Journal Entries           The latest Journal entries appear at the top of the list

 
21/10/2017   Guitar #65

Guitar #65 has a cedar top + walnut back and sides, with figured maple bindings.

This guitar will be available through Savage Classical Guitars, NY. Please contact Rich Sayage through his website.






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27/05/2017   Science, physics and luthiery

In recent years I have noted with interest that on occasion there has been scientific positions offered into the classical guitar construction arena. These written theories have come from those who have studied either engineering or physics and who have waded into the old world art of classical guiar building with an interpretation based on their science background. These are often combined with the traditional old school approach.

The topics include obtaining a perfect equal tempered scale, Chladni pattern nodal tuning for tops and as well, bracing and construcion observations and application/construction suggestions. There are books and written articles available to be read for those who wish to understand what the authors are trying to explain and that there are often included detailed construction advice on how to obtain certain results.

So why would I question those that have qualifications above my cabinetmaking degree and the 40+ years of wood working time spent at the bench? Well to me it goes like this, physics strives to explain what is happening in the real world, right down to a molecular level. So when I read an article that explains to me what is happening to the acoustic energy and the guitar from an engineer or the like, I shouldn't be able to find fault with the science if it's correct and it also concurs with my understanding. But I also know that the many varying factors that come into play from materials, both natural and man made, the strings and any changes in the construction can greatly influence the end outcome of how a guitar voices, how it projects and its tonal subtleties. Thus trying to achieve a desired outcome from a scientific basis is very unlikely to succeed. Even if it relates to say just one aspect in construction, I think the variables that follow after in the form of additional construct proceedures, polishing, string type, player technique and weather can completely alter the outcome of what was trying to be achieved.

What I'm saying is basically this, it's extremely hard to quantify by science why a guitar is a great, good or average or how to build one that is say better than another in popular opinion. As far as I know we can't see sound or tone, but we can see what it can do in the the form of Chladni patterns on a top and with scientific scope instruments that can show the energy as frequency waves. However they don't mean much to a luthier, player or audience if these can't be directly translated into an understanding of why a note sounds either better or less appealing. It's our ears that can do that via translation by our brains, thus making it an extremely complex task for science to neatly tie up with instrument readings or visual patterns, and then to offer directions to physically construct and achieve an outcome that produces what we all want to hear.

Torres, Hauser and Fleta are the fathers of our modern classical guitar. These men built guitars using the best of materials at hand, intuition at first and later empirical information combined with intuition and lastly hand skills to produce the bench marks that all classical builders strive to achieve. I should add that great players of the time would have influenced their approach as well, simply by desiring an instrument that would voice what they wanted to hear. Basically that's all they had to work with. But from there inovations from the next waves of luthiers combined with exciting new materials has evolved the art to new levels, and that some may argue isn't maintaining the original sound that the older guitars produce but, that has definitely projected the classical guitar into the modern world. 

So to build a good guitar (not necessarily a great guiar, those only come along rarely) it takes real woodworking and finishing skills, a deep understanding of the mediums used in construction, master grade materials, empirical knowledge, a keen and open mind to explore potential positive outcomes ( intuition as well ), tactile sensitivity and good hearing.  And lastly time, it takes time and patience to achieve a high skill and build level. No high tech scopes, or low tech tea leaves or glitter needed, and to me that is the abstract science of classical guitar luthiery, a little hard to explain but not too hard to understand.

I can appreciate real knowkedge and hard facts as thay help me personally explore the possibilities they open up, but I also appreciate human skill and  ingenuity added with a copious amount of time, and the seemingly mystical way these combine into a creative art form that is not scientific but artistic, allbeit on a very high plane. In my opinion building guitars is simply more akin to a journey that is as human and complex as the music that we love to listen to.

Regards Ashley






17/03/2017   Guitar #64

Guitar #64 is in the polishing stage at the moment. I've used an oil finish for this one that dries and cures hard, and is as moisture resistant as lacquer. It has a lower sheen than shellac and I'll rub out the finish with 0000 steel wool and wax to give that soft hand rubbed look, which is far less "grabby" than a high gloss.

