From the “hippie sandwich” electric basses and guitars that he made with Alembic in the 1970s to the acoustic-electric Renaissance guitars and Compass Rose acoustics and ukuleles he began building in the ’90s, the late luthier and repair guru Rick Turner found inspiration in the past while exploring new technology.
Turner created many unique Compass Rose acoustics (even going so far as to design one for Antarctica’s extreme environment). The example here, regarded as among his finest, was the luthier’s personal guitar and a showcase of both his bold concepts and skilled execution. It features a jumbo body with a Russian spruce top, Cambodian rosewood back and sides, and a Honduran mahogany neck. Distinctive signature details include an arrowhead-shaped headstock and a bridge inspired by Baroque-era lutes. But a look through the side soundport shows an interior teeming with Turner’s most recent innovations.
Much of the spruce bracing is laminated with carbon-fiber strips, making it stronger and lighter than the solid wooden type. Four carbon-fiber rods anchor the neck block to the middle bouts to support the neck, which is floating. Turner based the neck on Howe-Orme instruments from the 1890s. The neck and fingerboard are cantilevered over the body for greater vibrating surface area; a clever mechanism permits adjusting the neck angle and string height with an Allen wrench, precluding the need for future neck resets.
“Because its bracing is reinforced with carbon fiber, Dad was able to build the guitar fairly light for a jumbo,” says Ethan Turner, the guitar maker’s son and the instrument’s current caretaker. “This made for a very resonant guitar with a big, punchy sound. I love recording with it because you can point a mic almost anywhere at the body and achieve great tone.”
This article originally appeared in the September/October 2022 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.