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Old 02-21-2020, 11:42 AM
cbjanne cbjanne is offline
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Smile Build thread: Claxton Malabar, European spruce / Maple

Hi all,

Last summer I traveled to London to try out some really sweet guitars at TNAG in search of a lifelong musical companion. Before that I had very limited experience in luthier-built high quality instruments. I documented my guitar journey in a surprisingly popular thread. -> https://www.acousticguitarforum.com/...d.php?t=555150 The main takeaway from my trip was my preference for the "traditional" style of guitar building vs. the more modern Somogyi-influenced style. I think I managed to convey my thoughts on the subject rather well in post #28 of the mentioned thread. I'm open and interested in discussing the subject further.

The experience I had in London planted a seed in my mind, and during the autumn weeks that seed grew into a vision of what my dream guitar would be like. It would be lightly built, with no laminated sites or special appointments, such as bevels or sound ports. A dovetail neck joint would be a definite plus. The design would be some kind of a combination of traditional and modern, with quite simplistic aesthetics favouring the natural beauty of wood instead of inlays and such. The guitar would be modest in size, and would have a warm but focused tone not too heavy in overtones. There would be a prominent midrange presence, something that I find important to a fingerstyle guitar being truly expressive, and also something that I often find lacking in large guitars. The guitar would be responsive to very light fingerstyle playing, and yet have enough headroom to respond to occasional heavy picking with a satisfying growl, perhaps with a hint of banjo-like "twang" in the first milliseconds of the played notes.

My location in Finland and life's realities, including the renovation of a new home and an incoming baby daughter, made it impossible to constantly travel to try out guitars, which would have been ideal. I spent hours and hours finding out about luthiers, their building methods, philosophies and past work, listened to hundreds of sound clips and watched every video I found. I first bumped into Ed Claxton's name on the Luthier's Collection website by accident, and initially found his guitar designs to be very pleasing to the eye. Then I found sound clips and videos of his guitars, including some extraordinarily beautiful ones by Doug Young, and found the tone of the instruments consistently wonderful. It seemed that his guitars, regardless of the model and materials, had a certain kind of signature sweetness and expressiveness that I found most inspiring. His building style seemed to be exactly like what I had just learned to appreciate. His woodworking skills seemed to be at the highest tier, honed by decades of working not only with guitars, but also with, for example, wooden sailing boats. He seemed to do incredibly precise work using hand tools, never CNC. And best of all, the interviews on YouTube and Fretboard Journal (see https://www.fretboardjournal.com/col...axton-guitars/) painted a picture of a genuine, humble, easygoing man with a great sense of humour -- an impression that was later confirmed, and surpassed, when I met him. What a great guy.

Ed has slowed down his business in recent years and only builds a small number of guitars per year, focusing on projects that he has true interest in. I was very lucky to contact him at a time when he had a chance to discuss a build. After an exchange of e-mails and a phone call I made the arrangements to fly to California to meet Ed at his home workshop in Santa Cruz. I spent a couple of days chatting with him, learning about his guitars and playing the most inspiring and beautiful bunch of instruments I had ever seen in my life. Commissioning a guitar from him was an easy decision. His "Malabar" model seemed to be precisely what I had been looking for. Its body is slightly narrower and a tiny bit deeper than that of a standard OM, and the neck can be made with 12 or 13 frets to the body. The tone has a kind of classical guitar -like warmth that I find exceptional.

Ed likes to use European maple with 12-fret guitars, and I was surprised to find that I preferred the tone and responsiveness of his maple guitar over two Brazilian rosewood ones, fabulous as they also were. I was initially suspicious of this discovery, having heard so many stories of BRW's "holy grail" status, and conversely, loathing of maple. But after repeated back and forth playing, playing in different spaces, and ultimately after a good night's sleep I was convinced that maple was the right choice for me. I loved the fast response and the clarity -- just the right amount of juicy overtones without any kind of cluttering in the midrange. I heard a voice that let the expression in the music come through without coating it with sugar. With an excessive amount of sugar, at least. A dab of honey doesn't hurt.

