Welcome to Xaver Guitars
My name is Gerry Gruber, and I hand-build guitars under the brand name "Xaver Guitars" (pronounced X-offer). I specialize in performance level steel-string acoustic guitars, in three models: dreadnought, mini-jumbo and grand concert. I have a limited selection of guitars in stock, available for immediate delivery, and also take custom orders. Click here to see the guitars currently available, or here to find out how to order a custom guitar.
In the White
September 2, 2016
In luthiery as with all disciplines we have jargon - fancy words for ordinary stuff. One of these fancy words is "in the white". This phrase refers to a guitar that has been built but has not yet had the finish applied. Presumably the phrase came about due to the very light (almost white) colour of many woods before finish is applied. This particular guitar has a sitka spruce top on walnut sides and back. And, as you can see, the sitka top looks white. Note as well that the bridge is missing, as the bridge is only installed after the finish is applied. So, next time you hear a guitar-builder talking about a guitar that is "in the white", don't worry, the guitar isn't sick. It is just waiting its turn in the spray booth.
Grand Concert Nearing Completion
July 27, 2016
I love how the daylight from a nearby window casts soft shadows on my work area. This is the image that greeted me a few mornings ago - my current project - a custom ordered Grand Concert guitar. As you can see, the back is yet to be installed. This view inside the guitar, especially the underside of the soundboard, is one that will be permanently hidden once the back goes on. (You can look at the underside of any soundboard by placing a mirror inside the guitar.) The last thing I do before I close up any Xaver guitar is sign and date the guitar on the underside of the soundboard. Although this guitar is already sold, I will be posting a full set of images of it once it is completed later this fall. It will feature custom inlay on the fingerboard, and the guitar is a "lefty". So, stay tuned.
Our 8th Season at the Market
June 10th, 2016
Amazing as it seems, we're starting our 8th season at the Cumberland Farmers' Market, Saturday, June 11, from 8am to 1pm in Cumberland Village, just a few minutes east of Orleans. I like to refer to this market as the "friendly market", because of all the wonderful vendors who greet Laurie and me with a smile every Saturday morning. Whether it is Paul grinding his incredible coffee beans, Lisa setting out her delicious jams and baked goods, or Clive (volunteer organizer) helping to set up tables and chairs, we always feel "at home" when we get to the market. And, if you enjoy a home-cooked breakfast that you don't have to prepare yourself, the market offers that as well, at an unbeatable price. So, jump in your car, and drive a few minutes down the 174 to Cumberland Village and join us, for our 8th season at the market. See you there.
Where to See Xaver Guitars This Summer
May 28, 2016
We have a busy schedule again this summer. We enjoyed a wonderful day in Elmira as John Woods put on another fantastic Ontario Guitar Show. Next up, is Darwin Demers Ottawa Guitar Show and Musicians Market. This runs from 10am to 4pm, Sunday, May 29th, at 1505 Carling Ave. And to wrap up the spring/summer guitar shows, we'll also be at Mike Sankey's Ottawa (handbuilders) Guitar Show June 26th, at the Glebe Community Centre, from 10am to 5pm. In addition, Xaver Guitars will be at the Cumberland Farmers Market every Saturday from 8am to 1pm throughout the summer, beginning June 8th and concluding October 8th. And if you can't make it to any of these events, call or email me to arrange to visit my shop here in Ottawa. Have a great summer everyone.
Sitka and Rosewood - a Marriage Made in ... my Workshop
January 8th, 2016
I just finished the above guitar before Christmas. It was a custom order, including a slightly larger soundhole, a single-piece saddle (I normally install two-piece saddles), an LR Baggs Element Active System under-saddle pickup with volume and tone control (i.e., pickup with onboard preamp), and most noticeably a customized inlay design on the headstock featuring a bouquet of three trillium flower blossoms. I also reduced the thickness of the neck by 1/16th inch and set up the action superfast. As you have probably surmised, the new owner of this guitar regularly performs in public and needed a guitar that was ready for the stage. If you'd like to see more of this guitar, just click on the image.
Incredible Figured Maple!
