world to a Larrivee LV09 (which was going to be my lifetime one-off guitar... right?). My first true commission arrived in 2016 (the Kostal MDC). Seems it'll be about the same gap between my baritone encounter and my custom Sands baritone! What can I say? I'm a fast mover?

In fact, more parallels with my only custom builds (at least, custom built for me): my Kostal MDC arrived a good few months after my daughter. Seems my baritone may arrive a similar time after my son. I'm sensing a pattern! I'd better not "order" any more kids, I can't afford any more guitars. On second thoughts, that should be I'd better not order any more guitars, I can't afford any more kids!


Quote:
Originally Posted by steveh View Post
You are well aware of my lofty opinion of Tom's work and will be pleased to know that my admiration for my model MMD remains undimmed since getting it. Indeed, it may even be getting brighter.

Looking forward to seeing this one come together, both here and on Tom's very active Instagram account.

Looking forward even more to playing it when it arrives; I know you're teasing us re the build components but what's the ETA?
Steve - Indeed! So great to hear that the love affair is going so strong (stronger, even) after the honeymoon!

To be honest, I've not even dared to ask Tom for an ETA. Patience is not my strong suit in these situations, so I'm trying to discipline myself. And I'd rather let Tom take however long he needs over it than set a date and pressurize him (or be disappointed if it's delayed). But ... Tom... If you're reading this... hurry the hell up!

Or perhaps I'm just trying to be a realist - given what's on my plate at the moment, I've precious little time for playing. And that limited time which I do have is being taken up by er, writing this. I mean, getting to know (well, become re-acquainted with) this spectacular Wingert. Major honeymoon thing going on there. I think that deserves it's own thread though... (I'll get round to that eventually too!)
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Kostal MDC German/claro and OM Euro/Madrose
Larrivee L-05MT
Lowden O35cx cedar/EIR, New Lady, Baritone, O12 and O12-12
McIlroy A25c custom Cedar/Kew black walnut
Montgomery fan fret parlour Euro/ebony
Sands Baritone Swiss/Ovangkol (plus another due 2020)
Wingert Model E German/Braz
Yairi 1960s Soloists

Last edited by nobo; 01-03-2019 at 11:27 AM.
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Old 10-26-2018, 03:25 AM
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Thanks for the interest Dan. I won't subvert your great thread with my baritone-build, but I sent you a PM.

Col
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Old 11-01-2018, 01:17 PM
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You got a Wingert? Awesome!

You've a really nice writing style Dan, making this thread a no brainer for subscription. I have a baritone-shaped hole in my arsenal too; I did have a long-scale Brook Tamar for a while - 690mm and beautiful walnut back and sides, but it just wasn't gelling and I sold it to Bob Thomas. I'd be really keen to fill that gap, partly because I can no longer sing a lot of the songs I used to in the same keys and you can't capo below the nut, ha ha.

I look forward to reading more about the build and ultimately playing a tune or two on it at RMMGA!
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Old 11-01-2018, 01:22 PM
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Ah, Callum's Wingert. Now I remember. So glad it found a good home.
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Old 11-06-2018, 06:00 AM
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Congratulations on your upcoming Tom Sands, and a Baritone too! I am missing a Baritone in my personal collection currently so I am envious - running a guitar business now means that I can't justify personal guitars for a while but we have a Tom Sands Model S coming end of the year so I guess that's nice too

Looking forward to seeing (and hopefully hearing) this beauty! I should have a build thread up soon to accompany yours
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Old 01-03-2019, 11:07 AM
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Cams - Yes, Calum's Wingert. It's superb. Really honoured to have it. I never thought I'd see it again and when I did, I just couldn't resist. And it sounded even better than I'd remembered. Lifetime keeper right there. I was going to say despite the huge neck (51mm nut, nearly 62 mm string spacing at the saddle). But actually maybe partly because of the neck. And the tone... Wow. I'll have it at RMMGA this year. And, if it's ready, the Sands bari too... (Still waiting to hear from the venue on dates etc!)

Col - thanks for your PMs! Nice to chat and share experiences. Lovely instruments you have there.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Marcus Wong View Post
Congratulations on your upcoming Tom Sands, and a Baritone too! I am missing a Baritone in my personal collection currently so I am envious - running a guitar business now means that I can't justify personal guitars for a while but we have a Tom Sands Model S coming end of the year so I guess that's nice too

Looking forward to seeing (and hopefully hearing) this beauty! I should have a build thread up soon to accompany yours
Yup - looking more than "nice" from what I've seen of it! Looking forward to the build thread (maybe I missed it?).

