Website changes

It may not look like there have been any changes to this website for a while, and that would be largely true, as I’ve spent more time adding youtube content than new items here. There are however some behind the scenes administrative and technical changes that may have some unintended consequences. I’ve been working to get these sorted out as soon as I find them, but I probably can’t find everything. So I’d ask if you find something on this website that doesn’t look right, a broken link, a missing photo or some thing else that seems broken, please let me know using the contact form (which I’ve verified works).

Many thanks, I appreciate it.

Listening to guitars made with non-traditional woods

Guitarists (and guitar builders) have been sold and hold dear a lot of misinformation which over time becomes accepted dogma. One such dogma is that dark tropical woods (OK, rosewoods specifically) are required for a great sounding guitar. It should be noted that great builders like Torres have built excellent guitars from domestic woods in the past.

We’ll pass on the question of what constitutes a great sound for now. A more pertinent question is: Is there an objective difference in sound between guitars built with expensive dark colored tropical woods  and those built with cheaper domestic woods ? Do you really get what you pay for or are you just being bamboozled into paying more for the same sound ? The only way to determine this is with double blind studies where listeners don’t know what instruments they are listening to. Many unofficial studies have been done on violins and guitars, and point to the possibility that there is no discernible difference when the only difference is the woods used in the back and sides. This adds credence to the old story of Torres’s paper mache guitar and the idea that it’s all about the soundboard.

Recently the Leonardo guitar research project published the results of an in depth study that into just this question. The study parameters are well thought out and executed. The results are in and it appears to put a nail in the coffin of this old dogma. See and

The blind audio can be listened to here How many can you pick out ? Do you hear any differences ?

The only remaining question is how long it will take guitarists to catch on and give domestic woods a chance ?

For those wanting to cut to the chase, the following conclusions are directly from the study:


• All 216 respondents perceived combinations of several guitars (including both T’s and NT’s) as being ONE guitar.

• In this test it was very difficult to differentiate one guitar from the other, and virtually impossible to distinguish between
guitars made from tropical wood species from those made from non-tropical wood species.

• Although several people demonstrated outstanding listening abilities (by indicating 7, 8 to 9 correct transition time points),
the ability to detect the nature of the guitars was notably less pronounced.

• This test shows that the distinctive sound qualities and the supposed nature of T’s and NT’s were not distinguishable one
from the other.

• This test implies that neither group (Tropical or Non-Tropical) possesses inherently distinctive, readily identifiable sound
• Indeed, as there are clearly more time points detected between T’s and NT’s made by different builders than time points
between T’s and NT’s made by a given builder, it would appear that the builder may have a more pronounced effect on
differences in sound quality than the wood species used for back/sides, bridge, fingerboard and neck.
    We should, however, exercise caution as some respondents indicated in their comments that they were able to detect
transition points based on “clicks” caused by editing rather than on a perceived difference in sound quality between guitars.
We are still in the process of analyzing whether or not there were more detectable “clicks” or other editing phenomena
between different builders than between guitars from the same builder.
• Furthermore, if we consider other studies on this subject (see extra info), the question has to be asked as to whether the
woods for back/sides, bridge, fingerboard and neck are really as important as has been previously assumed.
So after all this you are still skeptical, check out this video of the same guitarist playing a guitar made from newspapers.

New export safe woods

The new CITES treaty updates make export of any and all rosewoods difficult, impossible in some cases. These new rules make it all that more important for guitarists to shed the blinders of convention and learn to listen with their ears instead of their eyes. There are some amazing sounding woods, many with great beauty, just waiting for talented musicians to pick up the mantle and show the world how its done.

In the inventory now are 3 instruments built with readily (and legally) available woods that sound great. Sycamore (known as Plane tree in Europe) has been used in Spain for “low end” flamenco guitars. That is a completely undeserved classification. It is cheaper to purchase than rosewood or cypress, but it is by no means low end in terms of sound. While it is a “white” wood, it should not be limited to the flamenco realm. The two instruments in stock show the best of classical and flamenco characteristics.

Black Poisonwood (Metopium brownei) has been marketed by the false name of Caribbean rosewood (it isn’t a dalbergia sp.) and the unfortunate name of Chechen. Coming from the same family of plants as Poison Ivy (the family Anacardiaceae) the bark of the tree produces urushiol, the same chemical skin irritant that Poison Ivy produces. The wood is safe however, and is one of the most beautiful woods on earth, far exceeding any rosewood I’ve seen. The color is similar to some lighter shades of Brazilian rosewood, but with more depth and movement.

Both of these woods are excellent choices for guitars of the highest quality.


The Classical guitar is the challenge that keeps me building instruments after 45 years. As a player I have always loved the responsiveness and lovely sounds that are possible with a well executed instrument. And while the traditional forms are lovely in themselves, many of them succeed in spite of themselves rather than because of them. Throughout the decades I have investigated many aspects of traditional guitar design and experimented with variations that made sense to me. In upcoming posts I will describe some of these variations that have made it into my current offerings.