Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Lil' Champ

  I just flew home from Alaska and boy are my arms tired.  No.. seriously.. tired from playing music for basically five days straight.  I was in Juneau for the 40th annual Alaska Folk Festival where my band the Gallus Brothers was the official guest dance band.  What an honor and what a ton of fun it was!  Some highlights were watching and listening to Bonsoir Catin from Louisiana, hanging out with Ray Troll in a great antique map shop, playing the Alaskan Bar (our old Juneau stomping ground), and staying up until daybreak playing music and getting goofy just about every night.  It was great to reconnect with lots of folks up north, and make lots of new friends too.  It was also a particularly great time for me because I got to take my latest guitar up there and put it through the paces.  Ladies and Gentlemen....    The Lil' Champ

  It's my first resonator guitar that I've built, and the first guitar I've made that I get to keep!  I've played on a few different metal bodied resonators over the last decade, most notably a couple by National Resophonic.  They are excellent guitars and have treated me well for performing and touring.  Over the years I've found myself gravitating towards the wood body sound, so building one has been on my to-do-list for a while.  This was somewhat new territory for me and I wasn't sure what I'd end up with.  My expectations have been fully realized and surpassed, and simply put, this guitar kicks butt!  It's got the volume, the tone, and the feel that I want.  Loud without being distorted, and the full, bass-rich tone with crystal clear treble that I've come to appreciate with the N.R. guitars.  I played it bare fingered in jams, with picks, and miked in a large concert hall, a gymnasium and a smallish bar and it shined in every setting.  It's 1 13/16" wide at the nut and a modified V neck that sits perfectly in the hand.  12 frets to the body, with a 25" scale length.  The body is the same shape as my concert model.  It's a thick, solid Sitka Spruce top, solid flamed Western Maple for the back and sides, and inside is a suspended, solid poplar soundwell.  The neck is three piece mahogany and runs straight through to the tailpiece just like on metal bodies.  The "lil' champ" logo is stenciled, in the fashion of some of my old favorites.

  I've also been busy with a couple other guitar styles that are a bit out of my norm.  First up.. the venerable workhorse, the J-45.

  OK, so this one's not much of a departure from what I'm usually building except for the sheer size.  I've never wanted to get into building Dreadnoughts.. they're not really my thing, and there's already plenty of people building 'em.  But Gibson's old slope shouldered sunbursted beauty has always appealed to me.  I tried to keep to general early 40's Gibson specs on the bracing and basic design.  It's a Sitka top over Honduran Mahogany, with Rosewood bridge and fretboard.  It's finished with a french polished spirit varnish.

  Next we have the gypsy jazz classic..  the Petite Bouche

  This is also one of those guitars that I've always loved and has been on the bucket list for awhile, so I was happy to oblige when a friend made the commission.  Since my friend lives in town here, he could come by and dig through the wood stacks with me.  He chose a great piece of bear claw Sitka Spruce for the top, and this pretty wild Myrtle for the body.  We decided to stay all domestic, so this one features poplar for the neck, and reclaimed walnut for the fretboard, bridge and head cap.  I made the tailpiece by hand with brass from and old letter press tray.  This guitar proved to be a fun challenge.  The thin flat top is heat bent just past the bridge, and the braces are all carved into a rather tight bend too, resulting in a domed top under considerable tension.  It's a very cool design that Mario Macaferri invented in the early 30's.  For this guitar, I used Francois Charle's excellent plans of Selmer #807.  The results, so far, are absolutely wonderful.

  And here's a photo of these two build buddies, in the works...

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