Enjoy FREE Live Demos

Book now and discover your dream sound

Schedule Your Demo »

NEW Consignment Rates

Trade up discounts and more

Learn More »

FREE Digital Book Download

Sound Investments: A Guitarist’s Guide to Curating a Valuable Collection

Download Now »

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. 

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?

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.

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. 

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 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!


What better way to learn what makes a guitar really sing than by first resurrecting hundreds of choked starlets? Enter: Butch Boswell, veteran of over 20 years’ experience in the repair world whose own guitars belt it out with clarity and gusto. We recently got to check out a guitar Butch had custom built for a client, and that got our attention in a big way. When Butch approached us to sell another custom build, this time a 0.5 12-fret in Brazilian Rosewood and Italian Spruce, the answer was a resounding yes. Butch was happy to sit down with us to talk about life and lutherie and snap a few photos of his (impressively clean) shop and wood collection. Check out that conversation below, and stay tuned while we finish the listing for the Boswell 0.5!

LW: Before building guitars, you enjoyed a successful career in repair work. Can you speak to the ways in which your building has informed your subsequent repair work, and vice versa?

BB: I think that repairing instruments all these years influenced my current work more than the other way around. Throughout my career in guitar repair, I performed every step involved in guitar building hundreds of times. When it was finally time to build a guitar, it was just a matter of stringing each step together in the proper sequence. Having said that, building, especially at this level, has still proven to be a huge challenge. But, learning the fundamentals through years of repair work truly helped to lay a very solid foundation.

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

BB: I absolutely love the space I’m currently in. It’s well lit, small, easy to keep clean, and probably most importantly, very efficient in how it’s laid out. I can build for a few hours, then if I have to, I can easily segue into some accumulating repair work. As far as how well I manage my workflow, well, that’s something I’m still trying to figure out! For one person to manage what is essentially two completely different careers, both of which could keep me pretty busy, has always proven to be the challenge. (see photos)

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

BB: I don’t really have a favorite player, but I could take up this entire blog with players I admire and listen to! I listen to music in my shop all day, every day. I have several players in my accolades section that are absolutely the top of the top. Tim Pierce, Steve Trovato, Danny Pelfrey, Danny Weis, Tim Bluhm. These are all guys that have played with every big name out there, and their catalogue of work is seriously deep. They may not be immediately recognizable household names, but these are some of the guys behind the names we all know. They are all fantastic players and performers, and I’m so proud to have each one of them playing my instruments.

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

BB: For me, having come up in the repair and sales world, I have had my hands on more vintage Martin guitars than probably anything else, but I have also worked closely with Santa Cruz Guitars, Collings, Taylor, etc. My repair work has been a study in the evolution of the flattop steel string acoustic guitar. So, when I built my first guitar, you can imagine what it looked like! It’s a dead ringer for a 000-28. Do these makers still influence my work today? Probably not. I have stepped out into my own look and sound over the past few years, including my own aesthetic and combinations of materials, my own take on bracing and strength of materials, and my own sound.

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

BB: Like I said before, when I first got started with building, I was a repair guy, and really just copying what I had seen for years, both inside and out. But as I began to find truly inspiring materials, which wasn’t easy, and as I started to experiment with my own bracing ideas, my instruments started to sound more and more my own. I have tried various forms of voicing techniques, but the one thing that I always seem to come back to, the one thing that seems to never let me down, is my ear. I have worked in guitar shops and played music professionally for upwards of 25 years now. I always say that tone is the last thing for a player to learn. Developing one’s ear is not an easy thing to do. But, when you are subjected to it day in and day out for more than half of your life, inevitably it becomes somewhat engrained. When I first started building, I already knew what I was hearing when I would tap on a soundboard even before I could describe what was going on. Nine times out of ten, when I look inside of a production guitar, I see a very over-built instrument. They’re having to do that to protect themselves against warranty claims, but they’re also killing the tone of the instrument. Many things have led me to where I am today with the voice of my instruments (playing music, repairing, my education in engineering), but the one thing I know I can truly count on every time is my ear.

LW: We recently received your 0.5 #0026—woah. What were your goals in building a guitar halfway between a 0 and a 00?

BB: Well, this wonderful little box was a custom order for a customer. He wanted the vintage Martin style framework, but with a little more umph under the hood! So, I had this incredibly special set of Brazilian that was just a touch small for a traditional 00 size guitar. So, we reduced it slightly to make the set work, but still managed to keep it a bit larger than an 0 size. Coincidentally, I got several very old Italian spruce tops from a retired builder. They were much too small for most current popular models. The two were perfect for one another, and No. 0026 was born!

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

BB: I’m a dad and husband before everything else. So, when I’m not getting my ass kicked in the shop, I’m usually getting it kicked at home. I have three little ones, ages 8, 6, and 2, and they love to play with Dad. I’ll come home, ice my shoulder, then go jump on our huge trampoline for an hour or so, come back in and ice something else. I love playing with my kids, and I love being a dad. Outside of that, Bend, OR is an amazing place to be if you like being outdoors. I do a lot of mountain biking, and have vowed this summer to take my family camping several times.

LW: What music are you listening to right now?

BB: At this exact moment, it’s Ry Cooder, Into the Purple Valley, and Jackson Browne, Saturate Before Using. I have a record collection that is a touch out of control, so it can be VERY different on any given day! (see photos)

LW: Your current models appear to be firmly rooted in the traditional style. In your eyes, what sets your guitars apart from the pack?

BB: Most of my body shapes are very traditional sizes, but they have been changed slightly to suit my goals. More and more though, I’m excited to be able to experiment with more and more interesting wood combinations and aesthetic. Rosette work is one of my favorites, and my “Tiled Mosaic” look is getting more and more popular (see photos). I strive to keep a high level of consistency in color, grain, and materials throughout a build, and I think I am somewhat blessed with an eye for putting together interesting and complimentary designs. One of the biggest things that separates me from the pack though, would be my experience in a very high level of repair work I’ve been involved with for 20+ years. Making a great-sounding box is one thing. Putting it together with the neck correctly, setting the neck angle, fretting it, and making it play masterfully is another set of skills altogether.

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

BB: Politics. Ha! No way. I see every day how lucky I am to have three healthy children. They play hard, they’re smart, and they have a leg up in this world because they have parents and family that care about them so deeply. A lot of kids don’t have that. I think about that sometimes, and I wish I could be more involved as a Big Brother, or involved somehow in helping kids that are just less fortunate than my own. If I wasn’t building guitars, I truly have no idea what I would be doing. It’s a terribly hard path we luthiers have chosen, and there are days I have felt like giving up, but it’s what drives me. To say I’m passionate about my work is a gross understatement. I love it, and I’m so fortunate to have what I have, and be where I am in my career at this very moment.