May 14th, 2015
When I was down in the Kitchener-Waterloo area a few weeks back, I spent a morning at one of my favourite wood stores, A&M Wood Specialty, in Cambridge, Ontario. I picked out some gorgeous back-and-side sets while there, and wanted to let you know that they are now in my "stash" aclimatizing and awaiting that special guitar build, which could be your own. The pictured back-and-sides set is figured maple. But, to simply call this "figured" is like saying Wayne Gretzky was a good hockey player. This set of maple back-and-sides is hands-down the most beautiful set of maple I have ever seen. My jaw dropped when I saw this set on the shelf at A&M. The back panels are wide enough for any of my three guitar models. As you might expect, such premium wood goes for a slightly higher price. But, you might be pleasantly surprised that adding this set to your custom build will only increase your final price by about $200. So, if you were thinking of having me build you a custom guitar, but you were wondering what back-and-side wood to choose, this might just be the answer. Come by my shop and see this set in person. The picture doesn't do it justice. It really is something else.
Ontario Guitar Show - What a Blast!
April 27th, 2015
Laurie and I had a wonderful day, yesterday, meeting all the good people from the Kitchener-Waterloo area, at the Ontario Guitar Show. A big thanks to John Woods and his crew for organizing the day. A special thanks to everyone who came by our table for a visit. If you are interested is finding out more about any of the four guitars we had at the show, just click on the "Guitars for Sale" button on the left. Alternatively, send me an email to the address listed at the top of the page. Thanks again for your interest in my guitars.
December 15th, 2014
This is the latest Xaver guitar that I have created. It is a mini-jumbo, my most popular model, and is available for purchase.
As the title suggests, this guitar features a beautiful bearclaw sitka spruce soundboard. Bearclaw is simply figured wood that looks sort-of like a bear had a swipe at the wood. The back and side wood is padauk, an African hardwood, known for its dramatic red shades. I've framed it in luxurious ebony, and have added some cocobolo (bridge and fingerboard) to give the tone extra depth.
This guitar is also setup for the stage. It has fast action and a K&K Pure pickup, the best passive pickup on the market - bar none. There's still time to get this guitar under your Christmas tree. Give me a call to set up a time to check out the guitar. After that, all I need is 24 hours to prep the guitar for final delivery and it is all yours. Here are the details.
Spencer Scharf and an Xaver Dreadnought
October 20, 2014
Here is another one of my guitars being demo'd by Spencer Scharf at a recent Cumberland Farmers' Market. The market is closed now for the season. But, there are still a few opportunities to check out some Xaver guitars before Christmas:
German Christmas Market - Nov. 21-23 - at the German Almrausch Club. Details here.
Cumberland Christmas Market - Dec. 6th. Details here.
Spencer Scharf Plays an Xaver Guitar
September 3rd, 2014
Spencer was also nominated to compete in Galaxie's Rising Star Supernova Competition as one of this year's Ottawa Folk Festival performers! Winning musicians receive a monetary award to help with establishing their careers. You can vote for Spencer by clicking on this link: Galaxie's Rising Star Supernova Competition Register or sign in with an email address and password. Click on the circle under Spencer's photo/video. Go to the bottom of the page and click "submit your vote".
Spencer is performing at the Folk Fest at Hog's Back Park on Sept. 14, 5:00 - 6:00 pm in the Craft Beer House on the free side of the festival. He's also doing a Pete Seeger tribute at 1:00 pm that day on the Hill Stage, also on the free side, with Fred Penner and other musicians! There is free parking at Canada Post. For more info: Ottawa Folkfest
Cocobolo and Engelmann Mini-Jumbo
January 7th, 2014
This is the latest guitar that I have completed. It is a mini-jumbo with an Engelmann spruce soundboard and cocobolo back and sides. Ebony is featured throughout as well, with an ebony fingerboard, bridge and headstock veneer. The guitar also has a Laskin style armrest, side soundport, and venetian cutaway. I used golden Gotoh 510 tuners with black knobs on this guitar. The sound is balanced, clear, and sustaining. No doubt the Adirondack spruce bracing contributes to the pleasant tone. This guitar has already been spoken for. It was a custom build. I worked closely with the customer over the past months, not only to determine his specific needs but also to ensure that he was aware from week to week how the build was progressing. I do have an extra set of cocobolo in my shop. So, if you like what this guitar looks and sounds like (check out the uploaded soundfiles and videos), let me know and I can start on a guitar like this for you. Here are the details.
