Last month, we talked about the differences and pros and cons of factory-made guitars versus handmade guitars
, and quite coincidentally, within a couple days of completing that column, I was invited by one of the local luthiers here in Iowa to come and see a new group of ten guitars he had just completed.
David Flammang has been building guitars for around 27 years now, quietly, in Greene, IA. I reviewed one of Flammang’s guitars grand concert guitars in the March 2010 issue
, which just about knocked my socks off.
There are two themes in this batch of ten: guitars firmly rooted in the Golden Age Martin/Gibson tradition, and guitars built with Flammang’s own vision. The traditional style guitars are remarkably right—the dreadnoughts boom just the way those old Martins do, and the L-style guitars bark and snap just like the old Gibsons, but each seems to have something more going on at the same time, and that’s the magic of the luthier’s art.
David Flammang surrounded by his new creations
The Grand Tour
There’s something amazing about being the first person ever
to strum a chord on a guitar. I’m struggling mightily to come up with something I can say it’s like, and there is just nothing like it. If you have done it, you know what I mean. If you haven’t, you owe it to yourself to do so as soon as humanly possible.
Some of the guitars on Flammang’s wall had been strung up within moments of my arrival. I fell instantly in love with the koa and German “Moon” spruce grand concert, and it was a delight to see Flammang’s eyes light up when he heard it for the first time. Koa, to my ear, offers such a smooth base to the tone, never muddy or brittle, always sweet and right how it needs to be. This guitar was rich and clear and highly playable. Flammang’s GC shape is extremely comfortable to hold, balancing body depth for outstanding tone with a wonderful “wearability” and lightness that will let you enjoy that tone for hours. The neck is a comfortable 1 3/4", and the action is impeccable.
LEFT: P30 all Honduran mahogany, 24.9" scale; MIDDLE: GC50 Sitka/Indian rosewood, 25.4 scale–Olson inspired top bracing; RIGHT: GC40 German "Moon" spruce/curly Koa, 25.4 scale–Olson inspired top bracing
Another highlight was a dreadnought inspired by a Roy Smeck model from Gibson. Flammang’s instinct for capturing the best of the vintage vibe and combining it with his own vision is perfectly showcased here. This guitar sings like an angel, with just enough of a vintage voice to anchor it in tradition, and yet there’s the kind of round, full tone that our twenty-first century ears have become accustomed to, too.
LEFT: J35 Red spruce/Honduran mahogany, 24.56 scale, 3-tone bar–vintage Gibson J35 inspired; MIDDLE: EL35 13-fret Red spruce/Honduran mahogany, 24.56 scale–vintage Gibson L1 inspired; RIGHT: RS30 Red spruce/Honduran mahogany, 24.75 scale–vintage Gibson Smeck inspired.