We’re more than happy to announce our latest partnership with Glenn Nichols, restoration maestro and electric guitar experimenteur. The curves of his Corralitos model are velvet smooth in hand-rubbed varnish and a dark burst, with McNelly Bliss humbuckers and adjustable bridge (more on that later), and it’ll be available on our site soon. In the meantime, we chatted with Glenn about how his journey into lutherie and all the ways he’s pushing the envelope with his Corralitos model, from varnish finishes and Cedar necks to vacuum pressing the top laminates and implementing a wedge-adjustable saddle. Once we unpacked his guitar and tuned it up, the immediate response was, “Woah.” And it continues to wow us, even now. Enjoy our conversation with Glenn below, and look out for that Corralitos soon!

LW: You’ve been in the repair business for some time. What came first, fixing guitars or building them.

GN: My journey into restorations is the opposite of most repair people. I started at the end and worked my way backwards. My first job in the industry was in the finish department at Santa Cruz Guitar Company. I attended the Roberto-Venn School of Luthiery in 2003, which resulted in an entry level position spraying lacquer for SCGC. As my skills developed, I found myself running the finish department. This ultimately made every ding, scratch, or crack that happened in production my responsibility to fix. When you are repairing an old guitar there is some acceptance that the damage may show. When you are repairing a new guitar, it has to be perfect, or it’s no longer a new guitar. By the time I started to do restorations and structural repairs on my own, it all made sense to me. My time spent at Santa Cruz gave me the confidence to take on high-end and vintage work. I knew that in the end the repair would look good, because that’s what I had been doing for years.

LW: Your finish work is particularly impressive. Have you always gravitated towards finish work, or did you just wake up one day surrounded by air brushes and cans of lacquer?

GN: Ha ha! I have been a visual artist for as long as I can remember. I received a Bachelor degree in Fine Art from The Montserrat College of Art in 2002. I guess I traded in my paint brushes and tubes of paint for air brushes and cans of lacquer. Lots of builders come from a woodworking or engineering background, and when it comes time for finish the struggle begins. This is why so many builders farm out their finish. I’m not making judgements, it’s just that the learning curve is tremendous! After I spent nine years at SCGC learning nitro, I went to work for Kenny Hill Guitars to learn French Polish. This opened up a whole new world of materials and processes. I experimented with all sorts of shellacs, resins, oils, and alcohols. I started to mix my own varnishes. Again, by starting from the end and knowing the results that I wanted, it was easier for me to manipulate the materials. You won’t find lacquer on my guitars. The neck is a spirit varnish, taken from the European classical tradition. In my opinion, it just feels right, a hand-rubbed finish in your hand. The body is an oil varnish, taken from the marine industry. This varnish was originally used on Spruce masts, very durable and tough, but allowing for movement and vibration. My finish choices are not afterthoughts. The guitar is constructed as a canvas for these different finishes.

LW: I’ve seen an adjustable bridge & saddle setup like the one on your Corralitos model before, but I’m curious about its origins, and how you came to use it.

GN: I first saw this style of bridge on one of Christian Mirabella’s archtops. I had developed a similar, two-piece bridge that was not adjustable. The saddle had to be sanded to drop the action, just like an acoustic saddle. A traditional archtop bridge floats on two adjustable posts between the bridge and the saddle. This method has been used forever on great-sounding guitars, but I wanted a solid connection to the top. Everything that I had learned in the flattop and classical world depended on tone transfer at the bridge. Once I saw the wedge bridge, it all clicked into place. I may be able to have my cake and eat it too. Before I began, I emailed Chris Mirabella out of respect and asked for his blessing in exploring the design. A true gentleman, he promptly returned my email, offered his help and support, and told me the history as he knew it. Chris got the design from one of his close friends and mentors, Jimmy D’Aquisto, who had taken inspiration from a German upright bass maker. It was very important for me to have permission, and to do what I thought was the right thing. There is a lot of borrowing and appropriating in guitar building. I’ve found that in my generation of builders, we are very open and willing to share, as long as it is done honestly.

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

GN: I am married and have two daughters, so they keep me busy. My new shop is in my home, so my family is a huge part of my life. I also have to admit that I’m a bit obsessed with Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. It was something that I picked up in Santa Cruz to relieve stress. I think most artists and musicians can be a little obsessive compulsive. It’s important to have a healthy outlet.

LW: I understand that you now share a shop with one of our favorite luthiers, Bill Tippin. What’s it like to work along side Bill?

GN: Bill is a long time friend and I think we have a very special relationship. I spend a couple of days every week working in Bill’s shop, doing whatever is on the agenda for the day. Bill is first and foremost a craftsman, and his shop is set up as such. He doesn’t have an assembly line, or a strict list of processes that are never to be broken. He is open, and creative, and willing to take chances. That’s why his guitars are so special. He allows for growth and progression. Bill could build you a guitar, a table, a fishing rod, or a boat. And they would all be top notch! We drink coffee, listen to blues, and solve problems. We laugh, and cuss, and work on guitars. Bill pushes me to do the best work that I can. Sometimes, he pushes me past what I think can be done, just to see if I can do it. I am very fortunate to have him as a mentor, and it all runs pretty smoothly, as long as I put his tools back where I found them.

LW: What music are you listening to right now?

GN: The Marcus King Band, I think they may be from your neck of the woods. Great guitar playing, solid band. I always have blues playing in the shop. I’ve been on a Hound Dog Taylor kick this week. I’ve been teaching my daughters how to play slide guitar. My seven year old plays a killer slide version of Beat on the Brat by The Ramones.

LW: What’s the most interesting repair or restoration job you’ve ever worked on?

I’m really lucky to have a lot of boutique and vintage instruments cross my bench. Sometimes the expensive ones are just guitars, and the cheap ones will put a smile on your face and leave you scratching your head. Sometimes a guitar will live up to its reputation and you may have to stick a mirror in the soundhole and figure out where the magic is coming from. I had a couple of laminate top restorations come through my shop that changed my life. They were an old Gibson ES- 225, and a Martin GT-70. They both really struck a chord with me, and when a guitar builder gets Guitar Acquisition Syndrome it can be a problem. Being in my line of work, I couldn’t afford to buy one, so of course I decided to build one. I started building the jigs and fixtures in a small shed in my backyard in Corralitos, CA. Those funky old laminate guitars were my inspiration for the Corralitos model.

LW: Lastly, can you speak to what kind of play feel and voice you’re shooting for with your Corralitos? What sets it apart

 from the pack?