This guitar has a master grade spruce top and EIR back and sides and should be available in June

26-4-17 Now finished and for sale, this time here in Australia. I'll hold it here for the time being as Rich in NY has 3 of my guitars in stock and this provides an opportunity to sell  the guitar locally.Tuners are Rubner deluxe with EIR knobs ( these are very nice tuners with a silky smooth action ). The rubbed Danish oil finish is better than shellac, but just as thin, and elegantly beautiful.






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16/11/2016   Guitar #63

I have just completed #63. This guitar has a cedar top and pommel Sapele back and sides. The tuners are Sloane's stippled plate with Snakewood buttons. A really dazzling figured timber, but with an understated overall presentation, this guitar looks very stately.

I'm trialing out a new bass, treble string combination and at 1st stringing the cedar tone is there immediately, without having to wait for things to settle over a period of days. A very good sign for a new guitar.

The guitar is heading to Savage Classical guitars, NY.






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20/01/2016   Guitars #'s 61 and 62

The latest two guitars are #61, redgum and cedar, and #62, ziricote and cedar.

Both guitars are bound in dark East Indian rosewood, and have EIR 12 hole bridges. Fretboards are in Macassan ebony, and the tops are master grade cedar. Scale length is 650mm and the tuners ( snakewood buttons on 61 and ebony buttons on 62 ) are Sloane's by Waverly Tuners. These tuners have two bearings on each roller and are superb tuners. Finish is hand rubbed cross linking shellac.

No. 62 is heading off to Savage Guitars in NY, and no. 61 is staying here for the moment.  Please contact me if 61 is of interest to you

I appologise for the poor quality pictures, it is really hard to capture the real colour and to eliminate background reflections, especially on darker timbers.

Regards Ashley Sanders






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30/08/2015   Jonas Khalil plays Cassadó .



 


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30/04/2015   #60

Guitar #60 is now completed and ready for sale.

The specs are.........650mm scale length, lowish action at 2.25mm treble and 3.25 bass at the 12th fret ( action will rise a little over time with string tension, at the moment even at this low action height there is no buzzing antwhere up and down the fretboard ), 19 frets.  Blackwood ( rare and only 2 sets left with dark browns and prominent fiddleback grain feature ) back/ sides and headstock, Swiss spruce top, Ebony fretboard, Blackwood bridge, East Indian Rosewood bindings, maple + redgum purflings and a mahogany neck.

Sloane tuners ( each roller has a bearing at the plate end and at the end of the roller, thus two bearings per roller, which gives the smoothest and most controllable string adjustment I've seen so far ), adjustable truss rod, removeable neck. The entire guitar is French polished with a cross linking shellac that is far more resistant to sweat and humidity. The strings are Knobloch "Actives"  double silver in a medium tension.

The light was so good this morning I couldn't resist just one shot looking out the workshop door at the view. For further inquiries and the price please contact either myself or Rich Sayage in New York, please refer to the contact page for the email adresses.

Regards Ashley

This guitar is now available with Savage Classical Guitars in New York, please contact Rich Sayage, contact details are on my contact page.

 






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25/11/2014   #59 is finaly strung

Today I finally got to string up this latest guitar, and I'm not dissapointed. #59 was trying to sing as soon as the strings were attached, and well before finalising the nut work and tuning up.

I've put on Optima Gold strings and they sound really good straight up. I'm hoping that these strings, with a wound 3rd, will continue to impress as they settle in.

The French polishing was  areal joy to do, and a lot of hard work. It's impossible to learn these skills without actually doing it, and I mean continuously keeping at it until a satisfactory job is achieved. It took a while but every moment is worthwhile, I love the look and feel of the hand applied shellac, it's not toxic either and this particular type cross links in 20 days to form a tougher more resistant finish than standard shellac. On top of that the coating thickness is well down on a sprayed lacquer finish, giving the guitar a high polished look without looking like it was dipped in it, and a very clear, articulate voice that is identifiable with French polished guitars.

Regards Ashley






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08/10/2014   Rafael Godoy

Rafa sent me his current promotional video and I'm happy to show it off here.

