A couple of years ago, guitar maker Leonardo Buendia was at the Santa Barbara Acoustic Instrument Celebration when he met a retired Southern California luthier who had a stash of rare wood sets from a fallen mahogany tree known for its intense figuring. (Search “The Tree” at AcousticGuitar.com.) “The luthier had bought the wood in the early 1980s [when it first became available on the market] and stored it carefully for all these years,” Buendia says. “I knew I would never find Tree wood as good as this, so I begged him not to sell it—to give me time and let me buy it.”
By the summer of 2017, he had saved enough money to unburden the retiree of his leftover Tree stash. In his Oakland, California, workshop Buendia recently put the wood to excellent use, as the back and sides of the dreadnought-size guitar with Manzer-style wedge pictured here. For the soundboard, he opted for Adirondack spruce of the highest grade, in terms of the consistency of its grain pattern and coloring. “I’ve never spent as much on spruce as I did on this unique example, but I wanted the very best woods I could find for the guitar,” Buendia says.
The luthier also spared no expense when it came to ornamentation. He went for an elaborately hand-carved wooden rosette—a technique he learned from his mentor, Ervin Somogyi—and extended this Celtic motif to a graft at the endpin. “I fell in love with the style when I first saw it, and I asked Ervin to teach me how to do it,” Buendia says. “It’s a very slow process. It takes about ten full working days just to make a single rosette like that, but the end result is amazing.”
This article originally appeared in the July 2018 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.