GN: My goal with the Corralitos is to bring boutique methods of building to what is historically a factory guitar. The old laminate tops of the 50s and 60s were stamped out with large hydraulic presses, using three or four sheets of Maple or Birch. While they sound good amplified, acoustically they can be dead, flubby, and sometimes tinny and thin. The general rule with electric guitars is, if it sounds great unplugged, it will sound great amplified. I use six thin, alternating layers of Maple and a vacuum press to form each layer, plate by plate. The result is a very light, yet stiff top. Traditionally, top woods are chosen for their strength-to-weight ratios. The use of a vacuum press insures that there are no voids between the plates. The wood is not crushed into shape, it is pressed in an air tight chamber. (I have written a blog on my website that goes into greater detail of the laminate top process) [you can find that blog here: http://glenn-nichols-guitars.com/]. Attention to the details of the plate construction and bracing can produce a top that is very lively and responsive when played acoustically, while the alternating laminates help to reduce feedback when played at high volumes. The use of a varnish, rather than a lacquer, helps to add a beautiful warmth to the tone. I believe that the varnish makes the guitar feel more broken in than a brighter-sounding lacquer finish.
Another difference that doesn’t stand out unless you pick it up, is the overall weight. This particular guitar weighs in at 5.4 lbs , which is very light for an electric guitar. I used Spanish Cedar for the neck, blocks, and kerfings. While Spanish Cedar is a staple in classical guitars, it is not often used on electrics. I perform a lot of French Polish restorations on classical guitars and I believe that a French Polished Spanish Cedar neck is the perfect feel for any style of player. The use of Cedar not only cuts down on weight, paired with the varnish and French Polish, it also smells wonderful.
The pickups are handmade McNelly Bliss humbuckers. They are a low output pickup, based on old PAFs, but with a little more presence. They are very sensitive, and the clarity vs breakup can be easily dialed in by raising or lowering the pickup to taste. I used a 1950s style wiring with paper in oil caps to bring the full vintage vibe to life. I designed this guitar to be able to handle sweet and clear acoustic tones, to jazz comping and soloing, to overdriven blues and rock.

Excited to see this Corralitos for yourself? It won’t be long! Coming soon to a Dream near you.

Just when we thought 2018 couldn’t get any better for our lineup (we hit the ground running by recruiting Stuart Day), we landed a gorgeous guitar from Santa Cruz-based luthier C.F. Holcomb. This Kodiak resonator comes with more bells and whistles than a steam engine train–“The Tree” Mahogany body, Lollar P90, spider cone bridge and bone saddle, one-piece Cocobolo neck (the first one we may have ever seen), Christopher’s signature emblazoned across the headstock plate. This beautiful example of his prowess will be available soon, and in the meantime we had a quick chat with Christopher about life & lutherie, and of course dogs. Check it out!

LW: Many of the photos of your shop and those you post on social media have at least one dog in the frame. What’s it like to have canine companionship in lutherie, a famously solitary profession?

CF: I am lucky in the sense that I live above my shop with my wife Kira and two dogs, Penny and Greta. As peaceful as you would think working by yourself might be, I am surrounded by constant activity and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is pretty common for me to find focus even when the dogs are howling.

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

CF: I don’t know if I have a favorite guitar player. I’m constantly finding new music to fall in love with, but it is always nice to turn on the radio and hear one of my guitars. I feel a close bond with the people I build guitars for, and that is even stronger with those who make their living making music. Some of my favorite musicians and bands I’ve worked with are Lech Wierzynski (the California Honeydrops), Sam Chase, Aaron Lanes and Thomas Beneduci (The Good Bad), and Ben Morrison (the Brothers comatose). There are several other amazing musicians I’ve worked with, but it would be ridiculous to list all of them.

LW: You’ve been able to work with some industry giants like Scott Walker, Rick Turner, Jeff Traugott, and Richard Hoover. In what ways has that exposure impacted your approach to lutherie?

CF: Each one of my teachers has shown me their approach to the guitar building world. I don’t know if it’s luck persistence or both that put me in a situation where I was able to learn from such amazing luthiers. Collectively I would say the best gift they gave me was the guts to take on a project that might be outside of my comfort zone. Building solid bodies, acoustics, arch tops, semi-hollow, and Resophonic guitars is a tall order. I can look back on what I have learned over the years and not only design something that works, but every once in a while come up with something truly innovative.

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

CF: As a luthier working alone, I think it’s difficult not to experiment. When voicing an instrument I try to think about who will be playing it and how they play. It is great to think that you can build an instrument as light as possible but in the hands of certain musicians they will destroy something like that within months. If I am working with someone who is into playing with a light touch, I will make the instrument as light as possible.

LW: You offer quite an array of models. What sets them apart to your eyes and ears?

CF: Usually the reason I design a new model is because someone is looking for something that isn’t out there. It’s not so much what sets the guitars apart to my ears as much as the musician. I like starting an instrument with a sound and look in mind. It gives me focus and intention with my work rather than just pumping out the same thing over and over.

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

CF: My shop is relatively small, but it works out great for one person. To me it’s just a room full of toys. This is my second shop (the first was a one-car garage), and there is something special about being the one who sets it up. It’s like an extension of my body. There are also a bunch of surfboards and bikes floating around which add their own little charm to the place.

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

CF: Kira and I are always diving into projects in Santa Cruz or Sebastopol on my family’s ranch. We go surfing, hiking, and all of the other stuff that goes with living in Santa Cruz. It’s pretty nice.

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

CF: No idea.

LW: What music are you listening to right now?

CF: Charlie Parr, Gregory Alan Isakov, Jason Isbell, etc.

LW: Here we are at the start of the new year. What are your goals for 2018, in lutherie and life?

CF: I recently started an apprenticeship with a Timber framer in Bonny Doon. I’m learning how to make buildings with traditional jointery, hand hewn beams, and sustainable logging techniques. To me guitar building isn’t just about guitars, it’s to gain as much knowledge as I can from as many different masters as possible. If I’m lucky, I will be a lifelong apprentice.

Christopher’s Kodiak resonator has been difficult to put down since the first day it arrived at our shop. Stay tuned, this gorgeous guitar is coming soon to a Dream near you!

Dream Guitars is happy to announce that we’ve embarked on a custom build with a luthier we’ve been following with interest for several years now, Mr. Stuart Day of Stuart Day Guitars. Stuart is known for both his archtops and his flattops, and his unique design features and inlay techniques. The SD1-VC he’s begun building for us will feature Cocobolo back and sides, a Sitka Spruce top, and a taste of Day’s latest aesthetic flair. We couldn’t resist the urge to chat with Stuart about what’s going on with him in life and lutherie these days, and we discovered some fascinating projects he’s recently embarked on, including building a permaculture farm! See below for our conversation with Stuart, and stay tuned for a separate blog post to chronicle the build process for our in-the-works SD-1VC. We’re grateful to finally start this project with Stuart; thanks so much!

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

A perk of working with Tom Ribbecke for so many years was that I got to work with a lot of exceptional musicians. Including some Grammy winners. But the first time I built an instrument for an artist whose music I personally really enjoyed for a long time is happening right now. I’m building a semi-hollow carved top instrument, similar to a Gibson 335, for a guy named Mike Love. I guess you’d say he’s a reggae musician, although I think he’s much more than that. He is a one-of-a-kind talent in musicianship, arrangement, vocals, and guitar. It’s exciting building for him because he’s such an adventurous player that I know he will find every nook and cranny that my guitar can take him and then some. 

