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There is nothing better than getting to know our builders, the creators behind these works of art we represent here at Dream Guitars. We had the amazing pleasure of discussing life and craft with Dontcho Ivanov. Following is our interview with the creator of the wonderous Snow Parlor. Enjoy!

LW: Hi Dontcho, first off thank you for sending us this latest Snow Parlor! It’s incredible. Parlors seem to be a specialty of yours. What is it about small-bodied guitars that particularly interests you?

DI: I’m really glad you like the guitar. Even if I currently build more full-bodied guitars than Parlors, I am still particularly fascinated by small-bodied instruments. Indeed, I have always been attracted to 19th century Romantic guitars, such as Stauffer, Lacote and Panormo, which are all small guitars. What’s funny is that I’ve always played full-bodied guitars, but I like the ergonomics of smaller bodies with their folkish voice. The tone is surprisingly big with sparkling mids. I look to give my parlors an open and balanced voice for acoustic blues and ragtime with a lot of sustain. The bigger version of my Snow Parlor, which has an almost 00 body, offers a little more bass response, which I like a lot. But in my opinion and in general, a small-bodied guitar should be light and reactive. It should resonate well in your chest!

LW: We’d love to discuss your introduction to guitar, as well as lutherie. When did you first start playing, and start building?

DI: I started playing classical guitar when I was 14 years old in Bulgaria, my home country. I was also playing electric guitar in a rock band. At 18, I got my first good classical guitar, a Paulino Bernabe student model, and fell in love with its sound. Because of that guitar, I decided to continue more seriously with my classical guitar studies. When I arrived in Montreal, where I live now, I studied classical guitar interpretation at the University of Quebec in Montreal and got my BA. Thanks to my teachers Alvaro Pierri and José Harguindey at that time, I had the opportunity to play many great handmade guitars. Two guitars impressed me a lot: one was made by René Wilhelmy and the other one by Daniel Friederich. It was such an eye-opener to realize how much inspiration you can get from a good instrument! I was 38 when I started building guitars and without a doubt my experience with those two amazing instruments still motivates me to build guitars that inspire and bring out the best in a guitarist. To me, it’s important to always be in contact with great instruments. That’s one thing I love about the many guitar shows I exhibit at. Aside from presenting my work, I have the precious opportunity to meet so many amazing and inspiring builders and try their guitars, which certainly contributes to my development as a luthier. To play your best you have to play a great guitar, and to make a great guitar you have to be in contact with great guitars.

LW: Walk us through your approach to voicing. Is there a particular tone or quality that you’re aiming for?

DI: To me, voicing is giving the guitar its soul, so this is one of the most important and intriguing steps in the process of building. It’s also one of the more complex. There is a lot to keep in mind when it comes to voicing, with so many things to consider. My bracing is based on the parameters of my teacher, Mario Beauregard. I also pay particular attention to how the soundboard and the back work together, the correlation between body size, bridge location and type of wood. In terms of sound quality, I am aiming all the time for sensitivity of the instrument, evenness between notes and registers, and of course, volume. 

LW: What, in your opinion, sets you apart from other builders?

DI: I feel like I share the same concerns as other luthiers, which is the sound of the instrument. For that reason, I don’t think anything makes me so different. But of course, everyone has their own approach and their particular style. I have heard people calling me “the maple guy.” It’s not a label I’m particularly fond of, since I’m drawn to all types of wood. In fact, if anything does set me apart, it could be my particular obsession with using the highest quality wood. This not only gives you the best acoustic results, but working with precious wood also hones your craft. In a nutshell, quality wood inspires your work to be its best, in the same way a great instrument inspires a player to play better and to evolve in his art. 

LW: Everyone has opinions about tonewood. We find most folks think Brazilian Rosewood is king, but you seem to build a lot with Maple and other Rosewoods. How do you feel they compare to Brazilian, or other woods?

DI: If Brazilian Rosewood is king, then Maple is a prince. It always seems fresher and younger in my eyes. But to me, it doesn’t matter so much what wood you use. What’s important is understanding what a particular wood can give, understanding its character and particularity and work it to bring out its full potential. Some types of wood are suitable for a particular use and others have a very wide range of applications. If a wood excels in qualities like stability, ease of work, visual appeal, if they smell good, and on top of that they have a particular resonance, these woods become precious to us luthiers, and we cling to them. To me, Maple is a precious tonewood, especially when I think about some European species. It’s been used for centuries by the European luthiers and appreciated for its frank and direct response. With Maple you can build responsive lightweight instruments, which I like a lot! That said, I love Rosewoods too: their smell, their beauty and of course, their complex and rich sound. For my OM model, I like to use Madagascar Rosewood, because it gives a rich and balanced tone with clear note definition with a lot of harmonics, perfect for many genres and styles of playing.

LW: What’s on your bench right now?

DI: First, it’s my new bench, since I have a new work space! Presently I’m working on two Romantic guitars, both commissioned, one classical with a cedar top, and one Snow Parlor 00, which I’ll exhibit in Berlin. When these are done, I have an order for a Flamenca blanca, commissioned by a very talented Montreal-based guitarist. 

LW: Who are some of your favorite guitar players? Have you built instruments for any of them?

DI: All my customers are my favorite players so yes, I have! That said, if Pierre Bensusan, Mark Knopfler, or Hugo Rivas called to commission a guitar, it would be a special thrill! As it is, I am content and fortunate to have built instruments for some really great and talented players. I feel very privileged to have such a great exchange. 

LW: If you had not become a guitar maker, where do you think life would have led you?

DI: It’s difficult to imagine doing something other than building guitars, but just before the lutherie bug hit me, I was in woodworking, building stage sets for a museum. If I hadn’t taken this path, I don’t think I would still be doing that. I like to think that I would be making a living at another of my passions, like maybe cooking. 

LW: What music are you listening to right now?

DI: Let me have a look at my playlist. Let’s see…here’s Carlos Garcia, pianist from Argentina, Roland Dyens, a French guitarist, here’s Debussy! and here’s also the new album of a good friend of mine – the very talented trumpetist and multi-instrumentalist, Miron Rafajlovic!

LW: In what ways do you predict your building style will evolve in the next five years?

DI: On the artistic side, it’s hard to say how my building style will change. I don’t worry too much about that aspect of my building. But I do have definite goals in terms of sound control and production efficiency. Currently, I build about six guitars a year, and I hope that in 5 years this number doubles. I have recently moved to a new workspace whose layout allows me to be more efficient in my production. This new workspace will also allow me to upgrade my system for collecting and retaining data about materials and their specificities. Improving my system of recording my observations and testing will allow me to streamline the voicing process and have a better control over my main preoccupation – tone design. It will be interesting to look back five years from now and see how far I’ve come in these areas. 

Leo Buendia has begun our latest commission, a first for us: a Brazilian Rosewood 12-string. Our client is going to find himself with an heirloom guitar soon! Please follow the blog for latest updates.


Jumbo 12 String
2 inch nut
Brazilian Rosewood back & sides
Adirondack Spruce top
Florentine cutaway
Segmented rosette
Adirondack Spruce top
Indian rosewood neck
James May Ultra Tonic pickup
Stick fret markers
Interrupted back strip
Custom headstock and fretboard inlays

Our first Bresnan GS came in–and went right back out the door. But don’t fret, we’ve got Dan and Sean Bresnan hard at work on the next one already, this time a long scale GS with Brazilian Rosewood and German Spruce. Keep up with this blog to see as this beauty comes together!

Back & Sides: Brazilian Rosewood
Top: German Spruce
Neck wood: Mahogany
Bridge: Ebony
Fingerboard: Ebony
Rosette: Style #4 Mosaic (BRW, Koa, Walnut)
Side Dots: Pearl
Head-plate: Brazilian Rosewood
Body and Headstock binding: Ebony
Top Purfling: Flamed Mahogany w/ Walnut strips
Finish: Nitrocellulose (gloss)
Tuners: Alessi, gold w/ Ebony buttons
Frets to body: 14
Body Length: 19.5”
Upper Bout: 11.25”
Lower bout: 15.5”
Depth at neck: 3.75”
Depth at Heel: 4.5”
Scale Length: 25.4”
Nut Width: 1.75”
String spacing: 2.25”
Case: Customized Ameritage

Kevin Caton of Caton Guitars is one of our newest builders, and we’ve already sold one of his fantastic Sullivan models. We’ve got the next one in the works already! Coming soon to a Dream near you with Guatemalan Rosewood back and sides, Adirondack Spruce on top, Kevin’s Bevel Port, and a cutaway. Stay tuned for more!

