My friend Klaus Janke sent me this link to a Mark Knopfler concert in Italy.
At around 50 minutes, Mark plays my MS Model on Matchstick Man. It looks wonderful. And he gives it a little kiss.
Guitarist, collector and friend Massimo Raccosta, with his fiancé Francesca, visited last autumn. As well as visiting the Roman Wall built by his ancestors nearly 2000 years ago (and experiencing and enjoying weather conditions they hated), Massimo had the idea of a guitar optimised for use with a pickup. It was to be called the Verona model, where Massimo, originally from Rome, now lives.
This wasn’t easy, particularly because my existing models already work so well with my preferred Highlander Pickups.
We talked about this over a meal, and later by email, and came up with a very slim bodied version of my Steinbeck model. Unusually, it is deeper at the heel than at the tail.
Because of the slim body, the battery isn’t mounted inside but is Highlander’s external battery box model where the battery box is in line with the amplifier input.
I loved it from the moment it was strung; such a clear focused sound both acoustic and through the pickup. Not a beefy sound, but clear and deep with an almost unbelievable acoustic volume from such a slim body. And through the pickup, the sound is wonderfully clear and full, without a hint of confusion.
Three months on, it has opened into a truly surprising and wonderful guitar. Massimo will collect it later this summer; in the meantime I play it every day. A second Verona model is now built and being lacquered.
Verona Model Specifications
|Soundboard:||Figured (bearclaw) Sitka, German spruce optional|
|Back and sides:||Malaysian Blackwood, other woods optional|
|Bridge:||Ebony with two piece bone saddle|
|Binding:||Black with red and white purfling|
|Birdsfoot edging with red gold and green purfling
Gotoh 510 with black buttons
|16.3″ (415 mm)
3″ (76 mm) at heel, 2 3/16″ (56 mm) at tail
Highlander IP-1X – external battery box
Figured Sitka soundboard
Malaysian Blackwood back and sides, Wengé neck
Darrell Scott and wife Angela came to the UK in March. They were visiting friends here, and Darrell was playing a gig in Cork.
While they were here I met up with them, taking two of my latest guitars. One was a long scale big bodied D guitar, the other was my latest Steinbeck S.
We had talked about these, and Darrell’s plan was to see if he liked one enough to use in Cork and then take home.
We met in Harpenden, outer London in the home of Liz’s school-friend Pauline and her husband John. Darrell played each guitar in turn, first unplugged and then amplified. He took his time, playing, listening, playing and listening, then the same with the other guitar, concentrating all the time.
It was a great private concert for Pauline and John.
Eventually Darrell looked at Angela. ‘What do you think?’ Angela was really happy with both, but thought the smaller Steinbeck S was more what Darrell would use on gigs.
But Darrell was in love with the larger long scale D Guitar.
After considerable discussion they stepped out to find a coffee shop and chat there, joking that if they didn’t return, we’d know they’d decided on neither.
After so long that I was wondering had they really been joking, they came back. ‘We want both’ they said.
Steinbeck S and Model 2 D guitars
Darrell playing the figured Sitka and African Blackwood D guitar
Playing the figured Sitka and Malaysian Blackwood Steinbeck S
It was a hit
Both w me
And the people
Many great comments
I played to the instrument
As i do
And i very much
Liked what your instrument made me do
I went Csharp to Csharp
Sometimes even doing a drop D
It is a keeper
I love it
Left: Written by Darrell after his Cork gig. A great compliment from one of the world’s very best acoustic players.
Darrell playing the D Guitar at the Savannah Festival 2019
Yesterday Joseph Sobol collected his figured Sitka spruce and African Blackwood 12 string bouzouki. This has been under discussion and construction for just about two years now. Joseph has previously had me build at least three 12 string bouzoukis (I’m beginning to lose count).
For his two previous instruments, Joseph specified mahogany and Koa back and sides. This one has African Blackwood back and sides, along with a figured Sitka soundboard, as used on my Steinbeck guitars. And after playing it a while, when asked how he felt about it Joseph replied ‘this is the last’.
He thought it looked and sounded great, and so did I. Being so newly strung, we know it will open out in the months and years to come.
Today I received this email from him:
Dear Stefan— this new instrument is astonishing. By the time we got to York it had already opened up. You just have to touch it and it rings out like a choir and organ. Notes just leap off the board. Big day here in cittern world. Thank you for going out on the field one more time to make this magical thing.
Here is the body, bound with black Rocklite and red/gold/green purfling. It is now ready for me to fit the neck, though it will be a little while before I can do this, I have other projects to complete first.
You can see here that because the top and back are curved (the back more so), the sides are narrowest at the widest part of the lower bout.
You can also see the greater depth at the neck end; this will give the heel more leverage and make sure the neck is stable.
I have already built the figured Sitka Spruce soundboard, complete with braces, so now I prepare the back and sides to receive it.
After trimming the excess back wood from around the lower edge of the sides, the tops of the sides are scribed and trimmed to receive the top. Then I fit the top lining and notch the lining on either side to to receive the brace above the soundhole. I check the fit of the top to the sides plus linings, adjusting where necessary; then lacquer the inside of the body.
The back brace ends showing through the sides will be routed away with the binding channel and hidden by the binding.
Now it is ready for me to glue the soundboard in place.
And here is the soundboard in place, trimmed to match the sides and coated with shellac lacquer. This ensures wood is not pulled from the grain when the binding tape is removed, and will be scraped off later.
Here the back is clamped (using state of the arc clamps) and glued in place, having been turned over for cleaning up of the join.
During his recent visit (described below), Massimo Raccosta and I discussed building a very slim guitar optimised for use with a pickup. He showed photos of a very slim classical guitar made by Hauser, though this went further than just having a fitted pickup. In the back of the guitar was a removable panel giving access to not only the pickup but also a tiny amplifier and loudspeaker.
Not having heard this in action, I can’t give an opinion as to how it sounds. But in any case, this isn’t the concept we settled on.
To start with, I prepared sides from Malaysian Blackwood, which works so well on my Steinbeck guitars. But I reduced the depth drastically. The sides are shallower than standard at the neck, but not too much so as body rigidity here provides stability for the neck. But towards the tail the sides are much shallower.
The picture above shows the sides joined by neck and tail blocks, cut down to receive the back, and with the back lining fitted, and lining and sides notched to receive the back braces.
Last week a truly enthusiastic Roman visited with his partner and was impatient to see Hadrian’s wall. Massimo and Francesca came from Verona Italy to collect a Steinbeck guitar to add to his huge collection of outstanding, interesting and historical guitars, both acoustic and electric.
Massimo’s original plan was to visit in the spring but eventually came in late November – despite warnings about Northumbrian winter weather. In the event, we had a mixture of light rain, sunshine, heavy rain, and hail.
Hadrian’s wall was built by the Emperor Hadrian (not personally, although he visited the site) around AD 125 and reached from coast to coast. It was the Roman Empire’s northern boundary.
To avoid collusion with locals, it was Roman policy to man postings with troops from outside the area. These would be moved on regularly before too much fraternisation could occur.
The weather on our visit was a fine example of why Roman troops would much rather not have been posted here. Especially those from North Africa.
We followed our walk along the wall with a visit to the museum at Vindolanda. There Massimo saw, among many other items, letters home (on wooden sheets) from Roman soldiers asking for more socks.
Massimo is originally from Rome and was thrilled to see the wonderful wall built by his ancestors. He wasn’t in the least troubled by the weather we encountered.
The famous Sycamore tree