Swiss "Moon" Spruce / "The Tree" Model M - Build Diary by Tom Sands

Last year, I received an order that I couldn’t wait to get started with. This client wanted me to build him a guitar made with some of the rarest wood on the planet, some quilted mahogany from “The Tree”. You might have heard of it… if you’re still unsure, click here to read a ‘Wood in Focus’ we did a few months ago, which will hopefully clear any questions up. We paired this amazing wood with Swiss “Moon” harvested Spruce - a beautifully straight, close grained wood. with a fabulous pale cream-white colour.

Not only did this humble me when I realised I was the first UK builder to use this extraordinary wood, but it was doubly special because this guitar would become one of the first Model M guitars (built alongside another Model M in Redwood and Maple). Now that this Model M is away at the finishers, I thought I’d share some of the photos of it coming together.

Bending the sides using a Fox style bending form.

Bending the sides using a Fox style bending form.

Bending the cutaway with the hand bending iron.

Bending the cutaway with the hand bending iron.

Laminated linings for an ultra-stiff rim assembly.

Laminated linings for an ultra-stiff rim assembly.

Trimming the rim assembly into shape.

Trimming the rim assembly into shape.

Fitting the cutaway.

Fitting the cutaway.

Inspecting the rim assembly.

Inspecting the rim assembly.

Checking the cutaway.

Checking the cutaway.

Carving the end block.

Carving the end block.

Installing the radially etched copper rosette.

Installing the radially etched copper rosette.

Be sure to check back soon for Part 2 where I’ll be sharing more photos of the build.

Thanks!

TS

Weekly Roundup by Tom Sands

Last Monday we had the talented Will Bremridge visit the workshop to photograph a series. Here are the results!

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We are also so excited to reveal the new project that is now ready for a coat of lacquer. It’s a Model S ‘White Label’ in a wonderful pairing of Sitka Spruce and Santos Rosewood. It’s complete with a dyed grey burl rosette, with matching dyed grey birdseye maple headstock veneers.

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This project was all about trying new and different things - stay tuned for more…

This week we have more photography and videography plans, as John Smedley, makers of the finest knitwear in the world, are coming to work on a special project with us to celebrate British craftsmanship of all kinds. Again, make sure you keep up with us on our social media and blogpost channels so you don’t miss anything.

Although we love having all these different people are coming to visit the workshop to create art, it does make us question whether we are using our (relatively small) space to it’s best advantage. We wrote a blog post on the importance of a clear workspace, which you can read here.

We hope you have a great week!

The Importance of Being a Workspace by Tom Sands

William Morris said that you must have nothing in your room that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. Dieter Rams reiterated a century later that ‘less is more’, and today you can hear Marie Kondo from every television screen insisting ‘does it spark joy?’

Today’s world see’s ‘too much stuff’ as a daily complaint, with our plastic memorabilia included in every fast-food takeout bag and with endless commercial holidays to cater for and receive upon. Often the culprit for not letting things go is down to sentimental value, from pointless books gathering dust from schooldays that your not-yet-concieved children may need, to a wooden box given to you by your late grandmother with a broken lid. And then there’s the ‘I might find use for this one day’ which also feeds into the sentiment of your prized piles of ‘stuff’, offered up to your future self, pressuring them to use it ‘one day’. And really, that future you doesn’t even exist yet, let alone have need for some old clothes pegs in case the dryer breaks.

Have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful
— William Morris

What all those designers, philosophers and clutter-savvy minds say is that it’s best to let things go if you haven’t thought about them at least after one year.

But this is life in general; when you take these principles inside a workshop, which often is smaller than the smallest room in your house, or sometimes IS the smallest room in your house, these principles must be applied not only once in a while during a de-clutter, but at all times. The same goes for any workspace. Is that personalised paperweight actually useful? Is that centimetre of ‘The Tree’ off-cut still residing in the ‘stuff’ draw really ever going to be useful? It’s a tough decision no matter what your trade.

The things we prioritise in a space have to be important; otherwise, you are housing not only a cluttered space but a distracted mind. Here are some of the things we give space to in our workshop, and why.

‘The objective of skill is to make a dream a fact’ - inspiration from Alan Fletcher’s ‘The Art of Looking Sideways’

‘The objective of skill is to make a dream a fact’ - inspiration from Alan Fletcher’s ‘The Art of Looking Sideways’

This is just one of four books in the shop. Alan Fletcher’s ‘Art of Looking Sideways’ is a new edition, which inspires ways of looking and thinking differently. Fletcher was a British graphic designer who’s work inspired so many artists before us, and so we keep it tucked away above the workbench in case we need a challenge, an inspiration, or a lonely coffee break. Other books include Dieter Rams’s ‘As Little Design As Possible’, Taschen’s ‘1000 Chairs’ and Ervin Somogyi’s famous duo ‘The Responsive Guitar’ and ‘Making the Responsive Guitar’.

