Dream Guitars has the ability to reach out and pluck those dream guitars from out of the air, where mere mortals are unable to find recordings of these beasts, let alone actual guitars. Paul’s kept himself at the center of the world of high-end guitars for 17 years now, patiently building his knowledge base and making connections between players, builders, and collectors, diligently placing new voices into practiced hands, providing discerning clientele to inspire luthiers, and reuniting collectors with the instruments of their childhoods, or their parents’ childhoods. As a result, Dream Guitars has become one of the focal points for preserving the world of fine lutherie and maintaining the market for anyone with a voice or a guitar model at stake.
Accordingly, Dream Guitars is exactly the place you want to come to if the instrument you’re looking for is off the beaten path (just look at the country roads that lead to our showroom), masterfully constructed and exceedingly rare. When one of our clients came to us with his collection of Holy Grail guitars, Paul was more than ready to help out. One quick flight to New York and a careful car trip back, and Dream Guitars has now gotten a hold of three irresistably collection-worthy instruments: a 1935 Larson Brothers Prairie State 15″, a 1938 Larson Euphonon Dreadnought, and the grand master of all–an all-original 1930 Martin 000-45! This last one is particularly difficult to find: there were only 21 made in 1930. Add to that the voice, with all its 86 years’ of music, and the completely original state of its parts (right down to the cast iron key for the case), and the chances of finding a guitar like this in the wild are nigh impossible.
Valued at $135,000, this Martin is an incredible find, and Paul was able to line up a buyer within a matter of days. Soon the chalice will be passed and this Holy Grail guitar will be en route to its new owner. In quick order, the Larson Prairie State also sold as well, and both guitars are going to trusted clients who respect the historicity of these instruments. This is what it’s all about for us: connecting players and collectors across state lines (and national borders) to foster a healthy market for the exchange of these irreplaceable instruments.
Before we let this one go, however, Paul wanted to compare it with some of the contemporary voices that we have in the shop, so we set up a little taste test between the 1930 Martin 000-45 and a McConnell 16 Inch, Matsuda M1, a Traugott R, and a Wingert 00. Here’s Paul:
“The taste test was really fun. Dream Guitars is well known for representing many modern makers who are moving toward something different than traditional, vintage voicing, who instead search for new, individual forms of expression and musicality by chasing the fascinating new ideas in their heads. It’s wonderful to have a chance to play many of these prewar Martin guitars because they are quite different from these contemporary builds. On the one hand, it’s nearly impossible to replicate what happens to a guitar after 80 or 100 years of being in the world. The finish gases off or is worn off, and the wood dries out while millions of notes vibrate through its fibers. This chronological process yields a distinct kind of energy and body–something that contemporary builders of traditional styles are seeking to recreate. A similar, but distinct quality of energy can also be found in the very finest modern guitars, even after just one year of being played in and opening up.
The advances in bracing and voicing for the modern guitar, I believe, allow us to get closer to a sound that’s comparable to these prewar instruments, but much earlier in the guitar’s life. I attribute quite a lot of these advances to one simple thing: how much time each builder spends on one guitar. If they take their painstaking time to consider whether or not to pass the top through the thickness sander one more time, or to take one more pass with a chisel at the scallop of a brace. Constantly tapping the wood and striving for their own unique tone. To me that’s why you can pick up a recent McConnell, Traugott, Tippin, or Somogyi, to name a few, and feel the same sort of inspiration you feel from one of these outstanding vintage Martin guitars. It’s not the same voice, but the combination of so many advances in construction and voicing definitely allow these new instruments to compete on the same field as Holy Grail guitars. I truly believe we are in the Golden Age with dozens of makers building their own versions of luthier history.”
Early in 2015 I had the pleasure of playing my first Preston Thompson guitar. I was mesmerized by the warm and full voice that came out of the small 000 sized body. I remember Al Petteway and I talking about how magical the voice was. The build quality was also perfect in every detail.
