Editor’s Note: Acoustic Guitar is celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2020. One way we’re marking this milestone is to auction off our 10th Anniversary Guitar Collection, with 50 percent of the net proceeds going to the Bill Collings Memorial Fund in support of guitar education in public schools and public programs. Below is Teja Gerken’s report on the collection, originally published in the December 2000 issue of Acoustic Guitar.
To view the instruments in the collection, click here.
To celebrate Acoustic Guitar magazine’s 10th anniversary, we asked 12 top guitar manufacturers to design and build two identical custom instruments incorporating our 10th anniversary logo—one to be given away to a lucky reader chosen randomly, and one to become part of our permanent collection.
Aside from requesting that the builders incorporate our logo into the instruments, we gave them free rein to design the ultimate acoustic guitar. All the makers opted to build six-string flattop steel-strings except for the folks at National Reso-Phonic, who sent us two metal-body resonator guitars, and the luthiers at Guild’s custom shop, who built us two outstanding 12-string jumbos. The collection will be displayed at trade shows and musical gatherings.
The first instrument to arrive in our studio was the Yamaha CPX 15N with our logo inlaid at the first fret of the fingerboard. The handcrafted guitar was designed with a northern motif and sports a translucent white sunburst finish and a rosette depicting the never-setting northern sun. The CPX 15N features a scaled-down jumbo-shaped body constructed with bleached sycamore back and sides and a solid Sitka spruce top. An advanced electronics package consisting of an L.R. Baggs Ribbon Transducer built into the guitar’s adjustable bridge and Yamaha’s own preamp/blender and internal microphone transmits the guitar’s bright tone to larger audiences.
Larrivée’s shiny contribution to the collection is based on their LV-10 model, whose body shape is reminiscent of a classical guitar’s but with larger dimensions. The guitar’s AAA-grade Indian rosewood back and sides are stunning, and the Sitka spruce top—which came from Jean Larrivée’s private stash—has the three-dimensional cross-grain held in high esteem by luthiers and collectors. The instrument features the unique parallel bracing pattern that gives Larrivées their trademark sound and is versatile enough to please flatpickers and fingerstylists alike. The elaborate abalone binding and rosette complement the stunning vine inlays in the bridge and fingerboard, and an entirely original headstock design created by Wendy Larrivée incorporates mother-of- pearl, red abalone, ivory, walnut, and sterling silver wire. “The figure was prepared from drawings of a seated model,” Wendy Larrivée explains, “and those drawings in turn provided the basis for the necessary machining to produce the inlay. The concept for the inlay is totally original, and the resulting headstocks are unmistakably Larrivée yet truly celebratory of Acoustic Guitar magazine’s 10th anniversary.”
The folks at Ovation, the company that pioneered the use of composite materials in acoustic guitar construction, also sent us an instrument that reflects their unique contribution to the world of guitars. The modified version of the latest Adamas CVT features a smooth top made of two woven layers of carbon fiber sandwiched around an ultra-thin poplar core. The guitar sports Ovation’s distinctive round back and multiple soundhole arrangement as well as the company’s own thinline pickup and Optima preamp. Although it is thus ready for stage use, even acoustic purists will enjoy the guitar’s cool brass-like bass response, sustain, and volume.
The Breedlove Guitar Co. was founded by Larry Breedlove and Steve Henderson in 1990, the same year that Acoustic Guitar hit the streets. It quickly grew into one of the most respected small-production facilities around. The custom C22 the company contributed to our collection reflects Breedlove’s innovative spirit, which helps set it apart from other manufacturers. The instrument is constructed primarily of non-endangered tonewoods, including myrtlewood back and sides, which Henderson describes as combining the powerful voice of rosewood with the clarity and balance of maple. The C22 has a maple neck and a Sitka spruce top and features a grand concert-size body with the depth of a dreadnought. The unique JLD bridge-truss system Breedlove incorporated into the design works to transfer a portion of the strings’ pull to the sides of the guitar. The result is a rich bass response, clear balance, and surprising headroom.
Gibson opted for flamed maple when designing its contribution to the collection, the jumbo-size SJ-200, also known as the King of the Flattops. The spectacular Custom Vine instrument we received was built under the direction of Ren Ferguson, Gibson Montana’s chief luthier. It features gorgeous flamed maple back and sides, a three-piece neck, a Sitka spruce top, and ebony mustache bridge and fingerboard. “The wood for these guitars sounded good before we even started building,” says Ferguson. The elaborate vine inlay in the fingerboard was created with abalone, which also frames the entire body of the SJ-200. According to Ferguson, “the inlay pattern was originally developed for a Japanese custom order, and we adapted it.” The AG anniversary logo is integrated into the design of the headstock, and even the pickguard was custom-designed to contribute to this guitar’s one-of-a-kind look.
Every guitar collection should include a rosewood dreadnought, and we’re glad that Collings decided to build us a special D-41. Inspired by pre-war Martins of the same body shape, this guitar features Bill Collings’ typical blend of vintage specs and contemporary precision. The proven combination of East Indian rosewood back and sides, a tight-grained Sitka spruce top, and scalloped bracing makes the Collings D-41 a veritable cannon. Its look is classy but not flashy, with an abalone-bound top, snowflake fingerboard inlays, a Brazilian rosewood headstock overlay, and AG’s anniversary logo inlaid at the first fret.
