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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

Now here’s a fine piece of lutherie on the bench. The inimitable Leo Buendia is hard at work on our latest client commission, this time an OM with striking Pale Moon Ebony and a hand-carved knot rosette in Alpine Swiss Moonspruce.

Base Model OM #066/2020
Soundboard, Master grade Swiss Alpine Moon Spruce
Back and sides, Highly figured Pale Moon Ebony
Rosette, custom hand-carved knot design
14-fret body joint
Bridge, hand-sculpted Ebony
Bridge pins, Ebony with pearl dots
Binding, Ebony with black/white purfling
End graft, triangular style that matches the binding
Back-strip, matching binding and purfling
Saddle, 2 1/4” width compensated bone
Nut, 1 3/4” width scalloped and compensated bone
Truss-rod, lightweight double-action (Wrench included)
Head-cap veneer, matching the back or choice of other wood
Back of Head-cap veneer, Ebony or choice of other wood
Neck, carbon-reinforced East Indian rosewood
Fingerboard, ebony with ebony binding
Fret wire, medium nickel/silver 18%
Fingerboard Radius, 20′′
Position markers, MOP dots
Case, Hoffee custom hardshell case
Tuning Machines, Rodgers engraved with custom buttons
Scale Length, 25” for OM
Finish, French polish

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

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 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. 

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.

Friends, here’s a guitar for the ages. One of our favorite builders of late, Leo Buendia, has come together with us on a custom project for one of our longtime clients that’ll stand apart from the already distinct group of custom Buendias we’ve commissioned over the past few years. This time, a one-piece back from The Tree Mahogany. Yes, you read that right. And it’s paired with a master grade Adirondack Spruce top, itself appointed with a chip carved rosette with Cedar insert and red Washi paper backing. To say this is a one-of-a-kind guitar feels like a gross understatement. Keep up with our build thread, and watch as Leo brings this beauty to life!

Model: OM
Fretboard: 14th-fret ebony fingerboard
Bridge: hand-carved Ebony
Bridge pins: Ebony with Pearl dots
Top braces: Sitka spruce
Binding: Ebony with black/white purfling
Saddle, 2 1/4” width, compensated Bone
Nut: 1 3/4” width, scalloped and compensated Bone
Truss-rod: lightweight, double action, including wrench
Head-cap Veneer: Highly-figured “The Tree” Quilted Mahogany
Back of Head-cap veneer: Ebony
Tuning Machines: Schaller M6 in gold with Ebony buttons
Fingerboard: Ebony, with Ebony binding and Maple purfling
Fingerboard Radius: 20′′
Case: Hoffee custom hardshell case
Scale Length: 25”
Soundboard: Master-grade Adirondack Spruce
Back and sides: Highly-figured ‘The Tree’ Quilted Mahogany
Cutaway: Florentine
Rosette: Hand-carved design with Cedar insert and red Washi paper
End graft: Custom hand-carved design to match rosette
Back Braces: Lattice Honduran Mahogany
Fingerboard Custom Inlay: 3rd to 19th in Spalted Maple
Back of the neck: Rectangular purfling Spalted Maple custom inlay
Body Wedge: Manzer-style tapered body
Headstock design: Wide shape with custom, hand-carved design to match rosette
Finish: French Polish body, Nitrocellulose Lacquer neck

3/29/19 Update:

7/3/19 Update: At long last, finished. We’ve had a few days to play this incredible instrument from Leo, record it and photograph it, and now it’s time to send it on to its new home. Here’s a link to the full listing! https://www.dreamguitars.com/shop/2019-buendia-om-cutaway-the-tree-mahogany-adirondack-spruce-053.html

We recently landed an incredible new OMC-H from Portland, Oregon-based luthier Gage Halland. Right out of the box, the gorgeous sunburst and energetic tone were the first things we noticed, and it’s only gotten better each time someone picks it up. To celebrate our new relationship with Gage, we sat down for a quick chat about life and lutherie, his work with Michael Greenfield and John Greven, and where his builds are taking him. Give it a listen, and be sure to check out our listing of the sunburst OMC-H pictured here: https://www.dreamguitars.com/shop/halland-omc-h-sunburst-mahogany-sitka-spruce-002-17.html.