The guitar is a 2012 Red Gum/cedar model. The Australian Red Gum is extremely unusual in classical guitars, infact any guitars, and very hard to obtain in this high grade of veneer. I was lucky enough to purchase some years ago and the company I bought it from no longer operates, making it even rarer.

Red gum oxidises over time into a really rich dark patina, and Rafa's guitar is beginning to this show off beautifully.



 


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10/09/2014   #59

This is a quick update, in green for Spring, on what I've been up to.

Construction of #59 has resumed, with the warmer Spring weather far more favourable for guitar building. This guitar is a spruce/pomell sapeli model with EIR bindings, and will feature the Alessi tuners.

I'm revisiting the lattice construction and have changed a few proceedures on this one, as it's been ages since I focused on the bracing. As always, enough time spent building something and the doors open on how to improve it, and I'm glad I've got back to something as important as the lattice as it's such a pivotal part of my guitars.

As well as the lattice bracing, I've been hard at work practising my French polish technique and am hoping to have #59 completely hand finished in shellac. I haven't started on the guitar as yet, but I am working ( it's been months now ) on a sample board to become proficient enough to handle the task........wish me luck!

#60 is also started, although only just. This one will be a spruce/blackwood with blackwood bindings and bridge, and I'm aiming at something special for the 60th, which considering the last 4 years, will be a milestone.

Regards Ashley

 






28/05/2014   #58 Cedar & East indian Rosewood

My latest guitar is #58, a cedar and East Indian rosewood model.

The neck is in plantation grown mahogany, which is ideal for the environment and legally safe to export. The rosette is my version of this Ervin Somogyi type, and something that I'm happy to create from time to time, I find them very appealing, like a leadlight window.

The tuners are Alessi, Hauser 8's with ebony buttons and are of exceptional quality, they are simply beautiful to look at and work so smoothly.

This guitar is heading to Savage Guitars in New York, so please contact Rich for the details

Regards Ashley

17/6/14 - the guitar arrived last Friday, and this is what Rich had to say -

"She is a focused and very bold little girl, Ash. Love the play, the sound, the depth and the brilliance of her. It'll be a pleasure to record."

He will update the photos on his site ( they'll be much better than these here ) and add a video/sound clip in a few days time. 

 






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01/05/2014   Ash burl guitar and the new owner

 

Dave Mason recently bought the Ash burl guitar from Savage Classical Guitars in New York. I've include an exerpt from our correspondance as a testimonial

Ashley,

The new spruce top keeps on amazing me. It's the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.  Among its many virtues, it feels 'alive' in my lap. The vibration through the guitar can be felt, adding an overall sensual experience of great pleasing.  That is, the fingers move, and the response is felt immediately

Savage classical Guitars is now the sole agency for my guitars world wide, apart from Australia, where I will take any orders. Please feel free to contact me about my work, I will try and answer all questions about my guitars as best I can.

Regards Ashley






27/12/2013   Red Gum and Ash Burl

Here are some photos of the 2012 Redgum and cedar guitar ( now sold ), and the 2013 Ash burl and Swiss spruce guitar.

The Ash Burl guitar is waiting on me to finish her, by buying some very expensive Alessi tuners, but she's going to have to wait for a while yet.

15-1-2014  The tuners are now on, and they are indeed worth the wait and expense.

21-1-14  This spruce guitar is one of my very best. I've reduced the body weight and added something else to the lay-up of the back and sides, resulting in a guitar that feels better on the lap and resonates longer. I've lowered the action and put on Royal Classics high tension strings, this combines well by making it much easier to play and there is an ever so slight extra tension to the trebles, that facilitates a speedier attack. I have'nt noticed any loss of warmth or richness of tone with the R/C high tensions, and as they are pre-stretched they tune up far quicker than my standard EJ45's. I think they are a superior up-grade.