B&S – Guatemalan Rosewood
Top – 5A Adirondack
Binding – Ebony
Neck – Mahogany Maple lam.
Bridge/ Fingerboard / Pegheads – Ebony
Additional Options – Bevel Port, Arm Rest, Florentine Cutaway, Gotoh 510 Delta tuners

19 3/4″ body length
15 1/4″ lower bout
11 1/4″ upper bout
3 5/8″ depth at neck block
4 1/8″ depth at tail block
25.4″ scale
1 3/4″ nut width
2 1/4″ string spacing @ saddle
14 fret neck
3 7/8″ sound hole

We had the honor of interviewing veteran luthier Dan Bresnan of Bresnan Guitars on topics including his craft, voicing, building style, and more. Please find following our full interview with Dan. Enjoy!

LW: After some time away from the bench, you’re back in action. Can you fill us in on your life journey from the intervening years? What took you away from building, and what brought you back?

DB: Beginning in 2015, I went through a series of very unsuccessful major surgeries. During the final of those surgeries, a surgical accident occurred which left me with a very serious spinal cord injury. As a result of that injury, I was unable to walk, play guitar, or perform many normal daily tasks. The rehab has been extensive, and continues to this day. It wasn’t until 2018 that I had sufficient motor recovery to confidently work safely in the shop again. Also at that time, My son, Sean, a Berklee College of Music grad, and a great luthier in his own right, joined me in my shop which took some of the pressure off on the more physically demanding steps. So, since 2018, Sean and I have been back at it, and having a lot of fun with it!

LW: Please describe your goals in voicing an instrument. How did you first find your voice, and how do you continue to experiment?

DB: I have been an active performer for several decades and Sean for almost 15 years. Our approach to voicing is rooted in what we ourselves look for in the instruments that we play. We voice our guitars for a deep, rich tone with even response across all the strings, as well as up and down the fretboard. In many types of fingerstyle playing, the bass strings drive the momentum of the piece, and a deep articulate bass is very important, particularly so when not using a thumbpick. When I first started building guitars, I experimented with many different elements. I always like to think of the guitar as a physics problem; how to build with as much stiffness as possible, with as little mass as possible. That approach to design led me to develop several techniques in bracing and structure that, as far as I know, are unique to Bresnan Guitars. The resulting voice has been the basis of our “sound” for quite some time. We do continue to evolve our design with new ideas and are always striving to make our instruments even better.

LW: Where do you think your building style will take you in the next five years?

DB: Currently, we offer four models; OO, OOO, OM, and GS. Over the next five years, I see us adding to our model lineup. We’ve explored a number of ideas including some neat hybrid designs.

LW: Working with your son must be a unique experience. What is your working dynamic in the shop?

DB: Working with Sean has been awesome. Sean is a really talented luthier, with a great eye, and hand, for perfection. He challenges me on design and process issues and we have very lively debates at times! In addition to spending a lot of time in the shop together, we also spend a lot of social time together, hiking with the dogs, going to a concert, or taking in a movie and such. He’s my best buddy, so it’s very cool to be able to spend time with him at work in the shop as well.

LW: What do you enjoy doing outside of building instruments?

DB: I am a regularly performing guitarist and vocalist. So, most of my time outside the shop is consumed by practice. I am also a big hiker. We have four dogs, and we love hitting the trail with our furry buddies!

LW: If you had not become a guitar maker, where do you think life would have led you?

DB: Making music has always been the driving force of my life, whether through songwriting, singing, playing guitar, or working as an engineer in recording studios. I entered guitar building as an expression of my lifelong love for music in general, and for the guitar in particular. If I were not building guitars, I would be more deeply involved in these other avenues of musical expression, and most likely with a greater emphasis on performance. But, I’m pretty happy with what I’m doing right now.

LW: What music are you listening to right now?

DB: For the past couple years, I’ve been really getting into soul music. Soul and R&B music dominated the AM radio in my hometown when I was growing up. So, I already knew most of the tunes. However, at that point in my life, I had fallen in love with the acoustic guitar, and was heading more toward the Folk/Americana direction, so I don’t think I was able to really appreciate how amazing so much of it is.

LW: If you could choose only one tool to work on guitars, what tool would that be?

DB: A hand chisel. I love a direct connection with the wood, and that feels the closest, to me.

To learn more about their overall creative vision and very unique approach, we recently interviewed our friends Matthew Rice and Matthias Roux over at Casimi Guitars in Cape Town, South Africa to discuss a range of topics including their design, voicing, building style, inspiration, and more. Please see below for the complete chat. Enjoy!

Click here to see some of these beauties in action: https://www.dreamguitars.com/shop/builders/casimi-guitars-.html

LW: It’s easy to say your guitars stand quite apart from the already distinctive crowd of modern guitars. What brought you to your particular aesthetic?  

M&M: Thank you, it’s nice to think we have some originality in our approach. There are several reasons why we do things a little differently. Firstly, our whole aesthetic was developed in relative isolation from the mainstream of modern guitar design. It all started off as a fantasy of mine in a sketchbook one afternoon back in about 2003 (while I should probably have been doing something else). In those days I was pursuing a career as a musician and I had a day job working for a music instrument shop in Cape Town as their in-house guitar tech. I had a lot of instruments pass through my hands, pretty much the full gamut from the good through the bad to the ugly. One thought that kept plaguing me was what a wasted design opportunity the guitar often was. It’s got all the essential ingredients of a great design, but so often there is something missing or something that could have been done with more care and attention to detail. As a musician, artist, and jewelry designer, these aesthetic disappointments drove me to explore the guitar as a design question, which I did as a series of sketches and doodles in my lunch breaks and as a way of twiddling my thumbs. These drawings were an exploration of the form of the guitar from a sculptural perspective and were in line with my design philosophy as a whole.

I have always been fascinated with how the laws of physics produce lines and vectors which are inherently beautiful. How the natural world constantly produces designs which are breathtaking in their perfection and how these governing principles give rise to forms which are perfectly suited to their function. Elegant, alive, athletic, dynamic, efficient, and authentic. Expressing a kind of divine essence. I aspired to reach for this same lofty ideal in all my work. (“Beauty is truth and truth is beauty. That is all we know and all we need to know,” as Blake put it.)  Years later I had the opportunity to build my own guitar with my longtime best friend Matthias Roux who was working for Maingard Guitars at the time. He and Colin Rock (another luthier at Maingard Guitars) decided to offer a guitar building course in the evenings. I jumped at the opportunity and brought along all my rather unorthodox sketches. We went through them together, weeding out the implausible ideas from the more realistic ones and after some hours we had a concept. That guitar was built as my personal instrument with no thought of marketing it to anyone else at all. It was simply my dream guitar, built with great love and a lot of help from two good friends. However, it became obvious that we were onto something special. The combination of my design fantasies and Matthias’s experience in building (at that point he had completed in the region of about 250 builds for Maingard) worked like a magic recipe. That same guitar became the prototype C2S and formed the basis for all our work as Casimi Guitars. 

LW: Who are some of your favourite guitar players? Have you built instruments for any of them? 

M&M: Well, for both of us, favourites make a very long and diverse list. On the acoustic side, Michael Hedges, Mike Dawes, John Gom, Pierre Bensusan, Michael Watts, Derek Gripper, Guy Buttery, Habib Koité, John Mclaughlin, Andy Mckee…the list goes on and on (We did in fact build a guitar for Guy Buttery very early on). On the electric side, Mark Knopfler, David Gilmore, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Tom Morello, Ali Farka Touré, John Mayer, Jimmy Hendrix of course…so many! And we discover more all the time. Matthias has a strong background in Flamenco and therefore also followed players such as Paco de Lucia and Vincente Amigo. Between the two of us, I would say the spectrum is best described as immense and spans players and genres from Flamenco through Metal, Jazz, Ambient, Rock, African, Folk, Blues and many more.

LW: You utilize several design features that we haven’t seen before, your bridge setup for one. Can you walk us through your process in designing some of your more arcane features? 

