Today the spotlight moves north to Scotland, and for a change it falls on a luthier who makes acoustic instruments. Rory Dowling is the man behind Taran Guitars (Taran means ‘Thunder’ in Gaelic, apparently) and he builds a range of different acoustic guitars, tenors, mandolins and bouzoukis. I’m not much of an acoustic player but these instruments look beautiful, and his website has some great build photos showing the innards of his guitars, as well as the finished products.
Here are a couple of examples of Rory’s work. They almost make me want to play without an amplifier!
Today I’d like to highlight a US guitar manufacturer that I’ve noticed at NAMM and in a few other videos on YouTube, Kiesel Guitars. Sadly for the rest of the world, they only seem to be available in the US, but that doesn’t stop us from enjoying looking at their guitars, since they produce some beautiful instruments.
The guitar in the picture below, a Custom Shop SCB6H, is an example of their work (they make many sorts of guitars, including semi-hollows, acoustics and bass guitars, and they cater for left-handed players too). The have a certain number of guitars in stock and you can order a custom guitar based on one of their models but with the options that you want. For US-made custom guitars, they seem to be quite reasonably priced, too.
Obviously, I haven’t played any of these guitars and I’m not going on much more than the looks. The looks are great, though, and I’d certainly enjoy hanging one on my wall!
My one criticism is that the company doesn’t seem to know what to call itself. They appear to be transition between the names Carvin and Kiesel, and in a lot of places (e.g. on their Facebook page) they refer to themselves as “Kiesel and Carvin Guitars” or “Kiesel Guitars Carvin Guitars”. I find this confusing as a casual onlooker, and I’d urge them to pick whichever name they want and stick with it. I understand that there’s family history behind the story; we consumers don’t care about that and it’s confusing the branding. Make nice guitars, give them a clear name and everyone will be happy!
If you’ve been reading my site before, you’ll know that some of my favourite YouTube videos are the PRS Periscope guitar videos where Paul Reed Smith wanders around their private stock wood store and picks out the woods to make a guitar or two. There’s not much more to say than here’s the latest of those videos!
To start the week off, let’s look at another British luthier making some gorgeous instruments. Today’s subject is Ambler Custom Guitars, based in Buxton where I’ve previously stayed for the Gilbert and Sullivan festival (music-related, but no guitars!).
According to his website, John Ambler has several basic models, and he typically starts building a guitar, based on an idea and some high-quality woods, and then posts pictures of his build on Facebook, and if someone decides to buy the guitar, they can then customise the rest of the build. He also has a small number of guitars in stock, ready for purchase – at the time of writing, his website shows one finished guitar and three in progress. More frequent updates are posted on his Facebook page.
Here are a couple of his guitars. If they play as well as they look, then they must be wonderful instruments! The second of these is currently shown as available for sale on his website (here).
As a companion to my page on UK Luthiers, I will occasionally highlight one of them in these news posts. I don’t know most of these luthiers myself, and so I’m just looking through some of their websites and picking out luthiers who seem to make interesting or beautiful instruments.
Today’s luthier is Chris Larkin, who holds the distinction of being the only non-UK luthier on my list since he resides in Eire (which I also decided to include, and I’d like to have more Irish luthiers there if you know any). He uses mostly local woods and he makes a variety of instruments, which can be seen on his website, Chris Larkin Guitars. It’s well worth a visit if you’re looking for a custom guitar or bass, or just to browse his instrument gallery.
Here’s an example of one of his more garish guitars!
As an antidote to my previous post, I went looking for some great-looking guitars from someone other than PRS (incidentally, did you know that Paul Reed Smith is an anagram of ‘I hate red lumps’?). I thought of Diamond Guitars, a US company that makes guitars and amps and which is relaunching at the moment. They are generally mid-priced guitars, and they have some gorgeous designs. The guitars are mainly available in the US but I understand they are increasing their international network (in Europe, they are available through Thomann).
Right now, Diamond Guitars are offering a 10% discount on direct sales through their website with the coupon code SAVE10. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the chance to try one of their guitars for myself so I can’t offer a direct recommendation but I’d be interested to hear from anyone who has.
The Tone King, a well-known YouTube guitar vlogger, works with Jeff Diamant, the owner of Diamond Guitars, and has recently released a short video explaining the relaunch.
I want to feature guitars from a variety of manufacturers, honestly, and I will force myself to check out some other websites, but just before I do here is another gorgeous PRS. I’ve had my eye on the Hollowbody series for a while. I would like to buy a second PRS one day, and I have three main candidates which are a Custom 24, a P245 Semi-Hollow and a Hollowbody II, although I also like the new McCarty 594 models.
I keep an eye out for nice examples, as I would be quite picky about the colour and top if I ever bought one of these guitars. World Guitars has just taken delivery of a beautiful Hollowbody II that I’d be very happy to own, if someone else paid for it! You can take a look at more photos, the specs and the bad news (the price) on their website here.
While looking around again for more luthiers to add to my UK Luthiers page, I found this site. Rick Toone is an American luthier so he doesn’t get onto my list, but his website is well worth a visit to look at the unusual and beautiful instruments that he makes. Here’s an example.
I’m a big fan of PRS guitars, and over the last few months they have released several videos on Periscope where they pick out the woods and design a private stock guitar, guided by voting from the live Periscope users. One of the regular types of post on this site will be interesting videos that I’ve found on YouTube, whether old or new, and I’m kicking that off by linking to all of these Periscope wood selection videos so far.
I found these videos fascinating, to see the private stock wood library and the actual pieces of wood that they turn into beautiful and incredibly expensive guitars!
The original (unfortunately they committed the cardinal sin of holding the phone upright rather than on its side). This is a Custom 24, and right now it’s actually up for sale secondhand at World Guitars for £7995. More pictures can be found on the PRS Guitars blog entry about this guitar.
Number two, a semi-hollow McCarty – again, they made a blog entry for this one:
Number Three – this one is a Paul’s Guitar:
An interesting nugget of information from this video: most curly Maple trees don’t grow big enough to make one-piece tops.
Numbers 4 & 5 – they started to do them two at a time. Interestingly, they show the finished second Periscope guitar at the start, and a fine instrument it looks too! Here they did two Tremonti guitars.
Six and seven were done together again. Fortunately, by now they’d figured out how to hold the camera the right way up!
And the latest one was eight and nine:
I’ll try to keep an eye out for more pictures of the finished guitars – some of them probably haven’t been finished yet, and PRS has only blogged about the first two, as I linked above.