LW: I’d like to start with an obvious question. Why guitars? What first drew you to build these instruments?

GH: I started playing guitar in jr. high with big dreams of being great at it…I wasn’t. As early as 16, I was drawing acoustic guitars in all my notebooks at school, but still didn’t have a passion for playing them. I was daydreaming about building them and didn’t know why. As far as I knew, the major manufacturers were the only ones building guitars so I moved onto other things. It was another ten years before I was given a book that pointed me to the door of John Greven (who would become my first mentor) and introduce me to the work of a man that would later become my master, Michael Greenfield.

LW: You describe your work with Michael as a time where “the perfectionist nature of Greenfield Guitars perfectly suited my obsessive “always make it better” attitude. Can you expand on that? In what ways do your and Michael’s philosophies dovetail?

GH: I have this incredibly irritating habit of seeing how something is done (no matter the task) and asking, “why are we doing this? Is this the highest/best approach to the task? How can we make it better?” I must have shortened Michael’s life by a couple years when I got there! Once I quieted that part of my brain and started listening to what he had to teach me, I realized that his approach was very much the same. He never left good enough alone, and it was incredible to see/hear guitars at this level and see their creator sweating over how to improve them still.

When I returned to Portland to create my own instruments I found Michael’s shop motto far more ingrained in my psyche than I had realized: “Perfection is acceptable.” That has become the driving force behind my work now. I want to always be improving and exploring new ideas, techniques, materials, etc. I doubt I’ll ever be content with the what I’ve done before, I’ll always be pursuing perfection.

LW: That’s an appropriate motto for both of you. After such excellent tutelage, what is your current approach to voicing an instrument? How do you continue to experiment?

GH: I’ve had two incredible teachers with very different ideas of what makes a guitar sound great. Greven taught me about the history of the steel string guitar and his approach is to make an incredibly light, responsive guitar. Greenfield showed me what the modern guitar is capable of and his measured approach to instrument construction. I would say my instruments definitely lean more towards the Greenfield camp.

When it comes to voicing my own instruments I aspire to the sound of grand pianos and old church bells. These things have undeniable tone and you’ll never find a lightweight version of either. I like to think of it as mass applied musically.

I’m constantly researching new materials and methods for creating a better musical instrument (I currently have some components that are manufactured by defense contractors!). I’m not afraid to deviate from the guitar construction norms to get to the sound that I’m after.

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

GH: Michael Watts’ emotive, “warm-honey” style of guitar playing is one of my favorites. I recently received Forest Bailey’s new album and his smoother take on the percussive style is really great. Of course I have to mention McKee, McManus, Bensusan and the like, these players where my introduction into fingerstyle guitar and I’m still amazed every time I put one of their albums on.

At heart I’m a singer-songwriter fan and I’ve had the privilege of building guitars for some of my modern heros. Barton Carroll is one of the best songwriters out there and quite the guitar player to boot (listen to his song “Every Little Bit Hurts” if you want prime examples of both)! I was also able to deliver a guitar to Al James whose knockout songwriting was the driving force behind his band Dolorean for many years. The band broke up a few years ago, but I selfishly hope that a new guitar might inspire some new recordings in the future!

LW: Talk to me about your current shop arrangement. How do you manage workflow?

GH: Aaaah my shop, well it’s…humble. I work out of a single-car garage in Portland. It started out as a temporary workspace three years ago and I just haven’t found anything better to date. It’s not my dream shop by any means, but I’m grateful to have anywhere to work within the city limits. I’m a little over the commute though.

I’d say my workflow follows the traditional lutherie shop, in that everything is done on one bench in the middle of the shop. I’d love to have task specific stations to speed up construction but there’s no space for that right now. The focus of my shop and workflow is to make efficient strides in the schedule that allow me to slow down and really sweat the details that set my guitars apart.