A less traditional instrument came to us from RainSong, manufacturers of some of the most radical guitars developed during the last decade. The only acoustic guitar on the market made entirely of carbon fiber, the Custom WS 1000 is impervious to humidity changes and offers a bold solution to the problem of vanishing tonewoods. Thanks to the company’s unique soundboard design, which uses a projection-tuned layering process that eliminates the need for traditional braces altogether, the guitar has a surprisingly organic acoustic voice with excellent balance and string separation. It features Fishman’s Prefix Onboard Blender system, which combines an under-saddle transducer with an internal microphone and provides reliable plugged-in performance. The AG anniversary logo is molded right into the back of the guitar. “The logo was first cut into abalone veneer and placed into the body mold,” RainSong’s Ashvin Coomar explains. “Graphite impregnated with epoxy was then carefully layered into the mold, keeping the weave directions aligned. Under high temperature and pressure, the graphite molds itself around the veneer as it cures. When the body is ejected from the mold, the logo appears ‘inlaid’ into the graphite.”
While RainSong offered a futuristic design, the Santa Cruz Guitar Co. looked to the past for inspiration. A contemporary version of parlor guitars built in the late 19th century, the Santa Cruz PJ is only about 12 ½ inches wide across its lower bout, and it features a 12-fret neck with a short, 24-inch scale. “We took the design of guitars from the 1890s and early 1900s, and turned it into a modern instrument,” says Santa Cruz’ Richard Hoover. “We also included attributes such as an adjustable truss rod, and all we’ve learned in the last 100 years of guitar making.” The instrument is constructed with Indian rosewood back and sides and a Sitka spruce top, and the anniversary logo is integrated into an elaborate vine design made of abalone, mother-of-pearl, and gold, inlaid by master artist Larry Robinson. “Late 19th-century art nouveau seemed consistent with the [parlor guitar] era,” Hoover explains. Vintage-style Irving Sloane tuners with ivoroid buttons mounted on the guitar’s slotted headstock keep the instrument in tune with style, and the PJ’s voice is intimate yet surprisingly rich and complex.
In a deliberate break from tradition, C.F. Martin and Co. built us a custom “photonegative” herringbone dreadnought. Based on the company’s HD-28 Vintage Series model, the guitar is made to look like a photo negative. In other words, everything you expect to be dark in color is light and vice-versa. “I got the idea from our limited-edition Grand Ole Opry guitar [which featured a white fingerboard],” says Martin’s Dick Boak. “In my head, I merged it with our black Johnny Cash model, and the idea was born.” The instrument features a white micarta bridge, fingerboard, pickguard, and headstock overlay (material usually used for nuts and saddles) and black body, neck, nut, saddle, bridge pins, and tuner buttons. Even the guitar’s label—signed by C.F. Martin IV and Acoustic Guitar publisher David A. Lusterman—is color-reversed. Despite the guitar’s nontraditional look, it’s the same classic rosewood dreadnought that has earned Martin the respect of players worldwide.
Another classic instrument came to us from National Reso-Phonic, the California-based company that has successfully transported metal-bodied resonator guitars into the 21st century. National built us an ornately engraved custom Style O Deluxe constructed of nickel-plated brass and featuring a traditional Hawaiian motif. The guitar’s one-of-a-kind tone and remarkable volume are both generated by its biscuit- type single resonator. The guitar’s neck is hand-carved from hardrock maple and features a hefty V shape that’s sure to please vintage aficionados. A custom solid headstock features the anniversary logo, and the engraved date leaves no question about the century of manufacture: 2000 A.D.
Another top-of-the-line instrument came to us from Guild. The company’s JF-65-12 12-string features flamed maple back and sides and a solid spruce top. The neck is ornately bound, and the fingerboard sports classy pearl and abalone block inlays. In classic Guild fashion, the guitar features a three- piece neck with a double truss rod as well as the arched back and special top bracing pattern that contribute to the instrument’s signature sound. The AG anniversary logo is prominently displayed on the gigantic headstock’s black veneer, and active Fishman electronics, complete with volume and tone controls, ensure that the guitar will sound just as good on stage as it does in the living room.
The final guitar submitted for the collection is the one we’re giving away in this issue, a custom flattop from Taylor Guitars. Based on the company’s 914-C model, the guitar features a grand auditorium body size developed for Taylor’s 20th anniversary in 1994. It’s constructed from high-grade, reddish-brown Indian rosewood and tightly grained Engelmann spruce. Abalone purfling and a simple rosette lend an elegant edge to these quality woods, and Taylor included our anniversary logo in a custom fingerboard design. Kurt Listug, who was in charge of the project, says, “My idea was to do something unique but simple. I envisioned inlays that were Old Worldish, maybe like Gothic lettering.” A consultation with the company’s design department resulted in some very contemporary-looking Roman numeral tens in the fretboard, which contributed to the novel appearance of this splendid instrument.
We are deeply grateful to each of the manufacturers that contributed guitars to our 10th anniversary collection. These 12 unique instruments showcase the work of some of the most talented luthiers in the music industry. They stand as proof positive that we are living in the Golden Age of Lutherie and that the strides the guitar-building community has made in the ten years since Acoustic Guitar magazine was founded are not limited to individual guitar makers handcrafting ten or 12 guitars per year. Thanks to the sharing of design ideas and construction techniques as well as technological advances, large-scale guitar manufacturers, too, are offering players at every level the best guitars ever available.
To view the instruments in the collection, click here.