M&M: Yes, indeed! If we take the bridge as a good example, my starting point in designing that was the same as for everything else. To remove everything non essential and to try to make it beautiful along the way. Specifically with the bridge, I wanted to get rid of bridge pins. Personally I can’t stand the things! Any gigging guitarist knows that awkward silence when you have to replace a string mid show. Once you’ve run out of stories and you’re still using your pocket knife to dig out that little pin that just won’t quit.. by the time you’ve got the new string on and are tuned up, half the audience is either asleep or sneaking out the door…Not great. So I wanted a pinless bridge, but one that still retained the advantages of having the strings attached under the bridge plate. Ordinarily a pin-less system means the string is only attached to the bridge. One big advantage of the pinned bridge is that the string goes through the sound board and pulls from underneath the bridge plate. This means it’s not pulling your bridge off, but is pulling from underneath your bridge. This also gives a better break angle and therefore energy transfer to the soundboard. In order to rid ourselves of pins, we needed a system that would allow us to insert the string and keep it in place using its own tension. This we achieved with a kind of modified keyhole design, but then we needed to cover the key holes so as to maintain proper air pressure inside the soundbox. We went round the garden several times with this. All manner of mechanisms were explored from sliding drawers to swivelling lids until we hit on the idea of using magnets to hold down a cap that would cover our keyhole system. The aesthetic of the bridge is also largely functional. Yes, its shape is supposed to please the eye, but it derives from several functional considerations. Firstly we wanted the back of the bridge to reflect the curve of the tail of the guitar. Something we always see with classical guitars is that, over time, the square bridge pulling on the rounded tail results in some rather unhappy looking corrugations between the bridge and lower soundboard. By making the back of the bridge rounded (parallel to the tail), we have spread the stress out more evenly across the lower portion of the soundboard resulting in a more even pressure load. This is a good thing for structural longevity, but arguably also for tonal transfer from string through bridge to soundboard and braces. The hollows are there to facilitate easy finger access to the magnetic bridge cap and they also cut down on weight and bring the bridge within the 30 to 34g ideal weight for our recipe.

The same thinking went into the hollow headstock. It’s really a traditional slotted headstock with the non essential middle spar removed. Since its reinforced from the inside with carbon fibre rods and is sandwiched between two hardwood veneers back and front, it’s well strong enough to remove the extra material in the middle. The machine heads are simply a set of Gotoh 510s fitted sideways. This also, was partially an attempt to create easier access for restringing, but we liked the elegant quirkiness of the look.

LW: Please describe your goals in voicing an instrument. How did you first find your voice, and how do you continue to experiment?

M&M: To put it in a nutshell, one of the first builds to carry the Casimi name was an African Blackwood and Engelman spruce C2S. This guitar was built using a traditional Martin X brace and two tone bars just like what we were used to from Maingard. There were one or two modifications that had taken place since the prototype, but essentially it was one of those magical instruments that just bursts with life, tone, power projection, and all the qualities one is looking for and it’s hard to nail down exactly why. It was a monster straight off the bench. It was built as a shop guitar and for exhibition, so it hung around our workshop for two or three years and we really got to know it. It was really quite close to the voice we were always chasing, and it has been the voice of that guitar that we tried to emulate thereafter. Eventually we decided to experiment by adding a soundport and were able to notice the immediate way in which it tidied up the basses and brought the secondary harmonics into a happier alignment. In around 2014 we decided to experiment with some other bracing patterns. There were some crazy moments with U turns at the last moment. Matthias had an idea he wanted to do using a kind of fan bracing on a steel stringed guitar. I turned around one day and found him putting that top through the drum sander to remove them all after he’d spent a few days carefully shaping and listening. After extensive research and much hard thinking we decided to try a lattice brace pattern. An amazing friend of ours who was an industrial designer helped us to research and develop the jigs and patterns necessary to achieve this. Once we had built a guitar with this new system, we noticed immediately how it brought out the midrange of the instrument. This was the missing piece we had been looking for! Most guitars with the Martin pattern seem to have a kind of scoop in the mids. The lattice really seemed to do a little of the opposite. Suddenly we were hearing thick creamy mids, and it was amazing what an emotional quality came through in the chords. I suspect it has something to do with bringing the voice of the guitar closer to the tonal range of a human voice, so it conveyed this human emotional quality much more. Since then, we have used the lattice as our exclusive bracing pattern. It slowly evolved from build to build and we kept track of these minor adjustments along the way so as to track what differences they made. We’ve managed to reach a tone we like, but there is always more to learn and improve. It’s a constant process.

LW: Where do you think your building style will take you in the next five years? 

M&M: That’s an interesting question. Much of the challenge at present is to find ways of making more of these crazy guitars more quickly without compromising quality. Simply put, a Casimi takes two experienced luthiers around 2.5 months to produce. We’d like to be in a position to be putting out about ten per year and I think that’s possible in around two to five years. So there probably won’t be any radical changes in aesthetic or tone during that period. Most of the evolution will occur behind the scenes, refining our production.

LW: Any interesting facts about your technique or shop arrangement that you’d like to share? 

M&M: It’s a pretty standard setup. I guess that might be the most interesting part about it. I think some people look at our work and think it was produced in a very high tech dust free lab, but it’s really just a simple old workshop. We like things to be efficient and clean, but we also like our workspace to be a little bit homely and friendly.

LW: Working as a team also sets you apart from many one person operations. What is your working dynamic in the shop? 

M&M: We’ve been best friends, since we were little kids so we know each other extremely well. It’s a pretty seamless partnership. We’ve both got our niches and processes that we have gravitated towards, so it dovetails very nicely. The most obvious advantage is that we have our various areas of expertise. It just so happens that these are perfectly aligned and two brains are better than one. It also spreads the workload somewhat. Of course there’s also the moral support and camaraderie that makes it all the more fun!

LW: What do you each enjoy doing outside of building instruments? 

M&M: The work doesn’t really ever stop but, Matthias loves playing guitars, and cooking, and soccer with his son Surena. I divide my spare time between family, Systema (Russian Martial Arts), music, and art.

LW: If you had not become guitar makers, where do you think life would have led you?

Matthias: Possibly Cheffing, but he’s always been pretty single minded. He went straight out of high school into an apprenticeship at Maingard Guitars and never looked back. That’s an interesting question for me though…I could have seen myself as a musician, artist, industrial and jewellery designer, pilot, actor, film maker, screenwriter, martial arts instructor or journalist. Pretty wide spectrum, really.

LW: What music are you listening to right now?

M&M: For both of us, I guess all the artists listed already. Currently in my most listened list are Roger Waters, Amused to Death, Sona Jobarteh, The Police, Derek Gripper, Nils Petter Molvaer, Arvo Pärt and Massive Attack, and we are both constantly whistling Michael Watt’s tunes.

LW: Okay, heaven forbid the shop is burning down. You can grab only one tool as you get out of there. What is the tool? 

M&M: The first thing that comes to mind is our precious wood stash! And our all our templates!..and Japanese chisels…and our Lee Nielsen Planes…Are you sure we can only grab one?

Oh boy oh boy, just in time for the holidays–our latest build from Sweden’s Ted Åstrand is coming soon to a Dream near you! This will be our first Å-SJ, with an impressive lower bout for added power. African Blackwood back and sides paired with a Moonspruce top and Ebony bindings (plus a cutaway for all you fretboard travelers and capo aficionados).

We are more than excited, and you should be too. Stay tuned!

The team at Preston Thompson Guitars is a well-honed machine, creating some of the finest traditionally-inspired instruments on the market today. They have recently embarked on an exclusive series to showcase their finest efforts, ideas, and materials–appropriately named the Masterpiece Series–and we are proud to have found a home for the first, a 45-style OM bedecked with a unique take on inlays with extensive MOP and Abalone vines and ferns (https://www.dreamguitars.com/shop/preston-thompson-masterpiece-series-custom-45-style-shipwreck-brazilian-rosewood-adirondack-spruce-1.html). Now they’re hard at work on Masterpiece Series #2, this time a Koi fish inlay treatment on a 00-14QMA body that rivals some of the finest inlay artists in the field. You’ll find premium Quilted Western Maple for the back and sides, Adirondack Spruce on top, and a short scale neck with a 14 fret body join.

Here’s a link to Christine’s blog on the Thompson website for more information about Simon Haycraft’s inlay process: http://pktguitars.com/acoustic-guitars/masterpiece-series-2-in-the-works/.

12/17/19 Update: Coming right along. Folks are mapping out the koi across the back, and it’s into the booth for some seriously popping color.

