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Old 10-10-2012, 04:13 PM
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bho bho is offline
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Default My new Greven OOO-Herringbone Custom

Hello,

I am very excited to tell you about my new Greven OOO Custom! I met with John Greven nearly a year ago as part of my quest to find a luthier in the Northwest who could build a guitar to my specifications, and most importantly, who could build a guitar with that hard-to-capture vintage pre-war Martin sound. After a few trips to talk with John and play his guitars, I decided I wanted something close to his own OOO, but with some differences. The guitar I ended up with is fabulous. Here are details and history, much of which was provided by John.

The shape
This is a custom 000 based on the 1934 OOO-28 Martin. The neck is the pre-1917 bird's beak style. It’s shape is modern, soft V, in between a true vintage heavier neck and a low profile modern neck shape. I have large hands and play a lot of fingerstyle, so the nut width is a little more than 1 3/4 and a little less than a full 1 13/16 – a 32nd of an inch between the two. This is a short scale (24.875') instrument, for easy playing.



The Varnish and Finish
John formulated and uses his own, proprietary finish. He describes it as “hard but elastic, relatively safe to use, relatively quick cure (compared to oil varnishes), super transparent, non-yellowing with UV light, solvent resistant, water-proof, and able to be buffed to a high gloss like a conventional lacquer.” I can attest that the final thin film is stunningly clear, hard and has a three dimensional quality even though it is only .004”-.006" thick. I can see the texture of the wood surface.



The woods
The top is Lutz from British Columbia, Canada. Lutz is a naturally occurring hybrid of Sitka and White spruce found is small clusters near the boundaries of the habitats of both species. It is a superb tonewood with tons of headroom like Adirondack, but with greater depth and complexity of tone and a crisp but woody voice. The top bracing is stiff Sitka in the size and pattern replicating the 1934 Martin 000. Braces are tucked and it has a small maple bridge plate.

I decided to go with Brazilian rosewood for the back and sides. John gave me a choice including some highly spider-webbed sets, but I preferred this set with broad banding. The back and sides are some very fine, highly colored and figured Brazllian rosewood salvaged from beams from a timber frame barn in Brazil. John tells me that almost all Brazilian available in the U.S. today comes from Rodrigo Moriera, a guitar maker native to Brazil and living on the plantation his great grandfather created in the late 1800's. Brazilian rosewood was very plentiful and was used as a framing material for buildings at the time. Rodrigo has been deconstructing these barns and sawing guitar sets from the larger 17 x 12 beams of 100+ year old air dried Brazilian for a number of years and shipping the finished sets to the US.




The body is trimmed in highly flamed Koa cut in the 1960's. It is the most flamed Koa that John has ever seen and difficult to bend due to its tight figure. The heel cap and end pin wedge as well as the delicate headstock bindings are of from the same small log of Koa. It took John a whole day to do just the headstock binding – he even had to work out some special jigs to make the tiny strips take the complex lines of the headstock shape.



The neck is the traditional Spanish cedar with the two-piece, bird's beak construction and is super light-weight, strong, and stable.

The headstock is John’s Prairie State "banjo" style shape. He has never placed this headstock on a OOO before, but I thought the graceful curves were a better match for the nature-themed inlay I requested. The headstock is overlayed with the same Brazilian rosewood as the body.




Inlay

The headstock features a hand cut and hand engraved inlay of Hokusai’s “Great Wave of Kanagawa.” I saw inlay like this in the Fretboard Journal a while back, and have always loved Japanese wood block prints and Hokusai in particular. The wave is made of white mother of pearl, blue paua abalone and a small piece of black pearl. All inlays are solid material, not laminate, Each piece is taper cut for a press fit, a tedious and time consuming process. John normally has his name engraved on the front of the headstock, but I had him move his pearl banner to the back so the inlay and wood stood alone.



I spent a long time trying to determine what the fingerboard inlay should be. I didn’t want a big, Laskin-style image. Rather, I wanted something functional, not overpowering, but beautiful. While in Mexico last Christmas with my family, my wife and I were walking on a small bridge spanning an estuary. I saw a lone Great Blue Heron wading in the water and knew I had my inlay theme. The great blue heron fingerboard inlays are made of black lip pearl and gold pearl. The rosette is Paua abalone.




Other materials
Bone nut and saddle. Waverly bridge pins. Grover Sta-tites 18:1 tuners. Herringbone purfling. Tortis pickguard in natural coloration, cast by John.

Playability and Tone
The tone is pure vintage Martin. Deep, resonant low end. Sparkly, clear high end. Rich throughout, with wonderful projection and sustain. Note clarity is outstanding. It sounds fantastic.

One of the biggest surprises was the playability. Smooth movement due to low action, less pressure required on the strings due to the short scale, easy to chord due to thinner neck and larger nut width....it's just easy to play.