I reached out to Preston and asked him to make us a Dream Series instrument. This is something we have only done with approximately eight to ten builders over the years. I very much look forward to seeing and hearing the first of many Thompson guitars. I’m certain our clientele will absolutely love them.
Following are a handful of specs featured on this incoming Dream Series guitar:
Back and Sides: Brazilian Rosewood
Binding: Brazilian w/BW purf
Top Purfling: Herringbone
Rosette: Abalone 3-Ring
Back Strip: 45 Style
Tail Wedge: Brazilian w/BW Purf
Neck: Honduran Mahogany
Headstock Binding: Brazilian w/BW Purf
Neck Binding: Brazilian
Nut width: 1 3/4”
String Spacing: 2 5/16”
Heel Cap: Brazilian
This one is currently available for purchase here at Dream Guitars – Please call the shop for more information 828-658-9795. Following are a few additional early images of this beauty coming together as well:
For more information on this incoming Preston Thompson 000-14BA Custom please call the shop 828-658-9795.
Here are a few new pictures of this beauty as it comes along:
Here’s a great video of the Brazilian binding coming together on this incoming Thompson – Enjoy!
We had the privilege of catching up with renown Canadian luthier, Al Beardsell and asking him a few questions on his building, interests and background. Following were his responses to our questions for him:
Q. What inspired you to begin building guitars?
A. My Dad, his workshop, my brother, Bill Lewis Music, Larrivee and Gurian guitars – probably in that order. My Dad was an amateur furniture maker, so I learned from him that if you want something done a certain way, do it yourself. My brother, who was a serial obsessive, made some guitars in high school, got bored and moved on to beer-making (he’s still a master brewer to this day). I swiped all of his guitar-making books, “borrowed” all his tools and wood, and got started. This brings us to Bill Lewis Music in Vancouver. In the 70’s, Bill had a music store that also supplied instrument building materials, plans and tools. They also carried handmade guitars by Larrivee and Gurian, which I guess was a defining idea for me that you could actually make these things. This totally blew my mind – something so beautiful to look at and sound so beautiful. I was totally hooked.
Q. What builder(s) do you admire?
A. This is a long list but if I had to shorten it, a few standouts would be Pons, Lacote, Martin, Loar, Mario Macaferri/Selmer, Leo Fender, The Larriveans (Laskin, Manzer , DeJonge, Wren, etal), Collings. Builders who take an existing tradition and recontextualize it into something classic yet contemporary.
Q. How would you describe the voicing in your guitars? How did you find your voice?
A. Hmm, well the voicing is dependent on the needs of the player – a tighter sound, more open or separated notes, maybe more sustain for fingerstyle, maybe a darker sound – all these things are taken into consideration. It’s just years of trial and testing to arrive at where to make stiffer and where to remove stiffness, which woods to use, etc.
Q. Can you explain your approach to sound ports? Why do you use two?
A. My approach has always been to offer the player something they may not have heard before – like what the guitar actually sounds like. The sound hole does a few jobs like allowing free air movement in and out of the box, tuning the air mode fundamental by size of aperture, and coupling the reflective and sympathetic sounds of the back with the top. There may be more to it, but these are the parts that I’m mainly interested in. Originally, in order to make the opening large enough to have a similar area as a 4″ soundhole, I split the sideport into two. This had an interesting effect of broadening the areas of the box being monitored and simply enlarging the sound projected. Also, moving the soundhole off the top does reconfigure the structural stiffness of the top. The soundhole does create a loosening of the top that must be counterbalanced by grafts and braces. By reducing this loosening, we can make the top thinner and therefore lighter. The main goal of the sideports in my mind is the acoustic connection made with the player even in amplified situations. Many times I’ve played acoustic shows where all I hear is amplified monitors. This tends to give the player a compressed dynamic range and they will pay accordingly – at top volume always. Having some sense of the instrument’s natural dynamic range will mean the audience will benefit from the player. The size has been reduced over the years to drop the air mode and develop more bass.