Longtime luthier Dan Bresnan is back at the bench, and this time he’s paired up with his youngest son Sean to bring some incredible guitars to market. We’re more than excited to be partnering up for this particular build, a Grand Concert with drop-dead gorgeous, 5A Brazilian Rosewood (Dan’s got more sets of this incredible stuff, too). Stay tuned for more details and photos as Dan and Sean bring this beauty to life!

Bevan Frost of Big Hollow Guitars is killing it! He recently delivered a commission for our showroom, and is already fast at work on a commission for one of our clients as well.

Big Hollow 00
Top: Moonspruce, master grade
Back & Sides: Cocobolo
Scale Length: 25.4”
Nut Width: 1-3/4”
String Spacing at bridge: 2-5/16”
Fretwire: Gold EVO
Pickguard: Tigerstripe Celluloid
Finish: Natural
Bridge: Pyramid
Trim: Bloodwood and bold herringbone
Headstock: Slotted with Bird’s Beak
Headstock Inlay: Big Hollow Girl
Headstock Veneer: Cocobolo
Fretboard and bridge: Cocobolo
Pins: Cocobolo
Neck Profile: Medium C, on the slender side
Inlay dots: side and front, 3,5,7,9 12 ( front only)
Case: Ameritage silver series custom fitted
Tuners: Waverly

Bevan: “Here are a couple of shots from the end of the day today. I prepared and glued in the Moonspruce bracing for the back. I also installed the rosette.”

Bevan: “I set the stiffness of the top using the stiffness gauge. This top is stiff, I had to take it down to get the right flex. I cut all my braces out of Moonspruce stock, then glued them on the top. The next day I roughed in the brace carving. Later I will do a final session using the same stiffness gauge to set the stiffness on the top braces. I log the stiffness of each guitar top and use the data to create a benchmark.”

Bevan: “I bend the sides by hand on the iron in the background, but only pretty close to the shape. Then I load the sides in to my bending form, heat them up to 300 degrees, and then let them cool on the form and set to shape. I glue in the braces a bit oversize and then remove material using hand planes until the plate acts like it should. First snow here has lasted about four days. I don’t think the stuff in the shade will melt.”

11/12/19 Updates!

“I use the thermostat controlled bending iron to get the sides bent 90% of the way”
“And then I bake them on a form. The metal helps to make the wood bend cylindrically, without waviness.”
“Then the sides get placed in this form, and marked and trimmed for length.”
“And they’re in!”
“Sides mated to back.”
“Winter fun day.”
“Headstock overlay. I made this from the same board as the fretboard, so the grain lines are continuous across the nut.”
“Binding channels complete.”
“Nice crisp definition.”
“Cutting the end graft mortise. I use a similar jig for the neck mortise.”
“Binding taped in place to mark for length.”
“First look at the instrument yields satisfaction. Just add binding.”
“The binding and purfling are bent by hand to the curves. Often the binding channel needs adjustment after routing, which I do with scrapers and cutters. It can be a bit of a runaround to get the mitered purling lines just right.”
“But when they are right, they’re right!”
“the end graft must be precisely trimmed to length and the adjacent purfling lines get mitered with the outer corner of a chisel.”
“After the joints all fit the binding and purfling is glued on in 4″-6″ sections. The back binding must be marked and trimmed to length in place, an operation with no room for error on the short side.”
“A slight scraping yields a fresh face and confirms the binding is installed correctly, as it allows one to see any unclosed gaps.”
“4 for 4 on these miters! It didn’t even feel fussy, just flowed right out.”
“Centered and well fit.”
“Closing a couple gaps on the back binding.”

1/14/20 Update:

2/11/20 Update:

3/10/20 Update!

The latest build from Tyler Robbins is underway! You won’t want to miss this one; every single one of Tyler’s guitars we’ve seen has floored us, and this one has some top-notch tonewoods to carry that even further, to say nothing of his expressive aesthetic.

Back: Brazilian Rosewood
Top: German Spruce
Rosette: Spruce with teal-orange resin, segmented
Arm Bevel: Brazilian Rosewood
Rib Bevel: Brazilian Rosewood
Binding: Black Rocklite
Fretboard: Brazilian Rosewood
Bridge: Brazilian Rosewood
Nut: 1.75″
Saddle Spacing: 2.187″
Scale: 25.5″, 12 fret body join
Neck: One piece Honduran Mahogany, reinforced with carbon rods
Fret Material: Evo gold Fret wire
Tuners: Gold & Black Gotoh 510 mini

German luthier Max Spohn is hard at work on two commissions for our very own Dream Guitars showroom–and for you if you like what you see. Stay tuned as the builds progress. One is Max’s OM model, decked out in Cocobolo and master grade Swiss Moonspruce, and the other is his newly designed, wide-waisted 00 in Madagascar Rosewood and master grade Italian Spruce. See below for full specs on each.

Model: OM
Back and sides: Cocobolo
Top: Master grade Swiss Moonspruce
Neck: Honduran Mahogany
Fretboard: 14th-fret Ebony fingerboard
Bridge: Rocklite pinless
Binding: Rocklite with black/white purfling Saddle, 2 1/4” compensated Bone
Nut: 1 3/4”
Truss-rod: Stainless steel, double action
Headstock Veneer: Spruce with matching inlays
Back of Headstock Veneer: Cocobolo
Tuning Machines: Scheller with Horn buttons
Fingerboard Radius: 20′′
Scale Length: 25”
Cutaway: Florentine
Rosette: Custom Inlay with Horn and Silver Leaf

Here’s Max: “What’s special on this guitar is the material used for the rosette. The horn pieces are from an African cow and coated with silver leaf on the bottom side to bring out its translucency. This is my take on an old technique originally used for tortoise inlays on furniture where the tortoise was underlaid with gold leaf or a shiny red paper to bring out its colors and texture.”

Model: 00 Wide Waist
Back and sides: Madagascar Rosewood
Soundboard: Master grade Italian Spruce
Neck: Honduran Mahogany
Fretboard: 14th-fret Ebony
Bridge: Rocklite pinless
Binding: Rocklite with black/white purfling
Saddle, 2 1/4” compensated Bone
Nut: 1 3/4”
Truss-rod: Stainless steel, double action
Headstock Veneer: Madagascar Rosewood
Back of Headstock veneer: Madagascar Rosewood
Tuning Machines: Scheller with Ebony buttons
Fingerboard Radius: 20′′
Scale Length: 25”
Rosette: Custom Inlay with fossilized Mammoth Bone
End Graft: Fossilized Mammoth Bone

Here’s Max: “This is my new 00 model with a wider waist to enhance the bass response. I love small-bodied guitars because of their comfortable size and intimate sound. Though I wanted a small guitar with the bass response of a much bigger guitar. The material used for the rosette and end graft on this guitar are Fossilized Mammoth Bone I recently came across. I love playing with texture, opacity, and translucency in my inlay work, and this material really shows it. With a brass leaf coat on the bottom side, you can see the interesting structure of the bone which almost looks like a sponge. And the rusty colors perfectly match the color of the Madagascar Rosewood back and sides.”

1/22/20 Update:

The next Dream Series from the team at Preston Thompson Guitars is coming soon! This time we’re looking at a striking set of Madagascar Rosewood and Lutz Spruce, sharp Florentine Cutaway, and long scale setup. Stay tuned for more!

Big news: we’ve commissioned tonewood maestro Don Musser to build an OM with some of his finest The Tree Mahogany–and you know if it’s Don’s best stuff, it’s pretty much the best stuff around. Don’s pairing The Tree with Engelmann Spruce on top which he harvested from his harvesting days in Colorado. For the fretboard, bridge, and headstock veneer, Don’s putting some exotic Brazilian Dalbergia he “ran across when working with a wood importer back in the 1980s. It might be a hybrid between D. Nigra and Kingwood. The inlays he sourced from his supply of pearl from the days when he shared a workshop with Chuck Erikson, “The Duke of Pearl.” More to come!

Eric Weigeshoff of Skytop Guitars is hard at work for our next custom build for the Dream Guitars roster. Striking “Pale Moon” Ebony & Bearclaw Sitka, a comin’ soon to a Dream near you!

11/26/19 Update:

12/31/19 Update:

2/11/20 Update: back from the finisher! Shining like a fresh diamond.

