About this Project
I should probably share a little information about my guitar building philosophy before I get too far into this project.
I have been building guitars since the late 1970s. I never wanted to settle on just one type of guitar (archtops, for example) because I found all of the different styles enjoyable, both visually and aurally. I also realized quite a long time ago that many of the skills I learned building one type of guitar were necessary and easily transferred to a different type of instrument, so there was really no need to focus on just one style in order to build high quality instruments. As I built more instruments I gained a better understanding of the physical forces at work inside each guitar and how sound was generated. Of course, there are differences from one style of instrument to another, but the underlying principles are the same in all guitars, so the refinements I made along the way in one style of instrument could be transferred to other styles as well. I feel that I am a better guitar builder because I make all different styles, instead of just focusing on one. Also, I have had opportunities to build a lot of unique instruments because I haven’t been categorized as a maker of just one kind of guitar, and I’m glad about that. It may be a lot less efficient this way, but the work is much more enjoyable to me.
I never shy away from new challenges. When I was asked about building the 12 string guitar based on the Stella Leadbelly model, I had some research to do. I had built 12 string guitars before, and I had built guitars with ladder bracing (a pattern where all of the soundboard braces are parallel to each other and perpindicular to the center line), so I wasn’t too intimidated. I spent some time on Google, trying to find any information and photographs of actual Leadbelly guitars. Somewhere along the way I came across a sketch of the bracing pattern used on some of the Stella guitars, so I printed a copy of that and enlarged it to the actual size at Kinko’s. I also read a short book chapter that was devoted to Leadbelly and his guitar. I found a lot of Leadbelly recordings on Youtube. These were all recorded a long time ago, but I think I was able to hear the qualities of his guitar despite the low fidelity. Here is a link to one of Leadbelly’s better known recordings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y5tOpyipNJs&feature=related The last bit of background information came from an old archtop customer of mine, who has owned several Stella guitars. I spent an afternoon with him, examining one of his Stellas and listening to everything he had to tell me about his experiences with the instruments.
This is the process I follow whenever I am asked to build something I haven’t done before. For this particular project, a lot of the details had already been specified by my customer, because he, too, had done a good deal of research before approaching me so he had a pretty good idea about the design of the original guitars.
So now I can continue to share the building process with you: