Modern Builder Vault: King Blossom Guitars
Though he didn’t know it at the time, Jeff Figley was on his way to becoming a luthier when he moved to a small farm in New Hampshire to open the King Blossom Cabinet Shop in 1983. While making pieces of high-end cabinetry over the years, he found himself setting aside some of the more beautiful pieces of wood that came through the shop, with the intention of saving them for something special. Not necessarily thin king about guitars as a future project, Figley built up quite a stash of gorgeous wood.
Figley always had a passion for music and began playing guitar in the early ’70s. But it wasn’t until the late ’80s that he built his first, when he found his creative side left unsatisfied by building only cabinets. With honed woodworking skills, a woodworking shop, and a love for fine wood already in place, Figley borrowed a couple of books from a luthier friend and set out on a two-year journey to build his first instrument. Constructed from both spalted and bird’s-eye maple, Figley still owns his No. 1, which is still his favorite guitar for tone thus far.
When asked about design inspiration, Figley cites PRS as a major influence because of their use of highly figured materials. “I’m all about the wood, so I strive to create a noble purpose that equals its beauty,” says Figley. But he isn’t afraid to experiment with other materials—he came up with the idea of using truck-bed liner as a guitar finish. “I just don’t add the optional ground rubber, and when it’s thinned properly, it makes a roadworthy textured finish,” he says. “The purists knock it, but these guitars have great tone.”
With an interest in passing his experience to hopeful builders-to-be, Figley offers periodic internships at King Blossom Guitars, allowing an intern to build their own instrument under his supervision. “Just start, don’t stop, and don’t pay much attention to what others are saying and doing,” is his best piece of advice for an aspiring luthier. “Most people don’t think outside of the box. Be an original and hone your skills.”
Figley recently incorporated CNC technology to King Blossom for some of the rough work, enabling him to be more creative and develop new ideas, but he steadfastly maintains the importance of handcrafting in building guitars. “The attributes of a world-class guitar will never be achieved by anything but refined, custom handwork,” shares Figley. “I have no intention of getting away from this aspect that defines a superior instrument. It’s the hands-on detailing that I love.”
Pricing and Availability
All King Blossom guitars are custom built to a client’s specs. Figley will guide a customer gently so they end up with a finished instrument built to their personal preferences. Guitars are available by ordering direct and the current wait time is approximately three to six months, depending on the complexity of the build. Figley currently makes 12-15 guitars a year, but with the recent incorporation of CNC to his shop, he intends to bring that number up to 75-80.
Model 1 #0018
This chambered-body Model 1 features a big-leaf maple burl top with soundholes created with some help from Mother Nature. Utilizing mahogany for the body and neck, the 27-fret ebony ’board boasts illuminated, fiber-optic side dots. With a DiMarzio 36th Anniversary PAF pickup in the bridge and a DiMarzio EJ Custom in the neck, this Model 1 also features a piezo-loaded bridge from Graph Tech.
Model 1 #0012
Utilizing highly figured maple burl to top the mahogany body of this version of the Model 1, it too is adorned with fiber-optic side dots for guidance along its ebony fretboard. Outfitted with Sperzel locking tuners and a bridge and tailpiece by TonePros, this looker is loaded up with a DiMarzio 36th Anniversary PAF pickup in the bridge and a DiMarzio PAF in the neck position.
This RGM model’s maple top rests on a body carved from poplar and features Figley’s use of truckbed liner for a road-ready finish on the back and sides. The maple neck is topped with a rosewood fretboard and the instrument is outfitted with a ResoMax bridge and tailpiece by Graph Tech. For electronics, this RGM has a pair of DiMarzios, with a PAF Pro in the bridge and a PAF in the neck.
Riffguy Signature RGM
The Riffguy Signature RGM is the culmination of a two-year project between Figley and one of his artist clients that incorporates features of an SG, Strat, and Les Paul. The Khaya African mahogany body is capped with a highly figured maple top while the Khaya African neck is topped with a scalloped Bolivian rosewood fretboard sporting an antique walrus-tusk nut. This RGM is loaded up with a Riffbucker Articulator 1 bridge pickup and an Articulator 2 in the neck.
Finished with a classic sunburst, this RPG utilizes AAAAA-grade quilted maple for the top, back, headstock veneers, and pickup rings. With a DiMarzio DP223 36th Anniversary pickup in the bridge and a DiMarzio DP190 Air Classic in the neck, this axe is outfitted with Sperzel TrimLok tuners, a Graph Tech nut, and bridge and tailpiece by TonePros.
Figley’s RPG-RS Prototype is designed to maximize the acoustic properties of the electric guitar. The hollow mahogany body houses soundports in the horn cutouts, which allows the guitar to breathe and project sound without feedback from floor monitors. The one-piece maple top integrates the pickup rings, bridge mount, armrest, and straight string-through tailpiece, all of which are carved out of one solid piece of wood. “This guitar is far more alive than anything I’ve ever built,” says Figley.