I first met Tom at a talk from his mentor-to-be, Ervin Somogyi. It was just as he was sharpening his chisels to go out to America for his training. I remember being extremely excited that someone would be bringing back that knowledge and expertise to England, and thinking that I ought to give Tom a deposit then and there… I wish I had!
What with becoming a father and changing jobs, I slightly lost track of things. But a few years later, when Tom had returned from the States, some of my friends were waxing lyrical about fantastic guitars they’d either ordered or received from an extremely talented builder… none other than that very same Mr Sands. After meeting some of his instruments (#003, #004, #008 and #009), I knew I had to order a guitar from Tom. They all looked and sounded stunning, were ultra-responsive, and had a warmth to them that was beguiling. I’d had my heart set for some time on commissioning my dream baritone and it occurred to me that Tom might well be the man for the job. After a few chats with him, I soon found myself, in July 2017, sending a deposit his way for his 17th guitar.
Body shape wise, given the thunderous bass that Modified Dreadnoughts can put out, Tom’s own take on that model (his “L” – for Large) was the natural choice. To make it feel as small and comfortable as possible, I was keen to have extra ergonomic features, like a Manzer wedge and, given the variety of tunings and strings I was planning to throw at it, fanned frets.
During conversations and meetings before the start of this build, Tom had learned about the way in which I play the guitar – I hug it closely to my body, so as to really ‘feel’ the sound. We decided that two comfort bevels – arm and rib - would help accommodate this and facilitate long, fatigue-free playing sessions. We jokingly christened her ‘Beverly’ … and the name stuck…!
As well as conversations about my playing posture, we also collaborated together on pretty much every other aspect of the build – from design elements and material choice to supplying exacting measurements (e.g. bespoke string spacing, nut width, neck depth and neck profile) taken from my other custom made guitars.
In terms of the aesthetics of the rosette and inlays, we talked at length about what might work best. We both thought that copper would really bring out the colours in the ovangkol back and sides and Swiss “moon`’ spruce top, and generally fit the overall look I was hoping for. Following our deliberations, Tom sent me a few proposals. I chose a custom made copper rosette with a series of etched concentric rings, with matching etched copper inlays for the headstock and end graft. I love the simplicity of the rings, and the echoing of the multiscale neck in the fanned inlays. Complementing the natural materials and allowing the woods to speak for themselves, I think they fit the overall visual brief of “understated elegance” perfectly.
As Tom crafted the guitar, I was delighted to be able to closely follow his progress, with photos, and even some videos, coming thick and fast via social media and a shared online album, keeping me up to date, excited and engaged. Here are just a few of the stunning shots which capture the Beverly’s genesis…
You can see many more of these over on my build thread on the Acoustic Guitar Forum…
After countless detailed discussions, and sharing of photographic inspiration, sketches and several spreadsheets, my guitar was finally ready. Tom arrived, Beverly in hand, on my doorstep in London.
Beautifully presented in her tuxedo case, I apprehensively untwisted the latches... my gratification was delayed somewhat in that Tom had thoughtfully covered the top with a black polishing cloth and a handwritten card. So, resisting the urge to grab the guitar straight away, I - as custom dictates - politely read the card! An additional tease from Tom? Or a lovely touch and something else to treasure? Both, perhaps!
Trust me, she plays and sounds every bit as good as she looks. Tom has achieved that rare feat – particularly challenging on a baritone – of combining thunderous bass with thick trebles, whilst maintaining an even balance across the instrument’s huge range. It’s rich, resonant and responsive; comfortable; inspirational; and absolutely a keeper! So thank you so much Tom – not only for making my dream instrument a reality, but for the wonderful journey along the way, and for your friendship. It’s been a huge pleasure collaborating on this fine, truly bespoke instrument, which is going to feature heavily on my forthcoming album – and beyond. I’m already very much looking forward to my second commission from Mr Sands …!