OFC Songwriter Profile and Shannon Rose Playing an Xaver Mini-Jumbo
November 5, 2013
The Ottawa Folklore Centre recently intereviewed Shannon Rose, lead singer of Shannon Rose and the Thorns about her songwriting. Shannon was checking out one of my mini-jumbos during the interview, and played it during an in-store performance of her single "Winter Alibi" from the EP "Seasons". Check out the video below. (The guitar, incidentally, is available at the OFC on Bank Street, just south of Lansdowne. Check out the specs on this guitar here.)
Ottawa Citizen Publishes "Guitar Hero of Orleans"
September 24, 2013
The Ottawa Citizen "Style" website published an article on Xaver Guitars titled The Guitar Hero of Orleans. Style reporter Julie Lan wrote the article and also did the photography. I must say, Julie had her work cut out for her, trying to make me look presentable in a style magazine. You can see more of her incredible photography at PopChampagneblog.com.
Eve's Daughter to Feature Xaver Guitars at Kinburn Swampfest
August 16, 2013
If you haven't heard of Eve's Daughter yet, you soon will. They are the hottest new Ottawa based country-rock band, featuring Kim Remus' incredible vocals and Frank McKinlay's artistry on lead guitar. Having worked with Canada's elite, including Paul Brandt, Colin James, and Johnny Reid, Kim and Frank have the musical chops to set the Canadian country music industry on end. And it gets better. Rounding out the team is Bill Green on bass (what this guy can do on a bass guitar...), John Hoogeveen on drums (one word, "Wow"), and Tom Forsythe on you-name-it (I don't think there is an instrument he hasn't mastered). And they all can and do sing! So, expect some sweet harmonies to accompany Kim's dynamic vocals.
Why am I gushing over this hot new entrant into the Canadian country music scene? First, because they are good! I know this first hand, having been invited to attend their recent rehearsals in preparation for their upcoming show at the Kinburn Swampfest. Second (full-disclosure), they have chosen to feature my guitars during the show! Frank and Kim will be doing a special acoustic rendition of "Stay" (by Sugarland), with Frank playing one of my East Indian Rosewood dreadnought guitars.
The show, as part of the Kinburn Swampfest, is coming up Saturday, Aug. 24th, at the Kinburn Community Centre in Kinburn, Ontario. Eve's Daughter, taking the stage at 9:30 pm is headlining a day full of fantastic music. So, mark it on your calendar, make your plans, and join Eve's Daughter and Xaver Guitars for an unforgetable musical event.
Ottawa Folklore Centre Features Xaver Guitar in Local Luthier Spotlight
May 23, 2013
A big thank-you to the Ottawa Folklore Centre for featuring my mini-jumbo guitar in their "Local Luthier Spotlight". The Ottawa Folklore Centre is an institution in eastern Ontario, and is one of the biggest supporters of local luthiers (like myself) in the region. If you've never been to this iconic music store, you owe it to yourself to pay them a visit. An incredible selection of guitars (including hand-built ones) as well as other stringed and non-stringed musical instruments, and the most knowledgeable and friendly staff in the city. Here's a link to the Local Luthier Spotlight feature. You can read all the specs for this guitar on my site here, but to hear this guitar, you've got to got down to the OFC. Just a few blocks south of Lansdowne on Bank Street.
A Guitar is Born
January 4th, 2013
I had the opportunity to play Santa Claus in a special way a few weeks back. I completed a mini-jumbo - a custom build - and delivered it to the happy customer, Jack Stacey, just two days before Christmas. As you can see from the picture, this guitar was customized with pearl inlay on the ebony fingerboard (as well as custom inlay on the headstock).
The guitar not only looks nice, but it sounds very nice. It has a lively cedar soundboard, and figured walnut back and sides. The fingerboard, bridge, and headstock/backstrapping are ebony. This guitar also features a venetian cutaway, a side soundport, and a Laskin-style armrest. Add to that upgraded tuners (510 Golden Gotohs) as well as the industry leading K&K Pure Mini passive pickup.
I invite you to have a closer look at the guitar here and if you like the style and specs, give me a shout and I can work up an estimate for one like it for you.
Compensated Nuts - Why Your Guitar Needs One
October 24th, 2012
A compensated nut is a nut that is moved closer to the first fret by a small amount, in order to remove the "flatness" when playing open (non-fretted) strings. (On an aside, we do have many "over-compensated nuts" here in Ottawa, we call politicians. But that's another matter.) On my mini-jumbo model, which has a scale length of 25.4", the theoretical distance between the nut and the first fret is 1 and 13.6/32nds of an inch. However, if you were to measure the actual distance it is 1 and 12.6/32nds, exactly 1/32 shorter. That is, the nut on my mini-jumbo model is 1/32 inch closer to the first fret than it theoretically should be. This shortening of the open-string is done to offset the flatness that is introduced by compensated saddles.