Q. What do you enjoy doing outside of building?
A. Curling, yoga, fencing, playing rock, being a dad
Q. What inspires you today?
A. I’ve been very inspired by the local music scene in Winnipeg. A year and a half ago, I opened a new shop (the former Garnet Amp factory) that is open to the public. We do repairs and pickup winding, restorations and, of course, guitar-making. It’s a very different connection to the people who actually make music than the rarified environment of the luthiery shop.
Q. Where do you think your building style will take you in the next 5 years?
A. I’m looking at using more computer-aided design and control technology. I’m making more archtop electric guitars and pickups, and manouche guitars especially – my first love really.
Q. Which up and coming luthier impresses you the most?
A. There are a few in Winnipeg like Jordan McConnell, but he’s been around a while so he’s no pup! I’m always amazed by the amount of new talent, all doing very high quality work. My assistant Lucas Roger is going to kick ass any day now.
As mentioned in a previous post, Leonardo Buendia, one of Ervin Somogyi’s current apprentices and an amazing up and coming builder, is wrapping up his 3 year apprenticeship with Ervin and is moving to his own shop in Oakland, California.
We caught up with Leo and asked him a few questions regarding his new shop.
1) Where will the shop be located? Why did you pick there?
Leo: My new workshop is located in East Oakland. I was offered the space by Lewis Santer, whom I’ve known for 3 years and who for a long time shared this same space with Michi Matsuda. Lewis has been in this shop for 10 years and it’s well-equipped and already set up in a very smart way. It’s a pleasure to be able to work with Lewis, who was also Ervin Somogyi’s shop manager for many years. The transition is going smoothly – I’m getting back into my rhythm quickly.
2) How are you configuring your shop? Why will it be configured this way?
Leo: Since everything was already set up for the construction and repair of guitars, I’ve only had to put together two benches–one in the dry room and one in the common space. In the dry room I’m going to keep all of the wood I will be using for the guitars commissioned for these next few years. The dry room is also where I will be doing all of the gluing. I will be using the bench in the common space for shaping, scraping, sanding, etc.
3) Any sources of inspiration that you can point to in your new shop?
Leo: Ervin Somogyi’s shop, of course, is a big inspiration for how I would like my shop to look. I love the use of different workstations and I’m emulating that. It allows my work to be very efficient. I also took away from my experience at Ervin’s that it’s extremely helpful to have plenty of backstock of blocks, braces, fingerboards, pre-bent sides, pre-bent binding, etc.
4) Any neat facts about your building process in your new shop that you’d like to share?
Leo: In the near future I will be working on designing a different kind of headstock. So far I’ve been molding the heads in the style of a classical/Spanish guitar. In Argentina we play Spanish guitars, so I’ve always liked the headstocks I learned to make with Ervin, which are reminiscent of these. Now that I will have more time for experimentation and designing, I am going to make headstocks with a more modern style, while still avoiding the symmetrical and conventional. This new design is more like that of my fanned fret guitar. Another change that’s coming is that in about 6 months I will begin with a new model, the OO. The big sound that it makes is very surprising given its small body. In fact, it’s the guitar I plan to make for myself.
