My newest project is for a producer/engineer/musician based in Toronto. It's a long way from New Zealand, but he's seen and played another of my guitars and fell in love with it. And besides, he's my nephew, Andrew (you can see some of his work at Andrew's website ). How could I say no? I told him I was interested in the project only if it was a special instrument and if he was involved in the design from the start.
Andrew had some clear ideas on some aspects of the guitar. He was definite that he wanted a smaller body-style like an "OM", and he was able to give me guidance on neck and scale dimensions. But he was leaving it to me to figure out how to deliver the well-balanced tone he was looking for that would be equally responsive to fingerstyle and flat-pick strumming.
I suggested we go with a "German spruce" top -- very white and clean looking, but also quite stiff and responsive. What luthiers call "German spruce" is more commonly known in forestry as Norway spruce, scientific name Picea abies. Virtually all of the native spruce from Europe that is available to luthiers is Norway spruce, but many feel that the different environments in which the trees grow has an impact on the wood quality, so it is marketed according to the region where it grew: "German", "Italian", "Carpathian", "Alpine", or simply "Euro".
I didn't have any Norway spruce in stock, but was able to find Master-grade material at Allied Lutherie in California. I suggested to Andrew that we also look at Allied to see if they had any back and side sets that struck his fancy -- Allied posts pictures of their more interesting sets on their website, so you can see the actual set you're ordering. We settled on a set of Malaysian blackwood.
Now, this is an interesting species. It's sold by Allied, and virtually every other luthier wood dealer, as "Diospyros ebonaceae". Indeed, Diospyros is one of two recognised genera in the ebony-persimmon family, the Ebenaceae (note the slightly different spelling). Diospyros has up to 500 species, many of them in Indomalaya. As far as I can tell, there is no recognised species "ebonaceae", but no doubt this wood is one of the many species of Diospyros growing in Malaysia.
Anyway, back to Andrew's wood, the set he chose was pictured on the Allied site:
Pretty cool, huh? We decided that the sapwood will be oriented toward the middle of the back, as shown in the photo, and replace the backstrip I normally inlay in that position. The sapwood also is a good colour match to the Honduras mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla) that I've chosen from my stash for neck. For the rest, we'll use Carpathian spruce (you guessed it, Norway spruce that grew in the Carpathian mountains) for the bracing, and the trim, bridge and fingerboard will be very black ebony (probably Diospyros ebenum or Ceylon ebony from Sri Lanka or India).
The wood is now all gathered up, as shown below, and we're ready to start!
Now, gotta get back to finishing the "twins".