This guitar has, to my pleasure, a big bass, and does not sound tight as most new spruce guitars do. The trebles are bright and warm, all notes sustain long and evenly and it has ample volume, even when, as I play, played without nails. This is a very good start, as spruce takes time to reach its full potential ( years ) so in this case I think this guitar will be something else in due course. ( 6-3-14 Sold )

 

 






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10/07/2013   Legal and Sustainable

I recieved my yearly order of 3 Swiss alpine spruce, master tops yesterday. They only allow 3 master tops a year per luthier, this makes sure there is enough for those on the list ( it took 2 years before I got on that list ) and I wasn't disappointed. They are the 3 finest examples of master grade spruce I have seen.

These tops are 100% FSC accredited, and with their strict allowance limits this keeps the spruce both sustainable and renewable.

On the same note but a different species, I have been using some alternative timbers in my bodies. Last year it was Redgum and this year I'm building a burl Ash classical. These species are not CITES listed and are rarish but readily available, the Redgum guitar is very good looking with a full rich tone, it has a light coloured master grade cedar top.

As the latest guitar progresses I'll take some photos to post here.






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12/02/2013   Weissenborn Guitar no.1

As the title suggests, I have finished my 1st Weissenborn style guitar.

The guitar was an order from a visiting slide, blues guitarist. He is staying here till early March, so the project had to be completed well before then as we needed to assess the new guitar with time on our side.

I have to say that getting the order was a great chance to build something completely different to a classical guitar, and it was. Without going into too much detail, this guitar is an almost opposite of the delicate classical build. I learnt more in regards to accoustic guitar engineering, and I have come away richer in knowledge re strutting, top thicknesses, top materials and alternate construction timbers.

I not only needed to satisfy the client but I needed to be happy with the outcome as well, and I'm pleased to say that both of us are very happy. The guitar is opening up very quickly, but even from day 1, it had a full rich, rounded tone with a good bass ( which is often lacking in steel string accoustics ). The sustain on all notes is strong with a very even. slow decay, which really suits some of the quieter, prettier pieces played with the slide.

Timbers used were what I had on hand, African yutile for the body and top, American cherry for the bridge, old growth oregon for the bracing and Brazilian mahogany for the fret board. The binding is black plastic and the rosette a simple black and white herringbone pattern. The finish is a low sheen lacquer.

This project was a joy to build and good for the experience of expanding my capabilities.

 






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16/11/2012   Robert Shah-Ashworth plays Tarrega's, Capricho Arabe

Robert sent me this MP3 clip of him playing Francisco Tarrega's, Capricho Arabe on his cedar guitar no.50.

Recorded direct on a Zoom H4n with reverb added later in Cubase, both his playing and the guitar sound superb.

Click here for the link

Thanks Robert

 






15/11/2012   Chris Bautista

Chris Bautista has kindly sent me a link of theVeridian Symphony Orchestra performing Vivaldi's concert no.93 for Lute and Orchestra.

This piece has been transcribed for Mandolin and Guitar by Nikolay Shpurik, with soloist Chris Bautista on his Sander's guitar and Nikolay Shpurik on mandolin.

I hope you will enjoy this as much as I do, it is always a thrill for me to see my guitars in performances by such talented players. I also really enjoyed listening to Nikolay's superb mandolin playing.

Regards Ashley



 


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08/11/2012   Hurricane Sandy and Savage Guitars

We all have watched with amazement at the super storm hurricane Sandy, as she swept up the East Coast of America, unleashing devastation on her way.

My US agent Rich Sayage, Savage classical guitars NY, has taken a real blow. Fortunately neither he or his family were hurt, but his house and studio have been severly damaged, to the point that they can't stay there until major repairs are done, and that may take quite awhile

Very fortunately, and I should add wisely Rich moved all the guitars upstairs to safety, and so he retains those, although he lost all the rest of his stock and possesions down below. If you were ever contemplating a guitar from Rich, now is the time to talk with him as I'm sure he would appreciate all support offered.

Below is a clip from Rich himself of him playing a spruce/ziricote he has of mine

Regards Ashley



 


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07/09/2012   Flamenco no.1

Having just completed my 1st flamenco guitar, I am both elated with the result and at having built one of these guitars.

Here's some photos to show her off

 






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14/03/2012   Guitar #50

Late last year I finally reached guitar #50.

