Category Archives: instrument making

No 21, spruce and English Cherry, 2009

The very first post I made in this blog featured a guitar made from English cherry.  Doc Rossi has just posted a video where he plays this guitar.  Sounding even better than I remember.

Tenor guitar refret

I’d barely heard of the tenor guitar until my old friend Mike, aka Will Fly, asked me to make him one back in 2009.  7 years later it came back for a refret.  I think he must like it!  It’s always satisfying when an instrument gets well used.  I’ve known Mike for something like 40 years, ever since playing with him in The Egbert Souse All Stars, so he hung out in the work shop and we chatted while I worked on his guitar.  He recorded the work and the conversation and has now edited it (if that’s the word) into two ridiculously long videos.  If you’ve got a couple of hours to waste watching and listening to two old guys ramble on about making mending and playing instruments here you are!

Blue Shed Exhibition 2016

This year at The Blue Shed I have five different steel strung guitars including a 12 string, a parlour guitar and this long scale 6 string.  It’s currently strung as a baritone tuned to B.  Redwood front, Imbuya back and sides and figured ebony fingerboard.  Benjamin scoop semi cutaway.

J57 scoopJ57 back

As well as my guitars the exhibition features:

David Browne: work includes a series of drawing, prints and reliefs inspired by a small hillside town in Italy.

Martin Spencer: contemporary chairs, inspired by a recent commission of Sally Williams Architects,  hand made from English hardwoods.

exhibition sponsored by sally williams architects

Open 11am – 5pm  Weekends April 30th – May 30th including Bank Holidays

The Blue Shed
6 East Gardens
Ditchling BN6 8ST

Baritone Cittern Audio Clip

This is a brief audio clip from a forthcoming CD of Greek and Corsican music by Doc Rossi.  I conceived this instrument to be tuned with the bottom course a low C, like a cello.  Doc tells me that over the years he has had it he has dropped the tuning and for this recording the bottom course was tuned to F.  He says “I don’t remember whether I’m using a capo on this song, but it’s tuned F (like first fret on a bass guitar) C G C F, with octaves on all pairs. It has a pickup, but I don’t use it, and it sounds great live, with or without a mic”.
I’ll post details of the completed project as soon as I have them.

Baritone Cittern page


The Good Blonde

Good Blonde 1

My old friend Doc Rossi has posted a Facebook album of photos of a guitar I made over 25 years ago.  Recently I visited Doc in Alsace and had the chance to see and play it for the first time in many years.  A bit rough round the edges and some evidence that I’d struggled with that cutaway but playing well and sounding better than ever.  It also confirmed my feeling that maple is an underestimated tonewood for steel strung guitars.  As Doc says it has clarity and richness, makes for a very nicely balanced guitar.


Blueshed Exhibition May 2015

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This year I have 2 guitars for sale:
Model ‘O’ parlour guitar in rosewood and bear-claw sitka, extremely light, currently strung with 010 gauge strings
Model ‘G’, cherry and sitka, scoop cutaway, experimental bracing pattern.

As well as my instruments the exhibition includes:

David Browne: work includes a continuing series of sculptures that explore a recurring interest in the sea. Also being exhibited are recent drawings and prints inspired by an overgrown olive grove in Lazio, Italy.

Martin Spencer: hand made chairs exploring the textural contrast of paper and wood.

Exhibition is sponsored by Sally Williams Architects.

11 – 5 weekends in May including Mondays May 4th and May 25th

The Blueshed
6 East Gardens
East Sussex

Video “The Making of Olah”

A video by Kris Pawlowski showing the construction and handover of a long scale 12 string for John Fowler.  John is quite the deftest 12 string player I’ve ever heard as you can see in the second half of the video.  Then at the end he checks out the pickup before plugging into his looper and having a bit of fun – a wonderfully satisfying moment.

Soundtrack to the first half of the video is by John’s Band The Halo Project.

There’s a slightly embarrassing moment – for me, the maker, that is – half way through when I’m trying to explain that a long scale 12 string with medium gauge strings is the kind of thing that can make a luthier nervous! I make light highly responsive guitars, it took a lot of care and attention to get just the right compromise between my usual instruments and the massive tension on an instrument like this

It all turned out well – that high tension produces massive power.  This is without doubt the loudest instrument I’ve ever made.  And it’s gone to a great player.  Kris’s video is just the icing on the cake – a very satisfying video.

The Scoop

I’ve long been an admirer of Nick Benjamin’s Scoop semi cutaway.  When I was asked if I could make one I went and discussed it with Nick who not only was happy for me to copy his idea but gave me a lot of help with how best to implement it.

photos by Kris Pawlowski

This guitar is in Ziricote and spruce with, as usual, a mahogany neck.  Ziricote is a Central American timber that looks stunning – look at those ribs where they meet the tail graft – and sounds pretty good too with the bright richness of high end rosewood.  The offcuts from the back make a very distinctive head veneer.  I was pretty sad to see this one go!

Long Scale 12 string

Long scale – 688mm, 1 fret longer than standard 650mm scale.  Tunes to D.
English cherry – I’ve nearly got to the end of it now, I’ve really loved that wood
Sitka spruce front , mahogany neck.

The “horny halo” logo is from the musician who commissioned it.
See The Halo Project.

photos by Kris Pawlowski


I was commissioned to build this as a 21st birthday present.  “Blackbird singing in the dead of night” inlay in pearl, abalone and brass.


A tribute to the enduring power of a Beatles song – and a nifty bit of finger picking.