Hopefully - running a guitar business - means you get to enjoy the odd baritone passing through your shop...? As you can probably tell, I really enjoy having a baritone in the collection and am super excited about finally getting one that's built to fit me like a glove (not least as I have unusual neck/string spacing preferences).
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Kostal MDC German/claro and OM Euro/Madrose
Larrivee L-05MT
Lowden O35cx cedar/EIR, New Lady, Baritone, O12 and O12-12
McIlroy A25c custom Cedar/Kew black walnut
Montgomery fan fret parlour Euro/ebony
Sands Baritone Swiss/Ovangkol (plus another due 2020)
Wingert Model E German/Braz
Yairi 1960s Soloists
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Old 01-03-2019, 11:19 AM
nobo nobo is offline
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Default Into the woods

Into the woods

Top wood wise, I have a very light right hand. Whilst cedar works well for that, and has a lovely warmth to it, I was concerned that it might lack definition/get a bit mushy in a baritone. Tom had some amazing redwood, which was mighty tempting, but he also spoke incredibly highly of Swiss moon spruce (naturally harvested by buzzing bees at the exact point a choir of angels hit a plagal cadence, no doubt… ). Having had great experiences with German spruce on my Kostal MD and on a fabulous Brazillian RW Wingert Model E (an incredible guitar which had haunted me for some time, has huge sentimental significance and I’m delighted to say has joined the stable a few months back), and Euro spruce on my OM, I was happy to follow Tom’s lead.

Hogmanay

Welcome to 2019!

Having owned a Taylor 510 (hog/englemann), Larrivee L05MT (all hog), Larrivee P03 (hog/sitka) and various mahogany Lowdens (S7, O10c and O12), I’ve always loved the dry woody growl and mid-range richness of ma-hogmanay. But I’m also a sucker for something with a bit more visual appeal. So fiddleback hog seemed to be the way forward. Tom had already made a stunning OM (005) in that for Ian, which I loved both the look and sound of:





Ian’s OM was made from one of two sister sets Tom had of a set fellow Somogyi apprentice Julian Gaffney used to make this beauty (his no 009) from:





And here’s the set we toyed with:





Short back and sides

Unfortunately, when it came down to it, the sides of that set wasn’t quite big enough to make a cutaway MD sized guitar.

So I spend a while doing this…



And then I remembered that several months previously Tom had posted a set on facebook, after he was nominated by luthier Ben Paldacci to share some of his favourite woods in his stash. It was breathtaking. And here it is!



And it had everyone guessing for aaaaaaages as to what it was.

Can you tell what it is yet? Fingers on buzzers please... (Shhhh….No telling for those already in the know/no cheating on Tom’s social media.)

(More pictures and clues to follow... eventually!)
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Kostal MDC German/claro and OM Euro/Madrose
Larrivee L-05MT
Lowden O35cx cedar/EIR, New Lady, Baritone, O12 and O12-12
McIlroy A25c custom Cedar/Kew black walnut
Montgomery fan fret parlour Euro/ebony
Sands Baritone Swiss/Ovangkol (plus another due 2020)
Wingert Model E German/Braz
Yairi 1960s Soloists

Last edited by nobo; 01-12-2019 at 02:24 AM.
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Old 01-03-2019, 12:29 PM
DamianL DamianL is offline
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Is it a walnut of some kind?
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Old 01-03-2019, 01:55 PM
nobo nobo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DamianL View Post
Is it a walnut of some kind?
It's a great guess, not least because I think that was my first guess too! I do like walnut too. And I've not really seen much else in the wood stakes that has figure along these lines.

Alas, nope... not any kind of walnut.
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Kostal MDC German/claro and OM Euro/Madrose
Larrivee L-05MT
Lowden O35cx cedar/EIR, New Lady, Baritone, O12 and O12-12
McIlroy A25c custom Cedar/Kew black walnut
Montgomery fan fret parlour Euro/ebony
Sands Baritone Swiss/Ovangkol (plus another due 2020)
Wingert Model E German/Braz
Yairi 1960s Soloists
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