Born in London, in 1951, I come from a family with a long tradition of cabinetmaking dating back to the 18th century. Although a keen woodworker from an early age I decided to study graphic design before setting up a successful furniture making business in London. In 1978 I made my first acoustic guitar based on a Martin 0045, then soon after I made a small Torres style classical with help from Kevin Aram who has since established himself as a leading luthier.
At this point my path was clear; I was hooked. However, it was a further ten years before it was possible to devote myself to guitar making full time.
Becoming a full time guitar maker coincided with my move to Devon in the southwest of England, thanks to a setting up grant from the Crafts Council of Great Britain. I was particularly honored by this grant since the selectors included Jose Romanillos, David Rubio and Paul Fischer. In 1991 I received awards from the David Canter Memorial fund and Southwest Arts. In 1995 I moved into a studio on the Dartington estate in South Devon, home of the renowned Dartington International Summer School.
Over the years I have enjoyed a growing international reputation with customers in North and South America, Canada, the Far East and Australia as well as mainland Europe and the UK. I live with my wife Anna in South Brent, Devon, within the Dartmoor National Park. Although primarily self taught as a guitar maker, I am indebted to the many luthiers and guitarists who have given me advice, support and encouragement.
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.
(Reproduced by kind permission of Simon Ambridge)