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Old 03-27-2011, 03:55 PM
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bdm0509 bdm0509 is offline
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Default Build: The Kraut Project (OM and Mod D)

Hi all-

Once upon a time, I bought a very special guitar off the rack (hook on the wall) at The Music Emporium. It was an odd-looking guitar, and I thought little of it until I played it. Then, it was really just a matter of getting my credit card to the counter. That was surprisingly difficult, since I didn't want to stop playing the amazing, lush, booming guitar.

That guitar was Ray Kraut's #002, and would turn out to be his first sale (something I found out later). You can still see that guitar "documented" in videos where I'm playing Kottke's "The Fisherman" and Huttlinger's "And I Love Her." In any case, that guitar was later destroyed in shipping, and lost to me forever.

Much later, the sound of that guitar still haunting me, I commissioned Ray to build me a guitar. I even started a build thread here on the AGF. But alas, life and finances and family made completing that commission an impossibility, and that guitar now resides--although vastly different than my original commission--at the Luthier's Collection.

So after that long sad tale of star-crossed player and guitar, things have come back around. I reached out to Ray a while back, and through some long discussions, we agreed to begin a commission. What has grown out of those original discussions, though, has become what I am simply calling "The Kraut Project," and in my next chapter of this odyssey, I'll explain more--and why anyone attending Healdsburg this year will have the pleasure of seeing not just one Kraut guitar built for me by Ray, but two.

It's literally been a project over five years in the making.

Brett
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CF MARTIN 1930 OM-18 - Mahogany/Adirondack
JORDAN MCCONNELL 2020 16" SJ - Rosewood/Spruce (Commissioned)

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Last edited by bdm0509; 03-30-2011 at 08:57 AM.
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Old 03-27-2011, 03:59 PM
japple japple is offline
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Good for you Brett! I have been talking to Ray quite alot. He was telling me the other day about your guitars, they sound like they are going to be fantastic.
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Old 03-27-2011, 05:24 PM
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So a while back, I contacted Ray about commissioning a new guitar. Since we'd first talked, both my tastes and my style had evolved, and of course I'd had a chance to play many more guitars.

My initial email to Ray was pretty simple, because we already had a relationship:

OM cutaway, your choice of woods. You remember my tastes… loved the vibe of that flamey panam you found.

Fat trebles. Deep fast bass. Like the [#006 in] Wenge with more precision and refinement. Separation. Multiple lines yet maintaining distinction.

Your art, on the expanded canvas. Love the burns and spalted maple. Include the neck as part of the canvas.

Headstock can have figure but wasn't into the Pattis headstock look. [Sorry Larry!]


Pretty short and to the point. Ray and I followed up with a phone call, some quick discussions, and then I was to a decision point. I try and avoid lots of long conversations with luthiers pre-deposit. I feel that they only have so much time, and I want to put skin in the game before I spend more than about 30 minutes of that time; even if I later change my mind and back out, at least I've paid them -something- at that point for their time.

Also, for those of you new to Ray's sensibility, here are just a few examples of Ray's use of the guitar as a canvas:









So I sent Ray a deposit.

So at this point, we were discussing a single guitar--an OM--and then Ray and I had our first lengthy post-deposit discussion.

In that discussion, I told Ray I'd really loved two guitars I'd played over the last few years, and both were fan frets. As I love altered tunings and really low end, a fan fret seemed a wonderful idea.

Ray pounced; he'd been wanting to build a fan for a while, and already had some ideas. So at this point we were discussing a fan-fret OM with Ray's art on what I call an "expanded canvas." By that, I mean that I want more than a rosette. I loves Ray's art, and his use of small minimalist elements along with negative space. Yes, I know some might say he's playing in Michi Matsuda's pool, but I think Ray's got himself quite a pool of his own, and while I see similarities, I love Ray's lines for their own sake.

Soon, Ray would send me wood samples, and then things would begin to get very, very interesting.
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CF MARTIN 1930 OM-18 - Mahogany/Adirondack
JORDAN MCCONNELL 2020 16" SJ - Rosewood/Spruce (Commissioned)

[SoundCloud | YouTube]

Last edited by bdm0509; 03-28-2011 at 07:39 AM.
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Old 03-28-2011, 03:20 AM
Trevor M Trevor M is offline
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I am looking forward to more on this. One of my customers is thinking of a commission from Ray.
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Old 03-28-2011, 07:36 AM
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So Ray and I got on the phone to talk about my fan fret OM. We quickly established that I wanted Ray's artistic and aesthetic sensibilities to shine, and we also established that I wanted him to have the entire guitar as a canvas. That doesn't mean I want it to be "busy," but I did tell Ray his subtleties could extend all over the instrument. We both really "get" minimal lines and so I'm confident he'll do a wonderful job.

