Build Diary - Spalted Maple / Redwood Model M / by Tom Sands

This week, we thought we’d start to share a very special project with you. Here is the first instalment of a build diary to document the first ever Model M to come out of the Tom Sands workshop.

Green patinated copper rosette on redwood top, next to spalted maple back.

Green patinated copper rosette on redwood top, next to spalted maple back.

...I didn’t see the point in confusing my clients by designing two models capable of performing in a comparable way.

Of all the guitars in the batch I started in June, this one surprised me the most. The glorious redwood was always going to be extraordinary, but the combination of all elements within this guitar have really worked together beyond my expectations.

Some context into my Models. After I returned to England fresh from my apprenticeship with Ervin, there were several months which I spent designing three guitars that encompassed the best of the six models I had been building in the Somogyi shop; his 00, OM, Mod-D, Small Jumbo, my own OM design and what came to be known as my ‘MMD’ - a Modified, Modified Dreadnought (built using moulds and templates from the discontinued Somogyi Studio guitar). What I came up with were three Models, each uniquely different; the Model S, M, and L - Small, Medium and Large. Simple.

The Model M pays homage to the Somogyi OM, and is a development of the original Sands OM and the MMD. This client wanted an OM sounding guitar, which is how I came to recommend my Model M. I found that my MMD and my original OM designed during my apprenticeship, were largely indistinguishable in terms of what I could achieve with them tonally, given their respective footprints - and so, the subsequent Model M is a hybrid of the two. Of course, the OM and the MMD have a different aesthetic, but I didn’t see the point in confusing my clients by designing two models capable of performing in a comparable way. I found that I am able to control the sound of the instrument more profoundly with adjustments to body depth, bridge placement, string height and bridge mass than the shape of the soundboard. Many might argue that the opposite is true but I can only draw on my experiences and knowledge of what works for me.

Model S

Model S

Model L

Model L

The brief for this guitar was to make something with ‘earth tones’. This sparked my enthusiasm for the kinds of materials ready to be explored; I always want to use materials honestly, and celebrate their properties with attention to surface finish and complimentary tonal juxtaposition. I passed the client some photos of a gorgeous forest green patinated copper which, when oxidised, revealed rich browns and orange tones. I was given the ‘green light’ and twinned the copper with the aforementioned redwood soundboard. This redwood is some of the most beautiful wood I have ever worked with; beautifully silky, soft and light whilst boasting a gorgeous, deep colour. The spalted maple the client chose from some photographs of options I sent over was also stunning. I traded it with Ervin towards the end of my apprenticeship, and had been looking forward to using it for some time. I just needed the right opportunity, and it had come along.

...the combination of all elements within this guitar have really worked together beyond my expectations...
Patinated copper rosette on redwood.

Patinated copper rosette on redwood.

Freshly laminated maple sides.

Freshly laminated maple sides.

The maple side are laminated with sapele and dyed poplar. It was of course the first time bending sides to the Model M shape, and I’m thrilled with how it’s turned out.

Preparing the rim assembly.

Preparing the rim assembly.

Preparing the linings.

Preparing the linings.

Carving the end block.

Carving the end block.

Glueing the back braces on the go-bar deck.

Glueing the back braces on the go-bar deck.

I can’t wait to share more of the progress that this build has made!

TS <3