Soundboards are usually European Spruce or Western Red Cedar, although I have produced outstanding guitars using Sitka Spruce. They are made with large tone bars above and below the sound hole to prevent unwanted vibrations from leaking into the upper bout which resonates at a different frequency than the lower bout.
Backs and sides can be Brazilian Rosewood, Indian Rosewood, Cypress, Cocobola, English Walnut, or Bubinga if available. See the Wood section in the Gallery for examples.
Fingerboards are ebony. Necks are made of Honduras cedar or mahogany. See more pictures in the Gallery.
I build in the Spanish tradition: that is, the guitar is constructed face down on a work board (solera). The neck is made first, reinforced with a carbon fibre rod, its heel stacked from off cuts of one plank. The sides are joined to each other at the bottom, then to the neck. Solid linings are added to the sides and then the neck and side unit is joined to the top.
The shape is based on a 1935 Santos Hernandez. But since I bend the sides dry on a hot iron, the shape of each guitar is slightly different.
The back is joined from two or more pieces of wood, domed to 5 mm, then glued to the sides. At this time the guitar is removed from the solera and purflings added to the edges. The guitar is French polished, after which the bridge is fitted. See more pictures in the Gallery.
Players have differing opinions about what comprises the ideal shape and size of a guitar neck. Some like a rounded neck, others a flatish, Fleta-style neck. Some like low, soft actions and will tolerate some buzz of strings on frets. Others, often players with powerful techniques, do not like any buzz and hence prefer a higher action and wider string spacing.
I try to accommodate a player’s preferences. Here are the size parameters within which I work.
|Width of neck at nut||49 – 54 mm|
|Width of strings at nut||40 – 45 mm|
|Width of neck at 12th fret||58 – 62 mm|
|Width of strings at 12th fret||49 – 53 mm|
|Height of action at 12th fret||3 – 4.5 mm|
|Depth of neck at 0 fret||20 – 22 mm|
|Depth of neck at 8th fret||23 – 24 mm|
There are a number of things that contribute to making an action soft, medium or hard
- The angle of the head where it attaches to the neck.
- The thickness and stiffness of the wood in the top.
- The number and size of the soundboard’s braces.
- The thickness of the bridge.
Changing the size of any of these will change the sound the guitar produces. A softer action is the result of a combination of less stiff braces, thinner soundboard, thinner bridge and a shallower angle between neck and head. These tend to lessen sustain and reduce volume.
- 01. Minor Swing (Django Reinhardt)
- 02. Milonga del barbijo (Cacho Tirao)
- 03. Kirkmickle Tickle
- 04. Siguirya
Listen to more in the Sample Music page…
Just send an e-mail with your specifications. A deposit is required before any work commences (see the Prices page for details). This is non returnable. However, should you cancel I will endeavour to sell the guitar to someone else and if successful will return your deposit.
Wood plays an important part in sound production.
Sound boards - You can choose from:
- European Spruce
- Sitka Spruce
- Western red cedar
All tops are A grade or better. They have been chosen for sound production by tone tapping and stiffness. All tops are perfectly quartered. Read More on the Choosing Wood page…
On 10 July Xuefei Yang gave a masterclass and a concert at the Dulwich Picture Gallery. Between the two she came to my house for a bit of practice and refreshment. She asked if I wanted to play her Smallman. I did: it’s very loud, and in her hands, capable of great nuance and colour.
I asked if she wanted to try one of mine. For an hour or so she did much of her rehearsal on one of my classical guitars. Her comments are opposite. After the concert she signed CDs and programmes for 30 minutes. I have never heard an audience so universal in its appraisal – the general comment was “Wow! Fantastic. How are you going to top that (for the next concert)?”
Very nice sound, it’s really open. Great projection. And so easy to play. Xuefei Yang
“It is now just over a year that I have received your excellent spruce top classical guitar. Both my teacher and I enjoy playing it greatly and we are both stunned by how much the colour and clarity of sound has been and still is improving. The one thing that makes us enjoy this instrument so much though is the loudness, sustain and melody! An amazing piece of work and I would, once more, like to thank you for what is a masterpiece of sound clarity and craftsmanship! P.G. Cyprus
I have been playing the guitar in a state of wonder. I have a top of the range Conde which pales into bland mediocrity when compared to your yew guitar. I know all things have been said in praise of your work but two things need to be added, firstly the quality of the sound produced and secondly the sheer beauty of the guitar, the combination of spruce and yew is a subtle exercise in colour. All my life I have wished for such a guitar. May the wind be always at your back. D.B. Glasgow
Your craftmanship is extraordinary – the guitar is a work of art and I have a beautiful annotated photo album of its construction as well! I can already say that your instrument is very comfortable and a dream to play. It has great sustain and the clarity and brilliance of the sound is a real joy. The amplification is also sensational. I am looking forward to many years of growing with this special guitar. T.C. Waterford, Connecticut
After a year of playing your guitar, I recently had the opportunity to compare your instrument with another guitar from a fairly well-established English maker (who’s instruments sell for around £3,500). I have to say that my guitar offered better projection, tone and sustain than the other instrument (a spruce and rosewood classical). In fact, the owner of this instrument seems to spend more time on my guitar each time we meet than on his own instrument. J.A.
Never have I played a guitar that produces such and even tone across the lower and higher registers with such clarity and punch. D.R. Los Angeles
If I had a guitar like this I’d practice a lot more. P.R. London
This guitar really zings. Martin Byatt, London
I’ve got 3 Mewburn guitars – a classical, a flamenco and a cutaway. Each has a superb tonal spectrum, and all are loud guitars with superb sustain. M.T. London
Your guitars easily rate with makers who are charging twice as much as you do. P.R. Harrow
I had enough money in my pocket to buy a 1A guitar from any maker I wished – I bought a Mewburn. O.P. Leeds
I sold a Contrerras to buy my second Mewburn. O.P. Leeds
I have to say that the tone of Cypress continues to impress me – not only does the guitar sound ‘just the ticket’ for nylon jazz but suits some of the classical works as well as the more established classical tonewoods. Maybe Cypress should receive a better ‘press’ from the classical community. J.A.
My Christmas with your guitar was being like a child with a new toy – all my favourite pieces only 10 times easier to play. J.Y. London
Greg Smallman is in trouble. Your guitar is superb. J.Y. London
I’m very pleased. The articulation and clarity are great, the tone and balance just what I was after. J.A. Stirling
Everyone I’ve spoken to about your guitars says you walk on water.A.D. Texas
You have the best guitar maker’s site and sample music. The guitars sound pretty good too!T.W. MA USA
Thank you not just for making the guitar, but for all the wonderful descriptions and photographs of the building process. You redefine the term customer care. P.C. Powys, Wales
I just wanted to say that now that I have had a chance to play the guitar a bit I absolutely love it! It has a lovely solid, reliable feel on every note, the tuning is spot on up and down, and the tone is rich and full and will no doubt improve further with time. I should warn you though that I don’t think you are very popular with my wife right now, as she says that she has hardly seen me since I picked up the guitar as I am always playing it. I made a joke about cuddling up with the guitar instead of her, which I don’t think helped! Jon Pickard, England
And a Complaint
Hi stuart, This is J.P.’s wife writing! ….well…. I think I should not have let him get this guitar…. he’s fallen in love with it. I hardly get to see him anymore and today he even said, he wants to take it to bed with him. And it’s all your fault!!!