August 2015 marked the 20th anniversary of Thomas Rodriguez Guitars and his making of classical guitars. To commemorate this huge milestone, Thomas started on a very special 20th anniversary guitar. All materials on this anniversary guitar are very old and extremely rare which Thomas has been collecting through his years of building and saving for a very special occasion, such as this. Following is the list of materials included in this build:
Top – 40 year old Sitka spruce purchased from the estate of an old guitar maker. Thomas hand picked it from 30 sets that were bought for its tap tone, stiffness and fine grain
Back & sides, peg head and bridge – 1800’s Brazilian rosewood from an old table top
Fingerboard – 40 year old Gaboon ebony, hand picked for it’s beauty from a large selection of ebony fingerboards from the same collection of wood that the top came from
Neck – 1800’s Honduras mahogany, salvaged from an old 4 post bed – very dark in color and a singing tap tone
Brace wood – Hand-split Sitka spruce from the back supports of a 90 year old Cable piano
Linings – Quarter-sawn willow from a 1925 Cable piano, the preferred choice of violin makers, 90 years old, from the same piano as the brace wood
Nut & Saddle – Approximately 20,000 year old mastodon ivory
Rosette & bindings – Maple, Brazilian rosewood, mahogany from a 1860’s square piano and red birch from an 1890’s piano
Tie block on the bridge — Ivory from a piano key from the 1860’s square piano
Inlays on the wings of the bridge — Mother of pearl cut from an early 1900’s lamp pendant
Position marker on the fingerboard — Mother of pearl from an 1850’s Martin bridge pin Thomas had from a restoration he performed
“One need only look at the quality of this wood, all of it having a history of it’s own, to imagine the character of sound that will emanate from this guitar. Celebrating 20 years of building is no small feat. Few makers ever reach that milestone and to do so you have to have an extreme love of the craft and desire to put music in the world. That’s what Thomas Rodriquez and this guitar represent. We are simply delighted to be a part of this, this is why we do what we do here at Dream Guitars.” – Paul Heumiller, Owner
Martin began making the 45 Style way back in 1904. The main feature of this trim style is abalone inlay along the top, back, sides, around edge of fingerboard, around the soundhole, neck heel, and tail wedge. Over the years the 45 models have been coveted by Martin fans the world over.
Today, many modern makers still emulate the famed 45 trim package. We happened to have a few in the shop recently and thought it would be fun to show you the wonderful variety of guitars that can be found with this popular adornment. A picture is worth a thousand words so here are a few shots of our three in-stock beauties: a 1991 Martin D-45, a 2008 Wayne Henderson D-45 and a 2014 Huss & Dalton Custom TD-R.
As you can see in the pictures below, while they all have abalone borders in the same places, the color and quality of the Abalone varies quite a bit. Like all building materials there are ‘grades’ of abalone shell. Nowadays builders also vary the width of the trim to add their individuality to a time tested inlay pattern.
Most players agree that the 45 style trim is quite beautiful and we sure are glad that it continues to thrive at Martin and in the hands of the many fine custom Luthiers in our world today.
Click on any of the images below for larger view.
Left to Right: 2014 Huss & Dalton Custom TD-R, 2008 Wayne Henderson D-45, 1991 Martin D-45
The first two from the left below – The Henderson (Center Below) and the Huss & Dalton (Left) are Brazilian Rosewood. The last one on the right is the Indian Rosewood Martin. You can see how much variance there is in Brazilian, many colors, figure patterns, etc.
The Henderson(Center Below) below features quality Abalone with a variety of hues in it, blue, gold and white.
Nice quality Paua Abalone here on the Huss & Dalton below. Lots of Blue in this shell.
A key element of the 45 Style trim is that the Abalone is featured on the top, back & Sides. Pretty fancy!
Ben Wilborn is one of the builders that we have recently added to the array of fine builders that we represent at Dream Guitars. We receive numerous requests from builders, new and established, to be part of Dream Guitars. It’s very humbling to be the ones that they wish to represent their work. In the case of Wilborn guitars, we invited him to send us an example of his work because tone is the first thing we always look for in a new luthier’s instruments. It only took about 20 seconds to figured out that Ben knows how to get tone out of his instruments. We were also smitten with the fit, finish and overall design of his guitars – very elegant, leaning towards traditional but definitely having his own style…and so began our association with Ben.
We at Dream Guitars are known for commissioning unique custom instruments for clientele as well and we were excited to see something even more artistic from Ben. As a result, Paul Heumiller, owner of Dream Guitars and Ben went to work to decide on specs for a custom Wilborn parlor guitar. “I love to work with builders on custom instruments. Having seen thousands of guitars helps me develop an intuition for both stylistic and practical features on the guitar. At the same time I love to leave room for a builder to express himself. So Ben and I collaborated on a number of design elements in this parlor guitar, but then I left him to do the rest. I can’t wait to see the final instrument as I know it will be both beautiful and expressive aesthetically and musically.” – Paul Heumiller.
