When I built my first guitar in1974 which, incidentally, I still have, I was under no illusions as to the quality of the finished product. In fact, I used an old set of Kluson tuners salvaged from a Gibson I had owned, thinking that I wanted to improve my skills before spending hard earned money on new machine heads.
Those Kluson tuners were not particularly good but still found their way onto some quality instruments of the time. This would probably not happen today, at least not on a hand built guitar. Interestingly, our choices are better now than they were 20 years ago. Back then, if looking for a high quality tuner, the choice was either Grover or Schaller (if you could find them). Things have certainly changed! Gotoh has become a big player and of course Waverly now practically owns the market for high end vintage style tuners. The following are my thoughts on these products based on my experience with them.
This company completely dominated the luxury tuner market before the 1980's. Unfortunately, quality control started to slip and consequently, so did their reputation. As a result, I rarely use them now except when requested specifically. I’ve always liked the style of the Grover Rotomatic and the new ones are nicely finished. Time will tell if they can recapture their place in the market.
A fine if somewhat conservative company making quality products. The M6 enclosed tuner has been a mainstay on quality instruments for years and I have used them with great success. In addition to a well deserved reputation for solid construction, they are also very nicely finished.
I like Gotoh tuners and have used them for a long time. Though the finish quality in the past has not matched that of Schaller, the latest ones seem to have improved in this respect. Other than that, there’s nothing to fault here. Unfortunately they don’t seem to carry as good a reputation, especially in the US, which is a shame since they do make a very good head. The 510 series, in particular, is a beautiful tuner in style, finish and overall quality.
Here’s a success story! Talk about filling a much needed gap in the market. These are beautiful, vintage style tuners that not only look gorgeous, but are made to the highest exacting standards. The whole package! To my mind, the best thing about Waverlys is their vintage look. For example, on my slotted head models (00012 and 0012), this is the exact look I want. Before Waverlys came along, the choices for this style of instrument were extremely limited. The downside for some people is the price. They are expensive but many others feel that when buying a handbuilt instrument, the extra cost of Waverly heads is worthwhile.
It’s worth mentioning two new players in this field. Both Schaller and Gotoh have introduced Waverly style tuners in answer to this hot new market. I’ve just received a set of the Schallers and they’ve done a good job. Mechanically, they are not in the same league as the Waverly but should provide dependable performance for much less cost.
The Gotohs are very interesting from a couple of standpoints. Their mechanics are very good with no perceptible backlash. In this they fall somewhere between Schaller and Waverly. The other point of interest is that, unlike Schaller, they’ve chosen to keep the dimensions almost the same as the Waverlys. One could always start off with Gotohs and, if desired, could switch to Waverlys later on. A neat marketing move, I must say. The only difference is the location of one of the screw mounting holes, and this could be dealt with easily.
The Schallers and Gotohs are both priced much lower than Waverly and, as such, should have no problem capturing a place in the "vintage look" market.
There are, of course many other tuners on the market including some ultra high end ones but I’ve limited my discussion to products I’ve personally had experience with. Happy tuning!.
From the first time I saw Bocote wood I was struck by it’s rich beauty. I find the colours both warm and brilliant. The contrast of the golden amber and the darker grain lines was beautifully striking.
Like many guitar makers, I am always on the lookout for beautiful or unique tonewoods. While visiting one of my favourite wood shops a while back I came across some stunning Flamed Granadillo. This wood was incredible with an amazing curly figure throughout combined with a contrasting figured white sapwood along the edge.
2 1/2 years ago Don Ross approached me asking if I would consider taking on a Harp Guitar project. Though my first inclination was to run as fast as I could in the opposite direction, I soon warmed up to the idea and was pretty excited about the challenge involved.
I've seen a lot of changes in the guitar making world since building my first instrument back in 1974. At that time there were no personal computers and the idea of a world wide web would have sounded not only amazing but the stuff of science fiction. When I started out there were only a handful of books on the subject and these were not easy to find. I did devour the few that I came across and this, besides meeting Jean Larrivee in 1975, was the extent of my access to established knowledge on the subject. I learned by studying quality instruments but mostly by trial and error.
I find myself building and promoting, or is that promoting and building more maple guitars recently. I’ve really come to love this wood in its many figured varieties. Flamed or curly maple, birdseye and quilted maple all have their own unique visual characteristics. It took me a long time to warm up to the idea of maple as a guitar wood, but now I really enjoy working with it. I guess in the early days, you could say I was a bit of a purist, using only Mahogany and Rosewood.
One of the attractions of guitar building for me is the ability to create a wide range of guitars starting with one basic model. Even small detail changes can greatly alter the character of an instrument. In this talk, I’d like to show you what I mean.
As I touched on in an earlier guitar talk things have changed greatly in the realm of guitar wood choices. Not so long ago, an instrument made with a non traditional wood (something other than Rosewood, Mahogany or Maple) on the back & sides of a guitar was a rare sight.
When I started building guitars in 1974, I assumed that, given a few years of experience, I’d pretty much figure out the secrets of guitar making. It didn’t take long to realize how naive this assumption was, but by then I was hooked and it was too late to turn back.
As with many other design features on my guitars, the soundhole inlay has gone through a series of transformations over the years.
My first few instruments had a simple ring of alternating dark & light wooden strips. This was simple to execute and served the purpose and my somewhat limited skills at the time.