LW: So what’s on your bench right now?

GH: Right now I’m fortunate to be building two very special guitars.  A non-cutaway OM-H with some very special Brazilian Rosewood and an ancient Cedar top. The other is the first of my new body style which is similar in dimension to a traditional Dreadnought but most definitely has a modern shape with modern construction methods. This guitar is African Blackwood and Euro Spruce with all the bells and whistles (armrest, ribrest, cutaway, multiscale fretboard and some other features I can’t reveal just yet.) The OM-H is commissioned, but the new D-HC is available for adoption.

LW: That sounds exciting! What music are you listening to right now? What kind of music are you yourself playing?

GH: Mostly Folk and singer-songwriter stuff, Jeffery Martin, Barton Carroll, Dolorean, Derik Hultquist, Corb Lund and Hayes Carll are some of the names that immediately come to mind.

I’ve been working on Michael Watts’ tune Vetiver for quite a while. Every time I think I have it nailed I go back to listen to him play it and immediately head back to my practice space. I just can’t wring all the emotion from every note like he can!

LW: These days, there’s quite a bit of competition in the boutique guitar market. What sets you and your guitars apart from the pack?

GH: Pursuing tone, volume, clarity, sustain, and balance are the keystones to my approach in guitarmaking. The sound of my instruments definitely falls into the “modern fingerstyle” category, so note-to-note delineation is very important. I don’t want the player’s musical choices to be dictated by the sonic limitations of the instrument.

I’ve spent years tweaking my instruments into what I feel is a cohesive design where the shape, the feel of the guitar in your hands, and the restrained decorative elements give you an impression of the guitar’s sound before you pluck the first string. Fit and finish is where my obsessive nature shines through. Clean joinery is paramount. From my signature lambs-tongue detail on my arm and ribrests, to the beveled edges on the bridge, I want anyone who buys one of my guitars to get the sense of how much of myself I put into these instruments.

LW: You’ve definitely nailed the visual presentation: the fit-and-finish was the first thing I noticed when we unboxed your Mahogany OMC-H. If you had not become a guitar maker, where do you think life would have led you?

GH: This is a hard one. I have a deep fascination with old wooden ships and timber frame homes. I’d probably end up doing either of those things very happily.

LW: Okay, last question: what was the first guitar that you played where you really “got it,” where you fell in love with the instrument? Do you feel as though you’re trying to incorporate that feeling into the voice of your own instruments?

I was very lucky to find a 30s Gibson L-00 in the used guitar section of a huge music store chain.

It had mile-high action and had obviously been abused, but it also had all that wonderful L-00 tone and volume. It’s the only one that I regret selling. I don’t build in the traditional style, and I’m not going after a vintage sound, but instruments like that definitely leave an impression and that’s what I’m after, the lingering impression left by a well-built, handmade guitar.


We’re obviously stoked to strike up a relationship with Gage; his work speaks for itself. Do check out our sunburst OMC-H here: https://www.dreamguitars.com/shop/halland-omc-h-sunburst-mahogany-sitka-spruce-002-17.html. Cheers!

We’ve locked in a custom build of another of Christopher Holcomb’s Kodiak resonators for one of our clients after we sold the first one we’d had (in “The Tree” Mahogany! https://www.dreamguitars.com/shop/brand-new-c-f-holcomb-kodiak-the-tree-mahogany-k16025.html). This time we’re looking at a Kodiak with some gorgeous Quilted Mahogany and a Cocobolo neck. Follow our build thread here to keep up-to-date on Christopher’s progress!

3/5/19 Update:

And that’s a wrap! We landed this beautiful finished Kodiak last month, and the new owner is more than happy with the result. Here’s a link to the complete listing: https://www.dreamguitars.com/shop/brand-new-c-f-holcomb-kodiak-quilted-mahogany-k19037.html. Give us a shout when you’re ready to build one for yourself!