When I asked John what he thought he replied “I like it better than mine.”

Working with John
I made a couple of trips to Portland, and John made a trip to Seattle for delivery. During all of our visits together, John was as nice as can be. He is so knowledgeable and was able to answer all of my questions. Sometimes I inundated him with emails, other times I left him alone when I sensed he was too busy to respond. Let’s see, I selected the rosewood in February and the guitar was finished in early October, which is pretty darned fast for something built by hand, without the aid of CNC machines and the like. John builds the old way.

Overall, he was great to work with and I highly recommend him.



I hope you all enjoyed this – it was long!
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Martin OM28 (European Spruce/EIR)
Collings OM3A (Adirondack/EIR)
Greven OOO (Lutz/Brazilian)
Greven OO (Lutz/Maple)
ARK Senorita S6-12 (Adirondack/Mahogany)
Circa OOO-12 (European Spruce/Mun Ebony)

Last edited by bho; 08-25-2013 at 04:12 PM.
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  #2  
Old 10-10-2012, 04:22 PM
jpd jpd is offline
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You are a very lucky young man! To own a John Greven made custom is a dream for me. Best, J.D.
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Old 10-10-2012, 04:25 PM
kydave kydave is offline
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Congratulations on a lovely guitar! Very tasteful ideas in construction and very elegant execution.

Having been fortunate enough to recently have had two of his Brazilian 1935 D-28 based dreadnoughts in my house for a while, I KNOW how great his guitars sound.

Play it in good health!!

Dave
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Old 10-10-2012, 05:00 PM
zmf zmf is offline
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Wow. Just wow.

Is there a sound clip in the future?
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Old 10-10-2012, 05:24 PM
000-18GE 000-18GE is offline
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that is simply fantastic. Congratulations.
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Old 10-10-2012, 05:28 PM
dirkronk dirkronk is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zmf View Post
Wow. Just wow.

No fair...I was gonna say that.


And hey, I'd love to hear soundclips, too.

Congratulations.

Dirk
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Old 10-10-2012, 05:54 PM
ukejon ukejon is offline
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Stunning.....
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2014 Pono N30 DC EIR/Spruce crossover
2009 Pono koa parlor (NAMM prototype)
2018 Maton EBG808TEC
2014 Hatcher Greta 13 fret cutaway in EIR/cedar
2017 Hatcher Josie fan fret mahogany
1973 Sigma GCR7 (OM model) rosewood and spruce
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....and about 5 really nice tenor ukuleles at any given moment
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Old 10-10-2012, 05:56 PM
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Kh1967 Kh1967 is offline
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You just brought a huge smile to my face - congratulations!
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Old 10-10-2012, 05:56 PM
Guitarbench Guitarbench is offline
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Congrats on your lovely new Greven! It looks awesome.
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Old 10-10-2012, 05:59 PM
Jimmy Caldwell Jimmy Caldwell is offline
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Congratulations. I was in John's shop a couple of weeks ago and saw this guitar just prior to completion. The inlay work is incredible an I'm sure it sounds as good as it looks. There's nothing like one of John's guitars to satisfy the vintage vibe that many of us seek. Enjoy.
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:02 PM
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photomat photomat is offline
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Wow, and congratulations! Great story and I love how your guitar turned out. Do you live in the Seattle area???? If so I would love to hear your guitar some day. I am proud to own a couple of Greven's as well.

Enjoy your stunning guitar!
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:52 PM
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bho bho is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by photomat View Post
Wow, and congratulations! Great story and I love how your guitar turned out. Do you live in the Seattle area???? If so I would love to hear your guitar some day. I am proud to own a couple of Greven's as well.

Enjoy your stunning guitar!
I do live in Seattle and will bring it to the Fretboard Journal 7th Anniversary party next week - are you going?
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Martin OM28 (European Spruce/EIR)
Collings OM3A (Adirondack/EIR)
Greven OOO (Lutz/Brazilian)
Greven OO (Lutz/Maple)
ARK Senorita S6-12 (Adirondack/Mahogany)
Circa OOO-12 (European Spruce/Mun Ebony)
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Old 10-10-2012, 06:52 PM
Saguache Saguache is offline
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One of Johns early spec guitars is on the top of my list to aquire. Yours is just stunning.
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Old 10-10-2012, 07:03 PM
learner learner is offline
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Beautiful!
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Old 10-10-2012, 07:25 PM
AZ Slacker AZ Slacker is offline
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I was at John's the day after he put the first set of strings on your guitar. John handed it to me and said, "Here, try this." It is amazing. With a guitar like yours or John's, there is no longer a need for a guitar to 'open up.' Enjoy!

Steve
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