From the July/August 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar | By Greg Olwell

Luthier Michael Gurian is acknowledged as one of the earliest and most influential luthiers working outside of the big-name factories. He began building classical guitars in New York City, but he’s perhaps best known for the steel-string instruments he and a team of fellow luthiers made from the late 1960s until the early ’80s, in New Hampshire. Gurian offered several different models, the Jumbo, the 2, and the 3, which found favor with Paul Simon, John Renbourn, David Lindley, Bob Dylan, and Jackson Browne, among other big names.

Photo courtesy of Gryphon Stringed Instruments

With its wide waist, sloping shoulders, and curvy shape, the silhouette of a 3-style Gurian guitar is immediately recognizable. It might look like a jumbo, but with a 15.5-inch lower bout, it’s closer in size to a 000. The 1973 S3B3H shown here features a Sitka spruce top with Brazilian rosewood back and sides. This steel-string incorporates elements from Gurian’s nylon-string background, such as the combination of an ebony fretboard sans position markers and a rosewood bridge. It also sports a genuine ivory nut and saddle and the wooden binding that is fashionable these days. 


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Following a 1979 boiler explosion that decimated all of the tooling, machinery, and over 200 instruments in his Hinsdale, New Hampshire, shop, Gurian returned to building for a few years before economic realities brought an end to his guitar company. He still builds instruments on a limited basis, and his namesake company is staffed by woodworkers on a barge in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood, making tools and decorative elements for guitars (marquetry inlay and purfling, bridge pins and endpins, rosettes, inlay materials, pickguards, and fret files) and also providing custom woodworking and materials for furniture makers and boat builders.

This article originally appeared in the July/August 2020 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.

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