We recently met up with a dynamic young player, Yasmin Williams, who was on the hunt for a quality steel string to take her playing to the next level. Here’s a sample of the kind of tone we’re talking about here: https://www.facebook.com/dreamguitars/videos/2022839427746979/.  After taste testing nearly every guitar we had in the shop, she finally found what she was looking for in Eric Weigeshoff’s Skytop Guitars. Yasmin had a few additional requests, and after working out the details with Eric we’ve settled on a custom build with a Teredo-holed Sitka top, multiscale fingerboard, and a few other juicy details. According to Eric, the Sitka came from a “log that was a float log in Alaska for about 50 years, and the mollusks got in then. Most of it was used for firewood, but I got a stash of it that’s been great to use as soundboards. This will be my 4th Teredo-holed guitar.” Eric has already started the build, and we wanted to keep you all in the loop as it progresses. Stay tuned and keep checking back, there’s a lot more coming down the line!

Custom Skytop Grand Concert
Multiscale fingerboard: 25.4″ to 24.9″
Back: Indian Rosewood
Top: Teredo-Holed Sitka Spruce
Binding & end graft: Curly Koa
Top/back purfling: B/W/B
Side purfling: Maple
Neck: Honduran Mahogany, C Shape
Nut: 1-11/16″
Saddle spacing: 2-1/4″
Bridge: pinless Ebony
Fretboard binding & 12th fret: Curly Koa
Headstock veneer: Ebony
Backstrap: Indian Rosewood
Tuners: Gotoh 510 Cosmo Black
Florentine Cutaway

9/28/18 Update: It’s been a few weeks, but Eric’s been busy at work on our custom build for Yasmin Williams. Now he’s finished building the jig for the multiscale fretboard, roughed-in the soundports, and glued and carved the back braces. Stay tuned for more!

10/11/18 update from Eric: “Got the top braced and carved, and closed up the box this week.”

11/5/18 update from Eric: “All coming along swimmingly at this point. Got the box closed and bound, and now working on the fretboard.”

12/3/18 update:

We recently signed up with French-born luthier Benjamin Paldacci after having met him at the Woodstock Luthier Invitational, and we wanted to get a little better acquainted with the man behind the chisel, so to speak. We’ve had a Malaysian Blackwood OM of his that’s already sold (couldn’t keep it on the rack long enough to gather a speck of dust), and we’re excited to start working with him on the next one. Here’s a link to that OM to tide you over until the next one comes along: https://www.dreamguitars.com/shop/new-paldacci-om-malaysian-blackwood-carpathian.html. See below for our chat with Benjamin!

LW: For starters, why did you leave your home country of France to study at the National School of Lutherie in Quebec City?

BP: I grew up in an artistic family. My parents were psychoanalysts (my mom) and in the human-resource world (my dad), but we were listening a lot of music from Classical to Blues, Rock, or French-variety. Our parents encouraged my sisters and I to draw, to play an instrument, or anything that we would love. At 19, I decided to learn how to play guitar, and as I was afraid of hurting my fingers, so I started to play electric guitar, not classical or acoustic. Yeah, I know, it is not traditional at all, but well, the principal reason is that I was fond of Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Hendrix, Pink Floyd…that kind of stuff. And I learned that even with electric guitar…your fingers hurt…so bad, ha!

 So, when I graduated from high school, I started post-diploma courses, but it was not my thing…at all. It had nothing to do with guitar building, and I was not happy about it. So, I quit and I decided to find a professional way to pursue what I love. I wanted to set up my electric guitars for me and my friends, and the best way to do that was to find a master for an apprenticeship, or a school. I didn’t want to stay in France, so I started to research where to find a proper school outside of my country.

Roberto Venn, Bryan Galloup, Newark School, there are plenty of great ones in the world, but back in the days, my English was terrible (well it is way better right now, but I still need to improve myself about that). Fortunately, I saw that there were two schools in Canada where they spoke French, at Quebec, Montreal (Bruand School) & Quebec City (The National School of Lutherie). As I am not a fan of big cities, I decided to go with the second one. I applied to it, and they took me in 2009.

