Ken Answers a Customer's Questions:
What would a smaller body (as in Mira) do to the sound it produces? Be it cutaway or not?
This is a very minor size change that I made to keep the interior volume the same for the non - cutaway guitars. Considering the staggering number of variables in instrument making, I would say It’s really impossible to determine the answers to your questions in a definitive way. Since I started with a cutaway model, I made every effort to keep the instrument light and flexible in the cutaway area, something never before done by any builder that I’m aware of. In other words, I did my best from the outset to make this question moot.
Mira is a lovely sounding guitar, very warm and romantic, but I feel I can build this sound into the slightly larger (normal) size guitar. Another way to put this is that I believe the material selection for the body has a much greater influence than either the size difference, or the cutaway.
Are you able to reach all the notes of instrument easily for a non-cutaway?
“Kind of” might be the answer. Because the fingerboard surface is elevated above the top, access is pretty good, but......
Or is the cut-away the preferred choice for players who love to play on upper frets?
I would say yes to this.
Say I place my guitar in a controlled room - then I take it out to a 90% humidity for 5 hours - Is that time frame enough to affect the tone?
You won’t need to worry about this. As I said, it takes the guitar a long time to gain or lose significant amounts of moisture. We have humidity here too!
How many hours does it take to build a single archtop by you? Or rather - do you build one a month or?
This year my pace is 2 months per guitar. I hope to be able to get a little faster, but I can’t imagine getting twice as fast, I’m too fussy.
Does pernambuco affect the tone of the guitar significantly?
Hard to say for sure. The materials sound different when tapped, with the ebony being midrange heavy, and the ‘buco being midrange notched. Everything on the instrument is part of the (very long) equation, so it’s hard to assign a role to every part. I feel that the materials, proportions and stiffness of the body are the heart of the guitars’ sound.
Pernambuco is wonderful material. I wish I had more of it! I’m using some that I purchased in 1979, and it’s no longer available in the quality and size that I require. Also, there are extra challenges from regulators regarding the transport of pernambuco across borders, and, although enforcement is spotty, it can be worrisome.
If I specced it, fingerboard would be pernambuco as well, right?
Right, the fingerboard, headstock veneers, nut, pickguard covering, pickup covering, if any, soundhole trim, center seam stripe at the endblock, and the strap buttons would all be the same wood, Pernambuco or Ebony.
Is the upcharge for pernambuco due to the wood being more expensive? Or more difficult to work with?
Neither, it’s currently unavailable to me at any price, so when my little stash runs out, I’ll likely be out forever.
Would you consider installing 2 standard electric pickups onto your archtop? House a single coil and a humbucker together (or maybe just have one pickup alone) . If a player chooses to go electric, he can string it up with regular nickel strings and use those pickups. (I believe string changing is a breeze) If he wants to go acoustic gig, he could use bronze strings!
This is certainly possible, but I think when you hear the pickup designed to work with bronze strings, you’ll forget all about nickel strings.