Weekly Roundup by Tom Sands

This weekend we were at the RMMGA down south, and we HAVE to kick off the Weekly Roundup with this Shop Session we did with Clive Carroll. His rendition and arrangement of ‘Goodbye Porkpie Hat’ by Charles Mingus is absolutely jaw-dropping. It was such an honour to have Clive play his piece on this Model L in Cedar and Madagascar Rosewood.

We also had time to enjoy a full set by Clive Carroll, and another by Mike Dawes. We were pretty floored by both, and it reminded us that we should probably learn something beyond Blackbird in Daisy’s case and various slap bass riffs in Tom’s…

‘Hey Tom d’you know Wonderwall’

‘Hey Tom d’you know Wonderwall’

Thanks to everyone involved for such an incredible weekend! After recovering from our various hangovers, it was nice to crack on with the upcoming builds for the rest of the week. The Model M in ‘The Tree’ and Swiss ‘Moon’ Spruce is nearing neck time, as is the Model M in Cocobolo and Swiss ‘Moon’ Spruce. Here are some photos of progress…

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These new sets of wood are settling in nicely, too - stay tuned for more!

These new sets of wood are settling in nicely, too - stay tuned for more!

Of course, we couldn’t resist doing another Shop Session this week after feeling so inspired by Clive - so we organised an impromptu session with fellow Yorkshireman Justin Manville. We’re so excited to release the footage - recorded at the Broughton Hall Estate. Thanks Justin!

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Have a great week!

TSG <3

Build Diary - 'Kealia' - Model L in Koa / Swiss Moon Spruce - Part 2 by Tom Sands

As promised, Part 2 of Kealia’s Build Diary will discuss her construction.

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Kealia is the second Tom Sands guitar to have structured sides. By this, we mean she does not have linings or ‘kerfings’. Look inside most guitars and you will see one of three things, (beside dust bunnies and wayward guitar picks) - a solid strip of wood at the intersection of the back and sides, running all the way around the inside of the guitar, a variation on this with small saw cuts every quarter of an inch, or individually placed blocks - or ‘tantelones’.

These linings provide added gluing surface area for the top and back - and in most cases, add little or nothing to the structure of the guitar. However, Kealia she has laminated sides which consist of a cedar core, the Koa show face, and an inner veneer. This accomplishes two things; firstly, it provides sufficient gluing surface area for the top and back without the need for potentially ‘unsightly’ linings. Secondly (and most importantly) if we think in terms of monocoque construction, these structured sides provide an extremely stiff and lightweight rim assembly which we believe is at the foundation of a great sounding guitar.

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Kealia was also the first to benefit from the new Kanna plane - the top (both inside and out) received a beautifully smooth and clean finish.

On with the back braces…

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And the binding! We’re always amazed at how binding changes a guitar - it provides a frame for the design and always marks a milestone of a build.

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It’s nearly time for a - very special - neck!

Keep posted right here on the blog for more on Kealia’s journey.

TSG <3

Weekly Roundup by Tom Sands

Our week in the workshop has been cut short today, but instead we’re off to the RMMGA Guitar Gathering down south! So here’s a little update of what we managed to cram in this week so far.

Kealia got her bridge made and pinned, and is ready for a lick of paint.

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We can’t wait to see that gorgeous Koa under finish.

We also were featured in Tony Polecastro’s Acoustic Life video this week for Acoustic Tuesday. Have a watch, the show is great and you’ll find us mentioned from 13.40!

Tom has also finished up a new Model S in Fiddleback Mahogany and Italian Spruce. It’s looking (and sounding) pretty incredible. More to come from that soon, as well as a video taking a closer look.

We also released our latest SHOP SESSION with Tamzene - check it out below, it’s really worth a watch - her voice could tame a pride of angry lions…

We’ll be back next week with a debrief from RMMGA, and more of your favourite content. Have a great weekend!

TSG <3

Halfway Through Already? by Tom Sands

A lot has happened already this year, so if you've been on a social media detox, here's a little recap from the TSG family. Thanks to everyone for their continued support of what we do.

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We kicked off the year with a very special delivery - the Will McNicol Signature Model S. We have a whole host of footage and sessions of this guitar in action over on our YouTube channel - check it out here. He has named his guitar 'Jupiter' after the Black Limba seeming reminiscent of the planet's 'swirling gas clouds'. Will played a house concert on Jupiter when we visited Paris in February, which you can also see on our YouTube channel.

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We were also so thrilled to partner up with John Smedley in celebration of their 235 years of making the finest knitwear in the world, as ambassadors of British craftsmanship. John Smedley's Jermyn Street store featured a Tom Sands Guitars window display during London Craft Week, and hosted an exclusive Sound x Vision event with a talk about what we do, followed by a performance from Will McNicol on Jupiter.

