My guitars owe their inspiration to the instruments of Antonio de Torres, Santos Hernandez and Hermann Hauser I. By combining design elements from these great makers with my own ideas I produce instruments which are traditional in style, lightly built and very responsive. I am aiming for a sound which is full bodied, yet clear and focused across the whole musical spectrum.
I use a fan strutted system derived from Torres which I believe contributes to more efficient sound radiation (projection) and helps give an instrument character, widening its range of available colour. In the construction process I am constantly checking the plate resonances before and after assembly so that in the completed instrument all the components work together as a whole. I try to aim for a body frequency of around F which seems to result in guitars with a strong fundamental quality to the notes and the robustness of sound which I particularly like.
Volume is a necessary attribute of a concert guitar, but I do not pursue it at the expense of musicality. It is my opinion that large guitars do not necessarily produce a larger sound, and I am often intrigued by the power and musical presence of relatively small bodied instruments.
Players often comment that my guitars are very easy to play. How I design and construct my guitars assures just the right combination of string tension and plate elasticity. This in turn contributes largely to this ease of playability. I also pay particular attention to the feel of the neck and take care to ensure that the fingerboard is correctly adjusted and the frets are well polished.
My background as a visual artist, combined with good woodworking skills, has allowed me to focus a lot on details of design and decoration. This has enabled me to craft guitars known for their high level of musical and visual refinement. I have always believed that quality comes before quantity, and this is evident in the fact that my output is around ten guitars per year, usually working on one or two at a time.
I find building guitars to be very satisfying. It is indeed a privilege in this age of fast fixes to be able to individually handcraft a classical guitar of the highest quality which I hope will give enduring pleasure to players and audiences alike.
My guitars are constructed in a controlled, dry atmosphere using only the finest and carefully selected seasoned tonewoods. I use European spruce for the soundboards and Brazilian or Indian rosewood for the backs and ribs, and occasionally flamed or bird's eye maple as an alternative to the rosewoods.
I make the necks from either South American mahogany or cedar (Cedrela) and the heads are fitted using either the traditional 'V' joint or a splice joint in the case of Torres copies. The heads are faced with ebony or rosewood and the centre joint is often inlaid with strips of decorative veneers to match the rosette.
The wood I use for struts and bars is quarter sawn, and cut from split billets. Struts are glued to the soundboard with hot glue using a solera (dished work board) only when the ambient relative humidity is around 40%. This ensures that the correct doming of the soundboard is achieved in the finished instrument. The top linings are made from separate blocks and the back linings are either kerfed or solid.
I adjust my ebony fingerboards so that the bass side tapers down slightly towards the soundhole. This allows the height of the strings above the soundboard at the saddle to remain the same and improves the guitars' playability. I cut my fret slots on a slitting saw using templates produced with the aid of computer technology. The fret positions are therefore consistently accurate and intonation is as perfect as practically possible.
I use the 12 hole system for tying strings to the bridge. The obvious improvement is that a constant break angle is maintained over the saddle maximising energy transference to the soundboard.
I make all my inlays by hand and individually, so they sometimes differ from one guitar to another, though there are decorative themes running throughout all my guitars such as the fine wheat sheaf herringbone reminiscent of Torres. I tend to prefer natural woody inlays though I've been known to splash out with colour now and then!
Having experimented with various finishes over the years, I am satisfied that French polish of shellac is unquestionably the most beautiful sounding and looking finish for a fine classical guitar. It is also relatively easy to repair and maintain. I fill the pores of the wood with pumice and apply the finish in the traditional way using only freshly mixed pale shellac polish.