The Dream Guitars roster opens its arms wide for Max Spohn of Heidenheim, Germany. Paul met with Max at the Vancouver International Guitar Festival and was struck by Max’s aesthetic and tone. That baby blue guitar came home to us shortly thereafter! We recently caught up with Max to chat a bit about life & lutherie to better understand the man behind Spohn Guitars to welcome him to the Dream Team. Enjoy!

Be sure to check out the listing for our first OM here: https://www.dreamguitars.com/shop/2019-spohn-om-pau-ferro-swiss-moonspruce-17.html

LW: Welcome! We’re excited to have your guitars in the shop. Can you fll us in on your path to lutherie? What first drew you to building guitars?

MS: I started playing guitar when I was six years old, and I have always been fascinated by the sounds this instrument produced. When I graduated from high school, I wanted to become an industrial designer, but when I prepared my application for university, I noticed that I was not satisfied with only designing things that other people would go on to build. I wanted to create something on my own instead. With the background of always having guitars around me, it was an obvious choice to build a guitar, and after the first week of my internship with German luthier Thomas Ochs I knew I wanted to become a luthier myself. Nothing has ever felt as natural for me as being a luthier!

LW: When Paul met with you at the Vancouver show, he was impressed by your aesthetics. Walk us through what you’re doing with inlay materials, color choices, the use of Spruce at the headstock.

MS: The design of a guitar means more to me than only representing my brand. It has to inspire the musician to explore worlds they haven’t witnessed before! To achieve this, I incorporate graphical elements into my guitars. Starting with the rosette, which is more of an inlay next to the soundhole of my guitars. Inlays can be found on various different spots like the headstock, end graft or on the back of the neck. But my overall goal is to maintain a simple aesthetic that is self-explanatory while surprising with its details. Each of my designs is one-of-a-kind and will never get reproduced.

I find a lot of fun in trying new materials like different burls, either dyed or in their natural color, buffalo horn or a special piece of bone that you will see in one of the next guitars I’m building for Dream Guitars. The color and texture always have to compliment the back and side wood while adding something unique and interesting to it.

The first guitar of mine you have in the shop now differs a bit from my other work, since this guitar was designed with a specific theme in mind. I have always loved Scandinavian design of the 1950s and 60s, especially the work of Danish architect and industrial designer Arne Jacobsen. With this in mind I reconsidered every aspect of my guitars, kept some of my previous designs like the body and headstock shape and redesigned others, like the bridge and heel shape. This was also when I first came up with the idea of making a Spruce headstock to achieve a uniform appearance on the front of the guitar.

LW: What has been the most exciting guitar for you to build to date?

MS: It is always exciting to try new things, so my first baritone guitar was something very special for me. But it is always the guitar I have currently on my bench that is the most exciting one I have built to date. When you are only building unique instruments there are always exciting things in a build. It doesn’t matter if it is a special inlay, a new piece of wood or an ergonomic feature that has to match the overall look of the instrument. The diversity found in making bespoke guitars is one of the greatest pleasures in lutherie, and is what keeps it interesting all the time. I doubt it is possible to build a guitar that is not exciting!

LW: Let’s shift gears and talk about your your approach to voicing an instrument. How did you frst fnd your voice?

MS: Since I started focusing on modern steel string guitars, I had a specific sound in my head that I wanted my guitars to create. I want it to have the clarity and midrange of a good steel string guitar combined with the sweetness and bass response of a classical guitar. Having such a specific sound in mind when building a guitar can be challenging, and it took some time to achieve a satisfying result. During my time with Ray Kraut I learned a lot about voicing guitar tops and how to get consistent results which helped me a lot getting closer to what I am after. Chasing the tone in my head is what will keep lutherie always interesting to me!

The typical sound of a Spohn Guitar is very well balanced with a thick treble and a low bass. To achieve this on my small and medium body guitars I use a symmetrical falcate bracing that really brings out the sweetness in the trebles.

LW: If you had not become a guitar maker, where do you think life would have led you?

MS: As I have mentioned above, I wanted to become an industrial designer during most of my time in high school, so I probably would be one today. Otherwise I would have probably become a professional chef since cooking is something I truly enjoy besides building guitars. It has a lot to do with lutherie like the appreciation of the ingredients and the care in dealing with them. Maybe I would be building other things by hand, doesn’t matter if it would be furniture, pottery or goldwork, but I would definitely be self employed.

LW: How do you have your shop laid out?

MS: I am currently working in a very small space which can be very challenging to keep clean and organized. Fortunately, I have a lot of natural light in it which is not only important for the quality of my guitars but also for my motivation. To keep such a small shop clean I reorganize it every now and then and optimize it. It is a great space for starting a business, but it is time to move to a bigger space soon.

LW: What music are you listening to right now?

MS: I currently listen to contemporary flatpickers like Molly Tuttle and Billy Strings a lot, which is a style I came to appreciate during my time in Eugene. But I also listen to the Motown and Stax Soul singers lately, as well as to Don Latarski’s latest album, River, which is truly inspiring in the shop. When it comes to fingerstyle music I am a big fan of Will McNicol and Vin Downes. I love many different styles of music so what I am currently listening to is constantly changing.

LW: And finally, what’s next for Spohn Guitars? How do you predict you will continue to grow and develop as a luthier?

MS: Next up is a new guitar model I am currently working on to expand the Spohn Guitars range that will be available through Dream Guitars soon! Besides this, there are many interesting things coming up like moving to a bigger shop as well as moving to another city. So there are some exciting times coming up for me. I’m sure all of this will inspire me to push my work forward in many ways.

Incoming! Bevan Frost is hard at work churning out the first Big Hollow 00 built specifically for us. The first guitar that’s headed our way will be a 00 in Honduran Mahogany & Lutz Spruce, with a rib bevel and bird’s beak neck joint. Stay tuned for pics from Bevan along the way!

“OM on left, OO on right. 
The one on the right is headed your way.”
“Sealing the end grain of the logo with hide glue.”
Gluing in the truss rod cap. I use epoxy here to grab against the metal rod.
“This morning I refined the bridge shape on this pyramid/ belly combo bridge. Lots of file work, as well as sanding. You can see the variety of tools I used to get it to its final form. I use the pyramid/belly combo for longer scales and bigger guitars like my OM model.”
“It is in the filler/sealer stage. Like almost every other point in the process, if it’s not done right it can lead to much more work and sub-optimal results. Do it right though, and you set yourself up for a minimum number of coats and sanding. The best way is almost always the quickest, simply because you’re not messing around trying to make something look better.  Next up I level with 320 then it’s on to Varnish. “
“It is going to hang for a month to cure then I’ll sand, buff, and assemble.”

10/2/19 update: Nearly there! Bevan’s headed in for final fit, finish, and setup soon.

We’re excited to announce we’re teaming up with Bevan Frost of Big Hollow guitars as his exclusive dealer. Bevan’s got a few guitars in the works already for us, and we recently took a moment to chat him up about his approach to building, and what we can look forward to in the coming months. Keep your eyes peeled for those guitars coming down the pipe, and enjoy our conversation in the meantime!

The first guitar that’s headed our way will be a 00 in Honduran Mahogany & Lutz Spruce, with a rib bevel and bird’s beak neck joint.

Here’s a link to all our Big Hollow guitars, past and present: https://www.dreamguitars.com/shop/builders/big-hollow.html

LW: Let’s get started with some backstory. What first drew you to guitarbuilding?

BF: I played the trumpet in grade school and enjoyed it. I got to high school and I was excited about jazz band, but they said I had to play in the marching band if I wanted to play in the jazz band. That’s when I switched to the electric guitar. I took a more organic approach to playing it, as I’d always been frustrated by my inability to produce my own music on the trumpet. Obviously the cultural status of the instrument had a big appeal. In high school my aesthetic sense developed under a unique art teacher. A potter, he drilled into everyone an appreciation for craft, and a dedication to practice. I started to see the acoustic guitar as the more appealing form of the instrument, and then I wanted to make one. The local library had a book on guitarmaking, so I checked it out. I built a guitar from that book, and although it was an intermittent affliction, the idea of lutherie was in place by the time I graduated in 1998.

“This morning I refined the bridge shape on this pyramid/ belly combo bridge. 
Lots of file work, as well as sanding. 
You can see the variety of tools I used to get it to its final form. 
I use the pyramid/belly combo for longer scales and bigger guitars like my OM model.”