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We're also so happy to have launched a series of 'SHOP SESSIONS' this year. We've invited some of the best local (and sometimes far-flung) talent to the workshop to record guitarists and singers of different genres, to celebrate musicianship and bring luthier and players together. We have a whole host of these new videos on our YouTube channel, be sure to check them out if you haven't already!

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While all this has been taking up a large part of our time, you'll be pleased to hear Tom has made time for making sawdust, too. This year has seen the conception of some beautiful projects that he's very proud of, including the experimental 'White Label' Model S. It was an exercise in monocoque construction, using a braceless back laminated with Nomex honeycomb. The result is a lighter instrument with no compromise on the stiffness of the back. Watch the video about the Model S and see it in action over on our YouTube channel. It features a gorgeous set of Santos Rosewood (Pau Ferro) against Sitka Spruce (see below, top left).

2019 has also seen the completion of the very first Model M. This guitar is both of our favourites to date - it was sad to see it go! Check out the gallery of photos here - (or see below, bottom left). You can also see photos of it being built in the 'From The Workshop'section of the website.

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This year has also yielded the hardest project Tom has ever worked on - a Baritone Fanfret Model L. 'Beverly', so named because of her rib and arm bevels, held nearly all of the specifications offered. We delivered the guitar recently to a happy client, after a long and passionate collaboration. (See above, bottom right).

And finally, the conception of a Model M in 'The Tree' must have a mention. If you're not familiar with the story of this extraordinary wood, you can read all about it over on our blog. It's pretty amazing. (See above, top right).

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We're also excited to announce that Daisy has been awarded an Apprenticeship scholarship from the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust (QEST). This will enable her to continue her studies over the next two years here at Tom Sands Guitars and become a formal Apprentice.

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There are so many exciting projects and events lined up for us this year, so if you'd like to keep up to date, don't forget to follow us on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram, and subscribe to our blog and podcast. We've got some exciting people coming up to be interviewed on the podcast in Season 2, so look out for that! We can't wait to share our work with you over the next few months.

We hope your 2019 has been a lovely one thus far.

TSG

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Weekly Roundup by Tom Sands

This week has brought us closer to the completion of the Koa fanfret Model L with the ‘Michaelangelo’ Rosette - a.k.a. Kealia. We’ve just started a build diary following Kealia’s journey, which you can check out here. It’s almost ready for a spray!

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Two new Model M’s have also just received their tops - ready to be voiced next week. We have a Model M in Cocobolo and Swiss ‘Moon’ Spruce, and a Model M in ‘The Tree’ and Swiss ‘Moon’ Spruce. The latter is a bit of a different project with a twist… stay tuned for more!

‘The Tree’ Model M top being glued.

‘The Tree’ Model M top being glued.

And another…

And another…

Cocobolo back ready to be glued when the guitar has been voiced.

Cocobolo back ready to be glued when the guitar has been voiced.

Meanwhile, Will McNicol got his hands on this brand new Model S in Fiddleback Mahogany for the Golden Era Guitar in Singapore. Here’s what he got up to…

We’ve been editing our latest ‘SHOP SESSIONS’ this week, too, so check back next week to watch our work with the wonderful Tamzene. We recorded two tracks with her and can’t wait to release them!

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Despite the rainy beginning to the week in Yorkshire, it’s been replaced by sunshine - the workshop is ready for another week of exciting things next week, so be sure to stay with us and keep up to date.

Have a lovely weekend!

TSG <3

Build Diary - ‘Kealia‘ - Model L in Koa / Swiss Moon Spruce by Tom Sands

In an industry where the choices we make when sourcing materials can hold such ethical weight, it’s more important than ever to know where our wood comes from. Aside from doing one’s duty, the woods used in this build really encapsulate the importance of sourcing responsibly - often, the relationships capable of forming between builder and supplier are as joyous. Not only are you assured of the quality and heritage of the wood, but you are able to delve into the story of the actual tree that it came from. As part of ‘The Interval’ we interviewed Josh from Koatonewoods, the man who spends many months in the year out in Hawaii sourcing the best fallen trees to bring back to the UK, primarily for makers to bring to life as instruments.

Watch our interview with Josh from Koatonewoods here.

Josh has wood in his blood back three generations. He imparted so many interesting insights during his interview, (click the link above to watch, or listen here) that the process of purchasing the wood he spoke about became more than a material investment. We later asked Josh, when this guitar started coming together, if he could think of a name for it (because anthropmorphising instruments is, of course, a necessary part of a luthier’s job). He sent back this:

‘My first suggestion would be Kealia (Kay-ah-lee-ah). That is the historical name for the land area (Ahupuaa) that the tree grew on. Ahupuaa are land divisions that run from the sea to the top of the mountain and ideally would contain all of the natural resources the community needed. Kealia is on the leeward coast of Hawaii island, right next to Kealakekua, which is the place where Captain Cook was killed in 1779. I remember this particular tree well, it grew in a really high elevation on a ridge in a dry, mostly open mix of old lava and shrub grassland. It was big, maybe six foot at the base, and must have fought to grow up there for hundreds of years. Somewhere along the line, a storm snapped off the entirety of the tree and blew it over and eventually I found it. The colour and curl were outstanding, the curl figure was stronger at the base (that’s what my two lighter ukuleles are being made from). it was one of those once a year trees.’

