Wednesday, September 7, 2016


It's taken a bit longer than I had hoped to complete the latest guitar project, but 'Donatella' is off the bench and making music.  From the headstock to the tailpiece inlay, this guitar is unique and very different from the others I've built.  Sure, it looks similar, because it is the same modified
dreadnought shape as the others I've created, but that's really the only construction similarity.

The Martin Guitar Company designed and built the first dreadnought guitar in 1916 for the Oliver Ditson Company, and it wasn't until 1931 that Martin produced dreadnoughts carrying the Martin name.  This particular design has been the most copied by other guitar makers because it's currently considered the 'standard' acoustic guitar body style.  It's comfortable to play.  It has an incredible sound delivery.  And, it looks great . . . some say it has the shape of a woman.

Every guitar I build commences in my head with an imaginary concept for the final product.  But, in each case, I visualize a specific element and move on from there.  The bridge design for 'Donatella' is what drove the overall design.  I had the basic shape in mind, and the shape of the headstock and fretboard followed.

The headstock shape follows the subtle curves of the bridge, and the overlay consists of individually hand-shaped pieces of Indian rosewood, Carribean rosewood, birdseye maple, and the Chatke coc (red heart) 'T' logo inlaid in position.

I chose black Grover closed-gear tuning machines so as not to contrast greatly with the design.

The recessed tuner nuts and washers serve two purposes, to compensate for the added thickness of material, and to provide a more refined look to the headstock.

The nut at the leading edge of the fretboard is handmade, as is the saddle, from a piece of bison bone.

The neck is a solid piece of mahogany contoured to a 'C' shape and customized at the heel to add a little color to the underside of the guitar.

The fretboard is the other element that was a driving force in the overall design. The grain in Ziricote wood is my absolute

favorite, and I was determined to make the fretboard and bridge from the same stick of wood.

To let the fretboard stand on its own without intrusion from traditional dot-shaped position markers, I chose to insert small pieces of maple and red heart on the bass string side of the board, and carried on the simple design to the bridge.

The body is what really makes this guitar stand out.  The shape is one thing, but the wood grain is what makes it pop.  There is, in my opinion, nothing that compares to the color and grain of the spruce used in building tops for acoustic guitars.

To add color and definition to the top, I chose to create a soundhole rosette made from seventeen individually hand shaped pieces of exotic wood.

The random design with the subtle angular shaped pieces carries on the headstock design.

But, the Pau Ferro (Bolivian rosewood) sides and book matched back with Indian rosewood binding complete the body design in a way far beyond what I had rolling around in my head a couple months ago.  (The dark spots on the side near the bottom are shadows created during this amateur photo shoot).

And to finish off the body, I decided to add a custom inlay touch to the tail where the abalone-enhanced ebony strap button, which matches the bridge pins, is located.

I will briefly mention a few construction highlights that make this build a little different.  The finish is sprayed satin, which gives the guitar a soft appearance, and it lets the wood grain stand out.

Internally, the 'X' bracing is all hand formed and scalloped and finish sanded.

The back braces have a special treatment whereby I drilled equally spaced holes in each brace to give them a customized appearance.

The rib bracing has the same scalloped treatment.

Pau Ferro Custom Acoustic Guitar

Body                      14-fret dreadnought
                                Sitka Spruce top w/custom inlay rosette
                                Pau Ferro sides and back
                                East Indian Rosewood binding
                                Custom handmade Ziricote bridge w/custom bison bone saddle and ebony pins
                                Hand-rubbed satin finish
                                Custom scalloped ‘X’ top bracing
                                Custom scalloped ‘ladder’-style back bracing

Neck                       One-piece mahogany, standard ‘C’ profile
                                Dual-action adjustable truss rod
                                Custom inlay headstock overlay
                                Custom handmade Ziricote 14-inch radius fingerboard w/custom position markers
                                25.4-inch scale
Custom 1-11/16 bison bone nut
Grover black enclosed-gear tuners recessed into the headstock overlay
Hand-rubbed satin finish

Extras                   Elixir extra light strings
                                Inlay hand-cut and assembled from exotic wood
                                Custom inlay tailpiece w/ebony strap button

                                Ziricote heel cap

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