The glue-up badger, with assorted glue brushes

The glue-up badger, with assorted glue brushes

The things we prioritise in a space have to be important; otherwise, you are housing not only a cluttered space, but a distracted mind...

Glue-up badger is not only a stylish compadre that sparks a lot of joy, but is also a handy holder. And, he doesn’t take up much room. If you are housing a woodland creature, make sure they are spatially aware...

Whisky for those late night sessions, vase by Michelle Sparnicht, headtorch

Whisky for those late night sessions, vase by Michelle Sparnicht, headtorch

Palletboard spanner detail, ft. telescopic view of the moon and wave pattern.

Palletboard spanner detail, ft. telescopic view of the moon and wave pattern.

Cultivation of other artists’ work on walls.

Cultivation of other artists’ work on walls.

Craft can be an isolating thing. Although this may be something to be relished, the danger is you are naturally excluding creativity. We make room for the work of others on our walls to foster the cross-pollination of craft. Much like a writer is a prolific reader, we think it’s good to have an ephemeral collection of work by other makers and artists for inspiration.

And it’s always great to receive the odd sticker or business card to add to the bandsaw.

Band(wagon) saw.

Band(wagon) saw.

Chief provider of fresh oxygen and greenery.

Chief provider of fresh oxygen and greenery.

And then there’s your materials - make sure there’s room for those - they’re important…

And then there’s your materials - make sure there’s room for those - they’re important…

What’s in your workshop, workspace or home?

TS

Build Diary - Redwood / Spalted Maple, Part 4 by Tom Sands

Part 4 brings us to the close of this build diary. But don’t worry, we have a wealth of photos to show you for this instalment!

Here are some shots of the woodwork all completed:

Patinated green copper back inlay to draw everything together.

Patinated green copper back inlay to draw everything together.

Macassar ebony fingerboard and patinated green ebony rosette. with matching Macassar ebony head plate and patinated green copper headstock inlay.

Macassar ebony fingerboard and patinated green ebony rosette. with matching Macassar ebony head plate and patinated green copper headstock inlay.

A closer look at the patinated green copper rosette.

A closer look at the patinated green copper rosette.

Copper indicator markers.

Copper indicator markers.

Detail of the cutaway.

Detail of the cutaway.

Mahogany neck.

Mahogany neck.

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I am confident in saying that this is one of the best finishing jobs I have ever seen on a guitar. The attention to detail matches my own during the build project, and I could not be happier with the result. It looks amazing!

After the finish work, gluing the bridge on.

After the finish work, gluing the bridge on.

Installing the handmade Robson tuners.

Installing the handmade Robson tuners.

The back of the headstock upon completion, fitted with Robson tuners.

The back of the headstock upon completion, fitted with Robson tuners.

Here are some pictures of the guitar waiting to go to it’s new home

The guitar in the Billiard Room at the Broughton Hall Estate.

The guitar in the Billiard Room at the Broughton Hall Estate.

The guitar in the Red Drawing Room at the Broughton Hall Estate in North Yorkshire.

The guitar in the Red Drawing Room at the Broughton Hall Estate in North Yorkshire.

Weekly Roundup by Tom Sands

Last week saw the completion of the very first Model M - Spalted Maple, Redwood and patinated green copper rosette. We took it for a photoshoot at the Broughton Hall Estate in North Yorkshire, where the week before we recorded with Will McNicol on his brand new Signature Model S.

We have now released one of the videos we shot with Will - ‘Casting Shadows’ performed in the conservatory.

And the photos of the Model M upon completion…

The Model M in the Billiard Room.

The Model M in the Billiard Room.

Again in the Red Drawing Room.

Again in the Red Drawing Room.

Gorgeous Robson Tuners.

Gorgeous Robson Tuners.

It was also onwards and upwards last week with some new projects. We have a Koa and Moon Spruce Model L fanfret, a Cocobolo and Moon Spruce Model M, A Model M from ‘The Tree’ and Moon Spruce, and finally, a mystery prototype…

A Model M top and a Model L top, both in Moon Spruce.

A Model M top and a Model L top, both in Moon Spruce.

Model M Cocobolo back.

Model M Cocobolo back.

Stay tuned for more.

Have a great week!

TS

Introducing the Will McNicol Signature Model S - 'Jupiter' by Tom Sands

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Will McNicol came to the workshop on Friday to collect his Signature Model S guitar. He stayed the weekend and we recorded some beautiful demo videos so you can share this special collaboration with us.

Here are some photos, and some excerpts of what Will had to say about the experience.

First encounters.

First encounters.

