Ordering a Custom Guitar
If none of my existing guitars for sale meet your needs, I would be happy to build one specifically for you, at no extra cost. The process of building a custom guitar takes about 6 months. During this time, you are welcome to drop by my workshop as often as you like to see how the guitar is progressing, to take pictures or videos, or just to chat. Or if you prefer, I can send you regular email updates with images that document the various stages of construction. To order a custom guitar, give me a call or send me an email with your thoughts on what your custom guitar should be like. I would be happy to offer suggestions if you are unsure about some options. I will then prepare for you a free quote including the cost and expected completion date of your guitar. If all looks well, a 25 percent deposit will begin the building process. The balance will be due on completion of the guitar. If you would like to get a ballpark estimate before you contact me, check out the Prices page.
Choosing a Body Style
I build three different body styles from which you can choose:
- mini-jumbo; and
- grand concert.
|Typical Playing Styles||rhythm, flat-picking||rhythm, finger-style||finger-style|
This is the shape that is probably most associated with the steel-string guitar, with its recognizable squared shoulders and tail and shallow waist. At 15½ inches wide and 20 inches long, the dreadnought is a full-sized guitar. It is also a full 5 inches deep, giving it a very strong base response. Dreadnoughts are favoured by rhythm players and flat pickers.
The mini-jumbo, variably referred to as a Grand Auditorium, or an "M" model, has about as much space inside the soundbox as a dreadnought. However the mini-jumbo has a slightly different shape - it has rounded shoulders and tail, a pronouced waist, and the body is not as deep (about 4½ inches). The overall body is about 16¼ inches wide and 20 inches long. Due to its balanced response - that is whether playing bass, mids or highs, the guitar's projection is equally strong - this model is versatile, and can be used to play lead or rhythm, finger-style or flat-picking.
The grand concert is the smallest of the three body styles that I make. It is 15⅛ inches wide at the lower bout and 19½ inches long. It is shaped like a mini-jumbo except smaller. This is a very popular body style, particularly with a cutaway for the fingerstylists who favour the clarity that this style produces. Variably referred to as a "OO", the grand concert has high playability, with its manageable body size, the shorter 24¾ inch scale length, and the light strings.
Adding a Cutaway, Armrest, and/or Side Soundport
Once you have chosen the overall style, you can add to any of these styles a cutaway, an armrest, and/or a side soundport.
I build a Venetian style cutaway. That is, the tip of the cutaway is rounded. (In contrast, Florentine cutaways have pointed tips.) Cutaways provide access to the upper frets, particularly for players who play lead. If you are looking for a guitar to play rhythm or you simply like to stick to the lower frets, then you probably do not need a cutaway. I am sometimes asked if a cutaway reduces the guitar's sound. Although it does reduce the sound somewhat, it is barely perceptible. The reason is that the cutaway is in the upper bout of the guitar, whereas most of the sound of the guitar is generated by the lower bout.
My armrest style is an interpretation of Grit Laskin's armrest (used with his generous permission). Armrests can be added to any of the three models I build. Their primary purpose is to make holding the guitar more comfortable, preventing the edge of the guitar body from digging into the strumming arm. The secondary purpose is that some people think the armrest looks nice, and that's OK too. Like the cutaway, the armrest does restrict the soundboard somewhat. However, the reduced projection, as a result of the armrest is very small.
The third major feature you can add to your custom Xaver guitar is a side soundport. With a side soundport, you will hear the guitar much better when playing, as the side soundport is pointed directly at the player. It also adds to the bass, and therefore can serve a dual purpose on smaller guitars like the grand concert, which might not have as much bass otherwise. One of the great things about the side soundport is that it not only increases the presence of the guitar to the player, it does so while maintaining its full projection forward. In fact, some argue that the side soundport actually increases forward projection as well as presence to the player.
Choosing Soundboard and Sides/Back Wood
More than any other part of the guitar, the soundboard is most responsible for how the guitar sounds. I use almost exclusively softwoods for my soundboards, in particular, spruce. Spruce makes a great soundboard because it has the highest strength to weight ratio of any wood. I like to use Sitka spruce, as it is a very responsive wood and provides a clear tap-tone (when you tap on the wood to listen to the wood's acoustic properties). Alternatives include Engelmann Spruce, Adirondack spruce, and European spruce. You can also use a softer wood, such as cedar, which is used commonly on classical guitars.
The sides and back wood provide relatively little to the sound of the guitar. Consequently you can choose a wood that looks nice. Maple may make the guitar sound a bit brighter, and mahogany or walnut may soften the sound, with EI rosewood tending towards a compromise between bright and soft. However, these tonal differences are quite small. Click on any of the woods below for a closer look.
Other Ways to Customize your Guitar
Neck and Fingerboard. Some of my favourite woods for the neck of the guitar are walnut, cherry, mahogany, and maple. If you have a preference let me know. Fingerboards, not to be confused with the neck itself, must be made from a hard wood, either EI rosewood or ebony.
Tuning Machines. I use Gotoh tuners on many of my guitars. The SG301 tuners have a 1:18 gear ratio, while the Gotoh 510 can go up to a 1:21 gear ratio. I also use Grover Stay-tites sometimes on my smaller grand concert model. The Grovers have open gears giving them a bit of a retro look. If you want to splurge, I can order Waverly tuners for your guitar. It's your choice. Click on any of the images below for a closer look.
Pearl Inlay. On my non-custom guitars, I normally inlay my brand name "Xaver" on the headstock, using mother-of-pearl. If you prefer, I can inlay a design of your choice, or even your own name on the headstock instead. Have you seen B.B. King's Gibson ES-355 (Lucille), with his name inlayed on the fingerboard? If you would like, I can inlay your name on the fingerboard of your custom Xaver guitar just like B.B. King's Lucille. I won't guarantee that you will be able to play like B.B. King, but the guitar will definitely turn heads. Click on the fingerboard image for more inlay examples from past projects.
Pickups. I prefer the K&K Pure Mini pickup for my guitars. Although a passive system, they are one of the most sensitive acoustic pickups on the market today - you really don't need a preamp with this pickup (or the leaking battery inside your expensive guitar either). The Pure Mini pickup includes three transducers that are glued to the bridge plate inside the guitar. If you want a great sounding pickup on your custom guitar, and don't want to have to keep changing batteries for a built-in preamp, I would highly recommend the Pure Mini. However, if you would like a different pickup system, let me know.