Category Archives: instrument making

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 project.

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.



Belinda Channer

Some years ago when the Ditchling Session was held in The Bull a local artist would come along and sketch the musicians.  Her name is Belinda Channer and I use one of her sketches on my instrument label.

New Label 2008_1






The player she drew is actually left handed so for my regular label I flipped the image.  However when I made a mandolin for that player I flipped the label back so he has a left handed mandolin with a left handed label!

Congratulations to Belinda who has just had one of her paintings, Leggo Man, accepted for this year’s Royal Academy Summer Exhibition.

Leggo Man ~ Belinda Channer

Leggo Man ~ Belinda Channer


My 50th, an archtop

Recently completed, my 50th instrument, an archtop guitar for Di Plumer.  I’ve made a few carved top and back mandolins now so I was somewhat prepared for the journey.  Very different to making a flattop.


Although this instrument will mostly be used electric I’d still like to play with different bridges and tailpieces before I see it on its way. Set up as shown in the photos the acoustic sound is loud and bright, lots of middle for that punchy archtop sound and with more sustain than I was expecting.

This guitar is on show during weekends in May at The Blue Shed May 2014 exhibition.

Blueshed Exhibition May 2014

I’m showing a few of my instruments in The Blueshed as part of the Art in Ditchling Artists Open Houses trail.  Includes my first ever archtop guitar.


A converted builders workshop in the heart of Ditchling Village the Blueshed opens for its seventh year.

Caroline Todd Paintings and drawings
Martin Spencer Chairs
Mark Owen Landscape paintings
Simon Klein Paintings and drawings
Ian Chisholm Lutherie
David Browne Sculpture

11 – 5 weekends in May including Mondays May 5th and May 26th

The Blueshed
6 East Gardens
East Sussex

Will Fly’s skinny electro acoustic

flat top semi acoustic

This one really started with a pickup, a nice old – 60’s – DeArmond pickup for sound hole fixing.  Will ended up commissioning a slim line flat top guitar to go with it.  The result is a sweet sounding guitar that is amazingly comfortable to play.

Hear it on YouTube  (Will calls it The “Verithin” which actually was a Hofner 60’s model, something like a Gibson 335.)

That old pickup has a lovely vintage jazz or blues sound.  The rest of the guitar’s not bad either!



If you like to have the workshop ankle deep in shavings ….

Archtops (and backs) are the way to go.


Blue Shed Exhibition May 2013

Weekends in May between 11 and 5.  Not open bank holiday Mondays.

Exhibition of
sculpture: David Browne
lutherie: Ian Chisholm
chairs: Martin Spencer
design: Sally Williams.

6 East Gardens Ditchling Sussex BN6 8ST

I’m showing the following instruments:

Walnut / Cedar cutaway guitar                    £1350
Flat front mandolin                                     SOLD
Lyon and Healey style archtop mandolin     NFS
12 string guitar in rosewood and sitka         NFS