Other than Mike, I would really like to work with Kinloch Nelson, George Benson, and Julian Lage.

2. What builder(s) inspire you today?

So many. 

Michihiro Matsuda for his courage in pursuing his unique style. 

Jason Kostal and Michael Greenfield both for being examples of how to succeed in this craft, in business and in life. 

Bryan Galloup and Sam Guidry for their relentless work on understanding the physics of instruments and education. 

Michael Bashkin for having this immense knowledge and skill in the most humble and gentle personality. 

And all the young bright and über talented makers who keep me on my toes and inspire me to continue to better myself. Tyler Robbins, Tyler Wells, Maegen wells, Tom Sands, Ben Paldacci, Jeremy Jenkin, just to name a few. 

So many more…Everyone seems to bring something to the table that is admirable.

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

Well, there are certainly some parallels but the answer to that question differs greatly depending on whether I’m talking about archtop guitars or flattop guitars. The two are extremely different in both the end tonal goal and also the approach. 

Having the privilege to be exposed to Tom Ribbecke and Ken Parker, as I’ve developed as a builder has allowed me to really understand how the archtop guitar can be so much more than so many people believe. So, in archtops I’m really trying to create truly exceptional acoustic instruments with a lot of the dynamic range, responsiveness, low and mid-range response and texture that you would expect from a truly great flattop, but with the precision, projection, focus, and separation of chorus that you would expect from an archtop.

That process is much more intuitively based. Lots of feeling and listening. 

On my flattops, I’m trying to achieve a piano-like balance and depth. I like instruments which have range, drama, and balance, but that do not sound too sterilized. I like a little throatiness in the mid range, and some texture and thickness in the trebles. I use a lot more science and data in my flattop builds to try to achieve some consistency and control. 

I think my flattop building approach and philosophy is really informed by my archtop building experience. So I’ve been told that my flattops tend to have very even and flat response rates up the fretboard which make many players feel they are very versatile. I had a musician from Spain borrow a 12-fret OM for some gigs he was playing on the east coast and he remarked when he returned it to me that he found himself playing a lot of Jazzy and Spanish kind of things that he normally would stay away from on his flattops. I thought that was interesting.

4. You have a distinct aesthetic that sets you apart from other builders. Could you describe your aesthetic approach, and how it has evolved over your career?

It’s been important for me from day one to establish a unique voice for myself both in tone and in aesthetic design. I have a background in fine art and design so I’ve always approached lutherie as a mixed media art form. It’s a craft that is impossible to excel at unless you are quite exceptional in skill and vision. Which means that your fellow luthiers all pose some pretty significant competition. It’s like an industry full of Michael Jordans. So I think differentiation is important. 

Earlier on I really just let myself go wild…I had a lot of fun pushing my hand skills to their limits, trying to bump up against that edge where I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to pull it off. As time has gone by, I’ve tried to pull things back a bit, take the ideas I felt that were really worth pursuing, try to perfect them and bring them down to a refined level. Occasionally giving myself an opportunity to do something fun and different like my faceted cutaway, which is my very challenging, slightly masochistic, version of a Florentine cutaway. 

My interest right now is in taking this great wealth of traditional techniques and methodology from generations of lutherie and furniture making and coupling it elegantly with a contemporary aesthetic and use of material and techniques. Hence my new rosette I’m making for my first instrument with Dream guitars. Using that contemporary offset vibe mixed with pretty traditional classical and steel string rosette elements.

To me, aesthetics are not just decoration. They’re a form of communication. We are communicating our values, ethics, skill level, creativity, etc. through our aesthetic design and execution. If people would like to hear more about my thoughts on this, I have a two video series on my YouTube channel discussing my thoughts in more detail. 


5. I know you’ve started a permaculture farm, and you’re moving your shop out there soon. What changes would you like to implement to your shop arrangement and workflow in the new location?

Yeah, and I can’t wait to end the days of my long commute. 
The first few years of being on my own were pretty nuts. Shops, designs, tooling, jigs have all come and gone. I’ve been working on finding myself as a builder while at the same time trying to survive as a business owner and run a full service repair and restoration shop. It’s felt chaotic at times, and as I’ve experimented trying to find what it is I want to be building, it’s been difficult for me to hit my goals in terms of production. 

So, I think this next chapter will see things calming down a bit. I know what I want to build now, I have a few years of tooling and shop building under my belt, my wood supply has been steadily growing, as well as the health of my business. So, I think in terms of work flow and things I’m ready to start refining my process so I can hit my production goals more efficiently. 

I do everything by hand. Partly out choice and partly out of necessity. To make that efficient I really need to make sure I’ve designed my processes as well as I’ve designed my instruments. Now that I know I’m on my right path as far as my designs, I can start to do that.

6. While we’re on the subject, why permaculture? Do you have any plans to marry it with your guitar building?

Well, that’s a long discussion. Farming was not something I planned for myself. It sorts of came out of nowhere in life when my partner, Jade, and I moved to the farm that she grew up on. I just started looking around at my surroundings wondering what we could do with it all and I discovered permaculture and agro-ecology. The more I researched and learned the more I felt like it was a perfect fit for me. It offers me the opportunity for self-sufficiency, to contribute positively to my community, to work outside and be physical and to work positively towards a better environment.

Permaculture is essentially a farming style which tries to use evolutionary aspects of the local ecology to create food. You are facilitating a healthy ecology and thereby reducing the work load and input needed on your end. For reasons I haven’t been able to put my finger on yet, I feel like there is something about good permaculture which mirrors good lutherie. Maybe it’s the fact that a great guitar is essentially a perfectly balanced system. It’s my belief that a sustainable career in lutherie also requires a very healthy balance of work and life. So, in a way, good lutherie is a parallel to a healthy ecosystem.

Time will tell. We are still very early in the planning phase of all of this. We haven’t actually officially started the farming business yet. My first priority is obviously just getting my shop moved in March and getting back to work as soon as possible. But yes, the ultimate goal, which I think is possible with a good plan and time management, is to marry the two trades together so that they both strengthen each other. Both have their own inherent instabilities and I think it may be possible to merge them so that together they create a good stable income and career for people in trades like lutherie. I’m excited to see what this adventure brings. 

One of my goals is to start sourcing a lot of my own timber. We have a lot of maple, walnut, and cherry on the land. A lot of it comes down in storms and so there is a lot of possibility there for me to begin milling wood for furniture making and hopefully for a lot of instruments.

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

I really have no clue. I’ve always been really into nature and animals, so I assume that if it weren’t for lutherie I would have gone in that direction. I was always pretty interested in marine biology. I was also pretty happy as a finish carpenter and high-end deck builder so who knows.