After a lot of catching up and art talk, we got into discussing wood. He knew I loved wood, and that I wouldn't want any abalone anywhere (which is his taste as well), so the back wood in particular became a key part of not just the sound but also the overall feel and look.

We centered in on African Blackwood--for it's dark beauty--and of course Brazilian Rosewood. Ray told me he loved two pieces of Blackwood he had, one uncut and one actually marginally begun as an instrument in its most infant stages, but that he also would probably build an instrument for himself using Brazilian, if he had to choose just one wood.

That short bit of conversation would come back to change everything... but in the meantime, Ray emailed me some wood photos of what he had and really loved.

He sent me, literally, a single shot of Blackwood:



I was immediately sold. I loved the rich dark color, I loved what I know Blackwood will add to a sound (a slightly darker, almost haunting quality), and the stripe down the middle immediately inspired me visually.

But then, almost as a tease, Ray sent me some images of Brazilian as well:





None of these pieces of wood particularly blew me away, although something about the first straight-grained one did have an appeal. But what was more interesting was that comment Ray had made... that if he had to build just one guitar, he'd use Brazilian.

At the same time, the darks and white of the Blackwood (and its sapwood) suggested to me, immediately, a guitar that in its entirety played on darks and lights. It won't be as literal as some of the other wonderful builds being assembled (John Mayes comes to mind, as well as Mike Baranik, I believe), but I knew that Ray would execute wonderfully on a theme of light and shadow.

I emailed and let Ray know that I wanted the Blackwood, and then went to bed. But late that night, I kept running over his Brazilian comment, and the darks and lights of what I was already thinking of as "Stripe" (my Blackwood guitar). Just as I went to sleep, inspiration struck again.

As an aside, before I end yet another of these mini-messages, I have to say that working with Ray, at least for me, has this effect: constant inspiration, constant pushing of what was planned for something even more creative. I hope that if some of you enjoy Ray's sound--or Somogyi's, or Kostal's, or the like--and you fancy yourself creative, and really want to be involved in the process, you can't go wrong with Ray. He inspires, and is up for quite a challenge, something you're about to see very clearly in the following messages.

So I've now got a fan-fret African Blackwood OM being built, and I asked Ray to pair it with the whitest, creamiest top he could find. But the Brazilian... it suggested something else. Something... warmer. More soon...
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CF MARTIN 1930 OM-18 - Mahogany/Adirondack
JORDAN MCCONNELL 2020 16" SJ - Rosewood/Spruce (Commissioned)

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Old 03-28-2011, 10:39 AM
japple japple is offline
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I am actually Ray said that he would build a Braz one for himself. He told me the otherday that Blackwood was (probably) his favorite wood.

As for thos pictures, they don't do the wood justice. I saw all of those pieces when I was down at his shop last month, and they are gorgeous!
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Old 03-28-2011, 10:42 AM
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Yeah, Ray basically said Brazilian because you can't go wrong with it; it all sounds great, almost regardless, and you just worry about structure. And, of course, there's sort of this thing about Brazilian.

But Blackwood is amazing, and it doesn't have the social and travel concerns of Brazilian.

Yes, such tough life choices, ha ha.

-Brett
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JORDAN MCCONNELL 2020 16" SJ - Rosewood/Spruce (Commissioned)

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Old 03-28-2011, 11:45 AM
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Default From one guitar to two

Hi all-

So after looking at the Blackwood, I commissioned Ray to build me a guitar that was focused upon shadow and light; darkness and brightness. Ray's already mentioned using Blackwood for the bridge, the fretboard, and much of the face design.

But with this idea of starkness came another idea, equally opposing it: warmth. Brazilian says warmth to me in its reddest, most beautiful colors. It also speaks to me of brilliance. And just like that, the Kraut Project was born.

I sent Ray another deposit, and asked if he was up for a challenge. He most certainly was. In addition to the Blackwood OM, Ray will be building a sister guitar, a Brazilian Mod D with a Sitka top. Again, in addition to its tonal warmth, the Sitka will provide a warmer, yellower color. The inlays on the face will again be warm and vibrant, filled with color.

We are still working on the Brazilian back, but here's the top:



Both guitars will be fan-fretted, with scales of 26" on the bass side, and 25" on the treble. You can see a lightly-outlined sketch of the look here:



I should note that the bridge is not what we'll end up using; that was simply Ray's standard tracing. The bridge will be customized to fit the overall aesthetics of both guitars.

They will be absolute contrasts in color, made at every step alongside each other. They're meant to stand alone, but ultimately are a pair that complement each other.

And in that comes the final piece of this puzzle, and the final challenge I presented Ray.

My guitars hang on the wall in my music room/library room, and I'm constantly pulling them down and playing them. But when folks come over, there they hang, out of reach of kids who I don't know (my kids play my Ryan all the time) and up for all to see, amongst pictures of my kids on my lap playing with the guitars and their dad.