The global financial crisis slowed orders down in 2009 and 2010, and had it not occured I would have had #50 out in 2010. So it became a real event for me to make it through the tough times and reach my 50th.

The guitar was sold last month, and with permission from its new owner I have published part of his email that he sent upon receiving the guitar, and some of his photos that he kindly took and has shared with me.

Not only was it a milestone for myself but the new owner has been very complimentary in his assesment on his new guitar, I couldn't help but relay his pictures and email here

 

"The first thing one notices is the sheer aesthetic beauty of this instrument, even to the little bur on the front of the top which really adds character. The finishing is world class and the figuring on that Ziricote is to die for. There is a translucent depth to the finish which is easy to get lost in and I must have spent a good 20 minutes gazing at it. Everything about this Guitar says quality and refinement without having to shout about it, rather being quietly confident and wow at the same time, and yet so, so, beautiful. The subtleties and the quality of the binding and the way it blends into the body in seamless lines of endless symmetry are outstanding. The mahogany on the neck has wonderful lines of red running through it and the whole body just shimmers as the glass like finish passes through different shades of light… When I first got the guitar out it was evening and I saw it first in artificial light, all deep chocolate brown reminiscent of old Brazilian rosewood. It was mid-afternoon the next day when I next got the guitar out and in a room well lit with warm sunshine and it literally took my breath away. There are golden hues as well as deep well balanced shades of brown and red in there, absolutely magnificent!

 

The tuners are really nice, the neck profile gorgeous and the overall balance is perfect, the intonation is very, very accurate, it’s easy to play and from the instant I sat it on my knee it felt right, fate has a funny way of bringing things to you…

 

On to the sound, well this was quite a shock! I tuned the guitar and as always hit an open E Major just to hear as much full range as I could. There was an audible ‘whoompf’ jumping out of the sound hole from the top two bass strings. Couldn’t hear the top E, just the ‘whoompf’ – Wow! I’ve never heard this before! This really got me interested and of course it was several hours before I could put it down. The top actually strongly vibrates and when you place your palm on different areas of the top having played the strings you can affect the sustain and tonal colour. I could hear the top resonating! What really surprised me was the amount of air leaving the sound hole when you are playing, there is actual pressure generated! My son commented on this when I asked him to lay his hand flat on the top to feel the vibrations – unbelievable!

 

The harmonics (even the pinched ones) are pristine and have an ethereal quality and a strong depth that brought a big smile to everyone’s face! I’m loving the fact that I can really control the sustain with my fingers and the separation of the notes (even at this early stage) is immaculate. Bell like trebles and deep balanced basses, huge volume when you want it, sustain that lasts forever, and then it all combines to form music, what else do you need? I don’t know what’s going on inside this Guitar but what really struck me was the evenness of the way the sound fades. I listened hard quite a few times and each note fades with the same timbre, very impressive! I don’t know about you but I like to finish a piece when the Guitar has finished, looks like that’ll be a while now then…

 

The guitar also rewards the player which is very interesting, pay a bit more attention to your technique and the Guitar gives much more that you’d expect. It’s had 2 hours playing on Friday, an hour on Saturday and 3 hours on Sunday and already I can hear and feel it coming to me, the ‘whoompf’ from the bass strings is lightly less this morning and the projection is deeper and more instant already

 

You’ve made a guitar that one day will sound like a piano (it nearly does now)

 

Thanks you so, so much

 

Robert"

Thanks Robert for those kind words, it has made #50 even more special to me

Regards Ashley






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26/10/2011   Spruce Guitar

I have just finished a spruce/Brazilian rosewood guitar for a client in Singapore.
Before it was posted I took a few photos.
Its hard to beat Brazilian rosewood for sheer beauty of grain pattern and rich colouring






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23/06/2011   Gyula & Jozsef Botos

Gyula & Jozsef Botos are two talented Hungarian guitarists, that play two of my earlier guitars.
They recently contacted me and included the attached links below.
I was so impressed with their guitar playing finesse that I have added the links here. Unfortunately the links are not active so you will have to copy them, but I think it is well worth it.
I hope that you too, will enjoy the music that these two very talented artists create.

www.botosbros.com



 


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