8. What music are you listening to right now?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Neil Young ever since he put his whole song library online for free.
I’ve also been pretty addicted to Kendrick Lamar’s new album DAMN. One of the best hip hop albums I’ve heard in a very long time.

9. Heaven forbid, your shop is going up in smoke. What’s the one tool you’d grab?

The fire extinguisher 😉

Stay tuned for the upcoming build thread to document Stuart’s process of building our SD1-VC!

Hi gang!

The good news keeps pouring in, which in our case means more amazing custom builds with our favorite luthiers. The latest addition to that roster is California-based luthier Isaac Jang. We’ve been telling anyone will listen that both his aesthetics and his acoustics are astounding, and that’s led to one of our clients coming forward for a custom build. He wanted all the bells, all the whistles, and even the boxes that they came in. This afforded Paul another opportunity to talk it over with the client, weighing the pros and cons of each option, and the result is a Jang OM that’s dressed to the nines for both fingerstyle and flatpicking. Check out below for a full spec sheet and the first salvo of photos from Isaac’s bench. More to follow!

Here’s Paul on that process:

“Helping players build a custom instrument for their music is one of the most satisfying things I do. Being a player myself, I’ve realized that having an instrument that fits like a old pair of jeans is immensely satisfying. One of the misunderstandings about custom building guitars is that a dealer like us adds cost. We do not: we always sell at the same price as the builders themselves. What we do is add value by giving the client objective third-party opinions coupled with years and years of experience regarding wood combinations, tonal needs, and how to avoid common pitfalls. For this guitar the client and I went through many pictures of sets of wood for both the back and sides and the top. But even before that I had a conversation with Isaac to ask about what wood he currently had in stock that he was really impressed with.

I do this a lot. Each time I work closely with the builder to make sure the client gets the best possible results, keeping the lines of communication open between both parties so no balls are dropped. A big part of what I do is make sure that the builder knows how the guitar will be played. I make sure to understand the genre of music the client plays in, their particular playing style, whether the guitar will be fingerpicked and/or flatpicked, amplified or not–the list goes on, and on. There’s a lot that goes into building a custom guitar, but the result is a perfectly-tailored instrument for that particular player. You can’t find that anywhere else.”

New Custom Isaac Jang OM Specs:
Brazilian Rosewood back and sides
Adirondack Spruce top
Voiced for 70% flatpicking, 30% fingerstyle
Uchida Bendaway cutaway
1 3/4″ nut
2 1/4″ string spacing
Medium setup for light gauge strings
K&K Pure Mini
Heelblock strap button
Gold Gotoh 510s with Ebony buttons
Subtle body wedge

Hand-picked Brazilian Rosewood back and sides

Closeup of the back set. Excellent straight-grained stuff, very stable!

The sides after bending. Smooth curves and chocolatey goodness!

Laminating the sides. Lots of spring clamps with plywood cauls to span the middle.

2/2/2018: Oh so close! Heading into the spray booth now, then it’s on to final setup.

2/14/18 Update:

So close! Back from the finishers, Jang’s latest is read for final setup. We should have it in-hand in only a few days, so stay tuned for Dream Guitars’ full video and photo workup! We promised the owner we’d get it to him as soon as possible, so we’ll be quick.


Stay tuned for updates! As the build progresses, so will our blog.

Paul recently sat down with Michael Bashkin of Bashkin Guitars for a chat about the boutique guitar market, life, yoga, and more for episode nine of Bashkin’s “Luthier on Luthier” podcast with the Fretboard Journal.

“For our ninth episode, I sit down with Dream Guitars founder and owner, Paul Heumiller. If you build or play custom guitars you probably already know Paul’s name and that Dream Guitars is one of the top boutique guitar dealers in the world. Paul discusses his philosophy for life and business, and how for him they are one in the same. Paul talks about how Dream Guitars got started and the successful partnerships he has forged with some of today’s most collectible builders. Paul also gives some great advice to new and established builders about competing with your own guitars on the secondary market, and how to avoid burning out.” ~ Michael Bashkin



We were first introduced to Tyler Robbins and his work this year at the 2017 Artisan Guitar Show in Harrisburg, PA. Impressed by the R.1 we played there (click here for our listing for it), we brought it home with us. It was sold soon thereafter to a rather excited client! The next R.1 was already in the works by then, and now we’re hosting a build thread to document its journey. Keep checking in as we update the build thread with photos and specs. This guitar will be finished in time for the 2017 Woodstock Invitational Luthier’s Showcase!

Back and Sides – Cocobolo Rosewood
Top – Engelmann Spruce
Scale length – 25.5”
Nut Width – 1.75”
Saddle Spacing – 2.187”
Arm Bevel
Gotoh 510 Tuners
13-Fret Honduran Mahogany Neck
Ebony Bindings, Fretboard, Bridge, Headstock Veneer

Engelmann Spruce and Cocobolo

Cocobolo back and sides

Rim assembly with bevel support, heel and tail block, Florentine cutaway block

Rim assembly before Cocobolo end graft is installed

Closeup of the Florentine cutaway

Top is joined to the rim assembly supported by a MDF mold

Close up of the arm bevel block from the outside

Tyler here exploring his “sunken” inlay technique on the Cocobolo back center and end graft, where the actual inlay material is 1/8″ below the surface of the wood and clear epoxy is added to fill the 1/8″ space and create a surface level with the surrounding wood.


The box is bound!

The arm bevel is becoming more defined with binding.

The bevel miters look sharp!

Florentine cutaway freshly bound.


The body with Ebony arm bevel installed.

Test fitting the neck to the body.

Closeup of Tyler’s headstock veneers.

Closeup of the Ebony arm bevel.

Cocobolo and Nitro in sunlight.

The neck in the midst of finishing.


Gluing the bridge after the spray booth.

Gold hardware sets of the Ebony and Cocobolo.

Glossy finish across the entire instrument.

First time strung up. Approaching setup time!

Stay tuned for more updates as we approach completion!

Paul attended three shows last year, Fretboard Journal Summit, the Santa Barbara Acoustic Instrument Celebration, and the Woodstock Invitational Luthier’s Showcase. There he met a number of new builders with some truly awe-inspiring builds. Naturally, we took several of them on as new builders for Dream Guitars! Alongside Michel Pellerin, Sam Guidry, and Isaac Jang, we’re also proud to have added French builder Loïc Bortot (of Bouchereau Guitars) to our ranks! We’ve already sold the Mistral OM Loïc sent us, but do check out the listing to read more about this awesome guitar and get a listen to Al’s demo. You can find it on our site here: https://www.dreamguitars.com/detail/5391-bouchereau_mistral_009/. The next Mistral is already in the works, though, so read to the end for a few sneak peak photos of the next one. In addition, we’d like to share his responses from a brief interview we conducted with Loïc earlier this year. Enjoy!

What or who inspired you to begin building guitars?