And so, here is Kealia’s build diary.

Shooting the Koa ready for jointing.

Shooting the Koa ready for jointing.

Look at that figure!

Look at that figure!

The back being jointed.

The back being jointed.

The copper for the rosette was hand patinated in the workshop. It’s tricky to see below (no spoilers!) but the way it turned out, blue and gold, reminded us of a Michaelangelo fresco upon the roof of the Sistine Chapel - so, it’s now the ‘Michaelangelo’ Rosette. Twinned with the Swiss ‘Moon’ Spruce it provides a beautiful splash of colour, as well as reflecting the light in a subtle yet intriguing fashion.

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For this guitar, the rim assembly was constructed in a different way to the previous guitars passing through the TS workshop. Constantly preoccupied with making the best decisions for the instruments we work on, this method was one that was inspired by Dion James from Dion Guitars. More about that next week for part 2.

We hope you’ll enjoy seeing Kealia’s story unfold.

You can visit Josh and Elaine’s Koa website here.

TSG


Sontronics Microphones - An Interview with the founder, Trevor Coley, Part 2 by Tom Sands

Here is Part 2 of our interview with the brains behind Sontronics Microphones, Trevor Coley. We hope you learn something from his extensive knowledge!

Daisy: So, I have a question which may seem a bit random, but as somebody who does a lot of this day to day in my job I wanted to ask if you had any plans to make microphones that you can attach to DSLR cameras?

Trevor: Sometimes we have to be a little candid about some of the things that we reveal, so I’ll give a politician's answer to that. There’s no reason why we wouldn't be looking into other market areas and other sectors of industries which microphones are used in and looking to do the best we can to improve upon or augment what's available out there already. 

Sontronics ‘Corona’ Dynamic Microphone (source: Sontronics Microphones)

Sontronics ‘Corona’ Dynamic Microphone (source: Sontronics Microphones)

Sontronics STC-1S matched pair (source: Sontronics Microphones)

Sontronics STC-1S matched pair (source: Sontronics Microphones)

Tom: So I'm somebody who is brand new to the world of of recording, and it’s something I'm really fascinated by. And as somebody who's striving to build some of the best guitars in the world, it's really important that I can record those instruments in a high fidelity way. So, I’d love to talk a little bit about recording instruments - specifically recording guitars - and the different ways that you can do that. What do you recommend for people out there who are wanting to record their acoustic guitar?

I wanted to anthropomorphize my products - as something becomes somebody, it becomes something you care for and and that’s what I wanted.

Trevor: That’s a nice question, but it's such a huge question - and a huge answer because what you're looking at is an infinite number of variables. What's the room environment you're in, what is the instrument, the skill level, the budget? So many different possible questions and answers. But let's look at it simply and try and break it down. Let's assume somebody is fortunate enough to own one of your guitars - or fortunate enough to own a £90 fender or Yamaha starter acoustic - both are guitars, right? So lets say you’ve got your first Yamaha acoustic guitar and you're getting pretty good, and you're strumming some songs and you want put those down on record. First, most people will reach these days for something that connects to a computer. It's simpler, right? Some might grab a USB mic. We don’t make those funnily enough which is because I have yet to find the quality that matches the price point that people are prepared to spend. So, the first step would be to look at something like a dynamic microphone. Those are usually the least expensive to get someone in order. And we have two microphones that would suit the guitar player; there’s a dynamic mic which is the Solo. And we also have a Halo which I designed for electric guitar. Either of those microphones will give you a very reasonable reproduction of your guitar no matter what price your guitar is, no matter which model it is.