These two guitars will hang next to each other, on the central wall of that room. But, like Ray, I like asymmetry, so they will not hang at the same height. One will most likely hang eight or so inches higher than the other; the height difference is yet to be determined. But they'll both hang, slightly offset.

And here's the challenge: Ray will treat both guitars, carefully positioned as they'll be when they hang together, offset by height and distance, as a single canvas.

His artistic choices will be individualistic, complementing each guitar. But when the two guitars are seen together, at these particular angles of height, they will form a more complete picture. Subtle lines and angles will bisect, intersect, suggest longer lines, and form one "whole."

I'd imagine Ray will hop on soon and add his thoughts, but I was delighted that he was not only intrigued but in fact inspired by these ideas and the challenge. We don't yet know what the guitars will look like, but Ray is spinning, and both builds will begin in earnest in May (although there are some progress photos of the Blackwood OM I'll post later this week, as it has just begun its travels toward a guitar).

I'm excited, and intrigued.

Further, Ray will build custom stands so that we can display both guitars at Healdsburg at the proper heights, and the entire picture can be seen. I hope to see many of you there.

And that, for now, is all: two guitars, one project, two motifs, one canvas. All we need now is one ring to bind them all.

Enjoy the show... I already am.
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CF MARTIN 1930 OM-18 - Mahogany/Adirondack
JORDAN MCCONNELL 2020 16" SJ - Rosewood/Spruce (Commissioned)

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Old 03-28-2011, 12:46 PM
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Larry Pattis Larry Pattis is offline
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Thanks for the thread, Brett...glad to see strong interest in what Ray is doing...he is building exceptional guitars, as you know!

P.S. The "Pattis" headstock is *all* Ray's design, so while I *love* it, I don't take exception to your going a different direction for your choice of design in this area!
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Old 03-30-2011, 08:56 AM
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Default Stripe going into construction

At this point, construction has begun in small spurts on Stripe, the Blackwood guitar with the sapwood stripe down the back. As I've already mentioned, we're playing heavily on the contrast between the dark black of the back and sides and the creamy white of a wonderful German top.

You can see this contrast well here, as the roughing out of the back and top have now occurred:



You can also see how clean this top is by looking at its grain:



Here's a shot of the back and sides overlaid, and you get a sense of the visuals we'll be able to execute:



And here's one more:



Next up, Stripe's sides will get bent and the back braced. I'll also have more on our search for the perfect piece of Brazilian for Red, the Mod D.
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CF MARTIN 1930 OM-18 - Mahogany/Adirondack
JORDAN MCCONNELL 2020 16" SJ - Rosewood/Spruce (Commissioned)

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Old 03-30-2011, 09:21 AM
jeastman jeastman is offline
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Man Ray can put together a beautiful guitar. And when you're starting with ingredients like that Blackwood set...man you're in for a treat. So are we getting to watch it! All this ABW popping up recently is getting me excited to watch my own come together!

Thanks for sharing.
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Old 03-30-2011, 09:26 AM
Martin_Nut Martin_Nut is offline
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Brett - exciting project. Nice concept for both guitars. I especially like the Sitka/BRW combo, as it seems to me a natural for the reason you state - warm, with a fine potential tonal pallette for Ray to work with.

Have fun with this process. We're enjoying the ride!

John
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Old 04-21-2011, 02:00 PM
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bdm0509 bdm0509 is offline
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Default Nothing to see here

Well, Ray and I have been working a lot behind the scenes, and the times, they are a changing.

I'm heading to Ray's shop in Eugene in just about a month to design my two guitars with Ray. He's secured a wonderful piece of African Blackwood (already shown as with some early build photos to follow soon), but finding the perfect wood complement for the Mod D is proving to be time-consuming. So while we'll design both guitars in a little under a month, we're going to only actually build the OM right now.

Then, once we find the ideal wood for the Mod D, we'll get that guitar going, probably for construction and completion sometime in 2012. That's actually great for Ray, as it means he'll have one slot open to build a guitar he can sell at Healdsburg. Trust me when I say that, once you play one of his guitars, you'll want one to buy yourself. I fully expect his available guitar at Healdsburg to sell within the first 2 days, if not the first 2 or 3 hours.

In the meantime, this thread will go quiet for a few weeks, and then pick back up in earnest in late May. Also, I'm taking my business partner with me, as we do professional photography, videography, web design, and mobile app design. He'll be creating a video of the entire affair, including great audio and video of Larry Pattis playing his custom Kraut, so you can expect a rich, multimedia report of my trip in the weeks to come, along with professional-level audio.

It should be fun... stay tuned.

-B
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Old 04-21-2011, 02:13 PM
Billy Boy Billy Boy is offline
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I love the light/dark theme...beautiful wood...and you've whetted the taste of many on the forum, I'm sure...can't wait to see (and hear) more...
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Old 04-21-2011, 02:16 PM
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absolutely love it! can't wait to see more!
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