Before coming to Canada to become a luthier, I experienced several fields of study and unpleasant jobs in France. I spent two years in college studying Geography, but I was fed up with theoretical knowledge and I needed to experiment in a handwork field. Besides that I did a couple jobs in huge factories with low revenues and boring days. Seeing people who have been working there for years so unhappy made me realize that I had to find a good job before it was too late. I played a lot of guitar by that time, and even though I had never worked with wood before, I decided to give building a try. My first glimpse of the beauty of handmade guitars came from the work of Frank Cheval. Then I went to Quebec City and began the course at the Lutherie School in 2011.

2016 Bouchereau Mistral #009 in Ziricote & Lutz Spruce

What builders inspire you today?

Today, I am inspired by a lot of luthiers, mostly from North America: Ervin Somogyi indeed, and all his students. Michael Bashkin, Mario Beauregard, Michel Pellerin, Tom Doerr. Also, I am a great fan of Japanese craftsmanship, and their luthiers honor us with their great talent: Nishi Keisuke, Ryosuke Kobayashi, Ryohei Echizen, Hiroshi Ogino, Keisuke Fuji, and others. I am developing my own approach of design and building, but all these talented fellow builders are a part of my own development as a luthier.

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

As I am still at the beginning of my career, my voicing methods are constantly evolving. My guitars are mostly designed for fingerpicking, and I am now focusing on controlling my back, top, and body pitch so they work together as a whole. When calibrating the parts, I focus a lot on their stiffness to weight ratio, I try to get my tops as light as possible so they have a quick and focused response. My comprehension of the frequency and vibrating behavior of the instrument remains a complex point for me. I am developing a new testing method based on some precious advice I got from Leo Buendia at the 2016 WILS. I truly believe, like most builders, that voicing and making instruments is an endless learning process.

Ziricote Back & Sides, Ebony Bindings & Heel Cap

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

My goal for now is to get my name out there. My participation to the 2016 WILS and my new partnership with you guys at Dream Guitars have really helped me to put my name on the map! For the next five years, I want to attend more guitar showcases like Woodstock, fill up my order list, and continue to develop my model lineup. I also have some unique guitar projects that I am dreaming to complete when the timing and finances allow it. I want my job as a luthier to be secure, and for that the Canadian Immigration department has a critical role to play as well.

Any interesting facts about your building process or shop arrangement?

My shop is small but functional for my work. I build most of the tools and jigs I am using myself, such as the binding channel routing arm, bending machine, molds, etc. I would rather spare hundreds of dollars in making my own stuff, and I also find it more satisfying in the end. My job as a technician at the Quebec Lutherie School is an amazing opportunity for me to have access to heavy machinery.


Bortot’s One-Man Shop in Quebec, Canada

What was your favorite, or your first, instrument that you ever played?

My very first guitar was my father’s old Japanese Takeharu Dreadnought, but it was not my favorite. As I am mostly an electric guitar player (which can sound odd as I have never built any) my favorite guitar in terms of playing would be my Gibson Les Paul. I also love playing on Bouchereau Guitars, indeed!

What do you enjoy doing outside of building instruments?

My life is mostly lutherie-focused, and even though it can be kind of isolating, my mind remains pretty healthy. Of course I have other activities in life, like paragliding in the summer and skiing in the winter, or just hiking from time to time. I love hanging out with my friends too. I try to go back to France once a year for a couple of weeks. It is always a blast to spend time with my friends and family there, and to put aside my rushed Canadian life for a while.

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

If I was not a guitar maker now, I would probably be working in France in a wine industry job with my brain turned off and my TV turned on.

What music are you listening to right now?

Led Zeppelin, The doors, Snarky Puppy, Vulfpeck, System of a down, Chinese man, Justice, Paul Kalkbrenner, Chopin; among many others. I almost always work with music in the background in my workshop.

We’ve sold the first Mistral you sent us, but you’re already working on the next one. Can you share a few details about the upcoming Mistral for Dream?

I have some pics of the guitar in progress for you, but it is at a pretty early stage right now. I am currently gluing the bracing on the top and back, and I have not started assembling the rim yet. The features of the upcoming Mistral are high-grade Sitka Spruce top, Quilted Sapele back and sides, Florentine cutaway, Ebony bindings, and Honduran Mahogany neck. 25.4″ scale length, Ebony fingerboard and bridge, Schertler tuners (or Gotoh 510 maybe), and a raised fingerboard.

download (1)

Quilted Sapele

download (2)

Sitka Spruce Top

Paul attended two shows last year, the Santa Barbara Acoustic Instrument Celebration and the Woodstock Invitational Luthier’s Showcase, and there he met a number of new builders with some truly awe-inspiring builds. Naturally, we took several of them on as new builders for Dream Guitars! Alongside Michel Pellerin and Loïc Bortot (of Bouchereau Guitars), we’re also proud to have added American builder Sam Guidry to our ranks! We have one of his big-voiced Jumbos in the shop right now, which you can find on out site here: https://www.dreamguitars.com/detail/5400-guidry_sg2_2016/In addition, we’d like to share his responses in a brief interview we conducted with Sam earlier this year.

One last thing! We recently hosted absurdly virtuosic guitarist and composer Clive Carroll at Dream for some video performances, and Clive recorded an original composition, “The Prince’s Waltz,” on Sam’s SG-2. You can find that video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUYXHmQUXhY. Clive was kind enough to offer us a copy of the TAB as well, which you can find here: https://www.dreamguitars.com/tab/The_Princes_Waltz.pdf. Enjoy!

What or who inspired you to begin building guitars?

In high school I was on the college prep course with all the intention of going to university and becoming a “normal” person. Shortly after graduation, one of my best friends was killed in a car accident which sent me into an existential depression. I didn’t want to go to college, I didn’t want to get off the couch! After about two months of that routine, my mother found Bryan Galloup’s luthiery school on this thing called “the internet” (it was 1998 by the way) and she wouldn’t let me waste away on the couch, so my parents shipped me off to learn luthiery. My goal was to learn to do a good set up and then return back home and work in a music store. Then I made my first acoustic guitar. Even though I was not an acoustic guitar player, the experience changed me. I knew that I had found my calling.

2016 Sam Guidry SG-2 Birdseye Maple & Engelmann Spruce


What builders inspire you today?

I try not to be too influenced by any one maker, but for inspiration I often turn to Michihiro Matsuda. He gave a talk at a Northwoods Seminar at our shop which centered around the idea of taking ideas and growing them; at least that’s what I took away from it. To think that the guitar doesn’t have to be anything really makes you free as a designer. I do not do the kind of work he is known for, but in my own way, I am trying to always be thinking and moving forward.

