Reader Guitar of the Month: Cognac Flying V

French luthier DasViken builds a guitar out of oak barrels used to mature Cognac.

Name: Gildas Vaugrenard

Hometown: Brittany, France
Guitar: "DasViken" Cognac Flying V

I’ve been building guitars in my dreams for 29 years (I’ll turn 35 quite soon), but only professionally for three years. "DasViken" is Breton for “ForEver.” I use mostly salvaged local wood, cow’s bone for my nuts, bone and hide glues, and waxed, oiled, or French varnish finishes.

When I became a father, I decided to change my life. I left my job, ordered some tools, and began working on guitars. I made my own rules. No loan to be my ball and chain. No chemicals to compromise my health. No expensive tropical woods from the other side of the world. No industrial plastic parts and varnishes to attenuate the guitar’s tone and my creativity.

Oak is rarely used in lutherie, based on its grandpa’s furniture look. But its density is quite similar to other “tonewoods.” French oak used for casks is one of the most selected woods. So for this Flying V, I salvaged some staves thanks to a friend working at the Doreau cooperage. This wood was used to mature Cognac for several years before being reused in this guitar.

To ensure strong joints, I used a mix of bone and hide glue in my homemade glue pot. I flattened the staves with my planer and belt sander until I had enough for two V wings and a neck. This made my workshop smell like a fine spirit bottle! The neck-through construction is reinforced with aluminum sheets. The pickguard is a plate of zinc, oxidized, and then hand-engraved based on a limited edition of Hennessy Cognac, designed by Shepard Fairey. The pickups are handwound by SP Custom. I used Schaller Da Vinci tuners, and the Bigsby bridge and trem are vintage.

Oak sounds very balanced, somewhere between walnut and ash. A perfect wood if you want presence, but no twisted eardrums, and powerful basses but no muddy, unintelligible power chords.

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