I am excited to share the latest from the bench... A while ago The Charleston Daily Mail did a nice article on my guitars, specifically on the guitars I was building from the 1864 Steinway Piano. My good friend Dan, I had met years ago while playing in Charleston, WV saw that article and decided he wanted the next Steinway guitar. And really gave me free reign to make the guitar as I wished with a few appointments to fit his style.
The body shape is the first of my original designs. A 00 size called the recorder, for its very balanced tone and great sound on tape. It is based very loosely on the Gibson L-00. It is ladder braced with the Red Spruce Tone Blocks of the piano. And the side, back and rosette are made of the American Chestnut from the Piano's casing. The Chestnut was a dream to work with once I figured out the rules. This wood had been a piano for 150 years and was quite happy to stay that way. The sides were a bit of a challenge to bend to shape on the hot pipe. But, once I found the correct temperature and moisture level it went where I asked. The quarter-sawn grain is around 20 per inch and was very stable, which gives a clue to how old and giant this tree must have been. It is also extremely light in weight, perhaps even more so than Mahogany. I genuinely wish this wood was still available to us today.
The top is a piece from the piano's soundboard and is also Adirondack Red Spruce. It took quite a bit of planning to to get the grain to align without any of the mechanical fasteners of the piano interfering with the top of the guitar. The Square Grand Piano had an unusual sized/shaped soundboard. The Soundboard was made of four to six inch strips of tight grained spruce.
There is a large group of people trying to figure out how to make a guitar sound as though it has been played and aged for decades by torrification (baking under pressure), and applying vibrators to the completed guitar. I have nothing against these ideas, and even expect I will try some but, I believe this is the closest thing to a NEW Vintage guitar as is possible. This guitar's soundboard was vibrating musically since the American Civil War. It is actually hard to grasp that I think. (Which means that the Spruce, and Chestnut, was growing since before our country was created.)
The top of the guitar has a hand-rubbed, dyed sunburst. This in my opinion always adds more depth than a sprayed burst as it accents the grain of the wood directly and doesn't just sit on top as a filter. In this case it accents that the top is not bookmatched because of its source.
The Headstock overlay, end graft and heel cap are Brazilian Rosewood all from the piano. The Truss Rod Cover was made from an Ivory from the piano's keys. The other choice Dan made was to install Waverly Tuners, and I am glad he did. They are as smooth as you could wish and really look great.
How it sounds: This guitar is very bright and forward sounding. For years I thought bright was synonymous with tinny. But, not so. This has lots of bass but yet carries a lot of overtones with those low notes. It seems as though it cannot be pushed to hard. It really comes alive when digging in! It has a very fast response. It works really well for old timey picking and for more complex fingerstyle pieces.
I have another order for a Steinway Guitar, which will take most of the remaining Chestnut, which is a very bittersweet feeling. Knowing that it is being used to make music and not wasted is wonderful while realizing the finite supply will end is sad. I expect to be able to do one more Parlor Model guitar before the Steinway is gone. (Contact me if you are interested in a very special Parlor Guitar) Hopefully these instruments will be around for the next 150 years as was the Steinway!