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

My goal in voicing an instrument is to make an instrument that responds quickly, with clarity and balance. My method is different from most as I take a scientific approach that begins with rigorous material testing and leads up though precise tuning of body resonances. This approach was developed between Bryan Galloup and I over the last 15 years that we have worked together. We started researching how to control our voicing because we would build two guitars with the same materials and they would sound different. Over the years we would build and test, and build and test some more, each time learning a little more of the secrets the guitar holds. All of this research led to a voicing method that gives me a high level of control over the voice of the instrument. There is always more to learn, and currently I am studying the effects of higher order modes of vibration of the perception of tone.

Birdseye Maple Headstock with Ebony Inlay


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

I have been trending towards a minimalist style lately. I used to be obsessed with purfling, but I have been paring that away and looking for new ways to embellish my instruments. I will probably continue that trend for a while, but who knows when inspiration will strike!

Any interesting facts about your building process or shop arrangement?

I have a unique shop arrangement as I am the senior instructor at the Galloup School of Guitar Building and Repair. Firstly, this gives me access to a world class shop many folks would be envious of. Secondly, as a teacher it forces me to understand each process to the nth degree so I can explain what is happening to my students. This arrangement also gives me the time and incentive to develop new, more effective techniques to push the art of lutherie forward.

2016 Sam Guidry SG-2 in Birdseye Maple & Engelmann Spruce


What was your favorite, or your first, instrument that you ever played?

I have always been a guitar man. I received my first guitar for Christmas in 1994 (an Ibanez Iceman) and I have never looked back.

What do you enjoy doing outside of building instruments?

Aside from building guitars, I have two beautiful daughters, 10 and 1 ½ years respectively, that keep me busy outside of the shop.

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

My path to becoming a guitar maker has been almost accidental, seeming to be in the right place at the right time at key junctures in my life but if I wasn’t a luthier, I would probably work in retail, maybe a chapeau shop like “what size are you, sir, 11?”

What music are you listening to right now?

I used to be a big jam band fan but lately I have been getting into progressive metal. I really like a band from the UK called Haken and I am getting into the band Animals as Leaders lately as well.

Paul attended two shows last year, the Santa Barbara Acoustic Instrument Celebration and the Woodstock Invitational Luthier’s Showcase, and there he met a number of new builders with some truly awe-inspiring builds. Naturally, we took several of them on as new builders for Dream Guitars! Alongside Isaac Jang and Loïc Bortot, we’re also proud to have added Michel Pellerin to our ranks! We have one of his big-voiced Jumbos in the shop right now, which you can find on out site here: https://www.dreamguitars.com/builder/501-pellerin-guitars/. In addition, we’d like to share his responses in a brief interview we conducted with Michel earlier this year. Enjoy!

What or who inspired you to begin building guitars?

When I was in college studying jazz and classical music, I was in a guitar ensemble class. I was 17 years old. There were 30 students in the same room, all with their personal guitars, and I discovered that there were so many different sounds, levels of volume and tone. Mine was one of the worst in every aspect, an all-plywood Sonata classical guitar (I’m not proud of it, but it is what I could afford at this time). The year after that I applied to the Quebec National School of Lutherie with the thought of building two nice guitars for myself. I didn’t plan on guitar building becoming my career at that time.

2016 Pellerin Jumbo in Engelmann Spruce


What builders inspire you today?

Without any hesitation, Mario Beauregard is the one! I have always loved his artistic taste and his classy lines; always astonishing. The first time I really played one of his guitars (an OMC Blackwood/German spruce I remember like it was yesterday), I realized that perfection could be achievable.

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

My goal is to have a balanced instrument. Strong and defined bass notes, but not too much, a wide and even midrange, and clear and rounded trebles. Highs with an envelope, not harsh, and sparkling harmonics. All of this with nice bloom and long decay, like a grand piano. Of course, I can adjust these qualities regarding what the musician needs.

Birdseye Maple Heelcap, Wenge Bindings


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

I have had a wonderful evolution since 2011, when I took Ervin Somogyi’s plate voicing class. Since then, my guitar tone has improved a lot due to refining my bracing, recording data, tuning tops and backs to a specific note, and minimizing energy loss. My goal is always to maximize evenness, tone, and volume for a wonderful playing experience. In the next five years, I hope to achieve what Mario Beuregard is able to do in his instruments today. I don`t mean to copy his voicing or his guitar building, but to learn to know exactly how a guitar will sound before closing the soundbox. I want to be able to know where to carve to remove a wolf-note, or how to mitigate a boosted frequency. I want to achieve what I would call “Anticipated Fine-Tuning.” Of course, studying with him would be a dream come true.

Any interesting facts about your building process or shop arrangement that you’d like to share?

I work in my shop with my friend of almost 15 years. François Paradis is a luthier specializing in oriental music. He`s a multi-instrumentalist and a djembé music teacher, but mostly an Indian sitar player, left-handed, and…he’s got perfect pitch. What luck I have to have him in the shop! I like to try and test different woods, different bracing patterns, but, always following my tone. Even a guitar with 6 or 12 strings or a multi-stringed instrument such as a harp-guitar (one of my specialties), a Pellerin will stay a Pellerin to your ears.

2016 Pellerin Jumbo in Birdseye Maple


What was your favorite, or your first, instrument that you ever played?

The first instrument I received from my mother was an EL Dégas electric guitar. I was 15 year old. It was not the best guitar, but I wasn’t able to leave it alone. I slept with it. I only stopped playing when my fingers hurt. I loved this guitar so much.

What do you enjoy doing outside of building instruments?

Playing (and camping in the summer) with my children; I have two (Florence, 7 years old, and Jérémie, 11 years old). Training myself (running outside, hiking, gym, crossfit). I’m fascinated by ancient cultures like the Mayas, Incas, and Aztecs. I love sushis (making them and most of all eatting them!). I love to travel and discover other cultures, especially for food!

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

I would say: technical designer on Solidworks, Autocad, etc., a CNC operator, or maybe a mechanical engineer.

What music are you listening to right now?

I love a lot of different styles. Snarky Puppy, Steve Vai, Michel Cusson, Justin St-Pierre, Antoine Dufour, Stephen Bennett, but also Gentle Giant, Yes, Mr.Bungle, NOFX, Metallica or Animals as Leader, depending on my mood. Right now, I have Marie-Mai (a Quebec female singer) in my car’s CD player…my daughter’s choice.

Our Experiences and Take-Aways from 2016’s Santa Barbara Acoustic Instruments Celebration & Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase

People often ask us how we find all the splendid guitars that we offer. Of course we have numerous methods for finding these fine instruments, but one of our most exciting avenues is attending guitar shows. Each year there are a few great shows that feature custom guitars by independent luthiers, often working in one-man workshops and with an unparalleled attention to detail. Dream Guitars owner Paul Heumiller recently came back from two such shows, the 2016 Santa Barbara Acoustic Instruments Celebration and the 2016 Woodstock Invitational Luthiers Showcase. Heumiller: “At these shows many of the top luthiers in the world display several of their most recent developments, which gives us the rare opportunity to play a few different models of each maker. Being able to play more than one at a time is key for us at Dream Guitars, because it gives us a chance to honestly evaluate newer makers and evaluate their builds for consistency and quality of tone. It’s also important to meet up with established makers that we already work with in order to pick out our new favorite instruments to bring back for our clients.”

