Entries in mahogany (2)


Martin 00-DB: Overcoming preconceptions

A couple of weeks ago I commented on the conservative nature of guitar players and their preferences in materials and construction techniques. Exotic tonewoods. Ebony appointments. Dovetail neck joints. Traditionally X-braced tops. And I started thinking about the use of sustainable materials in lutherie. What guitars out there have been designed and constructed with environmental concerns in mind? I started digging around and ran across a guitar that I had vaguely been aware of previously, but hadn't thought about at the time: Martin's 00-DB Jeff Tweedy signature model. I'm typically not a fan of artist-sponsored models, but this one has an understated elegance to it, and is FSC certified, fully using sustainable materials. Plus, it's got some other attributes that make it an interesting guitar...Mahogany top, sizes, and back, 00-size, deep body, 1.75" nut with a V-shaped profile. And Wilco is one of my favorite bands.

It does buck some traditional construction choices, at least by Martin standards. In particular, it doesn't use Martin's standard dovetailed neck joint; it's built with Martin's "hybrid X-bracing" rather than the bracing design that has been used by the company for a hundred years; it sports a synthetic fretbroad and bridge made of Richlite rather than ebony or rosewood.

I've been interested in a small-bodied guitar with a mahogany top for a while, so I issued a challenge to myself (as if a guitar purchase can be considered a challenge!): could I get over my preconceptions about guitars and be open to these non-traditional features? I like the idea of supporting environmental causes with my wallet; that's not a particularly difficult challenge. But I found myself slipping back into old ways as I did my internet research...What about moving up to a Santa Cruz 00 1929, a modern guitar with its fair share of vintage features? Maybe small-bodied Collings with a mahogany top? A custom mahogany-topped Martin? After a couple of weeks of cognitively chasing these options (and mentally doubling the cost of an eventual purchase), it dawned on me that I had lost the point of this guitar: The 00-DB is cool guitar that makes use of modern design and construction choices and is a statement about environmental sustainability. So here it comes...I'm looking forward to it arriving.* Here are the specs (PDF) and an article about it in Martin's The Sounding Board newsletter (PDF; #33, July 2012).

*I did play a 00-DB Jeffy Tweedy for a few minutes at a local "big-box" store where I refuse to spend money. It seems to me that this guitar is exactly opposite to the big-box store mentality. I don't understand why people shop at places like this; the prices are higher than what you can find at good independent shops and they aren't cool places to hang out. I can't comment on the sound of this guitar yet, although I enjoyed the one I played.

image source: http://thedailywilco.tumblr.com/post/20658381160/jeff-tweedy-playing-his-new-signature-series


I like mahogany

Image from: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MahoganyThe two most common traditional tonewoods for the back/sides of guitars are mahogany and rosewood (with nods to maple, koa, walnut, etc). Typically, rosewood was the more premium and prized of the two; for example, Martin's flagship models like the D-28 and D-45 are rosewood, compared to the "entry-level" D-18. I've gone through my share of guitars, and I expect to go through many more, and I'm coming to realize that I'm a mahogany guy.

Two koa guitars have come and gone (Taylor 414K and Larrivée parlour in koa), three rosewood guitars are in new homes (1978 Larrivée L-11, Taylor 420R, Collings OM2HA), and a maple guitar (1977 Taylor 915) has moved on. Of course, a fair share of mahogany guitars have been traded/sold away (1995 Larrivée LS-05, 1990 Lowden S7c, 1976 Guild D-40SB, a Collings D1VSB, a 12-string Takamine N-10, Guild 12-string....I think it was an F-212 or similar) as well, but all of the guitars that are still around, except for one, are mahogany.

(read more about these guitars, and others, in my in-progress personal guitar history: Part 1 | Part 2)

I'm no good at describing tone, but there's something about the warmth and clarity of mahogany suit me. That doesn't mean I've totally sworn off other tonewoods, but if I had to wager on it, the next one will be mahogany!

Maybe next time we'll talk about sitka vs. adirondack spruce tops...Hint: I like both.