Dorian Bracht's Joint (ad)Venture by Tom Sands

How did a furniture maker from Berlin become a YouTube sensation cutting Japanese Joinery? Well, in a genre populated by samey DIY instructables Dorian Bracht stands out. His films are put together as beautifully as the joints themselves. In a style that has more in common with arthouse cinema than typical woodworking videos.

Each episode of Joint Venture tells the story of a new creation. Whether a Sashiawase Komisen uchi (Pegged bridging) or a Shingiri daimochi tsugi (Dadoed rabbeted square scarf) Dorian takes you on a joinery journey. The craftsmanship is complex and it is very satisfying to watch the pieces of the puzzle come together so beautifully... beginning, middle and end.

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No doubt about it the YouTube series has tapped into something that makes for universally compelling viewing. But who is the master behind the videos? And how did someone who was fascinated with graphic design, illustration and typography become a woodworker?

I remember always being fascinated by a box with dovetails

Recently Tom interviewed Dorian on the Interval to find out more. So where did it all begin for the spectacled, curly-haired maker with the creative twinkle in his eye? “I remember always being fascinated by a box with dovetails. I loved the geometric form but I never understood how it went together, it was very mysterious!”

When Dorian decided to gain workplace experience before studying design, an apprenticeship in woodwork made sense. He studied in Leipzig making Shoji doors under the guidance of a Master who had studied in Japan. As Dorian explains, “It was so much fun, I worked with a lot of solid wood, built a lot of furniture, and did all this cool woodworking stuff”.

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So far so good. We know what happens next. The talented apprentice becomes an overnight YouTube sensation and makes shavings in his workshop happily ever after. Except that he didn’t. Not yet. It was a shock to enter the job world and find it was a production line of particle board, windows and doors, where time was money and speed was of the essence. Repairing the old buildings of Berlin might have been craft focused, solid woodwork but Dorian missed the freedom to be creative. It felt like this wasn’t his world after all, so he decided to return to his Plan A, Graphic Design...

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... and that could have been where this story ended. But it wasn’t just the master who had witnessed the enthusiasm and potential of the young apprentice. His father

encouraged him to start his own company and commissioned an oak high board. The success of that experience showed Dorian there could be a creative future for him as a furniture maker after all.

Repairing the old buildings of Berlin might have been craft focused, solid woodwork but Dorian missed the freedom to be creative.

Dorian set up shop in 2007 and he’s never looked back. His work is understated, practical and beautifully made. A delicate balance of creative aesthetic and precise craft. Dorian has translated the fine lines and structures of Japanese architecture and Ming furniture into his own craft language.

But self-employment as an artist or maker is not for the fainthearted. So what has Dorian learnt over the years? One of his key points is that you must market your work. It is not enough just to make cool stuff (and it never has been!) People need to hear about it, see it, want it and buy it. Social media offers more platforms than ever to do that and Dorian has shown just how effective it can be.

As to the future, Dorian says with a grin that his ultimate ambition is to be an 80 year old woodworking wizard. One who can cut dovetails so fast and so precisely that he’s finished before the router wielders have even found the right bit! I hope someone’s there with a camera to capture everyone’s faces when he does!

Dorian’s four tips for success:

●  Don’t do what everyone else is doing, do what you enjoy and take it to the max

●  Don’t sell stuff too cheap

●  Always quality...in the aesthetic, the material and the craft,

●  Learn from the mistakes and keep adding to your knowledge

Find out more...
Dorian’s Book Recommendation
:

Classic Chinese Furniture: Ming and Early Qing dynasties by Wang Shixiang

YouTube - Joint Venture episodes and more:

https://www.youtube.com/c/DorianBracht

Dorian’s Website:

https://www.tischlereibracht.com/


Tom Sands Guitars: The Interval with Dorian Bracht:

https://anchor.fm/dashboard/episode/e5al19

This article is written by Tom Sands Guitars contributor, Susie Chillcott

This article is written by Tom Sands Guitars contributor, Susie Chillcott

‘The Family Tree’ - Model M in ‘The Tree’ and Swiss ‘Moon’ Spruce, dedicated to Grandy Norman by Tom Sands

Last week was a super exciting time in the workshop, as the building of a very special project came to an end. Not only do we think this guitar is one of the most aesthetically beautiful instruments ever built in the TS shop, but it’s backstory is particularly close to our hearts.