This incoming Parlor will feature Brazilian Rosewood and Vintage Sitka Spruce cut in the 1960s, Leapordwood Bindings, Brazilian Rosewood Fretboard and Bridge and a short scale, 12 Fret Neck. Yummy!
Contact us to reserve this incoming Wilborn guitar or to inquire about the many custom builds we have in process at any given time. Capture your Dream Guitar.
What’s up with the crooked frets? Yes the slanted frets on my guitars are awesome conversation starters. But that’s not what it’s all about.
According to Wikipedia, Ralph Novak, guitar builder and designer, patented the Fanned Fret at the end of the 80’s. While the patent has expired, he still holds the trademark of the term “Fanned-Fret”. Fanned Frets create a different shape to the guitar. The slanted frets lengthen the bass strings and shorten the treble strings. This is further achieved by positioning the bridge at an angle opposite to the nut.*
Fanned Fret guitars are multi-scale instruments designed with a real purpose.
To understand the concept, we need only look at non-fretted stringed instruments. Consider the piano and the harp dulcimer and you immediately notice the bass strings are always longer than the treble strings. The reason for this is to create proper tension with a longer, thicker string to produce full low notes. Conversely the treble strings need to be shorter so they can be tightened to produce the higher pitch. There is a beautiful resonance you get from a longer bass string. When you tune down to D or C or even further, a longer bass string makes all the difference in the quality of the bass notes. The treble string remains normal length or slightly shorter depending on what you need and can offer a great feel that allows for easy playing high notes, bending strings, etc. The combined string lengths or scales, can provide the perfect amount of bass, sweet trebles and playability that you want for your personal style.
Another benefit is slightly improved intonation. You can understand this if you look at a True Temper Fretted guitar like the Bamburg JSB currently on our website, a Micro-Fret guitar, or a Sitar. You will see that accurate placement for every note on every string would require many tiny frets. The Fanned Fret and its longer length bass strings help intonation across the entire fingerboard.
One other powerful benefit is simply the tension of each string in relation to one another. On a standard guitar as you play from the bass strings down to the treble strings, the treble strings are often more tense and noticeably tighter feeling. Fanned Fret guitars help even out the tactile feel and to me are smoother feeling when playing across the strings.
“There is also something about the splay of the fret that feels extremely comfortable, it seems to suit my hand beautifully, more naturally than straight frets.” Paul Heumiller
One other note I’d like to make is that there is very little difference in the overall feel of playing a fanned Fret guitar. I have handed them to many players in our shop without them knowing I was handing them a fanned Fret guitar and often they don’t even notice until they take a hard look at the fingerboard. On a technical note, you can choose where to place the one perpendicular fret and that decision will effect the feel at the first position and elsewhere. Common choices are the 7th, 9th or 12th frets. After owning several fanned fret guitars I’ve settled on the 7th fret for my playing. It keeps the first position very easy to play. “We once had a Jeff Traugott guitar where all the frets were slanted backward toward the headstock 10 degrees. This one purely ergonomic and can be comfortable to some players as well. Though you don’t get the multi-scale benefits.” – Paul Heumiller
Now let’s look at some common Fanned Fret scale combinations and the uses for each. Let me start by saying there are no hard and fast rules. I encourage experimentation and fearlessness in this regard. The least amount of fan that we typically see is a half an inch combining the two common Martin scales 24.9 inches on the treble to 25.4 inches on the bass. This is a great design for someone playing in standard and drop D and even DADGAD but not really going to lower tunings. You’ll feel very little difference at all but you will get improved intonation and clarity and the short trebles are a joy to bend. Other scales we often use for DADGAD players is 25 inch treble scale and 26 inch bass scale, Paul’s Somogyi employed this combination. This works great for DADGAD and even some C tunings. The one inch fan is still very manageable and very versatile. Both of these scales above can be used with standard gauge strings – light gauge works fine as well.