At the beginning, as I said, I wanted to set up instruments & build vintage guitar replicas (Les Paul, Stratocasters, Telecasters), but after two years of study, I totally changed my mind and said, “Damn son, you will be an acoustic-guitar maker!” and the story begins!

LW: Many builders have a particular guitar or maker that has heavily influenced their body of work. Do you have an archetype of your own? 

BP: In the third year at my school, we needed to design our own guitar shape. We had the luck to have an AutoCAD course, one of the best things my school provided to us IMHO. So, I started to research it, and I discovered the work of Michihiro Matsuda. It totally blew my mind, and I was like, “But…how is it possible to have this kind of approach on an instrument?!” I have always been a fan of design (Philip Stark especially) in architecture, sculpture, and cars since I was a boy. My father told me that when I was three years old, I was able to tell the brand of each car in the street. So, Michihiro’s work was a blast for me.

I am not sure if I have an archetype, properly, but I have a philosophy. Of course, my principal inspiration comes from my mates in the lutherie world, but as a craftsman, I try to find inspiration in whatever I see in my life. It could come from a dollmaker, watchmaker, from a furniture restorer or an insect. I think that craftsmanship is a whole thing, like a gigantic tree with tons of branches, and I am one of its tiny buds. Leonardo DaVinci definitely is a good example of what I am talking about: he was a man of many talents who mastered so many things with one thing in mind: curiosity.

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

BP: In the modern electric guitar world, John Mayer definitely is one of my favorite players. Unfortunately, Mike Bloomfield passed away, but he clearly is, for me, one of the most powerful symbols of the old times. In the Acoustic world, Tony McManus definitely is one of my most favorite musicians. When he stopped at my booth during the Santa Barbara 2016 show (SBAIC) and played one of my guitars, it was a blast for me, probably one of my best memories since I became a luthier. You know the guitar he played, because you had it in your shop. It was the Malaysian Blackwood OM (https://www.dreamguitars.com/shop/new-paldacci-om-malaysian-blackwood-carpathian.html). It would be a dream to build a guitar for that kind of incredibly gifted musician, but their guitar collection is well provided. But we never know how life could turn out!

LW: Talk to me about your current shop arrangement. How do you manage workflow? Photos are welcome. 

BP: Having a workshop is complicated because of all the machinery I have. I had the luck to find a good place to stay in Quebec city, in a peaceful and green spot. As do a lot of us, I basically live in my shop, it is part of my apartment. One of the great thing about that, is when you sand some aromatic pieces of wood, all your apartment smells incredibly good. I am especially thinking about African Blackwood. But it’s a cursed when it’s time to sand a piece of bone!

As you could see in the photos I sent over, I have a basement and two rooms for the workshop. The first one is dedicated to wood and parts storage, hand tools and stuff. It is wood dust free (well, I am using a jointer and a drill press in it, so let’s call this place the minimum dust room). It allows me to assemble my instruments, glue some things with a Hot Hide Glue, fix a setup, or to french polish easily. Plus, I have two windows which give me a wonderful light. It is very important for my eyes. Nothing is worse than working with a candle as only source of luminosity.

The other room is dedicated to woodworking with a bandsaw and drum sander. I am working a lot in this room, and it is one of the most important of the three because I calibrate all my pieces in it. The basement is the third place, where there is the most dust, because my compressor and sanding machines are there. It is not a sexy place, I must admit, and I generally get out of it covered of wood dust, but that is one of the most amazing feelings for me. I am really carefull about my health, so I have two big dust collectors which work perfectly and protect me from it [the dust]. As you can see, I don’t have a booth to shoot finish because I don’t have the room for it. That’s why I send my guitars somewhere else for this step (polyester UV-cured finish). I can do french polish, but it is very fragile (but beautiful though).

