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Old 11-21-2010, 06:52 AM
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Michael Watts Michael Watts is offline
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Default Kostal Modified Dreadnought The Tree/German/Wedge

Hi guys,

after years of enjoying build threads from the likes of cpabolting, riorider, bevelsnob and 690mbcommando I am finally in a position to show you the build process of my new instrument.

In many ways this guitar represents who I am today as a player and has several features that mark milestones in the journey so far. Every aspect of this build has its roots in certain events in my life and has been informed by my passion for truly special acoustic guitars.

So... This build is a Modified Dreadnought cutaway with a Manzer Wedge, "The Tree" mahogany back and sides, ebony inner sides and a German spruce top. it is being built by the outrageously talented Jason Kostal who is now coming to the end of his two and a half year apprenticeship with the legendary Ervin Somogyi. The guitar is being built in the Somogyi workshop using the shop moulds. (There will be consistent UK spelling on this one guys!)

First, a little background...

The Luthier

I first met Jason Kostal at the 2009 Montreal Guitar show where he was assisting Ervin Somogyi with his preparations for the show and the launch of his books.

Now, a couple of days before flying out for the show I had found a razorblade in a tool box instead of the truss-rod tool I was looking for and had cut the tip of the ring finger of my left hand quite deeply. So, having removed the bandage the morning I arrived in Montreal, and inspected my new terrible ET-style finger I resolved to cheer myself up by playing a Somogyi guitar for the first time...

Just one obstacle, this great big dude who was guarding the things!

In a conversation a year or so later Jason revealed that the guy who had tried one of the guitars just before me had "wailed on the thing" for a while and Jason had been worried about a scratched top/teeth marks on the headstock etc and so when I asked to play he fixed me with some sort of evaluating stare before draping me in chamois and passing me the guitar with a firm but fair request to treat it gently.

The rest is a bit of a blur to be honest, common to anyone who plays a Somogyi guitar for the first time. Choirs of angels, fireworks, synaesthesia, gibbering, the lot!

Now later that day, having met Ervin and played for him, he asked me to play at the private party where his books were being launched. Not only was I to play to a room full of luthiers whose work I had admired for years, I was to do it on the first ever Modified Dreadnought, originally built for Daniel Hecht and now safely esconsed here

http://orgs.usd.edu/nmm/PluckedStrin...gyiGuitar.html

Words cannot express what a huge honour this was.



It also left me with a Modified-Dreadnought shaped hole in my heart!

This design came about in the late 1970's when Ervin Somogyi was approached by several of the players at the nascent Windham Hill label with a brief to build a guitar that would bring out the best of their new approach to playing the instrument and also to the label's exacting standards of recording. The mod-D was born.

There have been several threads on the AGF about the relative merits of using a dreadnought style guitar for fingerstyle. There are certain things about the tone of a good dread that make it pretty much unbeatable for that approach but other factors (nut-width, body shape etc) can make it slightly challenging. To have the power and balance of a great dread in a fingerstyle instrument is an intoxicating experience!!!

This year I was asked to return to Montreal to demo the latest Somogyi masterpiece, the flamed maple "Andamento II", my account of those events can be found here

http://www.acousticguitarforum.com/f...light=montreal

Now one of the many highlights from this year's show was getting to play Jason's own guitars for the first time. this one in fact...



Nice huh?

Now I've long believed that it's important to hear a guitar from the "passenger's side" as well and as luck would have it I got to hear this particular instrument being played by:

Tony McManus



Antoine Dufour



Pat Simmons



and Craig D'Andrea



Now that sort of experience will definitely give you an idea of a guitar's voice and response!

So, Jason and I had a little chat and agreed to meet for breakfast the following day to talk specs.

Woods

A little more background here, my first guitar worthy of the name was a Martin D-15 that I bought with most of my student loan in 1998! I loved that guitar and I played it when I won the Acoustic Guitarist of the Year in 1999



This was an extremely valuable experience that taught me better than anything else could that music is NOT a competition!

Since then my instruments had mostly been rosewood or its variations but I still loved the sound of a mahogany guitar. With this build there could only be one possible option...



Yes, The Tree, had to have it! This picture shows the joined back of the guitar with the ebony backstrip inserted.

and the sides...



Naughty...

In order to keep the guitar from getting too ostentatious (might be fighting a losing battle there...) Jason suggested that we keep the colours simple, just mahogany and ebony. I have to agree.

Which led to an interesting development, the original plan was to use inner sides of slightly lesser quilted mahogany but in a flash of genius that even he isn't sure where it came from, Jason said "How about ebony on the inside too?"

Oh boy...



So there it is, outrageous mahogany on the outside, piano-black ebony on the inner sides. This is starting to be fun!

The subject of top-wood was relatively easy to get through. I am an "expressive player" (a term I believe coined by Larry Pattis right here on the AGF and if not, then certainly best embodied by his extraordinary touch) and demand certain things from a guitar. Having owned instruments with cedar and redwood tops I found myself coming back to the head-room and dynamic range afforded by spruce. In this case a wonderful set of aged German spruce.

Now there was the question of ergonomics to deal with. Modified as it may be the mod-d is still a bigger guitar than I'm used to and having enjoyed Linda Manzer's guitars in the past her "Wedge" design was the obvious way forward.

So having agreed on the specs Jason and I flew back to our respective corners of the world but not before we'd had a compare and contrast session using his mod-D up against the new Andamento which allowed me to demonstrate rather than have to try to explain, what I need in a guitar in terms of response and voice.

So now comes the waiting... the guitar will be finished around February 2011 and I'll be picking it up (and playing it) next July in Montreal where this story began. I will also be playing it in concert at the Healdsburg festival the following month.