For my personal McConnell guitar we elected to use 25.5 inches on the treble side and 26.25 on the bass side. Jordan McConnell and I decided on this scale combination as I primarily play this guitar in low tunings C9, Gsus4, and DADGAD down a whole step to C. Paul says “I left the trebles long because we wanted them to bite. But I can also put it in standard pitch and it works great. I use 12.5 to 55 gauge strings – just personal preference here.” On the longer side of Fanned Fret would be 25.6 on this treble side to 27 inches or so on the bass side. This big of a spread you’ll feel a bit more but it can go very low – all the way down to A or B, crossing into baritone territory. “I once owned a Traugott with this spread and it was killer!. Bill Tippin is currently building me a short Fanned Fret guitar, this one will be 24.75 – 25.5, I plan to play it mostly in Drop D and Standard and wanted really bendy trebles!” – Paul Heumiller
There’s really no limit to what you can do with the Fanned Fret to accommodate your music and your style of play. At Dream Guitars we are Champions of the Fanned Fret concept and almost always have one or two in stock. We work with many builders who offer Fanned Fret options and owner Paul Heumiller is currently working on a new Fanned Fret Baritone design with Ken Jones that will be available in Spring of 2014.
Give us a call to discuss your needs and see if a Fanned Fret guitar is right for you. We would love to help you design your perfect Fanned Fret guitar.
“We all know that 12 fret guitars tend to have a different tonal profile than 14 fret guitars. Often they are often a little more complex and seem to just breath a little easier in the low end. This is largely due to the bridge position being shift down to a more central position in the lower bout. With a fanned fret guitar, the bass end of the bridge is in a ’12 fret’ position and the treble end is is in a ’14 fret’ position. This makes it easier for the bass strings to move the top and produce a nice full bass response. Meanwhile, at the other end of the bridge, the treble strings are still in a 14 fret position. The top is ‘tighter’ there and better able to produce good strong trebles. So… it seems to me that a fanned fret guitar, by virtue of the angled bridge, gives us the tonal best of both the 12 fret and 14 fret design.” – Mark Blanchard – Blanchard Guitars
True North Model 2 Grand Concert
Premium Brazilian Rosewood and Lucky Strike Redwood
Wedge Body, Contoured Cutaway
“I first heard of Dennis Scannell and his True North Guitars from Martin Simspon. Since then I’ve played a number of them and each was amazing and memorable. Dennis achieves a full and resonant voice that is perfect for fingerstyle guitar. I can’t imagine any player needed anything more.” – Paul Heumiller
This Model 2 Grand Concert was built with Dennis’ finest Brazilian Rosewood and a Lucky Strike Redwood Top. Hear the guitar and reads the details by clicking here.
This amazing 1944 Martin D-18 comes to us from legendary musician David Grisman. David told us it had a sweet voice and great power, and he was right. We all love this guitar here at the shop. It is super lightweight and has a very woody voice with powerful trebles that are full and rich. The bass makes the entire lightweight body tremble and quake. It is setup beautifully, as you would expect since it was owned by David Grisman. This 1944 has all the specs of a 1943 Martin D-18, scalloped bracing included. Here’s you chance to have one of the last great Martins, and one with great provenance to boot.
“This is a really lovely D-18. It weighs nothing and you feel it vibrate ferociously as you play. It has more body and depth then some, the trebles are fat and really sing out, making it equally adept at lead or rhythm work. It is largely original and in perfect playing condition. Lightweight, powerful, owned by David Grisman, what more could you want? “ – Paul Heumiller
” There is nothing like a vintage D-18 for playing Bluegrass or any other flatpicking style. This is one of the nicest I’ve seen and it has power to spare with lots of tone and volume. I think David put some great mojo into this one as well. Just imagine who may have played this guitar at one time or another. I’d buy it in a second if I could.
“ – Al Petteway