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

BP: Well, Ervin Somogyi’s book was at the origin of my voicing philosophy. I build my guitars lightly but strongly, as responsive as possible. For me, the top and back of the guitar work like a drum. That’s why they are thin, with high and light bracing (I carve it to obtain this result). I am using, principally, the deflection test to get the result I want, but I am working with my instincts: I touch the wood, I twist it, weigh it, and I use the tap tone a lot.

For the soundboard, I love the double X bracing because it allow me to have the balance and homogeneity I want for my guitars. When I am using a more traditional bracing pattern, I still modify it to reach the result I want. My backs are active, three or four tonebars. It depends on the result I want. Again, each piece of wood are different, so I work with each of them differently. They need to work in harmony, and this is what I am trying to push myself toward day after day. As Socrates said, “I know that I know nothing,” and when I see incredible guitars my colleagues build, I know that it is my motto.

 LW: What’s on your bench right now? Any new design features you’d like to share? 

 BP: As I am going to Vancouver International Guitar festival (VIGF) in August, and Woodstock Invitational Luthier Showcase (WILS) in October, I am pretty busy. Six models:

OO-12 Higuerilla/Lutz

OM Higuerilla/Carpathian

OO-12 Honduran Mahogany Old Growth/Lutz

OO-12 African Mahogany/Engelmann

OM Claro Walnut/Sitka Bearclawed

Grand Auditorium Wenge/Red Spruce.

This last model is pretty special for me, because I designed it especially for WILS. I wanted to design this shape for a long time because a lot of my mates have this shape in their catalog, and it is a perfect way to make the transition between my OMs and my Dreadnoughts.

I have two guitars for customers I will receive back from my finisher soon. A Flamenco Spanish Cypress & Carpathian Spruce (new shape), and an OM in Koa and German Spruce.

LW: What music are you listening to right now?

BP: The last Foo Fighters album, Concrete And Gold. I just love this group, their approach and their attitude. It is pretty rare to have such an incredible leader like Dave Grohl these days. This person is authentic, an incredible drummer, and an awesome composer/entertainer. I saw them two weeks ago at the Festival D’Été de Québec: best show in my short life. I tried to approach them to let them play my instruments backstage, but as I supposed, it was incredibly difficult, and impossible. So, guys, if you are reading this interview… 

LW: There’s a lot of competition in the fine lutherie market. In your eyes, what sets your guitars apart from the pack?

BP: Well, our market is definitely competitive, because a lot of us are incredibly gifted, and new builders are coming every years. But we all are in the same boat, and our community is super helpful and full of kind people. I’ve had tons of great experiences and good relationship with my colleagues, and when someone needs help I try to be there for them. In the contemporary world, the word “competitive” is only half appropriate because we all build instruments in a very personal way. My philosophy is, “I strive to build my instruments with the finest Tone, Ergonomics, & Aesthetics.” I call the rosette/headstock/endgraft the Holy Trinity because they are a huge part of my identity in terms of style. I love Art Deco, and I try to explore this style with marquetry techniques and the color/texture of the wood. It is incredibly fun for me to push myself a little in terms of craftsmanship, guitar after guitar. My sound is, of course, my main goal. I always keep in mind a certain balance, clarity, and definition for each string. I love when my high frequence shine with, of course, a strong 6th string presence too.

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

BP: Cooking is one of my hobbies, and food is one of my favorite ways of life! I think I would tried to work in a kitchen if I was not a luthier. But we’ll never know! As I said once, “Building a guitar is just like being a master chef: you need to use the best ingredients to create the best result possible. Skills, experience, vision, and precision are all fundamentals in the making of a wonderful instrument.” I have nothing else to say. Thank you for this interview, I really enjoyed it and it is a privilege for me to be at Dream Guitars. The Malaysian Blackwood OM was a beautiful experience, and I’m glad to know we can do it again!

We can’t wait to see what rolls off his bench next, and if you’re like us you can hardly wait to see it!