Then there’s the STC microphones. They are a good representation of what we can use that will give you a great representation of what you're hearing and what you're playing. Those are condenser microphones. They work by being pointed at the source and essentially give you a full frequency on the current across 20 hertz to 20 kilohertz the entire human range of perception - and what is important is that the mics give very detailed responses. So if you’re finger picking, for example, you get all of that definition in the attack of the energy from your fingers straight into your recording device. And this is the thing with a condensed mic - there is so much more sensitivity than a dynamic mic. However, they do require extra equipment to make them function. So in this case, as I mentioned earlier, the phantom power is the 48 volt DC power source which effectively just gives electricity to the microphone circuit and that fires the thing up and makes it ready for action. The next step up is a large diaphragm condenser. The next model up from there that we do is the Orpheus - and that is the one I designed specifically for acoustic guitar at the time. It has a spherical head and it just absorbs every little bit of audio there is that comes out from the guitar. But this is one thing I like to point out. Take your mind to your guitar and go together into the middle of a field somewhere. It would sound nothing like you intended it to. It would sound very much like a piece of wood, and that's it. Very dull very dead. And the reason for that is simply that when you play an acoustic guitar there is also a reliance on the reflections of the room that you're in. In a field, that signal, that output is just disappearing off into the air. So all of those beautiful words, that part of your craft, are not heard. However, if you're gonna stretch your budget to an Orpheus I would say that you probably won’t be over the moon if you’re planning on recording in a field - but it can be done. Use your phone for that, though.

The human brain can counteract (phasing). Microphones can’t

Tom: Right now I'm using a setup that was recommended to me by Will McNicol which is two of your STC-1S microphones - a matched pair. And when we position them in certain ways we get different responses. If you do so you can get a different sound just by moving the mics. I thought perhaps maybe you could talk us through using two condenser mics to record an acoustic guitar, like we do. 

Trevor: This is one of the things that everyone gets flustered about when it comes to record history.  ‘Where do I put my microphones’, ‘are there any rules’. I mean, yes, there are some rules, you’re using more than one mic. One has to be aware of what's called ‘phasing’. If you've got two microphones picking up the sound from a single device, unless those two microphones are absolutely coincident it the same place then they will be receiving data at different times because all of this is about timing. So essentially if you turn your head away from the source you know if you're looking at a stereo source in front of you - or if you turn your head slightly you're going to get a signal to your one ear quicker than you are to the other. And there will be some inconsistencies in your head. The human brain can counteract that. Microphones can't. 

Daisy: Okay. So when recording with two condensers, for say an acoustic guitar, they should be exactly the same distance from the instrument?

SHOP SESSION with Esme Bridie, recorded on a Sontronics Corona Dynamic Microphone and a STC-1S matched pair

Trevor: It’s reasonably easy to set up and in fact with that set of STC-1S’s there is a stereo bar that enables you to mount those two microphones in line and you can adjust the clips just to make sure they're in the right place. Now when it comes to the positioning where do I point the mics, a lot of people again ask what the rules are. I've done it myself with an acoustic guitar. They think the sound hole of course is the odd obvious way to put it. And it’s not. That is where the most amount of energy is coming from. And it's coming out in blasts. If I played a loud strumming tune on my guitar it’s an incredible amount of energy that comes out of that sound hole towards a diaphragm condenser. It can overload the diaphragm and overload the sensitive circuit. So, just a little bit to the right of the sound hole near to the top of the fingerboard is pretty spot on. 

Tom: I think one one last question I was really interested in are the naming conventions and this, kind of, retro futuristic aesthetic that you've got going.

Trevor: That's a big question and it has again a simple answer. I grew up, as I said, studying Latin. 

Not only that but my family, particularly my mum and my grandfather did too. And so I was very interested in history - Ancient history, Egyptian history, Roman history, Greek history - and I wanted to look at naming my products as much as possible in terms of these interests of mine. I wanted to anthropomorphize my products - as something becomes somebody, it becomes something you care for and and that's what I wanted. But they're not just any old names. The names themselves have a relationship to what the product is doing. So let's take Apollo for example - Apollo is the God of Music. Pretty self-evident. Aria the vocal microphone speaks for itself. Orpheus - well, Orpheus was a Greek God that could change his shape -  he was a poet but he had the ability to change his shape to suit his audience, and that's a multi-patterned microphone.

Daisy: Love it. It’s got a reason and a meaning behind it - it’s not just random names without context thrown at a product.

Tom: Well Trevor, thank you so much for being here with us today. 

Trevor: Thank you! Great chat. 

Daisy: Speak soon, and thanks so much again.

Weekly Roundup by Tom Sands

Didn’t have the chance to keep up with us this week? Don’t worry, here is a little breakdown of what we’ve been up to.

We worked hard last weekend on getting some more SHOP SESSIONS ready - we had the talented Esme Bridie on Saturday, and the no less talented Tamzene on Sunday. Here is the first session we’ve released from the recording sessions, Esme’s ‘Parallel Lines’. Take a listen, leave a comment and let us know what you think! We’ve been singing it in the shop all week…

We’re so looking forward to releasing Esme’s other video, and Tamzene’s sessions too. Here are some photos of the artists in action:

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It’s also full steam ahead with the Koa Model L Fanfret. It also boasts a Koa neck, and it won’t be long until it’s off to the finisher!

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We hope you’ve had a lovely week! Check back next week for videos, photos and more.

TSG <3