It’s a little like No 7 buses. You can’t see one and then 3 come along. I had just completed a Selmer style acoustic, albeit with a transitional arm bevel and was looking forward to a rather more straight forward build, when along came Dave with those immortal words, “What about a seven string slant fretted guitar with stereo output?”. Hmmm, interesting I thought, hoping it would just go away but Dave was adamant about what he wanted and so it began.
Dave had been loaned a Godin Multiac nylon 7 string but found that dropping the lower string below B wasn’t easy as the tension obviously had to be lowered and the acoustic volume dropped. This made for hard work at a gig so the idea of a longer scale for the bass strings would help things out - hence the idea of fanned frets.
Although many other guitar builders have, I had never built a fan fretted guitar and I decided on two scale lengths, Top E string at 648mm and the lower E string at 686 mm (25.5” & 27”). The board obviously needed to be wider to accommodate 7 strings and it was radiused at 24”.
As it was to be a stage guitar, the body depth was reduced to help limit feedback and a ‘Fleta’ style bracing adapted to the cedar top. The back and sides were Indian Rosewood and the neck was mahogany with a Macassar Ebony board. The bridge, also Macassar Ebony, was fitted with two piezo under-saddle transducers, one for the three bass strings and the other for the four treble strings and they were routed through a stereo output jack socket, the idea being that the bass strings could be sent to one amp and the treble to a second amp.
The body shape I based on another guitar that I had built for Dave, a slightly Maccaferri influenced cutaway body with headstock featuring unmistakable Maccaferri routs. There were many long ‘moments’ during the build, when a two dimensional drawing seemed at odds with a three dimensional model but all were overcome and the result really pleasing - mind you I could never play it! The longer bass scale length allowed the bottom string to be lowered to A if needed and the balance across the guitar was excellent acoustically. So far I have yet to hear Dave play it live but look forward to the stereo spread. Now I’m dodging any more No 7 buses.
The guitar was featured in ‘Guitarist presents Acoustic Winter 2015’ magazine.
I first came across it on a superb Suhr maple neck. I’m talking about torrefication, baking, roasting, call it what you will, etc. of guitar woods to change their character and to "age" them. In theory this gives an acoustic guitar a long played in tone.
It now seems that the majority of manufacturers have joined in, so I thought perhaps it’s time for me to give it a go. I wanted to build a small acoustic in a shape that I had used recently and decided to build it with a torrefied front and bracings. I would use a ‘hybrid’ style of bracing, a blend of X and fan bracing, that I have found very satisfactory. The front wood was torrefied sitka with quite a wide grain pattern and I thought this would give it an old tyme look. (The wood is significantly darker than normal sitka)
I found no problems working the wood (there are many dire warnings floating about the internet about it being brittle and prone to splitting). I did take great care though, when routing for the bindings but probably no more than usual. The back and sides were made of spalted maple.
The macassar ebony fingerboard was bound but rather than with contrasting wood/plastic I used the same macassar ebony, this gives the look of an unbound board but without any fret ends showing, it’s something I particularly like and in keeping with the ‘vibe’ of the guitar. The headfacing, also of macassar did get a little more ornate with a light coloured purling line set just inside the bindings.
The build went according to plan and was quite straight forward. The neck was my usual ‘bolt fixing’ with fingerboard attached. I decided to hand rub the guitar front to give it a satin look although I did spray the neck with a satin lacquer. The rest of the guitar was finished in a buffed high gloss nitro lacquer.
Well does it sound better, different? who can tell? I can’t hear any significant difference to my “normal” guitars but then I suppose you’d need to make dozens with and without torrefication to begin to reach a conclusion. I can say however, I do love the look and colour and it certainly doesn’t sound bad so for me I’m very pleased to have given it a go and will probably use more similarly modified woods. The guitar still has to have the snake oil treatment of the Tone Rite gizmo.