Terraplane Resonator Guitar Co.
Bridgewater, New Jersey

Photo by Brandon Fontaine
Mark Simon
Years Building Resonators: 5
Starting at: $7000
Average Wait Time: 2 years

What prompted you to start building resonator guitars?

I’d say not just resonator guitars, but specifically metal-bodied resonators, because that really narrows down the field and competition, which was definitely a reason I was drawn to them. I’ve built every style of guitar in my 36 years of building, but I wanted to get back into it again and I saw that market as a huge opening.

Besides the reduced competition, what else drew you to creating metal-bodied resonators?

I always loved the sound and tone of those guitars. In addition, it’s truly a challenge to work in metal rather than wood, so that keeps me on my toes. For me, it’s been a learning experience shifting to metal, and that keeps things interesting, always being a student.

Like woods, there are a variety of metals that builders can use. What metals do you work with?
I use brass and nickel-silver.

Why those particular metals?

Well, there’s a tonal difference in any type of metal used for instruments. In my experience as a total hand-builder on these, you got to be able to move the metal fairly easily. I’m not saying steel is out, but it’s definitely a lot harder to move, mold and work with.

What type of cones do you use for your resonators?

My guitars can take either a National-style cone or Dobro-style spider cone, which I believe gives my customers a choice, depending on their preferences and playing style.

Why do you offer resonators as single cutaway models?

To give players the ability to get the upper range for upright-style playing because with a body style like that you can play all the way up to the last fret. On a typical resonator, at the 12th or 14th fret, you are limited on your range, but with a single cutaway model a player can pretty much play up and down the entire neck.

Do your customers tend to play with that upright-style, or do you have players that use your instruments as a lap guitar?

Oh sure, one guy specifically that comes to mind is Arlen Roth, who plays a Terraplane model across his lap. I’m currently working on a traditional metal-body, square-neck guitar for Cindy Cashdollar, and she’ll play that across her lap, too.

Can you describe your patent-pending string anchoring system?

I always had this in mind, even before I started building the tailpieces on these resonators, to bring the strings very close to the saddle, so there isn’t much of a break angle off the bridge and not a whole lot of string tension being transferred. Of course, as the guitar gets older, the strings with a typical tailpiece could be in a direct line as it comes off the bridge, so I have a nice break angle with the right amount of tension on it, and it’s actually very simple design.

What type of advantage does this metal give a player?

It’s just as easy to change the strings on this tailpiece as any other, but what I have noticed in other metal-bodied guitars—you get rattles off the tailpiece. My current anchoring system removes all that unnecessary rattling and jangling.

With your .44 Special model, you use brass for the body. What’s the advantage this type of metal provides a player?

The brass offers a warmer tone than a steel or nickel-silver body.

And with the different metals you offer, what seems to be the popular choice?

All my instruments that are made of brass can be nickel-plated. You can get the shiny look of a nickel-plated guitar with the sound of brass. The plating doesn’t alter the tone of the brass at all.

What kind of pickups do you implement into your guitars?

I generally use off-the-shelf pickups made by Jason Lollar, but as you’re aware, Jason will modify them to get the exact tone I’m looking for. The pickups are fairly similar in both positions, but I believe he uses a different wire for the bridge pickup, so the tone can be darkened up a little bit.

Why should someone choose a Terraplane guitar?

Because they’re beautiful [laughs]… you plug them in and they play like a dream. They move so much air that these guitars remind me of a Hammond B3—big, beautiful thick tones that come out of my instruments.

How deep can customers get into customizing or tinkering with a guitar?

Everything is custom on these guitars. You can mix and match features, remove something or come up with a new idea. I have a pretty standardized neck, but I’ve even varied from that. And even once the guitar is built, the cones are interchangeable. I want to build them their guitar.

How much do you outsource for parts and other materials?

I pretty much hand-build everything except the cones, tuners and pickups.

Who are some current artists that play your guitars?

I’ve built guitars for Sonny Landreth, Arlen Roth, Johnny Winter and Cindy Cashdollar.

What’s your building philosophy?

It’s just like my philosophy on just about anything in life and career: give it 100 percent, and make sure the customer gets exactly what they want.