These Robson tuning plates with hand engraved detail and snakewood buttons brought the guitar to a standard above and beyond expectation.

These Robson tuning plates with hand engraved detail and snakewood buttons brought the guitar to a standard above and beyond expectation.

This guitar was made in memory of Tom’s late grandfather, ‘Grandy Norm’ who was the person responsible for Tom first picking up a chisel. ‘He could fix anything with a piece of string’, and spent many a weekend with Tom passing on his practical knowledge. Subsequently when Tom first embarked upon his career as a luthier, Grandy Norm proudly decided that he’d like Tom to build him a guitar one day. Sadly he passed away in 2017, but his wish to have a Tom Sands instrument was never forgotten. Tom finished this special guitar last week, and Granny Marg took delivery of it this weekend on behalf of Norm. Tom held off putting the strings on for the first time in order for Granny Marg to be there to see it sing for the first time.

Gluing the bridge

Gluing the bridge

Final fretwork preparations

Final fretwork preparations

Someone forgot to remove the label protector!

Someone forgot to remove the label protector!

One happy Granny

One happy Granny

We dug up some old photos of Norm and Tom at work together from way back when in honour of the occasion…

Tom & Norm circa 2007

Tom & Norm circa 2007

Norm popping in to inspect #001

Norm popping in to inspect #001

This project came together beautifully - here are a few workshop photos to document the progress, so Granny Marg was kept fully in the loop.

Of course, she came over first to inspect the raw materials.

Of course, she came over first to inspect the raw materials.

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We hope this guitar is celebrated, held and played as much as possible as Norm would have wanted; so don’t forget to come and give it a go at Sonore, if you’re there. If not, we hope to see you soon! We’ll no doubt put up a more comprehensive build diary in the not too distant future, in the meantime keep your eyes peeled over on Instagram and Facebook for videos and studio photos!

Have you built / commissioned an heirloom guitar yet? Drop us a photo or a comment if you already have, or tell us your dream specification for someone special.

TS <3

Paul Smith - 'You can find inspiration in everything - and if you can't, look again' by Tom Sands

The word ‘craft’ can remind us of a handmade practice that is rooted in ancient traditions and skills. It is often associated with a fairly slow evolution in favour of a rigorous practice of it’s already established (and often extremely time consuming) skills.

To combat a potentially insular fascination with just this aspect of our craft, we’re ensuring that we take time to actively look outside lutherie and into the world of other disciplines to discover parallels between modern craftspeople and designers, whatever the work. This week, it’s Paul Smith…

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Paul Smith is a household name recognised on a global scale. His signature stripes are instantly recognisable, a credit to his branding and his eye for line weight and colour.

Paul Smith’s flagship store in L.A.

Paul Smith’s flagship store in L.A.

Although he started out selling t-shirts to earn a bit of extra cash as a teenager, Smith insists that his success is down to him and his wife being full of a zest for living; ‘we’ve never been motivated by money, we’ve just been motivated by the joys of life… I’ve got stability at home, which means I’m not searching for anything more.’

Smith’s exploration of bold colours and patterns in the linings of suits is perhaps what he is known best for. These patterns are often juxtaposed with the simplicity of a well-tailored and understated suit - to reflect the humble practicality of every day life - which is perhaps inspired by his philosophy of living.

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In 2012, Smith was asked in an interview about what he thought luxury meant. After outlining what he believes to be the preconceived notion of luxury, ‘something that costs quite a lot’, Smith continues to say that his own definition is a little different; ‘the privilege of freedom is luxury for me. The privilege of silence, being able to make your own decisions.’ In another interview, Smith reveals that one employee said of him “the problem with working for you is that I get a stomach ache from laughing.” He calls this ‘a good complaint’. Perhaps the kind of quality Smith prioritises in his life, in all its emotive and unapologetic honesty, is symbiotic to the vibrant and evocative designs of his clothing.

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In a brand that is so focused around personality, Smith himself is, to be found pottering around his own shops in London on weekends helping customers and staff alike. He maintains that the moment you lose sight of the customer who gives the pay check, the moment you lose sight of success. Brought up working in a shop, he has always felt most comfortable working hard every day and never letting complacency set in no matter how successful he feels.

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Smith’s designs are carefully considered and executed, with emphasis placed on small details which unite the traditional with the modern. This jacket, externally, embraces a traditional black tailored look. However, the juxtaposed blue lining reminiscent of a wild ocean spray is an adventurous challenge to the black. To unify the two concepts, Smith places a block of solid colour across the two fabrics. Having that bold connection is a bridge between the two styles, giving the garment permission to be both flamboyant and classic.