Will just couldn’t stop playing…

Will just couldn’t stop playing…

First impressions? Well, as I walked into the workshop with the guitar proudly placed atop Tom’s workbench, its sheer beauty was the first thing to hit me. The redwood with the copper rosettes and detailing, how it catches the light, and then of course the black limba. Just stunning. Up close, the detailing is just next-level.
Filming location #1.

Filming location #1.

One thing I’ll remember is the first notes I played in their enormous and stunningly beautiful conservatory. The sound amongst the natural reverb was something else, and as the light shone through, and the birds tweeted in the background - I thought to myself.... what am incredibly lucky chap I am to be here with dear friends playing this wonderful instrument. Humbling in the true sense of that word.
Filming location #2.

Filming location #2.

Behind the scenes…

Behind the scenes…

One happy guitarist.

One happy guitarist.

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Tonally, the plan came together beautifully. The essence of the first Model S I fell in love with was very much there, the feel, the comfort, the fizzy excited-to-make-music feeling, but the Redwood has had an effect to round off the trebles beautifully and the Black Limba gives it real punch and clarities across the board. The solidity of the Wenge neck gives it a weight that I love, but feels appropriately balanced and entirely effortless to play.
Before… and after.

Before… and after.

Tom’s done something magic here, and I’m so grateful to be a part of that journey.

Thank you for all your kind words thus far about Jupiter. We can’t wait to share her journey with you.

Build Diary - Redwood / Spalted Maple Part 3 by Tom Sands

Box closed. Bound. Time for a neck.

The line-up.

The line-up.

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Cutting the neck tenon.

Cutting the neck tenon.

Truing the fingerboard edges.

Truing the fingerboard edges.

For the fingerboard, it was initially a decision between Rocklite Ebano and Macassar Ebony. If I was to stay fully faithful to the ‘earth tones’ the Macassar Ebony would perhaps be more fitting, but it was whether the eye would be overwhelmed by the patinated green copper rosette and the Macassar grain colouring in such close juxtaposition.

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I put sample of the patinated green copper on top of a Macassar Ebony head plate and left it on the side in the workshop while I worked on the neck. Leaving it nearby to glance at and meditate upon is a good way to decide what will work aesthetically and what won’t.

My experience says that if materials are given free reign to speak for themselves, it is very rare that two natural materials will look ‘wrong’ next to each other. After seeing the copper and Macassar ebony on the bench together for a while, it was clear the Macassar Ebony was contributing to the guitar’s colour palette and texture in a positive way. I settled on not only a Macassar ebony fingerboard, but also on a Macassar ebony head plate and bridge to tie the elements together.

Once this was decided, it was time to complete the neck.

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Sometimes fitting a neck can take 2 days, sometimes you can get it in less than one hour. This one was nearly perfect first time round.

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Nonetheless, carving this antique Brazillian Mahogany made up for the ease of the neck set. Perfect for a strong, stable neck.

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Shaping the volute with a Japanese carving rasp.

Shaping the volute with a Japanese carving rasp.

Shaping the headstock with a template and router.

Shaping the headstock with a template and router.

Cutting the neck heel to receive the heel cap.

Cutting the neck heel to receive the heel cap.

Next up, the final sand, finish, a bridge and fretwork.

Weekly Roundup - Double Edition by Tom Sands

Two weeks have gone by, and it’s been busy. A painted guitar has been returned safely to the shop, and the Baritone Model L has been completed!

Will McNicol’s Model S in Redwood and Black Limba, with contemporary herringbone copper detail.

Will McNicol’s Model S in Redwood and Black Limba, with contemporary herringbone copper detail.

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We received two guitars back from the finishers this week, and it was a huge joy to have them back in the shop. The redwood on the Model M absolutely blew us away under finish, as did the Black Limba on the Model S. We were also thrilled with the etched copper on the Model S, which holds a gorgeous glowing aesthetic presence. The Model M’s patinated green copper rosette is looking equally knockout; and, as a picture can speak a thousand words, we promise to share with you some images of that soon. However, some teaser photos of the Model S above are a glimpse into our own first impressions, seeing the wood come alive visually for the first time. Meanwhile…

Removing mineral deposit in the pores of the Ovangkol Model L.

Removing mineral deposit in the pores of the Ovangkol Model L.

The woodwork is now completed on the Baritone Ovangkol / Moon Spruce Model L…

Sanded Baritone Model L with sound hole protection. This stops dust and general residue reaching the inside of the guitar during work.

Sanded Baritone Model L with sound hole protection. This stops dust and general residue reaching the inside of the guitar during work.

It won’t be long before this batch are all finished and delivered to some clients who should expect some absolutely beautiful work. Then, onto the new projects - which we are so excited to share with you.

One of the most thrilling moments of the past two weeks was stringing up the Model S. We did a short video to encapsulate that last couple of day’s work. It’s that last 1% of the build that really contributes to making a good guitar a great one. You can watch the video here.

Have a wonderful weekend!

TS