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


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