I attended a computer drafting program and got a job doing drafting at a civil engineering firm. It didn’t last, and neither did my health. Soon I was miserable from abdominal pain as the colitis I’d had since I was five flared up. Guitarmaking became the one thing that I lived for, something I could do on my own schedule as well as balm for the soul. I ended up living with my Dad for eight years while I battled that illness and laid the foundation for a career in lutherie. I love the guitar because it is an opportunity to present a harmonically designed whole, a work of art. At the same time it is a thousand little structural engineering problems, as well as a tool to use for expression. It must satisfy all these demands, and in doing so I get to be Designer, Engineer, Woodworker, and Musician. In what other field do you get to play in that many roles? That plus the promise of never-ending horizons of learning had me hooked by the time I was 25.

LW: These days, builders have to distinguish themselves from an already busy field. In what ways do you feel your guitars stand apart?

BF: My guitars are unique because I draw inspiration from vintage instruments, but reinterpret the forms. Many people are building direct copies of famous vintage instruments, or modern looking re-interpretations. I have put together a unique look, feel, and voice that instantly feels old. It’s like finding a parallel groove to your favorite vintage guitars, it feels familiar, yet has its own flavor. 

LW: Is there a particular player that you’d love to build a guitar for? Or have you already had the honor?

BF: Cory Seznec. I met Cory when he needed a banjo repair before a gig. We were fast friends, as he instantly picked up what I was laying down. He is a talented fingerstylist in the American Country Blues tradition, but he also lived and studied guitar in Ethiopia. He now lives in France, and plays with his band all over Europe. His rhythm is multi-layered and his compositions give me the tingles. I visited him last year in Paris while delivering a guitar to a client.  We are yearning to connect over a guitar but haven’t yet. http://www.guitarvideos.com/Products/Instructors/cory-seznec

LW: I’d like to talk about your your approach to voicing an instrument. How did you first find your voice?

“Gluing in the truss rod cap. I use epoxy here to grab against the metal rod. “

BF: My voice came from playing a restored 1890s Henry Mason parlor guitar. I was visiting with the great Bob Westbrook, who had brought it back from the brink. I saw it in process, as well as when it was done. I fell for the 12-fret slotted headstock, lightly built guitar; I immediately made a drawing of it so I could build one. Bob instructed me in hide glue and in how thin you can go on parts like the top, x braces, and bridge plate. I focused like a laser beam and just built single O and double O guitars. Lately I have been measuring the stiffness of the tops and thinning them to a uniform stiffness. I also measure the stiffness of the braced tops and carve the braces until they meet a benchmark. I would say the Big Hollow voice is open, rich, and balanced. My guitars give good tone from the bottom to the top of their range, with little change in volume or character. Responsive from pianissimo to fortissimo, a Big Hollow Guitar is a powerful amplifier, and opens possibilities and colors of expression that are a joy to experience.  The fact that they sound like great vintage guitars is because they are made according to the same principles.

LW: Other than building instruments, what do you enjoy doing?

BF: I am kind of fanatical about skiing, which is convenient because I live in a place that has snow from October until June. I downhill ski, uphill ski, and cross country ski. I play guitar with another father in my neighborhood who plays the pedal steel. If we were 25 years old, we would be really good, but now we can only get together intermittently. It is still the best though. The largest activity in my life lately has to be parenting. I have raised a six year old boy and a two year old boy. I have generally been parenting three days a week for the last six years. It has been a time of growth for me and my family, and it is awesome. Lutherie and parenting go real well together because I can adjust my schedule as needed, and during naps I can make progress.

LW: If you had not become a guitar maker, where do you think life would have led you?

“Sealing the end grain of the logo with hide glue.”

BF: If I hadn’t been ill I would have become a climbing bum, working construction jobs just long enough to buy food and gas to get to the next objective. I could also see myself as a musician. 

LW: Any interesting facts about your shop arrangement that you’d like to share?

BF: My shop is in a two car garage with a room above. I have the power tools walled off in one garage bay, and the upstairs is divided into a small finishing room, a entryway/practice space, and a workroom. I have a huge 5×5′ north window so I get that diffuse light the renaissance masters liked to paint by. I built the garage in 2012, framing up the walls a mere eight months after my 2011 liver transplant. 

LW: What music are you listening to right now?

BF: I like the Turnpike Troubadours

LW: What can we expect from Big Hollow Guitars in the upcoming years? In what ways do you continue to experiment and push the envelope?

BF: I really want to do a 12 string; I’d also like to bring out a modified V neck shape. I visited the Paris musical instrument museum and saw some crazy Baroque guitars. It would be fun to dip into that aesthetic. 

“OM on left, OO on right. 
The one on the right is headed your way. “

There you have it. We’ve had a blast with the first few Big Hollows to come through our shop, and we’re excited for what the future holds as Bevan’s exclusive dealer moving forward. Keep your eyes peeled for the first guitars to come down the line!

We’re proud to announce we’ve signed Kevin Kopp up with our dream team, and we’ve already got a new build in the works. Stay tuned for that one coming up on the site. In the meantime, here’s a chat about life & lutherie we snagged with Kevin where we discuss his building style and what it’s like to live in Montana as a guitarmaker.

Here’s a link to all our past and present Kopp guitars: https://www.dreamguitars.com/shop/builders/kopp.html. More coming soon!

LW: Let’s get down to it. What’s on your bench right now?

KK: Montana is not known for its tropical weather, so I try and build two runs a year to be shipped when the weather is not so inclement. I just shipped the spring batch out. So I’m nailing down the next orders, and staring down a list of Honey-Do’s at home.

LW: You have an aesthetic that appears to be informed by a vintage style. Can you speak to what it’s like to work within that framework? In what ways do you feel your work stands apart?

KK: Most acoustic folks are pretty conservative with their aesthetics, and that’s fine. We have a wonderful history to draw from. I feel I’ve been granted plenty of leeway to tinker with things under the hood. I don’t really feel constrained at all.

LW: You’ve built guitars for several incredible musicians, among them one of my personal all-time favorites, Darrell Scott. What’s it like working with a performer of that notoriety?

KK: Yeah, and Leo has always been one of my all time favorites too. I was definitely gob smacked at first, but if you are lucky enough to get to spend a little time with them, you realize that we are all just human beings. Talents, quirks, and all. It was kind of refreshing actually.

LW: Let’s shift gears a bit. Please describe your approach to voicing an instrument. How did you first find your voice, and how do you continue to experiment?

KK:I think I’m still expanding and refining my voice with every batch I build, that’s what makes it so fun. I don’t know if you ever really get to a place where you can say, “Yup, that’s as good as it gets!” Every new run throws challenges and opportunities at you. I think just trying to stay in tune (sorry) with your materials and the process and letting things become as intuitive as possible is what works for me. I do take notes, but I’m not a “test it, scientific” kind of guitar builder.

LW: Any interesting facts about your shop arrangement that you’d like to share?

KK: The interesting thing about shop space? Stuff always expands to occupy every available square foot!

LW: Other than building instruments, what do you enjoy doing?

KK: My wife and I really enjoy being out in nature up at the cabin. No cell phones, electricity, nothing! It’s wonderful! Love to forage for wild mushrooms and huckleberries, I like to cook. OK, I like to eat, so I got conscripted. Spending time with my dog hiking. Pretty simple basic stuff really. I enjoy the luxury of just being able to slow things down a little bit. Good for the soul!

LW: So, if you had not become a guitar maker, where do you think life would have led you?

KK: Well every morning I get up and thank my lucky stars for how I’m able to earn my keep! Besides, I was a terrible waiter. Don’t even want to think about being the 4th generation coal miner. No offense to miners.

LW: What music are you listening to right now?

KK: Actually I’ve been endowed with a pretty broad musical pallet. Really the only two things I don’t listen to are Rap and Opera. There is just so much good music out there available to us these days. It’s hard to even scratch the surface. I just found Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul’s Orchestra album. “Pray for Rain,” That’s been on quite a bit the last couple of weeks. Old Blues, Gospel, Reggae, Hawaiian, Jazz (just got turned on to the 60-70s Ethiopian Jazz scene, who knew?)

LW: We loved the Nick Lucas model you sent us recently. Can you give us a sneak preview of what we can expect next?

KK: If you loved it, then hopefully more of the same! As a small builder I believe consistency is one of the most important traits I can foster in my work. Actually you should be getting a delivery in the mail in the next day or so.