Sweet agony indeed!

There will of course be more pics to come as the build progresses.
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Last edited by Michael Watts; 11-22-2010 at 05:06 AM.
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Old 11-21-2010, 07:06 AM
Fliss Fliss is offline
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Congratulations, Michael, thanks for sharing your excitement about this! Wow, that wood looks wonderful. I look forward to seeing more!

Fliss
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Old 11-21-2010, 07:33 AM
kirkham13 kirkham13 is offline
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You have come a long way from the D-15!
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Old 11-21-2010, 07:43 AM
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drcmusic7 drcmusic7 is offline
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Congrats, Michael! It looks like it's going to be a wonderful guitar. Can you tell us a little bit more about the dimensions of the guitar, etc? Is it similar in size to a traditional dread?

Kindly,
Danny
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Old 11-21-2010, 08:04 AM
steveh steveh is offline
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Great Michael: Now my GAS is in serious relapse.

This should carry a health warning.

Now I'm off to see my doctor.

cheers,
Steve
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Old 11-21-2010, 09:15 AM
Joel Stehr Joel Stehr is offline
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Wow, I can't wait to see this come together! You can't go wrong the The Tree,,,,,,BEAUTIFUL!
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Old 11-21-2010, 09:23 AM
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Michael Watts Michael Watts is offline
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Thanks guys, it's been very exciting so far! Here are a few more pics...

Hand-sawn kerfing



The rim in the mould. The chalk line shows the taper for the Manzer Wedge before the sides were cut



The finished back



The Kostal "Apprentice label" there will be no more than four or five guitars built with this label.



The man himself with the finished rim.



Good clean fun!
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Old 11-21-2010, 09:28 AM
Marley Marley is offline
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Great story, great writing as always incredible playing. Many thanks Michael. One love. Joe
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Old 11-21-2010, 09:48 AM
vicov vicov is offline
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seriously cool dude. I'm looking forward to getting to grips with that beauty....
Vic
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Old 11-21-2010, 11:08 AM
jeastman jeastman is offline
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Wow, that's going to be an extraordinary instrument! So thankful you're sharing it.
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Old 11-21-2010, 11:09 AM
K III K III is offline
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Great start! Ervin seems to spin out one amazing talent after the other.
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Old 11-22-2010, 08:23 AM
Bob Newby Bob Newby is offline
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Very nicely written, Michael.

I had a chance to speak with Jason a month ago, at a makers' showcase in Woodstock, New York. Such a warm presence! Everyone involved with Luthier Built is looking forward to your forthcoming magazine article there.

Best regards,

Bob
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Old 11-22-2010, 08:57 AM
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Michael Watts Michael Watts is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Fliss View Post
Congratulations, Michael, thanks for sharing your excitement about this! Wow, that wood looks wonderful. I look forward to seeing more!

Fliss
Cheers Fliss! Jason has been an absolute joy to work with on this one. The woods are pretty spectacular but the tone is going to make the visuals all but irrelevant!

Quote:
Originally Posted by kirkham13 View Post
You have come a long way from the D-15!
You can say that again, still, I still have a soft spot for them though!

Quote:
Originally Posted by drcmusic7 View Post
Congrats, Michael! It looks like it's going to be a wonderful guitar. Can you tell us a little bit more about the dimensions of the guitar, etc? Is it similar in size to a traditional dread?

You know Danny, I'm not really sure, I've never held a Mod-D up against a D to compare. I'll ask Ervin. I've no doubt that they are similar sizes, the Somogyi design is a refinement of its Martin ancestor...

p.s Congrats on your new parlour, how is it?

Kindly,
Danny
Quote:
Originally Posted by steveh View Post
Great Michael: Now my GAS is in serious relapse.

This should carry a health warning.

Now I'm off to see my doctor.

cheers,
Steve
Occupational hazard I'm afraid mate!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Joel Stehr View Post
Wow, I can't wait to see this come together! You can't go wrong the The Tree,,,,,,BEAUTIFUL!
Thank you Joel, yes indeed, once I'd decided on mahogany there was really only one option!
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Old 11-22-2010, 09:04 AM
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Michael Watts Michael Watts is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marley View Post
Great story, great writing as always incredible playing. Many thanks Michael. One love. Joe
Thanks Joe

Quote:
Originally Posted by vicov View Post
seriously cool dude. I'm looking forward to getting to grips with that beauty....
Vic
Yes indeed, that will be an interesting evening!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jeastman View Post
Wow, that's going to be an extraordinary instrument! So thankful you're sharing it.
Well, the AGF is all about sharing our passion for great guitars, and like I said, I've enjoyed the threads that other members have posted over the years!

Quote:
Originally Posted by K III View Post
Great start! Ervin seems to spin out one amazing talent after the other.
Well, I think it's fair to say that you have to be a pretty amazing talent in the first place to even be considered for Ervin's apprenticeship. It's been very interesting to compare Ervin's work with that of Michi, Mario, Jason and others, they've all gone in their own direction but the bedrock of knowledge and experience that Ervin has equipped them with is astonishing.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Newby View Post
Very nicely written, Michael.

I had a chance to speak with Jason a month ago, at a makers' showcase in Woodstock, New York. Such a warm presence! Everyone involved with Luthier Built is looking forward to your forthcoming magazine article there.

Best regards,

Bob
Bob! Great to see you here on the AGF! I'm drafting the article at the moment, it's been a blast!
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  #15  
Old 11-22-2010, 09:20 AM
jeastman jeastman is offline
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Is the inside of the back finished?

I'll love to hear your thoughts on the wedge when it is completed. I think I'm putting on on my upcoming and am very excited about the fact that it will make my fingerstyle playing while standing a bit easier.
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