The Malabar's dimensions can be seen on Ed's website -> http://www.claxtonguitars.com/guitar...=The_Malabar_2
Mine will be 12 frets, 25.4" scale, 1 13/16" nut width, 2 5/16" string spacing at the bridge. The top will be old European spruce, which (if my memory serves me right) was sourced from Italy in the 90s, but according to Ed it might originally be from Germany. Picea abies, in any case. The bridge will be Brazilian rosewood, which Ed likes to use with maple guitars. The fretboard material is yet to be decided -- ebony or Brazilian.

Ed has a respectable stash of old seasoned quality tonewood, and we looked at some maple for the back and sides. We chose these:



Photo taken with my iPhone camera. The darker spots are where Ed sprayed some alcohol solution to better show the flame figure. Doesn't come through very well in the picture.

Last week I received word from Ed that he is about to begin processing parts for the guitar. Since that, I've been checking my e-mail way too many times every day. Ed has already sent some photos that have caused a sharp increase in my heart rate. I got his blessing to share the photos here.

So here we go!

Last edited by cbjanne; 02-22-2020 at 06:52 AM. Reason: Grammar check
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Old 02-21-2020, 11:46 AM
cbjanne cbjanne is offline
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Bent sides:



Kerfed linings and side reinforcements installed:



End graft:



Spruce, partly hand planed, illustrating a beautiful silking pattern:



This will be the bridge:



Brazilian rosewood plates for the slotted headstock overlays, front and back:


Last edited by cbjanne; 02-21-2020 at 09:43 PM. Reason: fixed the photos
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Old 02-21-2020, 12:33 PM
Nemoman Nemoman is offline
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Glad you were able to dial in on the luthier and materials to suit you the best. Don't know that I've seen a Claxton build here before--I've always admired his work.

Congrats! This will be an exciting build to follow--count me in...
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Old 02-21-2020, 06:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nemoman View Post
Glad you were able to dial in on the luthier and materials to suit you the best. Don't know that I've seen a Claxton build here before--I've always admired his work.

Congrats! This will be an exciting build to follow--count me in...
Me neither! This will be a fun thread to follow

Congrats and have fun with the build!!!

Paul
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Old 02-21-2020, 06:44 PM
SJ VanSandt SJ VanSandt is offline
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For some reason I can't see the photos. Wonderful description though.
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Old 02-21-2020, 07:40 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SJ VanSandt View Post
For some reason I can't see the photos. Wonderful description though.
Nor can I Stan...
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Old 02-21-2020, 07:47 PM
Rwpierce Rwpierce is offline
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Would love to see the photos. I have one of Ed's fabulous guitars and have since had one of his maple guitars on my want list.
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Old 02-21-2020, 09:45 PM
cbjanne cbjanne is offline
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Funny, the photos showed up fine on my computer and phone. I tried a different photo sharing service now, can you see the pics?
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Old 02-21-2020, 10:13 PM
Rwpierce Rwpierce is offline
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Yes, woods are gorgeous. Should be a beautiful looking and sounding guitar
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Old 02-21-2020, 10:53 PM
gitarro gitarro is offline
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We don't often see a claxton build so this should be fun!
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Old 02-22-2020, 01:22 AM
cbjanne cbjanne is offline
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Thanks for the messages, guys!

Ed suggested a Brazilian rosewood fretboard. The wood is from the 1930s. The European maple neck blank can be seen in the photos too.



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Old 02-22-2020, 07:07 AM
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Yes, they are showing now.... Thanks for letting us look over Edís shoulder...
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Old 02-22-2020, 09:57 AM
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Excellent! Always wanted to watch a Claxton come together. Fantastic wood selection. This should be really special!
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Old 02-22-2020, 03:09 PM
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Claxtons are amazing guitars. Looking forward to this build. Great sycamore, there (speaking Berger-ese).
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Old 02-23-2020, 12:15 AM
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Thanks for this build thread, I played my first Claxton last October and was blown away.

You're gonna have a fine guitar when this one is finished!
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