We are super excited to now be working with Larry Brown, a.k.a Lawrence K. Brown. Larry has been building for decades and has likely built more instruments than most luthiers today. Larry was the head of the Lute Society of America, has crafted violas and cellos for orchestras, and built many guitars along the way.

Mr. Brown is one of the best kept secrets of the Carolinas and we are now proud to announce our partnership with him, offering six incredible guitars from L-00 copies and Dreadnoughts to SJs and Classicals. Larry builds amazing vintage inspired instruments such as the Martins and Gibsons of old but with a great modern twist of an adjustable neck design. The adjustment of one screw on the guitar can change the angle of the neck very easily and will never require a neck reset. This is a great feature for touring musicians dealing with the elements. With a few adjustments in minutes, perfect action can be achieved.

This is what Dream Guitars is all about. We get the amazing luxury of bringing a gem of a builder like Larry to a new audience of players and collectors across the world.

Watch the brief interview above with Larry and Paul discussing building, Larry’s prolific history, playing, the Asheville area, and more.

Also click here to see what’s currently in the shop from Larry. We hope to have more guitars from Larry in the near future but if you’re interested, act fast. They’re not hangin’ around here long!

We’re proud to announce that Dream Guitars has teamed up with Raymond Kraut as his sole representative for North America. To celebrate the occasion, we sat down with Ray for a chat about life & lutherie, how his career has evolved over time, and what we can look forward to in working so closely together. We’ve also got two brand new Krauts, an OM and a Mod D, that are, as of this writing, available for purchase, which you can find here: https://www.dreamguitars.com/shop/builders/kraut.html.

LW: I’d like to start with a bit of a then-and-now question. You’ve been on the lutherie circuit for some time. In what ways do you feel you’ve progressed since embarking on this career? In your eyes, how has Kraut Guitars evolved over time?

RK: I’m always changing and evolving, be it in design or engineering. I’ve always loved the tone of what has now commonly been described as “Somogyi-esque,” and have always been pleased with my ability to achieve it. However, I’ve always strived to find ways to make a guitar of this style lighter. Through the years I have done just that by way of using removable neck systems so as to build lighter headblocks, and now I use high-quality Port Orford Cedar interior laminates because of its lightweight and stable nature, rather than heavier alternatives like Rosewood. I can’t say it’s one thing that has allowed me to achieve this, rather, many smaller things which overall make for a significant difference in weight and comfort. Stylistically, I will always be evolving. I can’t seem to sit still on certain design elements, which always keeps me moving into other directions, be it with material choices, color or different ways of playing with line values. It’s really quite exciting for me and also makes me particularly skilled at inlaying in this manner. Every rosette or inlay, I seem to learn something new. I consider my work, in almost every aspect, to be constantly evolving from one guitar to the next.

LW: What lessons did you take away from your apprenticeship with Ervin Somogyi?

RK: Geez. Hard to list them all. I remember leaving Roberto Venn thinking that I knew all I needed to know about building guitars. I thought I would apply for Ervin’s apprenticeship despite this, just to see what it was like working in a professional shop and because one of my previous teachers strongly recommended it. The wealth of knowledge that Ervin has then far exceeded anything I could have ever imagined. I walked away with the equivalent of a Harvard education. It wasn’t just learning about the ins and outs of guitars, but life as well. Ervin changed everything for me, from understanding what a good guitar can be to open my eyes to the world of art and how important it can be in life. I had worked for Ervin for about a month before I ever had a chance to play one of his instruments. I remember fondly of how I almost dropped one of his guitars the first time I hit a chord on it as it in every way shocked me. Up until that point I coveted the guitars I grew up with thinking they were my holy grail guitars. Nope. Not anymore. So I walked away with an education on a whole new way of thinking about the construction of a guitar. One that allows the instrument to move and sound optimally to any style of playing. I also walked away with a much greater understanding of line value that continues to inspire me today.

LW: Besides Ervin, which other luthiers do you feel influenced by?

RK: It seems today that there are many luthiers trying new things to establish their own unique styles, something that sets them apart from the growing number of people entering the field. When I first started making rosettes that weren’t your typical ring, my teacher, John Reuter, introduced me to the work of Michihiro Matsuda. I’ll never forget Googling him when I got home from school and seeing his gorgeous masterpieces. I said to myself, this guy is expressing himself the way I envision a guitar to be. Not only a guitar but a visual piece that inspires. I have always been a great admirer of his work! I believe that being inspired by the instrument you play helps to open new doors as a musician.

LW: In your opinion what separates you from the pack of strong, young luthiers these days?

RK: It’s been interesting to see this field evolve over the years. I remember being the youngest luthier for a long time up until recently when its seems hordes of younger luthiers have found the joys of this craft. Many younger luthiers are clearly inspired by the works of both Michi and myself. A large difference I see is that many of them take designs from others that aren’t uniquely their own. I always want to encourage others to be inspired but to find their own voice in design. It’s tough to do. Every student I have had come to me wanting to do interesting inlay designs all started off making what were practically identical designs to mine. As flattering as that is, I would have them draw as many different styles over and over again until they think of something unique. It can be frustrating but in the end every one of them has crafted a design that is truly their own and honestly, really amazing! Aside from the obvious visual differences of my instruments, very few have had the opportunity to study with Ervin. I have never taken for granted the fact that I had the distinct honor of studying with Ervin, and it’s that knowledge I obtained from him that puts me in a different tonal spectrum than many other luthiers today. Experience in this craft isn’t something you can teach: it’s something you earn over time. When I see the new builders at shows, it makes me a bit nostalgic. It’s like looking back in time. More than anything, it’s my experience and maturity in my craft that set me apart.

LW: You’ve managed to move through several shop spaces while maintaining your workload. Why the moves, and how did you balance that with completing orders?

RK: Ugh. Yes, I have had many shops. More than any luthier I have known. I guess it was just life and a world of unforeseen circumstances. The first shop I opened up in Springfield, OR I leased from the city. It was a very old building that sat above a mill race (a small river used for the logging industry). Only a year after setting up shop there, the city passed a new bill that would require tearing down that building for the sake of salmon habitat. That was quite a blow to me, having just settled in. They were good to me though, and offered me a larger space close by. Three years I spent in that shop before deciding to move my shop into my house. Subsequently, after one year of being there I bought another house and I had to move once again. After a couple years there, I needed more space and found myself renting a large space outside of Eugene for some time, only to fall victim to the marijuana scene. By that I mean it was legalized in Oregon, and all of a sudden there was a strong demand for space. Owners of these buildings were selling out left and right to the pot business, and many small business were getting the boot so the newfound owners could have more room for growth. I finally decided to make a big change, one that would allow me enough space and security that I wouldn’t need to move ever again. My wife Allyson and I purchased acreage just north of Tucson, AZ where we have began construction of our dream shop and house. As tired as I am of moving, it has been a great benefit for me. It’s made me greatly aware of space and its value. I feel I could be an architect for all the considerations I have learned over all my moves. Who knows, maybe I’ll write a book someday on setting up the luthier’s workshop!

LW: Now that you’ve settled into a groove, what projects of late are you the most excited about? What aspects of your most recent orders have you found most inspirational?

RK: Honestly, all my work is inspirational to me. In a way, I designed it that way. Every design on my guitars is unique, so every guitar has something new that keeps me excited, one after the next. That being said, I have recently made a decision to start building a couple of guitars that go beyond my usual style. I have some unique designs coming up that defy what we think of as a normal guitar, and of course I’m excited by those!

LW: I’d like to change gears here a bit to discuss our new arrangement. First, we’re grateful and honored to be your sole dealer in America, and we’re excited to see where we can take Kraut Guitars. So. What led you to shift your business model toward a sole dealership?

RK: As previously mentioned, I have a lot of experience in this field. Not all of which has been good. I was never trained to run a business. I was trained on how to build some of the best guitars in the world. Building guitars is where my passion is, and over the years I have found myself having to put up certain boundaries to maintain that feeling. This was an interesting learning experience for me, as I find myself very much in love with building guitars and therefore it’s personal to me. With all the recent changes in my life, I now, more than ever, believe in finding a good balance to life in every outlook. The most important thing to me in my working life is maintaining my passion for the craft, so I decided to focus all of my time on building and new ideas. In order for me to have this time, it was best to reach out to someone I trusted to represent my guitars for me.

LW: In working exclusively with Dream Guitars for the North American market, how do you predict your process and workflow will evolve?