(Confused yet? I was, when I first started learning about compensated saddles and nuts. But, it does make sense... eventually.)
To understand why one should compensate the nut, one must also understand why one compensates the saddle. Saddle compensation is the lengthening of the string by a small amount to offset (or compensate for) the increased tension that is applied to strings when they are fretted. You see, there are only three things that determine the frequency of the note we hear on a guitar: the length of the string, the thickness (mass) of the string, and the tension or how tight the string is wound around the manchine posts. Problem is that when we fret a string, we are not only changing its length but also its tension by a small amount. The tension is increased because of the downwards force applied to the string to get it to touch the fret. This increased tension is not a lot, but enough to make strings sound sharp, that is, if we didn't do something to counteract this increased tension. Fortunately, almost all guitars have some system that lengthens the strings by a small amount to offset the increased tension from fretting a string.
If you look at a typical guitar, the saddle is not perpendicular to the strings, but rather is slanted slightly, and also moved back (away from the fingerboard) by a small amount. All strings are lenthened. The low E string is lengthened the most (because of its greater mass) and the high E string is lengthened the least. The other four strings fall somewhere in between. Therefore, whenever a string is fretted, the increased tension is offset by the increased length, and you hear the note at the frequency that it should be. However, what happens when you don't fret the string?
With a correctly compensated saddle, fretted strings will play in tune, but non-fretted strings (open strings) will play a tiny bit flat, unless the guitar has a compensated nut as well. The compensated nut shortens the string by virtue of the nut being located closer to the first fret than it theoretically should be. In this way, open strings are "sharpened" to get rid of the flatness that otherwise would be heard.
So, in summary, the increased tension from fretted strings is compensated by the saddle being moved back (away) by a small amount (more for the low E; less for the high E). The increased length that results from compensated saddles is counter-compensated by the nut being moved forward - toward the first fret.
As I said earlier, almost all guitars have compensated saddles. But, not all guitars have compensated nuts. One of the ways guitar manufacturers cut corners and save money is to skip on the compensated nut. The difference in frequency between a correctly compensated nut and a nut that is not compensated is small. Some people can't hear the difference. However, for many discerning guitar players the difference is noticeable. So, if you are one of those people who is hearing your open strings playing a bit flat, chances are your guitar does not have a compensated nut.
All Xaver Guitars have compensated nuts. I am often told that my guitars play perfectly in tune all the way up the fingerboard. I would like to think it is because of the attention I pay to properly compensating both the saddle and the nut. If you've never played a guitar with a compensated nut before, I invite you to try one of my guitars, and see whether it makes a difference. You may never go back to an uncompensated nut again.
Juno-Award-Winning Teddy Leonard Enjoying an Xaver Guitar
May 14th, 2012
One of the rewards of building guitars is to hear accomplished guitarists play them. I had that opportunity recently at the Ontario Guitar Show. Teddy Leonard performed a few pieces with my grand concert model guitar for those in attendance at the show. Leonard was honoured in 1999 with a Juno Award for Best Blues Recording. His masterful riffs can be heard on numerous CDs as he has performed over the years with bands including Fathead, Handy, Juno nominee Paul Reddick, Colin Linden, Morgan Davis and Pork Belly Futures. Leonard has shared the stage with legends no less than B.B. King. So, you will forgive me if I had a broad grin on my face as one of my guitars came to life under the spellbinding artistry of one of Canada's greatest guitarists. Thanks Teddy. I owe you one.
Samantha Mouchet and Xaver Guitars
May 2nd, 2012
I am delighted to announce that Samantha Mouchet, singer-songwriter and recording artist, will be featuring my grand concert guitar on her upcoming CD Strange Dreams. Samantha's soulful folk sound and lilting lyrics accompanied by her silky smooth vocals makes you just want to sit back and enjoy. Fresh off an appearance at Gulliver's, Samantha is quickly establishing a name as a talented songwriter and performer, reminiscent of the classic sound of Cassandra Vasik. Check back here for updates on her pending CD release. And in the meantime check out Samantha's site SamathaMouchet.com and have a listen to some of the tracks that will be featured on the CD.
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