So, I ordered one. I had not seen one, touched one, played one… or even heard what one sounded like. But in July 2016 I ordered a guitar from a little-known young luthier who was still serving out his apprenticeship. His name is Tom Sands.
I ordered one because it already seemed like it would be a special experience. Tom was the apprentice to Ervin Somogyi in California, one of the world’s leading and influential guitar builders. Whilst there he had built a couple of instruments for a British player, who had taken them to a gathering of like-minded enthusiasts in Hampshire. I missed that meeting, but the aclaim and enthusiasm for Tom’s new guitars was rippling through the community.
This was an opportunity to get involved with a luthier at the budding of his career, a chance to support a young craftsman, and a shot at a promising new guitar. Tom and I started corresponding, and I placed an order.
We quickly specified the build, to include a Sitka spruce soundboard from the sleepers of a railway bridge that was demolished in Vancouver, BC. The Sitka is very old, lightweight and very stiff, with a gorgeous pink cast. The back and sides are made from T'zalam (or Caribbean Walnut), and although not a true walnut, it looks like the kind of English walnut you just don't see anymore. The guitar is small, OO size, with 12 frets to the body. It was to be delivered in a year’s time <gulp>, when Tom was due to finish his apprenticeship and move back home to the UK.
In the ensuing months, Tom kept me updated with the build progress, and asked for input on design questions. I was keen to let Tom make the guitar he wanted to make, and to allow his own aesthetic sensibilities drive the appearance. Looking at the pictures will tell you that this was a good idea.
In May 2017, Tom brought my new guitar back to the UK, and right into our kitchen. It is a very beautiful thing, bursting with craftsmanship and quite sophisticated style. Crucially, and like all of Tom’s guitars, it sounds fabulous. It is punchy for a small sized guitar, articulate, balanced and direct. Sometimes I just sit and finger a chord and listen to the overtones shimmy and entwine as it achingly sustains for what feels like forever.