Similarly, the fabric inside is beautifully made inviting the eye to rejoice in the production of the clothing, and the eye is drawn to the tiniest detail with carefully considered colour choice.

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Leopard print holds connotations of wildness, and of being vivacious and playful. However, Smith mutes these associations with the unexpected blue background. This allows the wearer to have a quiet flamboyance and personality to reveal should they wish.

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Mondrian championed an asymmetrical balance in his paintings with the employment of large spaces with bold blocks of colour. Here, Smith does the same with this jacket pocket. The weight of broken spaces balanced with the colours allow the jacket pocket to have functional and design value.

So, how can we employ these designs in terms of the guitar?

This Jens Ritter bass is an example of Smith’s philosophy being put into practice. The blocks of colour to simplify purpose and generate instructional value is central to this bass. Blue and red speak of opposites, hot and cold, ice and fire; but here they are united in their ying-yang juxtaposition.

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The sophistication of design and use of colour in this bass make it visually striking and aesthetically appealing. It also could be regarded as minimalist with the absence of unnecessary features. The colours give the piece weight and value as a piece of functional art.

So what makes Paul Smith inspiring to us? Injecting personality into his designs, he holds the things dear to him that we do in our workshop. He understands that products aren’t bought, experiences are; which is why he carefully curates all of his large stores with different apparel, and why we try to be transparent in all that we do and share with you our projects and personalities. It’s these experiences that transcend the object and make it special.

Smith is also an important figure to us because he uses materials and colour to suggest where his own inspirations come from. From the bold colours of the Pop Art movement to the parallels of his work to Mondrian, Smith explores modernity in tangent with traditionalism. We have tried to do this too, by introducing modern materials and colours such as patinated coppers into rosette designs and inlays.

We’d love to hear your own insights on Smith’s work - and if you think his work is transferable into some of your own projects.

Cheers!

Tom & Daisy <3

Build Diary - 'Kealia' - Model L in Koa / Swiss Moon Spruce - Part 3 by Tom Sands

As we discussed in part 1, Kealia is the name of a particular area of land that grew the Koa tree from which she is made. It was only fitting that the neck should be Koa, too.

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As for the properties - Koa has a good stiffness, is lightweight, a pleasure to work and has gorgeous grain that will look beautiful under lacquer. The juxtaposition of Koa in this guitar, with the theme of the Sistine blue rosette, will be (if we do say so ourselves) very fetching indeed. To make the most of this rare timber we’ve laminated the heel and scarf jointed the neck taking care to use consecutive pieces in the heel and to match top the grain lines perfectly for a seamless look and perfect stability.

Shaping the neck is critical step in the process. It takes time, requires patience and quiet focus and has to be right. The neck is the primary interface between you and the guitar, it should fit like a glove. Every curve and line should flow seamlessly into the next, it should feel almost invisible. Our aim is to remove every bit of ‘friction’ between your compositional ideas and the sounds that eventually bloom from the guitar.

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Kealia is away at the finishers now - we’ll be getting her back very soon so we can give you the grand reveal.

What’s your favourite part of Kealia?

TS <3


Weekly Roundup by Tom Sands

It’s August already? We were so busy we didn’t notice. Another jam-packed week here at Tom Sands Guitars.

‘….it’s 138 days til Christmas?’

‘….it’s 138 days til Christmas?’

Most notably we’ve had a massive batch of Mahogany arrive - Cuban, Honduran and African. It’s going to make some glorious necks. There’s also some Koa awaiting a stacked heel glue…

A raft of Cuban, Brazilian and African Mahogany

A raft of Cuban, Brazilian and African Mahogany

Preparing a Koa neck

Preparing a Koa neck

It’s been all hands on deck getting the truss-rod and graphite reinforcement channels routed. We’ve also been making up some new moulds for upcoming projects which we can’t wait to divulge.

Apprentice Daisy assembling mould components.

Apprentice Daisy assembling mould components.

Daisy cutting truss rod channels in a Cuban Mahogany neck.

Daisy cutting truss rod channels in a Cuban Mahogany neck.

We have also found time this week to release one of our favourite SHOP SESSIONS yet - a mesmerising song called ‘Oh’ by Will Killen. He’s definitely one to watch, his writing, playing and personality are all in favour of success. Check it out here, and we’ll be releasing a new track from him soon in line with it’s official release!

