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Acoustic Soundboard

For his personal line, our columnist prefers these Ohio-built Waverly tuning machines, thanks to their light weight and unassuming footprint.

Unique, high-end guitar tuners and replacement parts offer new levels of customization for modern players.

In my previous installment of Acoustic Soundboard, I explored the significance of tuners, their replacement options, and the importance of preserving the authenticity of vintage guitars. I also delved into acceptable choices for both new and vintage guitars, as well as the considerations for custom boutique instruments. This time, let’s dig a bit deeper on boutique tuners and how to properly outfit a custom guitar.

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The author’s main squeeze: a 2005 Kopp K-35 prototype.

Sure, variety is supposed to be the spice of life, but is it distracting you from your favorite instruments?

As the luthier and manager of a high-end guitar shop, I get to experience many fine acoustic instruments, in a variety of ways. Whether I’m selecting tonewoods from my stash for a custom build, introducing a customer to their next Collings or Huss & Dalton, or repairing a beloved ’70s Martin that has been played around a hundred campfires, there is always something going on.

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Three examples of maple’s diverse anomalies and colors. Fiddleback flame maple, bird’s eye maple, and quilted maple.

Thanks to its abundant use, it’s easy to forget what luthiers have known since the early days of modern guitar building: maple is a top-notch tonewood.

There have been many celebrated tonewoods throughout the history of lutherie. In the electric-guitar domain, ash, alder, and mahogany have been traditional choices. For acoustics, the famed Brazilian rosewood and Adirondack spruce have prevailed.

However, as regulations tightened and supplies dwindled, many legacy acoustic builders, such as Martin and Gibson, moved onto Indian rosewood and Sitka spruce. Because of this, from the late ’60s on, these woods continued to transform the industry standard. But our community has seemingly lost sight of a highly viable wood—the same wood that Stradivarius used to make some of the finest bowed instruments, and the same wood that has produced among the world’s most articulate Spanish-style guitars: maple.

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Putting padding around your guitar’s headstock is the best way to ensure it from being damaged during shipment.

You can reduce your fears about shipping your instrument by taking the right steps to protect it in transit.

Even if you own only one instrument, if you’re an active guitar player, chances are good that sooner or later you’ll have to pack your guitar for shipment. Although it’s hard for some packers to realize, the dangers of shipping your guitar by UPS or FedEx are essentially the same as putting your guitar on an airline’s luggage conveyor belt when you fly.

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Not only does striped ebony sound the same, it looks great too.

Chris Martin makes a case for striped ebony.

For many years, guitar manufacturers had the luxury of not using certain woods if they didn’t like the way they looked. It used to be that if a felled ebony tree was striped, it would be left to rot. Today, that is simply not an option, nor should it be. The choice to use striped ebony in making guitars has become an important one for us at Martin. Striped ebony is an ethically sourced tonewood that sounds great, is aesthetically pleasing, and, perhaps most importantly, is an environmentally smart option.

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