Nobody's perfect. Guitars too. It occasionally happens that I'll have a guitar sit around for a long time without finding an owner. I have to be honest with myself- sometimes it's because the guitar could be better. After all, as I grow as a person I become a better luthier, and some of my older guitars don't meet my newer, higher, standards. So back into the workshop it'll go, getting upgraded to the current state of my art. Corduroy (above), got an infusion of carbon fibre in the neck for extra stiffness, as well as a new lighter and less bulky bridge. While I was at it, I decided to upgrade the tuners to super-lightweight Gotoh Stealths. This meant completely redrilling the headstock, and to cover the plugs and strengthen the area I decided to create front and back headplates from my last pieces of figured hop-hornbeam. It's now stronger, lighter, prettier, and plays better than ever.

Lapdog, on the other hand, was simple enough that nothing could really go wrong. The simpler the better was the motto when designing and building this instrument. After all, I'm not a lap steel player. But after showing it to a few friends who were, they agreed that it would be better if it had built-in volume and tone controls, so they wouldn't have to rely on a swell pedal. I listened, and now it has them, topped with knobs I turned out of cocobolo to match. It may be a little less elemental, but it's a lot more useful.

Tiny Music

I get asked to push the envelope of guitar design in some pretty extreme directions sometimes. For this case a drawing on paper just wasn't going to be enough to properly visualize it. So, I made a half-scale model, complete with control and strap button locations. This kind of thing also helps me by providing a guide for when I start carving away at the real thing. Wood isn't like plasticine, after all; you can only remove material, you can't add it back. Here's more:

I can't wait to get started on the real thing.


I've just got a really interesting new commission to build another ultramodern headless seven-string guitar. Lots of fun, but it's always challenging to come up with yet another original design. If you've ever wondered where it starts, here you go.

After discussing with the client what their needs and desires are, I lay out the essentials. These are the parts that have clealy defined parameters- mostly this means the fretboard width and length, the bridge position, and the edges that are needed to hold the guitar comfortably, like this:

I find it much the best to draw full size. Once the basics are in place, the creative part begins. Drawing with soft pencil and eraser, I home in on a shape that might work:

More erasing, more refinement. This particular guitar will be semi-hollow, too. I imagine the way it will look with a contrasting top layer, and sketch in where the wood will be carved away for comfort, exposing the boy wood underneath. Here's what I came up with:

You can see the two layers, as well as the area in the upper left of the body where the hollow in the body is exposed, creating a soundhole. I thought that was pretty clever.

By this point I've got a pretty good 3D rendering of the instrument in my own head. To help the client visualize though, I do a few drawings of some of the details:

Turns out that four years of Fine Arts in University weren't a complete wast of time, though to be fair to myself they didn't teach this kind of stuff. Next step, converting these flat drawings into a real guitar! Stay tuned...