Will Killen in the Shop!

Will Killen in the Shop!


We’ve also said goodbye for now to ‘Kealia’, the Model M in Koa and Swiss ‘Moon’ Spruce. She’s gone for a spray of lacquer, along with the other Model M in ‘The Tree’ and Swiss ‘Moon’ Spruce.

‘Kealia’ ready for lacquer

‘Kealia’ ready for lacquer

‘The Family Tree’

‘The Family Tree’


Last but not least - we hope you wished Juno a Happy Birthday on Monday.

Shopdog Juno is 1!

Shopdog Juno is 1!






Have a great weekend!






TS <3

Build Diary - Model M in Cocobolo and Swiss 'Moon' Spruce by Tom Sands

There’s another beauty of a project currently wending its way through the workshop, and as usual, we wanted to share it’s progress with our followers. This time, it’s a Model M(edium) in Cocobolo and Swiss ‘Moon’ Spruce, complete with ‘Wildfire’ red copper rosette and antique Cuban mahogany for the neck. It’s going to be a cracker.

This guitar is for our friend Peter. He placed his order for this particular guitar after seeing the first ever Model S at the Holy Grail Guitar Show (Berlin) in 2018. This guitar won’t be his first Sands, and having worked with him before we already know lots of useful information such as his playing technique and existing guitar collection. Subsequently, we could put our heads together to work out what was missing from the lineup and how we could fill the gap; sonically, aesthetically and ergonomically.

The Model S in Malaysian Blackwood and Swiss ‘Moon’ Spruce

The Model S in Malaysian Blackwood and Swiss ‘Moon’ Spruce

While the Model S (Swiss ‘Moon’ Spruce and Malaysian Blackwood) was a great fit for Peter, the Sands he already owns is a small bodied guitar - the since discontinued 00. So, it made sense to go for something new, but with all the clarity and oomph of that Model S muse.

Luckily for all involved, Peter is UK based, and so was able to come and visit us in the workshop where his guitar was to be born. We had a couple of guitars in the shop for him to try, and we found that he was most comfortable with our ‘earth tones’ Model M in Redwood and Spalted Maple - especially with it’s comfort micro-bevel.

Peter’s first Sands Guitar - 00 in Reclaimed Railroad Sitka Spruce and T’Zalam

Peter’s first Sands Guitar - 00 in Reclaimed Railroad Sitka Spruce and T’Zalam

The Model M we tried when deciding body size: ‘Carter’ Redwood over ‘Somogyi’ Spalted Maple

The Model M we tried when deciding body size: ‘Carter’ Redwood over ‘Somogyi’ Spalted Maple

In earlier discussions, we had thrown around ideas of working with Cocobolo for the back and sides, and Swiss ‘Moon’ Spruce (like the Model S) for the face. When Peter was in the workshop and we pulled out the set of Cocobolo we had in mind, our decision was made. It’s one of the most vitreous sets of Cocobolo the Sands workshop has ever had - with the looks to go. All the sandpaper in the shop gave a sigh, and prepared itself for that infamous Cocobolo oil.

Peter taking a look at his future guitar

Peter taking a look at his future guitar

The stunning set of Cocobolo we chose, and it’s sister set

The stunning set of Cocobolo we chose, and it’s sister set

So, to the other things to decide - and specifically to the aforementioned ‘wildfire’ rosette. Tom had been saving a stunning red copper patinated rosette for a very special occasion - and since the rich reds of the cocobolo juxtaposed with the pure white spruce would no doubt provide the perfect canvas for the artwork, it was again a very easy decision. The materials all came together so beautifully with this build, all telling a different visual story while weaving a united tapestry of texture, sound and colour in way that will no doubt continue to induce drool for many years to come.

Wildfire Rosette in all glory

Wildfire Rosette in all glory

So that’s the story - we’ll share some photos of the build coming together next week. Please let us know what you think of the material choices, and we always love feedback as to what you personally would change on your own build! Happy Thursday.

A mockup of the final choices.

A mockup of the final choices.

TS <3

A Closer Look - The New 'Tonewood Vault' by Tom Sands

Ever wanted to look inside a luthier’s prized wood stash? We often find ourselves crafting 12 new guitars in our heads before breakfast when so many delicious pieces of wood are on offer to eye up in the shop. We wanted to extend the hand of imagination to our readers, and photograph each set of wood in our stash so they’re at your fingertips to dream about (and, of course, to reserve for your own dream guitar).

