My interest in the classical guitar was first as a player, but the pleasure and challenge of working with wood lured me away from my career in physics and engineering to study instrument making full time. I studied Musical Instrument Technology at the London Guildhall University (formerly the London College of Furniture) under David Whiteman, and then classical guitar making at Newark College with Roy Courtnall and Tony Johnson, where I received The Ashley Mark Publishing Classical Guitar Prize for most outstanding student.
Many of the skills acquired from my previous career are of equal importance in building handmade classical guitars, such as precision measurements and attention to detail. A scientific approach can be useful, although in making a fine guitar, I believe there are limits to how far this can be taken. Ultimately there is no substitute for the experience, feel and ear of a good maker.
I also teach classical guitar making two days a week at Newark College in Nottinghamshire.
My principal aim as is to build guitars that are sensitive to the touch, to allow the player to express their own musicality, and not be dominated by the character of the guitar or the luthier. The tone of the best classical guitars is determined by the player at well as the guitar itself. I always aim to make guitars that I would be happy to own and play myself.
Built mainly in the Spanish tradition, most of my guitars are made to a consistent design based on a 1938 Hauser, but incorporating my own aesthetic ideas, and a slightly modified strutting pattern.
The guitars are light and responsive, with good clarity and separation. My aim is for good balance across the strings, and a warm sound, but to allow the player to produce a brighter tone when required. The guitars also have a good balance between the fundamental note and the overtones, producing a sustain with a smooth decay.
Ease of playing is an important consideration, and is achieved by attention to detail in shaping the neck, finishing the fingerboard and frets, and accurate setting of the action, which can be set to meet the particular needs of the player.
The visual aspect of my guitars is relatively simple, allowing the grain and colour of the particular woods used to determine the visual impact of the guitar. Traditional finishes are used, either French polish or oil finish, which enhance the natural beauty of the wood, without compromising the tone.
Top quality European spruce is used for the front, and normally Indian rosewood for the back and sides. Alternative tonewoods available include maple (flamed or Bird's eye), Ziricote, Walnut, Honduran rosewood, Macassar Ebony and Brazilian rosewood. Spanish cedar (Cedrilla) or mahogany can be specified for the neck, Indian or Brazilian rosewood for the bridge, and ebony for the fingerboard.
My bridges now use a twelve hole tie-block as standard, although 6- or 18-hole tie blocks are an option. All of my guitars now incorporate as standard a graphite-epoxy re-inforcing bar to improve the stability of the neck, without adding any weight, or changing the external appearance.
Soundports, 20th frets, and pickup/pre-amp systems can now be specified on any of my guitars. I am also working on an adjustable neck design, which I can now offer as an option.
I also make handmade flamenco guitars, normally based on those of Santos Hernandez. Cypress is used for the back and sides, although rosewood is an option. Traditional peg tuners can be fitted if required (ebony or rosewood), and transparent golpeador plates are fitted to protect the top. These guitars are very light and responsive, and have a lower action, and lower string height at the bridge. My aim with the flamenco guitars is to produce an instrument which is easy to play, and which has a fast attack, but less sustain. Visit Gallery 4 for images of a cypress flamenco guitar, with ebony peg tuners and Danish oil finish.