RK: I believe this gives me more time to evolve as a luthier. I’ve spent so much of my time handling non-guitar building things that now I will have more mental space to do what I do best. I have so many ideas that I would love to bring to the playing world, and more than anything that is what I aspire to. It’s important for me to not only imagine but to create.

LW: Any other thoughts you’d like to share?

RK: After my apprenticeship with Ervin, I really became aware of how important it is to pass along the knowledge we’ve spent a career procuring. After reaching ten years in the business, I decided to open my doors to anyone interested in apprenticing with me. I felt a need to start passing on my knowledge, and this has allowed me to find yet another joy in my world through teaching. I have had the pleasure of teaching quite a few students, all of which seemed to absorb what I taught them and have really made strides in developing their own unique craft. I hope to do this more over the years so long as I can convince others to come live in the beautiful Sonoran desert!

We’re excited to announce our latest partnership with Dion James of Alberta, Canada, with an incredible No. 4 model in Birdseye Maple & Italian Spruce. Dion’s guitars let the quality of the materials, and the skill of the craftsperson, speak for themselves. These instruments have modern curves, and are intimately familiar to the ears as well as much as the hands. Dion was kind enough to chat with us a bit about life and lutherie; read on for a better understanding of the man behind the guitar, and check out our No. 4 here: https://www.dreamguitars.com/shop/2019-dion-04-european-birdseye-maple-italian-spruce-29.html.

LW: Who are some of your favorite guitar players? Have you built instruments for any of them?

DJ: Hmm, that’s a tough one. There are so many good players out there. I’m a big fan of Nick Drake, he had such an interesting approach to the acoustic guitar. I think Johny Greenwood of Radiohead is a genius, such a subtle touch with no ego attached to his playing. Will McNicol is a great player and composer. I’m a big fan of Tom Brosseau, and was lucky enough to have him tour with one of my guitars, in fact it’s the second of the two guitars available through Dream Guitars. Tom and I are in conversation about building him a signature model in the future, fingers crossed we’re able to make it work.

LW: Let’s talk wood. What are your favorite tonewoods to work with, what makes them suited for your particular style?

DJ: My favorite tonewood changes all the time. At present I’m smitten with Maple. I build using a Nomex-centered, “hollow core” back, which creates a very loud guitar with tons of sustain. As such, I prefer lightweight woods as they add to the quickness of response. Of course, different players have different needs and I employ the proper tonewood for each client.

LW: Please describe your goals in voicing an instrument. How did you first find your voice, and how do you continue to experiment?

DJ: I use a symmetrical bracing pattern and employ many small braces, with the goal of even distribution of stiffness. I use deflection testing, frequency testing, and good old feel to bring my guitars into their final shape. I’ve been pushing towards my voice for over a decade now, and it was about four years ago that I really found my sound. I would describe my voice as sweet, voluminous, even, and articulate. At this point the bones of my instruments are pretty set, though I’m always tweaking the details. As of late I’ve really been pushing away at the perimeter of the soundboard, decoupling braces from the rim, allowing the soundboard a greater range of motion. I can get away with this loosening of the soundboard structure because of my very rigid rim and upper bout. These structural elements free the soundboard from some of its load-bearing duty, allowing it to be optimized to the movement of air and thus the production of sound. 

LW: Where do you think your building style will take you in the next five years?

DJ: The guitar is made of so many little decisions, each time I reach my goals a new level of detail appears. I’d say that the next five years will take me deeper into the minutiae, with a focus on continuous refinement. My instruments, by design, are free of heavy ornamentation. I’ve always focused on structure, lines, and continuity. I suspect the next five years will be all about refinement, of both sound and design, and working on things I can’t yet see. 

LW: Any interesting facts about your technique or shop arrangement that you’d like to share? Photos always welcome.

DJ: Certainly. I would describe my technique as a blended model, never purist. I believe in accessing the history of vintage instruments, taking the positive and modifying where we’ve acknowledged structural flaws. I use hand tools, because I love the process and because they are often the best tool for the job, but I’m not afraid to employ the accuracy of a machine. A good machine can save time and energy, freeing me up to focus on the elements that are most important. 

In terms of shop arrangements, I share a shop with other builders, and always have. The cross pollination, even between the experienced and inexperienced builder is so valuable to my process. I’ve got something to learn from everyone. 

LW: What do you enjoy doing outside of building instruments?

DJ: I’m a person of many interests. I’ve had to pare things back because I’m also the kind of person who want to pursue things to the tiniest detail, and that requires more time than the days and weeks offer. Gardening is a great passion of mine. My partner and I grow and preserve a lot of our own food. I’m a year-round cyclist, and I love riding my skateboard. My partner is pregnant and I anticipate great joy in spending time with our child! 

LW: If you had not become a guitar maker, where do you think life would have led you?

DJ: I’m certain I’d still be self-employed. Having grown up on a family farm, the concept of having a boss is fairly foreign to me. I’d likely be an urban farmer. I’m endlessly fascinated by the untapped potential of the urban landscape to produce food and the healthy relationships that come from the attachment to one’s sustenance. 

LW: What music are you listening to right now?

DJ: It’s all over the place, but I’ve really been into 80’s and 90’s female-fronted R&B lately. Sade, Janet Jackson, etc. So good! 

LW: If you could choose only one tool to work on guitars, what tool would that be?

DJ: It’s really hard to beat the feel of a well-honed plane, probably my Lie Nielsen jointer plane. 

Small Accessory Box

A while back I wrote a blog article titled “The Case Against Cases.” The point I was making there was that you should keep your guitars accessible and easy to get at so that you play more, so nothing prevents you from practicing or performing your music as much as possible.

Two years ago I bought a Civil War-era log cabin high in the mountains of Western North Carolina where we heat primarily with a wood stove. In the winter months, the cabin is routinely 10 to 20% humidity, which is far below the recommended 40 to 50% for guitars. The first season I kept them in their cases and used Planet Waves Humidipaks. It was a good solution to keep my guitars safe, but it was counterproductive to my practice and playing. For some reason just that extra two minutes of opening and closing the case prevented me from using all of my fine guitars as much as they deserved. Instead I only used one or two, and ignored several others that I adore. Not an ideal situation.

Enter our friends at American Music Furniture. From their shop in Pennsylvania, Darryl Jennings, John Farrell, and their team of fine craftsmen build top quality display cases that are humidity controlled, protective, and beautiful. I had them build mine with top grade Walnut to match the logs in my cabin, and it has room for six acoustic guitars. With full glass on the front and sides and an adjustable lighting system, my guitars always look their best. It’s one of the nicest pieces of furniture in my home now and a real showpiece even without the guitars inside.

The humidification system works beautifully. They install very strong seals on the door and throughout the unit so water lasts a long time. I have only had to fill it once every few weeks, which is a wonderful change from the daily routine of watering whole-room humidifiers. There is a built-in hygrometer with low-water indicator, and a fan to disperse the humidity when needed. You simply set the desired humidity and leave it alone.

I am beyond delighted with the quality, the materials, and the craftsmanship, but the best part is now I play all of  my instruments whenever I want. Open one door and I have access to an array of the finest instruments I’ve ever owned. Thank you AMF, I am more than delighted with my case. I can’t recommend you more highly.

Follow this link to AMF’s website so you can get one of these for yourself!


Reno, Nevada-based luthier Ben Wilborn has just embarked on an epic build–coming soon to a Dream near you. This time we’re looking at Ben’s Modified Dreadnought, his WarHorse model, with Brazilian Rosewood carbon dated to the late 19th century and Tunnel 14 Redwood on top. Add to that a cutaway, arm bevel, Curly Koa bindings, 25.4-24.9″ multiscale fretboard, and Visesnut flight case to the mix; if there are any stops left to pull for this build, it’s only a matter of time until Ben finds them. As he does, and the WarHorse approaches, we’ll keep you posted here!

3/27/19 Update from Ben: “the laminated sides are done, and built up into the finished ribs, complete with basswood arm bevel support and Kevin Ryan’s A-5 kerfing. The fingerboard is jet-black Gaboon Ebony, cut in a 25.4 to 24.9 multiscale. Moving right along.”

4/29/19 Update: Ben: “Woodworking is done. Into the booth we go!”

7/1/19: Nearly here! The WarHorse rises up, freshly glossy. It won’t be long before this beauty touches down at our doorstep.