These shows invite between 80 and 120 guitar makers and are open to the public, which is another reason that we like to attend. Heumiller again: “It’s a joy to finally meet clients that I’ve been working with on the phone and over email for years. The shows are a great opportunity to see the faces and shake the hands of clients with whom I’ve worked for the past 20 years. It’s a part of the business I truly love, since guitar people are all great folks and we all have so much in common. I’ve made several dear friends while running between the shows over the years.”

As we mentioned earlier, the shows are one of the key ways that we discover new talent. This year was an exceptionally rich one for identifying younger makers that had something worthy of the Dream Guitars name. At most shows we expect to perhaps find one new builder that impresses us, maybe two, but this year we found no fewer than six! Heumiller again: “I think the fact that there are so many stellar young builders has a lot to do with the sharing of information these days. Young makers have so much access to good information that if they have talent they can much more quickly reach a high level of quality both in terms of construction and tone.”

Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 5.22.44 PM

At the Santa Barbara show we invited Hollywood, California-based luthier Isaac Jang to join us. “I’ve been watching been him for some time now, and at Santa Barbara his OM just blew me away; the timing was right to start a relationship. Jang’s work has impressed me for years, and during that time I gave him advice and my honest opinion of his work. This year he did something about it, so we decided to purchase the Brazilian Rosewood-and-German-Spruce OM that he’d brought.”–Heumiller. We were also delighted to learn more about Jang’s past, namely that at age 17 he asked Kathy Wingert for an apprenticeship. Kathy wisely told him that he had to graduate from a lutherie school, get a job working in guitar repair, and then come see her. Isaac did all of that by age 19 and returned to Kathy’s door. He apprenticed with Kathy for a number of years, and it shows. Isaac is now a teacher at the Musicians Institute in Hollywood.

Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 5.23.00 PM

While we were there we also made good on our long-standing respect for Michel Pellerin of Canada by offering to represent his work–and we brought back a beautiful Sunburst Jumbo he had recently finished. In addition, we met the truly inspiring creations of Benoît Lavoie. None other than Pierre Bensusan bought Lavoie’s guitar which we planned to get after the show! We are delighted at Benoît’s success; just goes to show we have good taste if Bensusan beat us to the chase, and we’ll wait until the next one is finished.

We also got to see the new work of Noemi Schembri from Italy. The tone of her guitars mesmerized us at Santa Barbara, and by the time we saw her again in Woodstock we simply could not resist any longer: we brought back an Madagascar Rosewood SJ and a Koa Baritone.

Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 5.23.12 PM

In Woodstock we were introduced to the inspirational work of Canadian builder Loïc Bortot (of Bouchereau Guitars fame). After playing a few of his instruments, it was clear why he graduated first in his class at Quebec City’s National Lutherie School, and is now a teacher there. From that week we brought back his wonderful slotted head Mistral model. Speaking of teachers, we were also able to connect with Sam Guidry, a teacher alongside Bryan Galloup at the American School of Lutherie, and get one of his Maple OMs for the shop. Paul: “Bryan told me I had to look at Sam’s guitars, and I’m really glad I did. I’ve long respected Bryan, so when he tells me about someone new, I listen. At Woodstock I got to spend a lot of time with Sam after events; he’s a great fellow to be around, and he’s incredibly passionate about his craft. As soon as I played this Maple guitar I fell in love. It’s voiced for a big, round attack with superb clarity across the registers–which is why I’m stoked to get in the shop!”

Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 5.23.26 PM

Screen Shot 2016-11-18 at 5.23.41 PM

Paul: “The other aspect of the shows that is pure joy for me is seeing my old friends that I’ve known for many, many years. Many of them I met as young upstart builders when I first opened Dream Guitars’ doors, and they’re still building guitars today. The many dinners and glasses of wine from bygone years allow us to really get to know each other as human beings that share a common passion in the art of the guitar.” This time around it was wonderful to make a new friend in Richard Hoover, the founder of Santa Cruz Guitars, and Joe Glaser a repairman beyond compare. Paul: “I was delighted when Richard Hoover asked me to introduce him to a few talented young makers. He was beaming over the fine work of Isaac Jang and Leo Buendia like a high schooler opening his guitar case for the first time. Clearly the passion is still inside of Richard, and he so gracefully complimented his younger peers on their fine work. He told me later that ‘just when he thought we’d gotten this guitar making thing down these new guys come along and make it harder again with their new ideas!'”

The one common thread that binds these young makers together and excites us so much is their open mind, open heart approach to the craft. They don’t just want to build good copies of guitars, they want to push the envelope in all the right ways and create innovative musical tools to inspire musicians in ways not yet known to us. Paul: “This is something you can’t just feel by just looking at their guitars necessarily, but trust me: as I dined with these folks and taste tested dozens of their guitars I could feel the boundaries they were pushing and hear the voices they were pioneering.” These new builders are seekers chasing down their crazy dreams–while they fulfill the dreams of players the world over. We are beyond excited to consider what will become of the guitar world in the years to come. This is the golden age of guitars, and it’s not stopping any time soon. Let’s hang on and enjoy the ride!


Early in 2015 I had the pleasure of playing my first Preston Thompson guitar. I was mesmerized by the warm and full voice that came out of the small 000 sized body. I remember Al Petteway and I talking about how magical the voice was. The build quality was also perfect in every detail.

I reached out to Preston and asked him to make us a Dream Series instrument. This is something we have only done with approximately eight to ten builders over the years. I very much look forward to seeing and hearing the first of many Thompson guitars. I’m certain our clientele will absolutely love them.

Following are a handful of specs featured on this incoming Dream Series guitar:

Top: Adirondack
Back and Sides: Brazilian Rosewood
Binding: Brazilian w/BW purf
Top Purfling: Herringbone
Rosette: Abalone 3-Ring
Back Strip: 45 Style
Tail Wedge: Brazilian w/BW Purf
Neck: Honduran Mahogany
Headstock Binding: Brazilian w/BW Purf
Headstock: Slotted
Neck Binding: Brazilian
Nut width: 1 3/4”
String Spacing: 2 5/16”
Heel Cap: Brazilian

This one is currently available for purchase here at Dream Guitars – Please call the shop for more information 828-658-9795. Following are a few additional early images of this beauty coming together as well:

Dream Guitar Front

Dream Guitar Front-Side

Dream Guitar Back

Dream Guitar Rosette

For more information on this incoming Preston Thompson 000-14BA Custom please call the shop 828-658-9795.

Update 7/18/16:

Here are a few new pictures of this beauty as it comes along:









Update 7/27/16:

Here’s a great video of the Brazilian binding coming together on this incoming Thompson – Enjoy!