Daisy preparing this particular set of Brazilian Rosewood for the camera.

Daisy preparing this particular set of Brazilian Rosewood for the camera.

We have some ridiculous sets from some top notch suppliers - see below a gorgeous set of Koa from Elaine and Josh at Koa Guitar Sets (@koatonewood on instagram). Josh and his family have been in the wood business for many years, and personally sources the wood he supplies from his native Hawaiian soils, bringing them back to England and passing them to the eager hands of luthiers all around the world. Here are a few teasers, although we’ve left some of the other really special stuff as a surprise for password holders…

Hawaiian Koa

Hawaiian Koa

Quilted Mahogany from ‘The Tree’

Quilted Mahogany from ‘The Tree’

Madagascar Rosewood four piece back

Madagascar Rosewood four piece back

Madagascar Rosewood

Madagascar Rosewood

To preserve this excellent visual diet and maintain exclusivity, the Wood Vault is password protected. If you count yourself a loyal TS supporter please get in touch for the super secretive password. Spoiler alert, it isn’t ‘PrincessJuno’ although we did consider it…

These are woods that Tom has collected since returning from California, and the Wood Vault represents a personal collection of his ‘must haves’ over those years. They have been purchased because they have spoken to him, rather than been brought in as stock. Some woods Tom cannot envisage ever building with; but as many luthiers will attest to, some pieces of wood you just have to have.

What else do you want to see in the Tonewood Vault? Get in touch if you think a particularly handsome breed of wood is missing from our collection. If you see your dream piece of wood here, would you put it on a Model S, M or L? With what specifications? Get those imaginations running… the wilder the better, we’d love to hear about it.





SHOP SESSIONS - What they are and why we do them by Tom Sands

Recently, as you might have seen on our social media platforms, we have been delving into the world of recording and filming musicians to showcase our instruments and their talent. Although the name ‘SHOP SESSIONS’ may lead you to believe the sessions take place solely in the workshop, we’ve had the pleasure of filming in all sorts of wonderful locations, bringing a part of our work to each different place to celebrate musicianship and the craft of high end instrument building together.

A SHOP SESSION filmed at the Broughton Hall Estate in North Yorkshire with Justin Manville.

Despite being committed instrument builders, our SHOP SESSIONS have allowed us to begin to nurse passions as sound engineers and videographers. Having our particular interests fall into place as a team (Tom as sound engineer and Daisy as videographer), we can swap our knowledge and create unique projects that become not only useful marketing tools for both our instruments and the musicians we record, but also fond memories. We have met so many wonderful people from doing these passion projects, but also have featured some familiar faces…

Being in North Yorkshire, we have also had access to the thriving music scene of Leeds, and in particular the Leeds College of Music. We have met some wonderful musicians from the college, who made the trip to Ripon to record with us. We love learning from them, too, about their recording experiences and their favoured style during not only recording but also in terms of writing original material. Esme Bridie and Tamzene are two examples of this - and Will Killen, who studied sound engineering at university, was so interesting to discuss microphones with! check back soon for his SHOP SESSION.

Of course, it’s super important to us that we’re putting out good content and working with a range of musicians in terms of genre and style. There is enormous value in getting our guitars in the hands of different musicians, helping to broaden our understanding of exactly what they are looking for, and the things that they pick up on that we may not be so acutely aware of. As well as this, we’d love to hear from our viewers and friends, and hear your feedback as to which sessions you particularly enjoyed, and what you’d like to see more of. Where would you like to see one filmed? Here are a few more to get you thinking… plus some photos in action!

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More to come very soon! Leave a comment or drop us a message on any of our social media pages, it’s much appreciated. Thank you!

The personal links to our musicians so far (all of our SHOP SESSIONS can be found over on our YouTube page, www.youtube.com/tomsandsguitars).

Dolly Mavies: https://www.dollymavies.com

Esme Bridie: http://esmebridie.com

Tamzene: https://www.tamzene.com

Will Killen: https://soundcloud.com/will-killen

Clive Carroll: http://clivecarroll.co.uk

Will McNicol: https://www.willmcnicol.co.uk

Justin Manville: https://justinmanville.com

Daisy Tempest: http://daisytempest.org

Henry Bateman: https://www.henrybateman.co.uk