Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Designing/Building a New Signature Model #1

Today I'm attempting to build a new model of Signature guitar. This may be a crazy idea, because my current design is only 2 or 3 years old, and it is doing very well. It sounds and feels great and many fine players are seeking it out. It even keeps getting better. So why mess with it?

I guess I'm just going for more extreme. My current Signature Model guitar has a beautiful sound, it's strong and well balanced, and has a rich tone palette, easy to contr
ol, easy to explore. At least that's how I feel about it - I absolutely love it. What I'm trying to build now is something for the person who simply wants the loudest guitar on the block, who chooses power over anything else, the Hummer or dragster of classical guitars. I'm going to try to deliver that power, but at the same time try to coax some beauty and sweetness out of it too. I don't really know if this is possible, but I'm going to try.

I'm throwing in the kitchen sink. I'm ignoring the usual "scientific" admonition to change one thing at a time, so one can measure or evaluate the effect of each change. Instead I'm making many changes at once, trusting the seat of my pants, or my chubby Buddha belly to whisper to me what's what. Anyway, I'm not patient enough to go through that kind of method. At least not today.

It's wacky also because I'm getting ready for the NAMM show next week, so I'm having to squeeze this work out of stolen moments. Too much to do, but still, it's exciting.

One of the main elements I'm introducing is lattice bracing. I've never been fond of the sound of lattice braced guitars. Although it is capable of producing tremendous volume, and often super resonant bass, I usually find the sound two dimensional, quick to fatigue and unappealing. I have heard some exceptions. I'm not using the usual materials of balsa and graphite for the lattice, but rather red cedar, in hopes of squeezing more warmth from the bracing.

I am going to attempt to blog a diary of this process. I've already begun the work, by replacing the tops of some existing instruments, working out some of the preferences of the bracing, listening to the results. But now I'm starting an instrument from scratch. Making a new model is always a big undertaking, building new molds and jigs, making a lot of mistakes and finer and finer adjustments. It will inevitably take several instruments to "get it right", or at least stable.

The real story here is that I may well fail at it. I could produce something horrible, or I might make something that appeals to some constituency, but not to me. Then what? I might confuse my already satisfied customers.

If your interested, follow along. With the help of my associate Larry Darnell I'll try to get pictures and some narrative as this process unfolds. I've developed new models like this many times before, but I've never documented the process, nor have I gone public with it. There will be a lot of more-or-less standard guitar making techniques shown, although by no means comprehensive, and many techniques that are unique to my method, and others that are different than I've ever done. I'll have to work fast, in spurts, and write quickly to make this happen, so please forgive sloppy writing and poor housekeeping. At least it's sincere.

So keep in touch, and wish me luck!

Kenny Hill
Jan 7, 2009.

to see this article compiled with photos click here or to download a 10mb pdf file Building.pdf


GVlog said...

This should be very interesting, Kenny. Wishing you the very best of luck!

Belated Happy New Year!

- Hans

Anonymous said...


This is very exciting and luckily for me, well timed!

I am currently experimenting with this type of bracing and have been researching Gil Carnel's (classical) and Matt Mustapick's (nylon crossover)lattice designs as well!

Please keep us updated.

Thank you,